For the past 2 months, death has been around me from a coworker unexpectedly passing in July, and a coworker’s spouse also unexpectedly passing this week. Expectations of death are near too as a father of a family was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer with a little over a year to live and my neighbor’s wife also recently went into hospice.
Each of these unique situations have spoken to me in different ways, but two things are common to every one of them. The first is that death comes to all eventually. This sounds obvious, but with unexpected deaths, this truth can be more shocking and disconnected than it is. And yes, unexpected deaths are sad and shocking, but death comes to all. The second is evaluating where your trust is for your life and ultimately your death. Are you trusting in yourself and your works during your life as a down payment into the afterlife? Or are you trusting in God’s solution for death? “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.
I hope all that read this post will consider where your trust is for your life and your death and I hope that it is in Jesus Christ who has conquered death with his death on the cross and resurrection and sitting at the right hand of the Father. He is Lord over all – including life and death.
This Saturday, my church will be hosting One Single Day with guest speaker Dr. Bruce Ware. As part of the event planning team, I heard about Bruce Ware, but his name didn’t stick to mind. Many asked me if I had heard him speak and I would honestly reply I hadn’t. Well, just today as I was googling his name and checking out his books on Amazon.com, a quote from his “Big Truths, Little Hearts” book stood out and it triggered my memory from a message I listened to in 2006. I remembered the message because I emailed the ladies in my caregroup about the message and the much-needed specific encouragement it gave to me in that specific season.
Below is that email in entirety. I’m a little embarrassed that I didn’t remember I had heard Dr. Bruce Ware, but I think he (based on the humility I’ve heard others speak about him) and others would be more than happy that I am remembering the content more than the speaker. I am so looking forward to hearing from Dr. Bruce Ware and putting the face to the name.
I wanted to pass along an encouragement to you all. Last Sunday when we were snowed in, I had the opportunity to listen to a message from Bruce Ware titled, “Can I Trust God?” from the New Attitude website. This is the first time, in my memory, that I heard Ware speak and I was blessed by this message. He gave this message at one of the monthly singles meetings held at Covenant Life Church. You can access this message at http://www.covlife.org/ourlife/singles_feature_pastseries.php then click on the series entitled “God” and click on the 04/08/2005 link. You can listen to it or dowload it as an mp3.
Just a pause, I am so grateful for the internet and technology to place messages like these so that they are available to everyone for FREE. You can’t beat free. Some things I took away from the message to maybe whet your appetite! It is a meaty message, but I encourage you to jump right in with pen and paper! His overall message was describing faith (trust) in God as a 3 legged stool. Each leg represents an attribute, a truth about God’s unchanging and unique character – his power, his wisdom, and his love. He describes each truth and describes ultimately that they all work together in what he sums up as faith. He gives this definition of faith, “Faith is trusting God’s power to accomplish what his wisdom in his love has designed and planned.” I appreciate how Bruce Ware described what life could be like if 3 these attributes did not work together. For example, if God was all powerful, but did not have wisdom or love, God would not give us perfect gifts nor have the motivation to give us those perfect gifts. If God was all wisdom, but did not have love or power, he would have the perfect gifts to give us, but would not be able to bring those perfect gifts about nor have the motivation to give us those perfect gifts. And lastly, if God was not love, but all wisdom and power, well I hope you get the idea from the previous scenarios, but if God had not initiated, in his great love toward us, to send His Son to die for our sins, we would be eternally hopeless because we deserved the just punishment for our sins.
I know that was a brainful, and I had to pause and go back in the recording to hear it again to let it sink in, but I found it revealed a narrowed, and I think unbelieving, tendency I have when I interact with God. Sometimes I can look at one aspect of the stool and ultimately I lean heavily on that leg. I remember as a child, I would try to balance my chair on one or two legs and not place the chair on all legs. I remember my mother and father correcting me to sit on my chair with all its’ legs on the floor because that was how the chair was made. A four legged chair wasn’t meant to be balanced on 2 legs. The designer and creator of that chair meant that chair to have 4 legs and I am rebelling against how that chair was designed when I balance it on 2 legs. And yes, if you’re wondering, I would often fall from my chair and cause disruption at the dinner table. :-) In relating to God, I can tend to just look at one aspect of the stool and think that he’s a tyrant, or that he’s stoic or if he’s loving, does he know the best for me and will he give the best to me? I tend to look at God like this, one dimensionally, especially when I am doubting him and I am focused on myself or the situations in my life. So I am grateful that this unbelief tendency was revealed and that I want to remember this definition of faith and that I need to keep all legs on the ground, whether it be a chair or the 3 legged stool of faith. One last point from the message that was really a kindness from God to my heart.
At the end of the message, Ware addresses the singles and the belief that God is withholding the joy that marriage can bring. He states, “God doesn’t withhold the joy of marriage, but he withholds the temporal joy of the shadow of marriage that is male/female union, but that he grants them (singles) the reality of the marriage that is Christ and the church” that is the gospel. For about almost a year, I had the feeling that I was missing out on some aspect of the gospel because I would hear messages about how marriage is a picture of the gospel and well, if I’m single, does that mean I am only portraying 1/2 of the gospel and am I missing out on the gospel because I wasn’t married? I continued to pursue in reading and listening to messages on the gospel, but when it came to the example of marriage is a picture of the gospel, I would often leave feeling discouraged, primarily because I didn’t have correct thinking. Ware’s statement above like turned on the lights for me to see that single or married, all of us that God has saved will be able to experience the joy and see the reality of the true marriage that is Christ and the church in this life and the life to come through involvement in a local gospel centered church and in heaven when Christ and his bride are united for eternity. And, we won’t ever be robbed of this joy according to John 16:19-22..where Jesus is speaking to his disciples of when he leaves, “for you will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy….but I will see you again and you will rejoice and no one will take away your joy.” (paraphrased). And lastly, all the riches of the gospel are ours through Christ Jesus and not through a spouse or lack of one. When I was typing this, it humbles me that God would be kind to reveal this to me. I think also, another one of his kindnesses with him sharing this to me and a kindness I want to pass along to you as well is that as He reveals and corrects my thinking about marriage and singleness, I can’t presume or jump to conclusions that what he says is indicative of whether he will or will not bless me with the gift of marriage. I think presuming or jumping to conclusions is a sign of unbelief and I need to be humble to receive the message God is delivering and that the reason for his message is to always to point to Himself. I want to encourage you ladies that if you listen to the message by Ware, don’t go away with the question “well, does that mean I will get ______ or not?” (you fill in the blank) but go away with the question “do I trust in God’s power, his wisdom and his love and how they work together?”
On the left of my blog is a nifty list of “cool people” with links to their blogs or websites. Well, I am proud to add the Sensenig Seven to my list. I love this family and I love that they include me in their lives. So head on over to the Sensenig Seven and ch-ch-check them out!
I came across these pictures from Jonathan and Susie’s wedding I attended at the end of June.
Over at Radical Womanhood, Carolyn MccCulley responded to the feedback she asked for about the blog. Tucked in her response was something I want to strive for and remember.
Since that time, I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said. I’m glad to know that the wide variety of topics on this blog is actually interesting and maybe even helpful. That falls in line with something I’ve been mullling over for awhile: that we are actually people with varied interests, not just people who can be sorted by marital status or season of life. More importantly, in the church, we are disciples of Christ, and we have more in common because of that than we have in differences because of our marital status or season of life. When we slot ourselves in our churches, we can stifle true fellowship. We see each other by role, rather than by the way the disciple John knew himself to be: beloved of Christ. And I suspect that when we share that identity with John, we can be quick to urge others to see themselves in the same way.
I can remember specifically seasons and moments where I would categorize people as single or married and would only gravitate to those I found who were similar to my season. When I changed caregroups and found myself with others who were totally different than me, it was challenging and this mindset was revealed. It was a huge time of change, but on this side of the change, I wouldn’t go back. I would say I am a richer person for having people in my life with diffferent interests, different life seasons and marital statuses. As Carolyn said about seeing others as John knew himself to be: beloved of Christ; I am challenged to see myself and see other Christians that way as well.
Beloved of Christ. I like that.