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Five Years

April 18.  This year, 2016, it will mark five years since Isaac’s death.  There is a popular saying that “time heals all wounds.”  I don’t agree with that statement, but I do believe that time provides perspective.

The first anniversaries of Isaac’s death were difficult to endure.  The first year we felt a need to get away for the day and try to focus on something else.  The second year was a much more quiet remembrance.  I really don’t remember the third and fourth anniversaries.

So why does this year feel different?  Maybe because five years marks a significant milestone in other aspects of our lives (i.e. marriage, employment).  Maybe because this year April 18 will once again land on a Monday, the same day of the week that it was in 2011.  I’m not sure which of these it is, or perhaps for some other reason, but this year the anticipation is slightly haunting me.

I mentioned earlier that I believe time provides perspective.   One way this is true for me is that the intensity of pain from losing a child has lessened.  The first year or two was just so difficult and painful, with so many thoughts and events triggering intense emotional responses.  As we have forged a new groove for our lives, we don’t carry the heavy burden of that pain or get lost in the cloud of grief.  We can remember good times with smiling and laughter and not focus so much on the events on and immediately after April 18, 2011.  We can focus on the eternal truths in God’s Word and look forward to when we will see Isaac again.

By God’s grace, we have moved forward with our lives.  We haven’t moved “on”, as if whatever happened before didn’t matter.  But we have chosen not to remain frozen in the past, where we could play out the “what if” scenarios in our minds (though this is tempting at times, but quite unfruitful).  Moving forward to us means that we still remember (how could we forget?).  We laugh, play, and work, while rejoicing in all these things.

Yet, while moving forward and rejoicing, there is a piece of my heart that is missing.  I am not always consciously aware of it, yet I feel that it is gone.  I can feel the void that Isaac’s passing has left.  It is difficult for me to describe that feeling.  I just feel like I am not an entire person.  The best physical analogy that I can think of is if one is missing a body part that they once had (which I’ve never experienced, so forgive me for taking the liberty of this analogy).  While I see (physical) and know (mental) that Isaac is not here, in my heart (spiritual) he is still with me.   These conflicting aspects of my being make me wonder if I am something less than a full person.

I am a new creature in Christ Jesus.  It is only through my faith in our loving, merciful, and just God that I can even stand where I am today.  I believe that Isaac is safe in His hands and I hold fast to the hope of seeing him again someday soon.  Yet because Isaac is there in Heaven and I am here on Earth, a part of me is missing.

May you be blessed this day and rest in the eternal hope we have through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Andy

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2016 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

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Faith

This past week I listened to someone preach through Hebrews 11, the “faith” chapter of the Bible.  I began to think about what faith really is and looks like.  I thought that I could write a post about faith, Hebrews 11, the faith “hall of fame”, and so on.  But as I recently laid down and had a few moments to meditate, the thought came that I should write about what faith means to me.

First of all, how do I define faith?  Well, let me use the Biblical definition:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb 11:1)

If I could put this into my own words, I would say that faith is my conviction to trust God’s promises, that I have a future hope better than this world, which hope I cannot see at this present time.  I can understand that there are things invisible through observing the things that are visible.  I understand that there is a Creator by observing the things that are created.

My faith comes from believing that God’s Word is true and that He demonstrated His love for me by sending Jesus Christ to take the penalty for my sins in his flesh.  Through believing in His Son, I receive the Holy Spirit of God, who helps me and strengthens my faith.  Through believing that, on God’s accounts, I am now crucified and raised with Christ, I now have guaranteed eternal life and victory over sin.

As I read through Hebrews 11, I see many great Biblical “heroes” who demonstrated great acts of faith.  I read about Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the Israelites, Rahab, and so forth.  I read that people subdued kingdoms, stopped the mouths of lions, escaped peril, received ones back from the dead, and more.  But then I read that others were tortured, mocked, scourged, imprisoned, stoned, cut in half, tempted, killed, or were nomads.  The Scripture says that the world was not worthy of this later group and that they did not receive the promise of their faith during their lifetime on earth.  However, they, along with us, will receive something better from God.

Faith is not just mountaintop experiences, although such experiences are wonderful.  Faith is also walking, well faithfully, though the valleys of life and still trusting God’s promises even when we cannot see.  In Scripture, I don’t see the faith that some of these preachers on television and the radio speak about.  I don’t see God instructing us to speak the word and believe without wavering to get a new car, house, job, or money, money, money.  I once heard someone say that the world will be drawn to God when they see how he causes us to prosper.  I could understand the point trying to be made, but wouldn’t unbelievers also consider God when they see someone trusting Him when their world is falling apart around them and they have a worldly reason not to trust Him?  I’m not saying that the only way to point people to God is through suffering, and believe me I am not going about looking for more, but I want us to consider what would really make a lasting testimony of God’s grace and faithfulness in someone’s life.

My faith in God has caused me trust Him even while in the darkest valley of my life.  Faith has helped me to realize that God knows what is best for me at all times, even when evil happens to me.  He can turn that evil around to work good in me, if I don’t fight against Him.  Faith has led me to trust God at a deeper level and to set my eyes more on the unseen than the seen.  OK, that part is not always true because there are days when what I see pulls at me to indulge in…well whatever.  But through faith in believing God’s Word that says I am crucified with Christ and dead to sin, I can overcome the temptation and press on towards Christ and my promises awaiting in Heaven.  If I do stumble, I also read that even the great “heroes” of the faith stumbled at times, but God was merciful to them and he is also merciful to me.

So, what is faith?  Is it believing that God will give us our wants, or that He provides us with all of our needs?  What is our greatest need?  Is it not to have His forgiveness and mercy?  I believe that is my greatest need.  Through faith, I believe that all of my sins are forgiven and I am completely righteous in God’s eyes, not because I feel like it (because I don’t) but because God says so.

I don’t believe that faith can be stagnant.  I heard someone say that faith is not like a pond but is like a river.  We can’t rely on a one-time faith experience, but should exercise it daily to keep it vibrant and growing.

Blessings,

Andy

 

 

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Hid with Christ

Some days I wrestle with the words, trying to discern their meaning.  Yet, today the words SHOUTED clearly right off the page:

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Col 3:1-4, emphasis mine)

What, I’m dead and my life is hid with Christ in God?  That means that I am no longer in me but in Him.  I have been spiritually circumcised out of my flesh and placed into the body of Christ.  Though I still walk in this flesh and these bones, I am already seated at the right hand of the Father with Christ:

And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (Eph 2:6, emphasis mine).  Notice the past tense.

Through faith, Christ has put His righteousness on my account, taking my sins on His.

And (Abraham) being fully persuaded that, what he (God) had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Rom 4:21-25, emphases mine)

Every promise of God to me is already fulfilled in Christ:

For all the promises of God in him (Christ Jesus) are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us. (2Co 1:20, emphasis mine)

Through I may not yet experience these truths in my present physical reality (I am still walking on this earth and living and breathing in this fleshly body), it does not change the truth of God’s Word – that positionally, in His eyes, I am in His Son:

Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. (Rom 4:16-17, emphasis mine)

I am not my own, I am His.  I belong to Him; therefore, what can any power of earth, heaven, or hell do to me?  Absolutely nothing!  Oh, I might be persecuted, face hardships, get a disease, or even be killed, but absolutely nothing evil will ever pluck me from His hand:

What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:31-39, emphasis mine)

For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. (2Ti 1:12)

I just had to rejoice in these truths today.  Thank you for allowing me to share them with you.

Blessings,

Andy

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2013 in Christian Studies

 

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Not So Poor and Powerless…

Today we are re-blogging this post from Holy Ghost Bumps. We could relate to so much that Guy writes about and were greatly encouraged to be faithful to our Lord. May you be richly blessed as you read these words today.

Holy Ghost Bumps

Hand-to-HeavenA dear friend of mine shared this story with me recently, and I thought that I should share it with you here.  The story was in a totally different context than in the spiritual realm, but something he said opened the door for this post.  He said that I’m sure that you (meaning me) can find a way to relate this to the bible and your walk with Christ.  He was right.

He was raised in a poor household, in much the same way I was.  His father, though, gave him the tools that he needed to build a better life for himself.  They weren’t physical tools, mind you.  They were tools designed to help you persevere through life’s trials and difficulties.  Two of which were frugality and pride.  The frugality helped him to purchase his own lawnmower that he used to make money with as a young boy.  The…

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Posted by on October 22, 2013 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

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Apple Pie, Baseball, and… Mexico?

Last Friday evening, we decided to travel to Mexico – which meant we had Mexican food for dinner and watched a Mexican-themed movie (more on that later).  For our Mexican-themed dinner, we ate taco salad.

For dessert, Isabella decided to make an apple pie from a recipe she found in her Nature Friend magazine.  This recipe included mixing sour cream with the sliced apples and a crumb topping.

The crust is ready.  Now time to slice the apples.

The crust is ready. Now time to slice the apples.

Slicing the apples.

Slicing the apples.

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The apples are sliced.  We are getting closer to baking time!

The apples are sliced. We are getting closer to baking time!

Now time to make the topping.

Now time to make the topping.

The finished product, ready to slice and eat with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Yum!

The finished product, ready to slice and eat with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yum!

The apple pie tasted very good, especially with a side scoop (or two) of vanilla ice cream.  Look out Aunt Ann, you have some competition. 🙂

Obviously, apple pie is an American staple.  So how does this fit into our Mexican theme for the evening?  Well, we decided to tie the two together by watching a movie about a Little League® Mexican baseball team, thus making it a “Mex-American” themed evening.

The Perfect Game is a movie based on the true story of the 1957 Monterrey, Mexico Little League® baseball team.  The team was composed of a group of boys who believed, with child-like faith, that God wanted them to play baseball.  One of the boys recruited the coaching services of a down-and-out former clubhouse attendant for the St. Louis Cardinals.  The team overcame several obstacles, with some apparently Divine help, to become the first team from outside the United States to win the Little League® World Series in Williamsport, PA.

3_800x600This inspirational movie portrays the classic underdog story.  It deals with the themes of racial and sexual discrimination in a way suitable for young children to view.  The movie also touches upon the difficulties of dealing with the death of a child, as portrayed by an angry and alcoholic father (a few intense scenes) and a broken-hearted mother and brother.  We recommend this family friendly movie for inspiration, enjoyment, and a real-life example of child-like faith.

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein. (Luk 18:16-17)

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2013 in Family Updates

 

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Tax Collectors and Harlots

The words of the Lord Jesus Christ, as quoted by Matthew, a publican (tax collector):

But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him. (Mat 21:28-32)

The setting for this discourse is the temple in Jerusalem during the week leading up to Christ’s crucifixion.  His main audience is the chief priests and elders of the people, who had just challenged Christ’s authority.  Jesus responded by asking them from whom John the Baptist received his authority, from God or from man.  The leaders refused to answer because either response would be met with a challenge, either from Christ or from the people (you can read this exchange in Mat 21:23-27).  Jesus then refused to answer their challenge, however he then proceeded to tell the parable quoted above.

Let’s first examine the second son in the parable.  He said that he would obey his father but did not follow through in his actions.  He represents the religious leaders, who appeared to say all the right words and followed the letter of the law.  However, their hearts were not turned to God.  They had a form of godliness, but denied His power to change a person from the inside out.  Here is a group of people who knew the Scriptures, yet would not heed the call to personal repentance presented by John the Baptist.  Do we know anyone who is “religious” yet in his/her heart is rebellious towards God?  How about ourselves?  Are we saying that we follow God yet in our hearts are harboring bitterness, greed, envy, etc.?

Now let’s examine the first son in the parable.  He initially said that he would not obey his father, but then changed his mind and did what his father commanded (i.e. he repented).  Jesus associates this son with publicans (tax collectors) and harlots.  These people groups could be classified as the most despised and immoral members of society, the worst of all sinners (do you think this parable spoke especially to Matthew, a tax collector?).  They did not initially follow the law of God, but when they heard the call to repent they changed their ways and obeyed.  What is God’s command?

And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. (1Jn 3:23)

There are days when I need to be reminded of the simplicity and purity of the Gospel.  It is the message of salvation to anyone who will believe in Jesus Christ, regardless of their past.  His blood was shed to cover and take away our sins.   That is why I believe that the gravest of sinners can be saved.  Repentant tax collectors and harlots understand that they have nothing to boast of before a holy and righteous God.  They can only cast themselves upon His great mercy, which was displayed at the cross.  That mercy and goodness leads to repentance.  Yet, those who are considered “good” by society can easily be fooled into thinking they have something to boast of before God.  They often don’t see their need for a Savior, but often measure themselves against their own standard of righteousness.  They foolishly believe that they have led a “good enough” life.  Yet, no matter how good of a life we have lived, we cannot be made right with God by our own efforts for “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).

So which of these sons in this parable do you most identify with?  Are we willing to see ourselves as tax collectors and harlots and repent of our sinful ways and place our faith in Christ alone?  I hope that you have or will consider making that decision today.

Blessings,

Andy

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2013 in Christian Studies

 

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The Void

Last night I was looking at some pictures on our computer and also watched the two videos that I had compiled from photos of Isaac.  It has been several months since I’ve strolled through those memories.  As I reopened my memory closet, I was reminded of how much I really miss our son.

Isaac left quite an impression wherever he went.  The boy could be loud and he really enjoyed a hearty laugh.  If there was fun involved, Isaac wanted to participate.  He was also a leader – he liked to take charge of a situation.  I remember how determined he was to rescue Patches the cat out of a tree for his sister, Isabella.  Because Isaac left such an impression on our lives, a very large void remains after his departure.  As I was telling someone recently, it feels like there is a hole in the middle of our family.  Though God has helped us tremendously to feel as one when we’re together, I still feel incomplete.  I don’t know if I will ever feel complete as a family this side of Heaven.

I anxiously anticipate the day to be reunited with Isaac in Heaven.  I don’t know what the nature of our relationship will be, but I imagine it will be even more glorious than what it was here on earth.  After all, we will be in the presence of God the Father and God the Son!  Jesus said:

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. (John 14:1-4)

I believe that Isaac is seeing that place that Jesus is preparing or has prepared for us.  Being the leader that he is, I imagine that he will want to give us a guided tour himself.

Knowing that I have an eternal destiny waiting for me in Heaven, through faith in Jesus Christ, this time here serves to prepare me for that destiny and perfect my faith.  What I do here and now will determine what rewards I receive in Heaven (note that salvation is not a reward, it is a free gift to those who believe in the Son).  Even so, I walk this earthly journey sensing that a great void is always with me.  Yet, even with this void caused by the departure of my son, I cling to my God for:

He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. (Psa 147:3)

I leave you today with this quote from A. W. Tozer that has graced my eyes on several occasions recently:  “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.”

Tozer also writes:

The flaming desire to be rid of every unholy thing and to put on the likeness of Christ at any cost is not often found among us. We expect to enter the everlasting kingdom of our Father and to sit down around the table with sages, saints and martyrs; and through the grace of God, maybe we shall; yes maybe we shall. But for the most of us it could prove at first an embarrassing experience. Ours might be the silence of the untried soldier in the presence of the battle-hardened heroes who have fought the fight and won the victory and who have scars to prove that they were present when the battle was joined.

(Tozer, A. W.  The Root of the Righteous.  As quoted on: http://www.crossway.org/blog/2010/02/must-we-be-hurt-deeply-to-be-used-significantly/, accessed February 7, 2013.)

Have you been hurt deeply in your life?  Has that hurt left a void in your heart?  Do you blame God for what happened?  Do you blame Him because He is sovereign and, even though He may not have caused the hurt, He didn’t prevent it?  Whatever the hurt or the void, He alone can permanently and completely heal and fill them.  He has greater purposes for them than we can ever imagine, if we would just have faith.  Sometimes I just need to remind myself of these truths – that is one of my purposes for writing.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2013 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

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