Good Mourning

Mourning is always associated with loss. I learned this morning of the death of someone I had recently seen alive, a stranger to me, but the grief of the family was palpable. They mourned and wept. Grief is rarely good at the time. It feels like a piece being ripped from a garment, with ragged tears on either side, broken, unfinished, and empty. It is both a phsyical loss and a psychic one, and our minds, used to the presence or even the hope of the presence of a person’s life and relationship, now will never be. Some people never “get over it” nor should they. But we learn to live with that pothole on life’s journey. We drive around it. Sometimes we forget that it’s there an we hit again, feeling that loss afresh. But there is no sauve to fill it. That loss remains a part of our lives forever.

But to whom is this blessing? Does “those who mourn” include everyone? Or only those in the Kingdom? I think there are two forms of comfort that may be involved here. First, is the comfort of an ever-loving God who wraps His own arms around you, as 1 Corinthians says, “the God of all comfort”, who offers you peace and grace for the excision from your life. God fills the empty places, making them easier to bear, more livable, because He gives us the strength to persevere.

But second, there is the hope of seeing our loved ones again. Those in the kingdom have a greater hope of seeing those they love, who were also faithful believers, in the heavenly realms, once we too pass through the doors of death. We shall be comforted by God in the present, but receive that ultimate comfort in the arms of our loved ones, gone but not forgotten. That seems to me the best comfort of all. Don’t get me wrong. Being in God’s presence is truly the best, but being able to see my family again? That’s just icing on the cake.

Heavenly Father, today I want to thank You that I have hope, not just for eternity, but hope for my family. My most precious relationships will endure in the Lord. Those I have lost, in their faith they yet live, and one day I will see them again. I pray that you would ease my mourning with Your comfort until that day I can spend eternity in Your presence.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

No Comparison

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.
Romans 8:18 HCSB

I can imagine brother Paul suffered quite a bit. If this had come from some fat cat stadium preacher, it would not sound believeable. But coming from Pauk, it makes sense. Paul nearly died suffering for the faith. In fact, some argue he did die outside of Lystra, having been stoned and left for dead. Have you ever had enemies that hate you so much they drag you out of town and throw rocks at you until they are sure you are dead? Yeah, me neither.

So when Paul says the sufferings of the present time cannot be compared with the joys of life to come, I can believe him. Many of us have been through some suffering. Whether it be physical pain, like a serious medical ailment, or it is mental anguish, like a family relationship that hurts the soul. We suffer a bit every day. We know what it is like to suffer. So we have a hard time imagine that there is no comparison. We have suffered much. How dare Paul belittle what we have been through. 

But you see, he suffered too. And yet in that same suffering, he caught a glimpse of those glories to come. It was precisely as he lay there, stoned to death, that some believe he was caught up to the third heaeven, and heard things that cannot be spoken as he describes in 2 Corinthians 12. It is similar to folks that I have talked too who describe their own journey to heavenly realms and come back. They describe the joys and glories of that place far more wonderful than can be put into words. And sometimes, despite their family and health and wealth on this side, there is a longing for that place that nothing on this side compares with.

I believe that brother Paul points to that experience for himself when he tells us there is no comparison. It will all be worth the struggle, the pain and the suffering of this present life. Paul hints here that if we truly knew what waited for us, no suffering would seem too great. There is comfort in this, since many of us have come through great suffering. 

Dear Heavenly Father, we come before you this morning with heads bowed, many of us in the midst of great anguish and sorrow of heart. We truly do not know how much more we can take, and would that you lighten our burden a bit so that we could brrathe. Brother Paul reminds us this morning of just how wonderful it will be in glory, and we cannot wait to see you face to face. But until then, we know we have a purpose and a plan to fulfill. Let us pray for strength for this journey, peace in our hearts, and hope for the world to come. If brother Paul was so inspired as to journey to Rome for the sake of the gospel, grant us that same inspiration to choose to follow you in our day to day. We pray these things in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Clothed in White

Will you be there? I wonder when John saw this, he saw you standing there wearing white with a palm branch in your hand? This may be the one place in the Bible where you are in it.

As I am, I hope you are looking forward to this moment. It is then that we, like the host that has gone before us, will all worship together in one unifying song to praise the King of Heaven. I hope to see you there!

God bless!

Did Jesus Come?

IMG20073Recently, I was called into the hospital to help a family through the last hours of their mother. It was not an easy afternoon, as we watched the numbers on her monitors fall slowly to zero. She died very peacefully, surrounded by her husband, her children, and her loved ones. As a Chaplain, I made myself available to them without being obtrusive in this very private family event.

As I attended to them, I began to think about something we had discussed in Bible Study a few weeks ago about Jesus’ coming. Jesus promised the disciples in John 14:3, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Some might argue that this refers to Jesus’ Second Coming, and well it might. But there is a subtle promise made here for every believer, I think.

I am reminded of Stephen in Acts 7 who was the first Christian martyr. He testified that he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. (Acts 7:56) Was Jesus coming then to receive Stephen into glory? Would the Lord of Heaven take the time to receive us individually upon our death? Would Jesus come and receive us personally when we die? It’s possible.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul remarked, “Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2Co 5:8) He says elsewhere, “I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Php 1:23) The Bible makes clear that the Christian will be with Christ upon death. Jesus’ promise to the disciples makes it seem that He personally will receive all who die in the Lord as well.

And thus my thought as I sat there watching this family grieve, “Is Jesus here too?” Did Jesus come to receive this dying woman unto Himself? Did He, unseen to human eyes, receive the soul of this dying woman? Were our eyes unveiled, would we too be witnesses of His majesty as Peter was on the Mount of Transfiguration? There came over me a special desire for holiness as I imagined the presence of Christ in that very room preparing to lead this dear saint homeward.

Call it speculation if you will. But wouldn’t it be great if the last eyes you see on this earth and the first eyes you see in Heaven belong to Jesus? What if Jesus was the one that escorted us across the threshold into the heavenlies, through the gates of pearl and into the presence of the holy ones. Just as Jesus has been the author and perfecter of our faith, would He not too be our guide into heavenly realms? It’s certainly something to think about, and something to look forward to.