A Time to Die

A time to be born, and a time to die – Ecclesiastes 3:2

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Death is inevitable yet when it comes, it’s a blow.  On Wednesday, I lost my father.  Although we were expecting him to pass away, it was still a shock.  We had hoped that he would hang on a little longer so that my son and I could visit him.  He’s never met his grandson.  He has photos of him and they have spoken but meeting face to face would have been wonderful.  I am thankful that they got to know each other, though.  My son is his first grandchild.  He was recently blessed with another–my brother’s daughter.  I don’t think he got to see her but he knew of her and was very pleased.

Death is our enemy.  It robs us of our loved ones.  It brings pain and sorrow.  It leaves an emptiness that was once filled with our loved ones.  It is like an intruder that breaks into our lives and takes away everything we hold dear.  It is that part of life we don’t want to experience.  It is a reality we don’t want to face.  Yet, it comes.

Death doesn’t have the final say, though.  It isn’t the end.  It will be swallowed up in victory.  And one day, we will ask, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”  And we have this assurance:“God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (2 Corinthians 15:55; Revelation 21:4, KJV).

There is a time to die.  My father lived a long life.  And it was his time to die on the day before Valentine’s Day.  I miss him terribly but I know that I will see him again when the Lord comes.  Until then, I will cherish the memories I have of him.

 

A Promise Fulfilled

“Lord, now I can die in peace! As you promised me, I have seen the Savior you have given to all people.  He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” (Luke 2:29-32)

These are the words of a man named Simeon who was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue His people. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. He got his wish.

The Holy Spirit led Simeon to the temple the very same day that Jesus was dedicated to the Lord. How wonderful! God had fulfilled His promise to Simeon.

Simeon was overjoyed when he saw the Infant Savior. How his heart must have leapt with joy as he held Jesus in his arms and gazed down into that tiny face. He blessed Joseph and Mary. He said to Mary, “This Child will be rejected by many in Israel, and it will be their undoing. But he will be the greatest joy to many others.”

For many of us, Jesus is the greatest joy. He brought us hope, love, peace and the promise of eternal life.  Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, proclaimed, “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has visited His people and redeemed them.  He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of His servant David, just as He promised through His holy prophets long ago” (Luke 1:68-70).

What a wonderful promise!  During the Christmas season, imagine what it must have been like for Simeon to see the Lord face to face and to realize that the Lord had kept him alive for just that moment.  Simeon had seen salvation.  He had seen the promise of eternal life before he died.  God had promised His people salvation and then He fulfilled that promise through His Son, Jesus.

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Making Plans

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into this city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit,” whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? It is just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you are rejoicing in your boastings. All such rejoicing is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, it is sin – James 4:13-16

How many of us make plans way ahead in the future? And how many of those plans end up going nowhere? Why does the Bible liken making plans to boasting? It could be because we are doing so without consulting God. We act as if we are in control of our destiny when He is the One who is. As Christians, we should make our plans based on what God wants or think is best not what we want. He may have much better plans for us. Take the prophet Jeremiah. What would have happened if he had made plans for a career, travel or marriage? Those plans would have come to nothing because God already had plans for his life.

Remember the Tower of Babel? The people had the bright idea of building a tower so high that it would reach heaven. What were their reasons for building the tower? “…let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). They wanted to stay put instead of going abroad and populating the earth. In other words, they were making their own plans which were outside of God’s will. They were boastful in thinking that they could do things their way instead of God’s way.

Nothing is wrong with having plans but they must never be contrary to God’s will. To them, it seemed reasonable to stay where they were and build up a city instead of going out into the world to start new lives. There are times when we want to stay put but God wants us to step out in faith as He did with Abraham. And there are times when we want to go places but He wants us to stay put like Jeremiah. We have to be attuned to what God wants for us so that our plans will line up nicely with His perfect will for us.

It is always best to say, “if the Lord wills…” when it comes to making plans. Wouldn’t you feel better knowing that God approves of your plans and will bless them?

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Jolene/Stark #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

“Y’all gonna be okay while I’m gone?” Darlene asked her husband, Mick and her daughter, Jolene.  She was heading off for the weekend to a Women’s Ministry retreat in Atlanta.

They both looked at her before Mick answered, “Yes, we gonna be okay.  Don’t fuss so.  It’s not like you ain’t been away before.  We can take care of ourselves.  Jolene’s gonna take good care of me, ain’t you, girl?”

Jolene’s answer was to blow a large bubble and then pop it.  She was at the table putting nail-polish on her long fingernails while chewing gum.  Her dyed blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail making her look younger than eighteen.  Long dark lashes framed big, bright blue eyes which narrowed now as she glanced at her step-father.

Darlene wasn’t convinced but, she just had to believe that they were going to be all right for the weekend.  She knew that they didn’t particularly like each other.  Jolene’s Dad died when she was three and until a year ago it was just the two of them.  Then she met Mick at a friend’s barbecue and fell in love with him.  He was a handsome man, tall, well built with jet black hair that covered the nape of his neck and he had the most amazing green eyes.  He was in his mid-forties but looked at least ten years younger.

They got married a couple of months after they met.  Mick tried to be a good Dad to Jolene but she no part of it.  In the beginning they were like cats and dogs with each other but now they seemed to tolerate each other, although the animosity was still there.  She had misgivings about leaving them alone but she was glad for the break.

The sound of a car horn, alerted her and galvanized her.  “Loreen’s here,” she announced unnecessarily.  “Well, you have enough food to last you until I come back on Sunday.”  She went over to Jolene and hugged her.  “You behave yourself, Missy.”

Jolene pursed her lips.  “Ma, I ain’t a child, ya know.”

“Oh, I do wish you’d speak better than that.  What I been sending you to school for?”

Mick chuckled.  “She ain’t into book learnin’.  She’s into boys.  Why you think she’s paintin’ her nails?”

Jolene took up the open magazine on the table and threw it at him.  It hit him on the shoulder.  He turned and glared at her.

Darlene shook her head.  “I’m gonna pray for y’all,” she said.  “It’s high time that y’all bury the hatchet.”  She went over to Mick and hugged him.  They kissed and then she pulled away to grab her overnight bag.  “See y’all on Sunday.  Love y’all both.”  And she was out of the room and the house.  Minutes later came the sound of a car driving away.  Silence, except for the television.

Jolene finished painting her nails and held them under the fan until they were dry.  Then, she got up from the table and went over to the sofa where Mick was.  Instead of sitting down next to him, she lowered herself slowly onto his lap.  Smiling, she put her arms around his neck, her bare legs over his long ones.  She felt his body respond.  “You want to bury that hatchet now?” she asked coyly and saw his face flush.

“You’re a little tease, you know that?” he muttered under his breath before he put his arms around her and lowered his head to kiss her.

“All set for a nice Spirit filled weekend?” Loreen asked Darlene as they sailed down the long stretch of road.  “I’ve been looking forward to it all week.

“Yes, I been looking forward to it for weeks, but I was worried about leaving Mick and Jolene alone cause of how things are between them.”

“Don’t worry about them.  I’m sure they’ll be fine.  Mick’s a no nonsense man.  He’ll keep Jolene in line.”

“I hope they’re gonna be all right.”

“I’m sure about it. Now stop worrying.”

Darlene looked out of the window at the landscape and then, she exclaimed, “Oh no!”

“What’s the matter?”

“I forgot to tell Mick that I had a security camera installed yesterday because of all those recent break-ins.”

“You can always call and tell him when we get to the retreat this evening.”

Darlene shook her head.  “No, it can wait until Sunday when I get home.”  She felt better knowing that it the camera was there in the house.  No one could tell that it was hidden behind the wall lamp in the living-room.  Right now it was recording everything that was happening in there.  So, she’d know if Jolene was giving Mick trouble or not.  Jolene.  She worried about her sometimes.  I’m gonna say a special prayer for her and hope that one of these days, she’s gonna give her life to the Lord.

 

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt –  Stark at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Sitting At His Feet

I wrote this devotion years ago and wanted to share it now.

One day I kept hearing the words, “Sitting at His feet, sitting at His feet.  There’s no other place I’d rather be, than sitting at His feet”.

I have often imagined myself sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to Him share the Word.  I think of the two sisters Mary and Martha.  How very different they were.  The Bible gives an account of what happened one day when Jesus visited them.  As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught.  But Martha was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are so upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it-and I won’t take it away from her.”

A lot of times we are like Martha fussing and fretting over things and not taking the time to spend with Jesus.  Just recently, I realized that I had gotten so caught up in doing the Lord’s work that I was neglecting Him.   I missed my early morning devotions with Jesus.  I missed sitting at His feet so I made a point of setting aside time each morning for Him.  When I sat at His feet, allowing His words to fill my mind, I was overwhelmed by what He had done for me on the cross.

The reality of what Jesus has done for me—for all of us sank in.  And like Mary I don’t want anything to take this away from me.  I don’t want the worries and cares of the world or the demands of my daily life to rob me of the truths I learn when I take the time to sit at Jesus’ feet.

Martha had placed more importance on the preparation of dinner rather than on the guest while Mary had done the opposite.  The words Jesus taught were food for Mary’s soul—they filled her and satisfied her more than any dinner could.  Martha needed to partake in that spiritual food too.

Like Mary we need to take time to sit down and be fed by Jesus.   I can almost hear her singing the words, “Sitting at His feet, there’s no other place I’d rather be than sitting at His feet.”  Jesus invites you and me to leave what we’re doing for the moment and come and sit at His feet.

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Recommit to God

But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.  I cried to the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill.  Selah – Psalm 3:3, 4

When I was going through a tough time because I was pregnant and unmarried, the words of this psalm comforted and sustained me.  I knew that I was not alone.  The Lord was with me.  He didn’t condone what I had done but He didn’t condemn or forsake me.

A story I can relate to is the one of the Samaritan woman.  She was married five times and living with a man who wasn’t her husband but Jesus reached out to her in love.  He didn’t excuse her lifestyle but he offered her a new one life with him in the center.  He didn’t condemn the woman caught in adultery but showed her grace while at the same time telling her to stop sinning.  God doesn’t discard us when we sin.  He reaches out to us through His Word or through others. I once heard about a man who was at the lowest point in his life, feeling worthless and one day he heard a sermon about God’s love and forgiveness which turned his life completely around.

When we cry out to God, He doesn’t ignore us but we must come to Him with a contrite heart, ready to forsake whatever separates us from Him and receive His forgiveness.  We have the assurance that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

For those of us who feel we are too sinful to go to Him, we are encouraged to, “Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness …” (Joel 2:13)  There isn’t anything you can do that will diminish God’s love for you.  I knew that even while some church members were unforgiving toward me, I knew that I had God’s forgiveness and that His love for me hadn’t changed.  It hadn’t lessened.  In fact, during those times when I felt the heat and the censure from others, God’s love is what sustained me.  If you have wandered away from God, return to Him.  He is like the father of the prodigal son who returned after wasteful living.  The father was waiting for him and he ran to meet him.  God longs for us to return to Him.  He’s waiting with open arms to welcome us back.

I’m thankful that God is “gracious and full of compassion” (Psalm 145:8).  Our response to His goodness and mercy is to recommit our lives to Him.  And in doing so, we can be confident “that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

Source:  Bible Knowledge

Do as to the Lord

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Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church.  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her…” (Ephesians 5:22, 23, NKJV).

For some, the word, “submit” which has negative connotations.  The word used for “submit” is hypotassō which was a Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader”.  In non-military use, it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden”.  The wives’ submission is to be voluntary not forced or demanded.  And when they submit to their husbands, they are doing as if they are doing it to the Lord.  The husband is the head of family just as the Lord is the Head of the church.

The husband is in the leadership role and the wife is in the supportive role.  Eve was Adam’s helper.  Sarah obeyed her husband and even called him, lord (1 Peter 3:6).  However, submission doesn’t mean that the wife is to be totally subservient to her husband.  For example, Sarah told Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away.  Abraham was displeased about this because of his son but God said to him, “Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of your bondwoman. Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed shall be called.  Yet I will also make a nation of the son of the bondwoman, because he is your seed” (Genesis 21:12, 13). 

If something is bothering the wife, she can share her concerns with her husband instead of trying to resolve whatever it is on her own.  Husbands should feel comfortable talking to their wives about anything.  Being the leader of his home, doesn’t mean that he has to bear the burden alone.  No man is an island.  God created Eve to be Adam’s companion and his second in command. 

Wives are there to help to ease the burden.  They offer advice, counsel, support, etc but ultimately, the husband is the one who makes the decisions, provided that they are in harmony with God’s will and word.  The wife doesn’t submit blindly any more than the husband loves foolishly.  Adam loved foolishly when he listened to Eve and ate the fruit (Genesis 3:17). 

How husbands and wives relate to each is other is how Jesus relates to us, the church.  The wife doesn’t usurp or undermine the husband’s authority but recognizes that he is fulfilling God’s role for him.  To oppose, undermine and usurp him would to oppose God Himself.  Likewise, if the husband does not love the wife as he is called to do, He is disobeying the Word of God.

Husbands are encouraged to love their wives with the same unconditional, sacrificial love that Jesus has for us.  The word used for love is agapaō which is a divine, self-sacrificial love.  It is this love that God manifested toward us when He sacrificed His Son for us.  A husband is to  love his wife with kind of love while she is to submit to his authority.  Both are acting Christlike when they relate to each other this way.  Their roles do not make one superior and the other inferior.  There is mutual love and respect.

The husband doesn’t abuse his authority but he treats his wife as he would like to be treated.  “Husbands love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.”  Likewise, wives ought to treat husbands as they themselves want to be treated.  Respect your husbands, don’t undermine them.  They need your support.  Husbands and wives, do unto each other as to the Lord.

Sources:  Biblical Hermeneutics; Living Faith

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