a : a permanent cessation of all vital functions : the end of life b : the cause or occasion of loss of life
To say one can overcome through death appears to be the ultimate of oxymorons. Death implies an end of power, intellect, ability, and opportunity. When life leaves our soul, the opportunity to overcome exits with it, or does it?
Because I have been cleansed through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, I believe death is but the beginning of truly living and the ultimate act of overcoming. The day I confessed that Jesus Christ was Lord, yielding my life to Him, I died and yet the same instant I was reborn.
When I was buried with Christ, the chains of sin were broken, and the grip of death and damnation defeated. I am a new creation no longer bound by the law that both mandated my ruin but also guaranteed it. “Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies” wasn’t just an unrealistic command, it was a gift and ability won for me at great expense.
Because of His death and my death, I can go to bed every evening, and reflect upon my day, my actions, my failures, and my successes and be filled with hope instead of depression. Each day is an opportunity to overcome. I may stumble along the way, and fail in an area I am striving to master, but with my eyes to heaven I know I am being transformed every day into his likeness.
I look forward to the day heaven and earth pass away, bringing with it the final death-blow to imperfect and corrupted flesh. On that day the need to overcome will come to an end, for I shall see Him face to face and be righteous even as He is Righteous.
What shall we say then?
Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?
By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death?
4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death,
in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
I was standing in line at a local store, with my head in the clouds when the cashier abruptly asked “So are you buying a ticket?” It took a few seconds for his question to register, but the moment it did, a host of memories flooded my brain. The clerk was referring to the $600,000,000+ mega millions jackpot to be drawn Friday, but I was thinking back to one of the most vivid memory I have of my childhood.
I was out alone with my dad, and without explanation he looked down at me and exclaimed, “Jody, I want you to promise me that you will never buy a lottery ticket.” Lottery tickets ment nothing to me, so without hesitation, I made a promise that I believe altered the course of my life. Years later, I asked my dad what compelled him to ask me to make that promise and to this day, not only can he not tell me why, but he also can’t remember the incident.
When I made that promise, I barely understood what a lottery ticket was, and I most assuredly never felt the urge to buy one. With all my heart, I believe that day my heavenly Father stirred the heart of my earthly father to make that request, in order to protect me from a weakness neither of us knew I would have years down the road. Every time I pass an instant lottery machine, I think of that day. Every time I see a lottery grow and a frenzy erupt, I remember the promise I made to my dad and I praise the Lord for the gift of a parents spiritually prompted intuition. Now, thirty-seven years later, I have kept my promise and passed the story along to my kids. I have not asked them to make the same promise to me, I have never felt the Spirit leading me to do so but we have had many discussions about the foolishness of gambling and how destructive it can be. When we exit our local Drug Mart, often I will hear one of my kids exclaim to the others, “never put your money in that machine, it’s just like throwing it in the trash.” I feel no embarrassment, and I have never told them to be quiet because I know the lesson of the lottery machine trash can will be engraved into their heads, and that they will remember mommy’s story when they are tempted to part with their own hard-earned cash.
As parents, we can’t guarantee sin free, addiction free kids, by insisting they make a string of promises and vows to us, guaranteeing upright moral living, but we can vigilantly seek wisdom and direction from the Lord for each precious life he has given us. Parenting isn’t a mechanized process. My father never asked my sister or brother to make the same vow he did of me. My father never asked me to make promises to flee other sins I did struggle with as a teen and young adult. I do not know what compelled him to ask what he did, but my prayer is that the Lord would give me the same wisdom and insight for my kids. My time of teaching and instructing, protecting and building is quickly passing. Their eternity is in His hands, but He has seen fit to make me an instrument to be used to shape and mold them in preparation for the future that He has ordained for them from the beginning of time.
I pray the Lord continues to patiently mold and transform me into His likeness so that my kids see Him in me. As Gary Thomas so eloquently and wisely wrote, the purpose of my life, marriage, and family is to make me holy, not happy. My husband and I are responsible, not simply to make our kids happy, succesful, and without need, but to help maintain a sensitive heart that is willing to submit to the transforming power and authority of the Holy Spirit so He can make them holy, through God’s grace and mercy.
Will you join me and cry out to the Lord of Wisdom for wisdom? Will you choose daily to die to yourself in order to serve, teach, and train your children. May our hearts and minds be ever filled with the whispering of the Spirit. May the silence of His voice be deafening, quickly bringing our hearts and focus back to Him and the purpose and callings he has given to us through our children.
Lottery Tickets and Life Lessons. The odds are in your favor!
I have a significant weakness that stems from verbal “abuse” I experienced as a child. Two to three times a month we took a trip to the “farm” to visit with family. I loved these day yet at the same time I dreaded them. We would romp through acres of wooded farmland with our cousins, playing in tree forts, stick forts, and old rusted out pieces of farm equipment. For a city kid, my grandparents woods was heaven on earth. I loved the farm, but eventually we had to leave the fields and return to the house and it was here fear, confusion, and dread flooded my heart. It may seem silly, but as a child I was terrified to ask for anything or use anything because to do so evoked the wrath of a very broken and sick grandparent. To “need” was intolerable no matter how simple or basic the request and consequently many times I chose to go without to avoid the tongue lashings that followed innocent requests. My siblings and I look back on these moments now and laugh, but as a child simply going to the restroom was traumatic. We didn’t know whether to flush or leave “it” floating. Then there was the ever-present TP dilemma. Did you risk wrath and use any and if so, did you dare use more than three squares? In my grandparents broken way, we were loved, but we learned early on that the love they offered was conditional and subsequently, words of reproach were heard moreoften than words of affection.
Now, more than twenty-five later, I still struggle to ask for things I want, or to let others know when I need help. For years, you could put me in the midst of a company buffet or seminar dinner and by nights end I would leave with an empty belly. I have been to lavish banquets with my husband and had server after server approach me offering the most amazing foods, yet been unable to accept their offerings, though my stomach silently grumbled it’s protest with each plate I turned away. It wouldn’t matter if others around me, including family, are helping themselves to exquisite food, because I would still find my hands hand frozen by my side. The reproach I endured during my childhood days on the farm can paralyse and render me unable to accept “gifts” being offered no matter who is offering them.
A while back, the Lord brought this verse in James 1:15 to mind.
If any of you lack wisdom,
let him ask God,
who gives generously to all,
and it will be given him.
What an amazing and glorious description of a loving Father’s heart toward His “needy” child. I am covered by the love of one who is moved with compassion by my needs. He revels in the opportunities my weaknesses provide Him. He delights in showing himself strong, loving, and capable when I am not. This is the true and perfect love of a Father and parent.
God is working in my heart to transform my view of how a parent responds to the needs of their children. My needs and my requests are met without reproach. I am the daughter of a generous Father who is anxious and ready to give when needed and to gently correct when misguided. He never chides or reproaches me when I come humbly and obediently seeking goodness, righteousness, faith, meekness, power, and wisdom from His hand.
How about you? Do you struggle to be transparent? Are you afraid to be vulnerable and needy before Christ Jesus your Father? Has pride joined forces with insecurity like it did in my life, rendering me not only afraid to ask, but also to proud to admit when help is needed?
Sin breeds and replicates itself in the lives of sinners who resist, flee, or refuse the transforming prower of Christ. Can you imagine the horror and disgust that overwhelmed me the day I heard my grandmother’s voice slip from my lips in response to a simple request from one of my children! I froze in horror and marveled at my selfish response. Oh how I wished I could reign in those unkind words, ment to ensure that my child knew just how inconvenient their request for a cup of water was at that moment in time. “Oh Father forgive me!” was all I could mutter. All my son wanted was a glass of water. He was thirsty, there was no sin, no disobedience, no rebellion in that request. He was simply asking me to be who I was, his mama, the one who is responsible to protect, comfort and provide for him when he can not. Jody, you know what it feels to be punished with cruel and unkind words simply because you had a need! O Lord be merciful on my wicked heart! All Jess wanted was for me to watch her jump on the pogo stick. My beautiful little girl, simply seeking the delight and praise of her mother but I quenched that desire to please with harsh and uncaring words. My Father never sleeps, he never slumbers, and He is never too busy to delight and take pleasure in me
Praise be to God for His mercy and His power, that transforms lives crushed, scarred, and burdened by sin and guilt. Praise be to God that He loved me enough to chastise my heart, not because of need, but because of sin. Praise the Lord for do-overs and second chances, and especially for the unconditional love and forgiveness found in the heart of my children. May I never provide a reason to extinguish that love and forgiveness!
Mom’s, our children are gifts, and we are instruments in the hands of our redeemer. Much of what they learn of Christ their Father will come from our lips and from our actions. As we learn to boldly seek the face of our Father, without fear of chastisement and rebuke, may we also strive to project the same love and care we have received from him.
My prayer is that the Lord would continue to heal and transform my heart, giving me the freedom to seek Him when in need able to ask without fear of reproach. My prayer is that the Lord would humble my proud heart so that I would not hide from my weaknesses nor the love of those he has sent to help me. My prayer is that I would learn to be like Him, reveling in the opportunity to die to myself so that I might serve and love others. My earnest prayer is that my life would be a true reflection of the Father, who has redeemed, saved, and loved me, and that His love would draw others to Himself!
Presuming upon the Future
In his book Seeking the Face of God, Gary Thomas recounts the story of William Nelson, a general serving in the Union Army during the Civil war. As he reposed in comfort, in a place seemingly safe and sheltered from the dangers of battle, this man found himself facing the reality of death, when an errant bullet entered into his his body draining in mere minutes the days, years, and a future life which up to that point he had presumed upon. In that moment, Thomas asks that we ponder the one final and desperate plea this man made when he realized his life was seconds away from ending, “Send for the clergy man; I wish to be baptized.” Caught unexpectedly at the gate of eternity, this man realized he had but a few precious seconds to accomplish all that mattered most in his life, and at that moment, everything took a back seat to preparing his heart to meet his maker.
In Psalm 90:12, A chapter in my Bible titled “A prayer of Moses, the man of God”, Moses implores “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” , and in James 4:14 James warns “Whereas ye know not what be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth way.” The truth about life is that in lite of eternity, our days on earth are limited and few, but even more important, their number is not guaranteed. Death isn’t a respecter of persons coming only for those who accomplished their fair share of success, wealth, purpose, or happiness, It snatches the old and the young, the “important” and the “insignificant”, the weak and the strong, The only restraint death knows comes from the hand of God and as scriptures says “And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Heb 9:27 only God knows the day and hour.
As I read “Seeking the Face of God”, I was struck by the truth that often times we presume upon our future supposing we have years and even decades yet at our disposal and we live our life accordingly. Our priority’s are flipped upside down and we squander the day we live in assuming we have tomorrow in which to make it right. Thomas points out that “It is the only the denial of death that allows us to continue rebelling against God. It is only because we are presuming on some future time to set things right that we ever consider letting them go wrong.”
With balance and truth, we must consider this thought. As it is irresponsible of us to not allow the reality of our future and promised eternity to influence the present day in which we live, it would be just as irresponsible of us to stop providing for our family, caring for our body, paying bills, going to work……. thinking “what’s the use tomorrow I may die.” We have to place our dutys and responsibilities, our physical/worldly callings, as well as our spiritual calling in light of the fact that today may be our last opportunity to get “it” done, to do “it” right.
As a twenty seven year old single woman, I wish I had come across this truth. I have to confess that as I fought to trust the Lord, my focus was on a future I both longed for and feared. By this I mean I focused upon something I desired, expected, and presumed (most days) I would eventually get- Marriage. At the same time however, I was immobilized by a fear that kept me from gleaning all I could from each day the Lord gave me, fearing that one wrong choice or action would close that door of marriage forever. I was focusing on the future, but not far enough into the future and not upon a truth or calling capable of motivating, fulfilling, empowering, or convicting me like I needed. I had no idea if marriage was indeed a calling the Lord was going to grant me, but there was another calling he had given “Be ye holy, even as I am Holy” I Pet 1:16
If you are a woman, who like me looks(looked) for guidance and direction as you travel the uncertain road of singleness (or insert whatever season you are in) wondering if you are headed in the right direction, adequately preparing for what lies ahead, let me encourage you to take stock of where you have allowed your gaze to linger and fall upon. If your gaze is where it should be, upon “Eternity”, and reaching the place where you are prepared to meet Christ without any regrets or shame, all else will fall in line. If every decision, opportunity, fear, failure & triumph is viewed in the context of the death of my flesh and my transformation into the presence of Christ I can be confident I will respond, recover, and wisely make the right decisions. If I dare to ask moment by moment whether what I am doing prepares me spiritually to meet Christ or instead diminishes my impact for Christ and impoverishes my spiritual calling, then I will find the wisdom to make the right decisions and motivation to do what is not only best for me, but for others, and for Christ..
Our eminent death can empower us with great motivation and resolve or we can ignore the truth of the uncertainty of life, and find ourselves utterly shocked and filled with regret and shame when one day soon we realize heaven looms just minutes or seconds away.
Matthew 6:34 “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Learn to shed the cares, concerns, worries, and trifles that do nothing to usher you closer to the presence of God and the finish line he has appointed for you to cross. Ask for wisdom to discern between “the Needful” Luke 10:42 which can not be taken from you, and the trivial and hollow distractions that will blind you from seeking and finding the face of God where you can bask in the peace and power of his presence.
That I may know Him,
And the power of His resurrection,
And the fellowship of His Sufferings,
Being made conformable unto His death.
SEEKING THE FACE OF GOD by Gary Thomas (Harvest House Publishers 1999)
Scripture quotations were taken from the KJV Bible