Tag Archives: death

The Prayer Journal: Passing On

The 17th installment of my son’s online fiction series.  If you are just joining, click here for the previous chapters.

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It was early that morning in France on July 19. Pvt. Adams played with the bolt of his rifle as he sat in torturous anticipation. The cool night’s dew hung on the blades of grass and wheat around him as they peacefully waited to be graced by the beams of the approaching sunrise. Adams knew they’d be moving out soon. They all knew it. They’d been kept in reserves since they’d gotten to the battle the day before. They’d been woken early and told to be ready. It wouldn’t be long now.

“Hey, Adams.”

Adams turned with a scowl to see who had broken the sacred silence the soldiers shared before the charge. It was Rivers. Adams groaned as he turned back to fiddling with his rifle. “Whatcha want, Jack?”

“Gotta favor ta ask ya,” Rivers replied, either not recognizing Adams’ agitation or not caring.

“What?” he growled again.

Something plopped in Adams’ lap. He looked down. It was a book, an old one. He put his rifle down and picked it up. “What’s this?”

“Twas Brickman’s,” Rivers answered. “Ya know, that journal he’d always be writin’ in. Prayin’ and stuff like dat.”

“You picked this off his corpse?” Adams asked in shock. “What, you couldn’t let the guy rest with it?”… (Read more)

 


Read Between the Lines

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Memorial Day Tribute

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“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  —John 15:13


Happy Father’s Day

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On this day I’d like to remember my father and those who have treated me like a daughter— especially my Heavenly Father.  Psalm 68:5, “A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation,” has been a tremendous comfort to me.

My father divorced my mother when I was five-years-old.  He was really good about sending birthday cards and Christmas cards but was otherwise not really a part of my life, besides sending child support to my mom.  We did reconnect later in life, and although he still lived far away, I was blessed to have a closer relationship with him once again.  I had been Daddy’s little girl before the divorce— snuggling on the couch, building snowmen, or accompanying him to the store on an errand for Mom.  I missed that.  My Daddy is gone now; he was killed in an accident over a decade ago, but I’m glad my children had the opportunity to meet and spend time with him before he died.

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The late Mr. Martin, who was unable to conceive children with his wife, was somewhat like a father to my sisters and me.  He used to take us fishing and camping and even to an occasional bar during the day, where he would chat with some Marine Corps buddies and give us quarters to play pool or an arcade game.  Because he was more a part of my life than my biological father, I asked him to give me away at my wedding.  I miss him, too.

My Heavenly Father has always provided for my needs in various ways— my Provider, Comforter, Defender, and Protector— enlisting others like youth pastors, teachers, church family, and once even a mattress store owner to meet a need.  Although my life was far from perfect and He allowed me to rebel at times, suffer the consequences and grow through them, I know He was never far away.  He truly is a Father to the fatherless if we will allow Him to be that for us.

Happy Father’s Day to all the daddies out there, whether you had children of your own, adopted, or acted like a father to the fatherless.  God bless you!


Wisdom Wednesday: Sweet Words

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Photo credit: Phil Beard — http://www.sxc.hu/photo/344721

Have you ever been greatly encouraged by something someone said?  Have you have been deeply wounded by something someone said?  Anyone who has seen the movie Bambi probably remembers Thumper’s mother prodding him to say, “If you can’t say somethin’ nice… don’t say nothin’ at all.”

It’s not just what we say, but how we say it.  Only a small percentage of communication is about the words.  Anyone who has been misunderstood through a text or email knows that.  Communication also involves body language and our tone of voice.  Our words can say one thing while our body language and tone of voice say another.

When you were a child and someone said something mean, did you ever chant the rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”?  Is that really true, or do some words actually still hurt?  Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

A Japanese proverb says, “One kind word can warm three winter months.”  But doesn’t it seem like a hurtful word can last a lifetime—or wound and destroy relationships?  Death and life are in the power of the tongue.

“Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).  Life and healing are in the power of the tongue.  Let’s give life.


Happy Memorial Day!

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  —John 15:13

Thank you for laying down your lives for me, my family, my friends, and our country.

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Love Lifted Me

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In my last blog post Sunrise, Bunnies, and a Jacuzzi, I gave a testimony of God’s ‘romancing’ love.  In this post I’d like to share two experiences that reveal God’s rescuing love as well as His affirming love.

I know many of my posts convey gratitude for God’s love and the various ways He expresses it, but that’s where I’m at in this season of my life, although I hope I never stop telling of His great love.  I have heard people criticize preachers and musicians who focus on a particular topic like God’s love, or His mercy and grace, and while I understand the importance of the need to go deeper, I also understand from experience and observation that the preachers are generally trying to reach people where they’re at, and the musicians are singing lyrics that express their own experiences as they seek to minister to and reach people.

I spent a week away to decompress, seek the Lord, reflect, and rejuvenate.  I am grateful for the opportunity, means, and generosity of others.  Sunday was my last day, and I sought out a church to attend.  The people were so warm and welcoming, and the ministry revealed a heart for God and people.  I was so blessed by their love.  During the week prior to attending the church, the song “How He Loves Us” sung by David Crowder continually played in my mind, and during the service, the worship team led us in singing it.  Apparently, it was the first time they’d sung it, and I half-jokingly told Annie, one of the worship team members who’d chosen the song, that it was for me.  Oh, I know it’s not all about me; I’m sure it spoke to the hearts of others, but I was so blessed by God’s reaffirmation of His love for me, especially after facing a week of intense struggle.

After church and in-between doing laundry and cleaning the place where I was staying, I went outside to enjoy the warmth of the sun and the beauty of the outdoor pool.  The air was a little cool, but the sun was warm, so after becoming a bit heated, I soaked my feet in the frigid water and watched the ripples and reflections.  Then I asked the Lord if there was anything He wanted me to see.  Because summer has not yet arrived, the pool, while maintained, remained unused and had a few small leaves and bits of debris floating on top.  I noticed the shadows cast by them, and one in particular caught my eye.  The shadow was clover-shaped, but nothing on top appeared to match it.  I continued to observe the shadow and noticed a hint of movement.  The only thing I could connect it with was a bee that appeared to have drowned.  But no, it was still hanging on to life.  So I retrieved a small piece of wood and lifted the bee out of the frigid water and onto the warm stone tiles surrounding the pool.  It remained there, warming itself in the sun long enough for me to snap some photos with my phone and even long enough for me to run up to my room, grab my big camera and snap a few photos with it, until the bee finally became reanimated and flew away.

God not only cares about you and me, but He even cares for a little bee.  His love moved me to lift the bee from certain death, and I feel so blessed to have been a part of that rescue.  There is a new Christian song called “Love Lifted Me” sung by Ashmont Hill.  It appears to be based off the old hymn by the same name.  Both tell of God’s great love that lifts us up when nothing else helps, but the hymn expresses so much more in the way of being rescued from certain death.  As a woman, I have a longing to be rescued.  The Lord is my Hero, my Knight in shining armor, and His love lifted and rescued me in so many ways this past week that I am free to sing of His love.


This Is Love: A Conversation With a Modern-Day Roman

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Yeah, I know it’s almost Christmas, but we would have no Resurrection Day apart from the birth of our Savior.  So I thought this would be an appropriate time to share a conversation I had almost five years ago with a skeptical, modern-day Roman in response to the photo above.

sara y tzunky:  Why this is love????? To die is love? To be beaten is love? Not try to save itself is love? To walk around with a cross on his shoulder is love? Why this need of the blood to demonstrate love? Why this need of shoving the worst and not the wonderful of this world to give love? I never understood.

Me:  sara y tzunky, is there anyone you love so much you would be willing to give your life to save theirs?

The Bible says that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Sin is ‘lawlessness’ (1 John 3:4); it is any violation of the law or character of God. It is basically saying to God, “I don’t like Your rules, so I’m going to do what I want to do.” The penalty is death.

The Bible says that all have sinned and have come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We all deserve death because none of us have lived up to God’s law. We have a difficult time just keeping ten of them, much less the two greatest: Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:37-39).

The only One who could pay the price… the penalty… for our sin was the perfect Son of God, Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Romans 5:8 says, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). Not only did Jesus teach about love, but He demonstrated His love by being willing to suffer under the sinful, violent hands of mankind to save those who would accept His sacrifice as a gift of eternal life. He did that for you.

sara y tzunky:  Thanks for your answer, dear SweetCapture.
I am sorry but I believe you don’t understand.
The penalty of sin is death. In which sense? Following the Bible’s standards I am a sinner. I am writing to you so you can observe that I am not still death. So what?
You said: Romans 5:8 says, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” This is exactly the point! For yours believes God and his son Jesus are omnipotent so they had the possibility to choice the way to forgive your past sins. So why they don’t choose something more happy and positive? Like I don’t know, transport all of us another time in the Garden of Haven or for example give a big party inviting every man and woman and explaining to them that is better to live in a life of love and peace. Why blood blood blood blood and blood?
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). Perfect I agree. And better is a God that created sin, that eliminates sin (or you believe that there is something that God actually had not created?). Big amount of love in this case! So why Jesus doesn’t lay down his life not to die but to work hard doing something like eliminate from this planet materially sin forever and ever? Why all this publicity for hate and death? Why all this publicity for the cruel Romans? Why not to show something of peaceful, just to explain like the thing should go? Why blood blood blood murders crosses, studs, swords, armies, power and poverty? Why not life love peace, prosperity, food, happiness eternal life, freedom, beauty of nature, speaking with birds etc etc? I repeat they are God and they can do whatever they want.
Thanks for your attention

Me:  sara y tzunky, I understand the confusion since Adam and Eve did not immediately die a physical death. Death means ‘separation’, whether it is a physical separation of the body and spirit, or whether it is a relational separation of people and people, or people and God. Before Adam and Eve sinned, they had personal and close fellowship with God, and they could have lived forever, because they had the tree of life. After they sinned, because they separated themselves from God out of guilt and fear, and because of God’s holiness, they lost that close fellowship. The literal translation of Genesis 2:17 is “dying you shall die”, so while they didn’t die immediately, they were in the process of dying until they eventually died. They no longer had the Tree of Life and close fellowship with God to sustain them.

God had given them only one commandment. Just one. He had provided everything they needed in a beautiful garden… everything was good. The only thing forbidden to them was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They ate its fruit because they wanted to become gods… equal with their Creator, rather than trust that He knew what was best. They wanted to do what they wanted to do. God had warned them of the consequences, but they chose to believe the serpent rather than God. They rebelled and brought evil and death into the world. God did not create sin. God’s character is one of law and order. Remember, the Bible says that sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). A God of law and order cannot act contrary to His nature. Sin is the absence of law and order, so it is not something that is ‘created’ but something (law and order) that is taken away or disregarded.

If you tell a child not to touch fire, and they touch it, the consequence is not happy and positive. They get burned… sometimes badly. It doesn’t matter how much the child is sorry for disobeying, s(he) will still suffer for making that wrong choice.

Why the publicity for hate and death? Because mankind, even to this day, believes we can choose or evolve to become better. Jesus was peaceful and taught about love, obedience, peace… yet the violence within men’s hearts brutally killed Him. It revealed the true nature of mankind. And because God could offer forgiveness for such a horrible act, it reveals God’s matchless love and mercy. All other religious effort is man seeking God…only Biblical Christianity reveals a loving God seeking after fallen Mankind. Those who choose to believe what He has said about Himself and accept His gift of eternal life, will live a life of love, peace, prosperity, happiness, freedom, and beauty with Him in Heaven.

sara y tzunky:  Dear SweetCapture,
How it is nice to discuss with you about Love on a Flickr page. For me Love or love is LOVE not Death. And Death is Death not separation or something else. The word “death” was used in every time to scare simple peoples. If you or the ones who wrote your Bible want to mean separation why they didn’t use the word separation? They use death, blood, fire, eternal pain and other pleasantness to scare and bend people. Another thing: if Jesus comes to erase yours sins why in the sense of your Holy text you are still doomed to die? Something didn’t work well or what?
I think that you continue not to understand what I have said. But this is surely the fault of my English. I sorry I am from Italy, Rome: I am a Roman. So I will use the word of a great ancient philosopher, Epicurus: “Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent –and he is not a God-. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?”. So we came back to the first point: if it exists a Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, if there is blood death and destruction, if there is a bad nature of mankind is because God want it -supposing naturally that God exists and he is like the Bible depict him-. So if there is a man dying nailed to a cross is because God want it. For this reason I believe that this is not love, this wickedness. This is wickedness even because you believe that actually Jesus is God.
Best Regards, A Roman

Me:  sara y tzunky, first, your English is good. I understand what you mean, because I have also had questions like yours.

God does not use death, blood, fire, eternal pain, and unpleasantness to scare and bend people for His own purposes. He warns us of things, because He has given us a certain level of freedom to choose, and He desires we would trust Him and choose good. False teachers and leaders use those things to bend and scare people for their own gain.

If you do not want your child to harm himself or others, you warn them about bad things… unpleasant things. Yes, you hope to scare them enough to avoid the bad things, but you are not simply trying to bend them for your own purposes. It is for their good.

Jesus’ death erases the penalty of eternal separation from God. It does not erase the consequences of a physical death. God has promised that those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and believe that He was raised from the dead, when we die a physical death, He will give us new heavenly bodies that will live forever with Him in Heaven. As long as we live in our physical bodies and in this ‘dying’ universe, we will continue to experience that physical death… UNLESS we are still alive when Jesus returns once more, not as a suffering servant, but as a victorious King.

God said, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9), and “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God…” (Deuteronomy 29:29). There are some things that are beyond our understanding because God is too big for our limited minds to understand or because He simply has not revealed those things to us. God will eventually abolish evil. Why didn’t He prevent it from happening? Unless a person has a choice as to whether or not they will love and trust you, then it is not love at all. God gave Adam and Eve two choices: trust me and do not eat the fruit and you will live in this garden forever… or eat the fruit and experience death. They both chose to trust the serpent and their own judgment more than God, and they chose the consequence of the curse. God never wanted it, but since He allowed Adam and Eve the choice, He also provided a way to be redeemed from the curse… because He still loves us… but He will not force anyone to love Him back. To me… that is true love.


No Weeping Widows?

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I was reading Psalm 78 this morning, and verse 64 hit me.  It says, “Their priests fell by the sword; and their widows made no lamentation.”  Why?  Why would a widow not weep and mourn over her husband’s death? Well, the context of the psalm recounts God’s faithfulness and the miracles he performed and Judah’s/Israel’s rebelliousness and unbelief.  And we know from cross referencing other books that the priests were unfaithful too.  It’s likely their wives were also unfaithful, but that the widows of the priests would make no lamentation says something.  Don’tcha think?  Some commentaries say they could not weep, because the killing had been so swift and violent, the widows didn’t have time to mourn.  Maybe.  But why does the text specifically mention the priests and their widows?

May I pose a possibility?  Priests and leaders are held to a higher standard because of their position and knowledge.  Even the New Testament says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we will be judged more strictly.”  How do we feel about someone who teaches a certain thing and yet doesn’t do it themselves?  How do children feel when their parents have a double-standard?  Could it be that the wives didn’t lament the death of their husbands because their husbands the priests didn’t treat them very well?  Could it be that in their idolatry, their husbands sacrificed their own children with fire?  How would you feel if your husband showed little regard for your children?

I know Moses was a good, humble leader, but it appears from Scripture his wife probably rebelled against him, and we know the Israelites certainly did!  Hosea was a faithful priest and husband, and yet his wife adulterated herself, so an argument could be made for the priests and against their wives.  But leaders must first ask themselves if they are a good, humble leader like Moses or a faithful priest and husband like Hosea.  Do they plead for their people like Moses did, and do they, like Hosea, seek to redeem those who have wandered away?  Or do they blame the people rather than examining their own hearts and actions?  Would their followers or loved ones mourn when they are gone?  Or would there be no weeping widows?


The Danger of Dying to Self

You’ve probably heard teachings on how we, as Christians, are called to ‘die to self’, but have you ever considered that ‘dying to self’ could actually be selfish?  My niece, Jaki, encouraged me to read C.S. Lewis’ The Eternal Weight of Glory, and in it he says, “The negative ideal of unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point.  I do not think this is the Christian virtue of love.”

People often quote Paul from 1 Cor. 15:31 when he says, “I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily,” but they fail to keep it in context.  Paul often speaks of facing death due to persecution, and in Romans 8:36, he quotes Psalm 44:22, “For your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  So what Paul is saying is he knows he’s risking his life and he’s willing to risk his life in order to do the will of God.

What did Jesus mean when He said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me”?  He had just begun to teach his disciples that the Son of man would have to suffer, then He admonished them that if they tried to save their lives, they would lose it, but if they were willing to lose their lives for His sake and the Gospel’s, they would save it.  Again, Jesus is talking about persecution and being willing to risk your life in order to do the will of God.  God’s will for Christ was to be born into this world, reveal the Father through miracles and teachings, suffer at the hands of man and bear all the sins for all time, be crucified in the most humiliating fashion paying our penalty for sin, be buried and rise again on the third day so we can be declared righteous and be reconciled to God.  Christ’s cross was to do the will of God, even though in His humanity He asked that it be taken from Him, that He wouldn’t have to go through with it, but He loved the Father so much, and He loves us so much, that He was willing.  Our cross is the same as His–to do the will of God wherever that may lead.  Will we do it perfectly like Jesus did?  Probably not, but praise God He doesn’t give up on us and cast us aside!

The obvious danger of dying to self is the risk of facing ridicule, loss, and even death, but the obscure danger of dying to self comes when the focus is still on self.  Scott, a good friend of mine and resident theologian for a large Christian ministry said, “One doesn’t pick and choose the topics, the moments or actions for which one ‘dies to self’–it is an abiding attitude.  Otherwise it is simply a legalistic act in the flesh to achieve recognition for pseudo-righteousness.”

Those whose focus is on self often think of themselves as martyrs.  That’s almost like wearing a ‘I am humble’ button!

As my pastor often points out, it is the heart that counts.  And one of the things I appreciate about his teachings on dying to self is he focuses less on dying and more on living for Christ and others.  Isn’t that what it’s really all about?  Steve Cobb, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in New Bern, NC said this, “You’ve given up your life without Christ in order to embrace your life with Him.”


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