Thursday, May 12, 2016

Eternal Craft



When I was early in my career at my family’s business, I was confronted with a transforming perspective on God’s purpose in business from a talk at a missions conference. Part of this purpose included to produce goods and services that will enable the community to flourish.[1]

This is more profound than simply sharing your faith with co-workers and not even referencing the nature of the work itself. A short time later, we adapted our company vision statement to take into account this larger purpose articulated at the conference. The heart of our company, where I have the privilege to be a 3rd generation owner, was already closely aligned with this, and so our adaptation was mainly a matter of articulation.

Our company name is Foamcraft. The craft has always been explained to highlight the “craftsmanship” of our work and our workers. “Hand-crafted” is ubiquitous in advertising these days, whether in bread, ice cream, soap, beer, cocktails, or coffee. I like to say “foam had the craft before the craze”, given Foamcraft was founded in 1952. Of course, the concept of craftsmanship is as old as time. God is the original and master craftsman. Jesus himself was a carpenter and spent a lifetime crafting things.[2]

God has called me to be pastoral in my workplace, witnessing to my faith in Jesus Christ and to his eternal value in daily work. As I’ve read Scripture, and listened to voices speaking into this topic, I’ve recognized that this concept of “enabling the community to flourish” is not simply referring to the community in this life. It is also in reference to the community and city in the life to come. In this way, I believe my craft is eternal.

The physical resurrection from the dead and the reality of an eternal heaven gives hope and meaning to everyday work. Our labor is not in vain.[3] I believe this means that what we craft – whether physical products like wooden toys or power tools, or through service like in an ice cream parlor, selling insurance, or preparing a meal - will last forever. It will be, as Andy Crouch says, the “furniture of heaven”[4]. What we contribute in work and culture will furnish heaven for eternity.   

This is inspiring for me because I contribute specifically to making furniture, by fabricating the foam cushions that are upholstered into the final form of what you have in your family room (or bedroom, office, pontoon boat, RV, etc.). When Jesus says he is preparing a place for us, specifically a room in his Father’s house, won’t this kind of place need furniture, which needs good quality foam? Will Jesus and I be sitting together on furniture that has Foamcraft foam?

Hold on. Am I saying that the foam cushion I sold last week for a finished chair that hopefully will soon be brought home by a lucky customer, will be in heaven? Well, no. I’ve seen that used recliner on the side of the road, and that is not the picture of the new earth that is in the bible. At the same time, is there not something about what my work contributes to the product that will last as part of redeemed creation? I believe from the Bible that there is.

Consider the following. Paul says in Colossians 1 that all things were created by, through, and for Jesus, and that he is before all things and in him all things hold together. And through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things. What things? All things. God is reconciling more than my body and soul to himself?

In Revelation 21, we see that kings will bring into the New Jerusalem the glory and honor of the nations. What is this glory and honor? There is mention of “jewels”. Jewels are minerals which require skilled eyes and hands to refine into their final form. Andy Crouch in his book Culture Making, highlights the fact that jewels, therefore, are minerals plus culture.[5] Crouch asks, “Will the cultural goods we devote our lives to – the food we cook and consume, the music we purchase and practice, the movies we watch and make, the enterprises we earn our paychecks from and invest our wealth in – be identified as the glory and honor of our cultural tradition?”[6]

Could the physical results of our work be redeemed and part of the physical new heavens and new earth? N.T Wright, in Surprised by Hope, explains it this way: “The transition from the present world to the new one would be a matter not of destruction of the present space-time universe but of its radical healing.”[7] This is a wonderful promise for us! Tom Nelson, in Work Matters, says, “If our daily work, done for the glory of God and the common good of others, in some way carries over to the new heavens and the new earth, then our present work itself is overflowing with immeasurable value and eternal significance.”[8]

To those who do not yet know Jesus personally, and perhaps doubt that there is a life to come, this is a show-stopper. Tim Keller in Every Good Endeavor says, “If this life is all there is, then everything will eventually burn up in the death of the sun and no one will even be around to remember anything that has ever happened. Everyone will be forgotten, nothing we do will make any difference, and all good endeavors, even the best, will come to naught.”

Pause for effect. What? Keller continues, “Unless there is God. If the God of the Bible exists, and there is true reality beneath and beyond this one, and this life is not the only life, then every good endeavor, even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever.”[9]

This the bible proclaims to us: not only is there God, but this God establishes the work of our hands (our craft), gives it value, and through his resurrection power shown forth in Jesus is redeeming our craft into eternity.


[1] Jeff Van Duzer, Urbana 2006
[2] Tom Nelson, Work Matters, p. 89-90
[3] 1 Corinthians 15:58
[4] Andy Crouch, Culture Making, p. 170
[5] Crouch, p. 175
[6] Crouch, p. 171
[7] N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, p. 122
[8] Tom Nelson, Work Matters, p. 73
[9] Tim Keller, Every Good Endeavor, p. 29

Originally posted at the College Park Blog 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Incarnation and the Body of Death



"Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" - Romans 7:24-25

"And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him." - Colossians 1:21-22

I was struck by the connection I saw in the cry of Paul in Romans 7:24-25 for deliverance from this “body of death”, and the affirmation by Paul in Colossians 1:21-22 that we are reconciled through Jesus in “his body of flesh by his death”. I was also encouraged with the apparent link to the incarnation, helped by the writings an old voice from the 4th century church.

Paul does not just say “thanks be to God” in Romans 7. He also says “through Jesus Christ our Lord”. And, from other places in Scripture, we know that he does not just mean through Jesus as if through a supernatural miracle that mysteriously delivered us from a sinful body and reconciled us to a holy God. He does not just mean through an appearing or a presence. He means through a physical human body and a physical human death. The only way we could be delivered through Jesus, and reconciled, is if it happened through a human body without the sin corruption that we have. It couldn’t have happened through the Spirit, even though the Spirit is without sin. It couldn’t have happened through Jesus appearing as the Son of God only. And it couldn’t have happened through Jesus as a man if he shared any part of our sinful nature. It had to have been through God, in a body of flesh, without sin, through actual physical death. How amazing was the incarnation of the Son of God, and Him taking on our likeness! The incarnation (Christmas), is the miracle that made our deliverance possible. And then the resurrection (Easter), is the miracle that makes our deliverance actual and eternal.

Athanasius explains this idea in his classic work “On the Incarnation”. While these words are translated for the benefit of the “modern reader”, and is according to C.S. Lewis, “written so deeply on a subject with such classical simplicity,” it is still a very lofty arrangement of profound sentences. I pray that the depth and even complexity of these words would stretch your mind and fill your soul, as you contemplate the simply reality that Jesus had to come to earth as a human and die as a human to deliver us from our humanness, which was stained with the corruption of death. Then He rose from the dead to conquer that death forever! Here is St. Athanasius “On the Incarnation”:  

“The Word perceived that corruption could not be got rid of otherwise than through death; yet He Himself, as the Word, being immortal and the Father’s Son, was such as could not die. For this reason, therefore, He assumed a body capable of death, in order that it, through belonging to the Word Who is above all, might become in dying a sufficient exchange for all, and itself remaining incorruptible through His indwelling, might thereafter put an end to corruption for all others as well, by the grace of the resurrection. It was by surrendering to death the body which He had taken, as an offering and sacrifice free from every stain, that He forthwith abolished death for His human brethren by the offering of the equivalent.”

“For naturally, since the Word of God was above all, when He offered His own temple and bodily instrument as a substitute for the life of all, He fulfilled in death all that was required. Naturally also, through this union of the immortal Son of God with our human nature, all men were clothed with incorruption in the promise of the resurrection. For the solidarity of mankind is such that, by virtue of the Word’s indwelling in a single human body, the corruption which goes with death has lost its power over all. You know how it is when some great king enters a large city and dwells in one of its houses; because of his indwelling in that single house, the whole city is honored, and enemies and robbers cease to molest it. Even so it is with the King of all; He has come into our country and dwelt in one body amidst the many, and in consequence the designs of the enemy against mankind have been foiled, and the corruption of death, which formerly held them in its power, simply ceased to be. For the human race would have perished utterly had not the Lord and Savior of all, the Son of God, come among us to put an end to death.”  

- Page 35, Popular Patristics Series, St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation, SVS Press

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Read a Full Meal



I do a lot of reading on a given day. In my armchair at home (like Bilbo Baggins), at work, on a bike ride in front of the laundry mat in Key West. You know, whenever I can. Sometimes I worry whether I am also simultaneously doing a lot of learning. Or perhaps I am reading at the expense of thinking, and therefore not learning. This would be very bad. It occurred to me that one way for me to process my thinking and therefore evidence my learning is to share about my readings. Consider this an introduction to that.

One of my philosophies about reading is that it needs to be done in healthy-sized chunks. The internet and social media can be terrible for the mind as it applies to reading. Popcorn style reading is disastrous. This existing philosophy about reading a lot at a time, say, at least a chapter of a book in one sitting, or a chapter of Scripture instead of a couple verses, or a whole article or even page in a newspaper instead of only the first paragraph, revealed itself specifically this last weekend as I was reading a book about my favorite topic. I want to use my experience reading this book to make a point. That is, I want to help you read a full meal. How do I do that wait what does that even mean? When you read, you need to do so fully by practicing the same basic things you would do when eating a full meal: chew, swallow, and digest.

CHEW

This does not mean put the pages of a book into your mouth and bite down repeatedly. Don't be silly. What I mean is actually take in words and sentences so that they can get into your system. Just like you shouldn't just look at your food, play around with it on the plate, or smell it only, don't just look at the pictures, play with the pages, or take in the smell (old books can be distracting in this way). This sounds painfully obvious but I mention it because I need this reminder. I am a book lover, and a collector, and I do sometimes sit and admire my shelves, "tinker" through a book I want to someday read, or literally open and smell a 19th century volume of The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon (just picked up for $8 at Half-Price Books #FistBump). I digress.

The book I mentioned before is called The Heavenly Good of Earthly Work. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a "theology" book that was quite a page turner. Sometimes, even with topics that particularly interest me, I find myself struggling to get through the pages. In some cases too much thinking is required and comprehension is difficult, so I have to go slow, which can be frustrating. Some books are so dense that to actually read them intelligibly its like you're eating your peas one a time. This is not chewing (and extremely annoying). With this book I found myself breezing through the pages because the "argument" or "thesis" that was being presented needed a lot of words to fully explain. By truly chewing the content I tasted it more keenly and enjoyed it more thoroughly.

SWALLOW

As I read through the paragraphs, I was on the edge of my seat for the point that was being built, through page after page of introductory context. It wasn't that more words were used than necessary; layers of thought had to be built before a complete point could be made, and in this case that approach worked well and was helpful for me. The length and the completeness was worth the effort, like a long meal at a nice restaurant. But I couldn't have understood or benefited from any of it without making it to a reasonable stopping point. I needed to swallow a healthy portion.

Reading is not scanning information into your brain long enough to process it and then spit it back out. It is meant to be swallowed so it can fully make it into our system. How much time do we spend reading only to stop mid-sentence, mid-paragraph, or mid-chapter? Or mid-email?? Its like the book or article is having a conversation with us and we just walk away in the middle of a story. You wouldn't do that in real life. As a society we need to improve our attention spans. Mental snacking is contributing to poor overall health. We need to swallow what we are reading, rather than swish it around in our brain for a minute or two and then spit it back out. I shudder to think of the affect on our comprehension, cognitive development, and soul growth that this has on us. For Christians, this leads to ignorance in areas where we need to be speaking life into people.

This is very convicting to me because I often falsely find my identity in what I know, and if I don't know a little about a lot I don't like where that leaves me. What I've found is the only way to know a little about a lot is to read too little about everything. Bad idea. Better to know a lot about a little by reading as much as you can about only some things. Follow? I am guilty of doing this completely wrong; scanning articles, reading parts of books only (although the table of contents can be a helpful summary). I've been reading The New York Times for a year, and I would have trouble telling you what I read yesterday. This is no good.

I admit I still go for the snacking instead of the meal. Worse, I don't even always ingest what I'm reading. Its like "eating" sunflower seeds. This is not what reading should be. We need to swallow the information and ideas that our eyes see and our brain is processing.

DIGEST

Finally, we need to digest what we read. We need to let our brain do its work and help us process, store, and use what we've just ingested. If we did it right, and fully chewed it, and swallowed it, there is a lot of internal work left to be done. The last thing we would want is to go on to something else without thinking about what we just read!

We can't expect to understand a complex subject or current event without reading and thinking a lot about it. If you read a Bible verse from a different chapter or book every day, your perspective on God and the gospel is going to be very scattered. If you read one article about the Syrian refugee crisis you probably aren't going to know that much about what all is really going on there. If you watch one episode of 24, you have no appreciation yet for how amazing it is. I digress again.

But is it possible to read a book as a full meal, especially considering the amount of time that is realistically available to read? What about the newspaper? Or the Bible? Now we're talking. Are we snacking on the Bible instead of taking it in as a gourmet meal? God forbid.

"Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food." - Isaiah 55:2

Diligence is required. Here is my challenge: take at least a quarter of as much time thinking as you do reading, and no less. In other words, if you read for an hour, make sure you are also just thinking for at least 15 minutes in the same sitting. Start with the Bible (I am talking to myself here).

If meditation, prayer, and journaling (as a way to document what you are learning or how you are changing) results, you are in a good place. If a wandering mind, aimless searching on your phone or the internet, or the temptation to multi-task is the result, go back to reading until it causes you to think (undistracted) for at least a quarter of the time. And repeat. I think this will prove whether your reading is helping you learn and change or is just a leisure activity. Leisure reading is not bad, but there is so much more to experience. Don't move on just yet to other things. Digest it. If you didn't digest the food you ate, you would feel ill. It is the same with what we feed into our brain, only this digestion is not involuntary, so you have to consciously do it, and the negative result if often less obvious, so we don't address it.

A possible future post: "what if I don't like to read?" Ahh! I pity the fool. Not that you're a fool if you don't like to read. I'm just sayin'. You need to start reading more and I promise you will love it.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Raise Your Heads




This past Christmas I received a gift subscription to The New York Times. I have done my best to read it and keep up with the news. In college a professor said to read the paper every day, even if the stories don't always make sense, because eventually the dots will connect and it will be like an epiphany. I either misunderstood or he was crazy. It is not that easy.

Usually, I am about a week behind, but I push through and read from the paper daily. The old phrase, "that's yesterday's news" has gained new meaning for me. Indeed, it is a little embarrassing to be at Starbucks with a paper under your arm as you purchase your coffee, and the barista asks, "Will that be all? Should I include the paper?" And you respond, "Well, no, this is from my house. I can prove it with the date right here. Hey, did you hear about this Donald Trump guy? I guess he's running for President." Who knew that was not breaking news anymore? Actually everyone knew.

Which begs the question, how does everyone know everything that's going on all the time? I have been diligently reading The Times for 8 months now, and even though I'm a week behind, isn't that better than someone who's not reading any paper at all?

My wife was telling me about this story the other day where a NAACP chapter president had been posing as an African-American for years. I was like, "What? Where did you hear about that? I haven't seen anything about it in the paper. Meanwhile, have you heard about this ISIS thing? Pretty scary stuff."

Then someone told me about an incident with a lion named Cecil. My ignorance on that one is more understandable because I skip the funny papers. Must be a new character or something. Maybe I should just check out this Internet thing. So far I've been neutral concerning the net. I digress.

INTERPRET THE TIME

Dr. Richard Swenson in his book, Margin, claims, "A single edition of The New York Times contains more information than a 17th century Britisher would encounter in a lifetime." Even if an exaggeration, that is incredible. Apparently though, there is a middle ground between a 17th century Britisher (Englishman, I think?) and someone who is gaining a lifetime of knowledge daily. I don't want to be the Britisher, but I don't need to be the super-human. Balance is key.

Reading The New York Times has been a fascinating experience, especially because I consider myself extremely conservative politically and especially theologically. If you didn't know, The Times comes from a liberal perspective. The experience has made me more alert and discerning. It has also made me more compassionate and sympathetic to thoughts and people I disagree with. David Brooks (whose columns are worth the subscription) talks about a rare quality called "opposability", and defines it as the ability to hold two opposing views in your mind at the same time without going mad. I think I have developed this skill more strongly, and hopefully can see it in others as well.

At the end of the day, this experience has given me a sense of urgency to know how to interpret the present time. Jesus said to the crowds in Luke, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, 'A shower is coming.' And so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, 'There will be scorching heat,' and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?"

John Calvin says in his commentary to 1 Peter, "Hence at the very beginning he proclaims in express words the grace of God made known to us in Christ; and at the same time he adds, that it is received by faith and possessed by hope, so that the godly might raise up their minds and hearts above the world." More on 1 Peter later.

Later in Luke, Jesus says, "Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads; because your redemption is drawing near."

My conviction, then, from this experience is to know how to interpret the present time, and to raise up my mind and heart above the world. Why? Because my redemption is drawing near! How? Great question. I see a four-step approach to interpreting the present time.

START WITH SCRIPTURE

This is self-explanatory, yet I struggle with it. In the morning it is easier to check my phone or pick up last week's paper than to open the living Word of the God of the universe. Why do I do that? Don't do that. Scripture is too powerful and too important for us. Physically and spiritually we won't function long without it. We have to start there.

GET YOUR NEWS

Some people would say, in order to simplify your life, you should stop reading news, either on your phone, your computer, or physical newspapers or magazines. I am not convinced this is a good idea. Perhaps as a fast, it makes some sense. But in general I think it is dangerous and unnecessary to just give it up. And I think some people say this but still are gaining the skinny on every event in the world somehow, so the advice is hard to take seriously. When I think about "getting my news", I want to try to do so in categories. It is not possible, for me at least, to know everything about everything. But if I can know something about what is going on in my neighborhood, my city, my state, my country, and the world, I think I'll be in a good position to understand the times and be engaged in the world, so that I can love and minister well to others. Michael Lindsay talks about having "a liberal arts approach to life", which means being knowledgeable about various topics to be relatable and in a position of influence. As I read the news, what is it telling me about:

- The impoverished and afflicted?
- The economy?
- The marketplace?
- Entertainment (including sports)?
- The Church?

That is still a lot. But I think it is important and possible to be informed in all of these areas if we are to understand how to interpret the time.

GO BACK TO SCRIPTURE

This is probably the most important step, and the most difficult. The reason we need to raise our mind and heart above the world is to see our redemption drawing near. To do so, we don't want to ignore what is going on in the world, but instead interpret what is going on through the lens of Scripture, with our heads raised to the joy set before us beyond this world. Nothing will ultimately make any sense outside the lens of Scripture. People who don't go back to Scripture to help them interpret events are the same people who throw their hands up and say, "I just don't know anymore. The world is crazy." God forbid that we should be that way! Instead may we hold up the paper in one hand and the Bible in the other, pointing people to the one who came into and endured the craziness, without sin, died for our sake, and rose from the dead to give us hope.

What should I make of the events I've been reading about for the last 8 months? What does the Bible say about them? What do they have to do with the gospel? What do they tell us about eternity?

- Senseless violence of ISIS and Boko Haram
- Global migration crisis
- Earthquake in Nepal
- Riots in Baltimore
- Shootings in Charleston
- Society-changing Supreme Court decisions
- Political announcements
- Crisis in Greece
- Nuclear deal with Iran
- Climate change
- Minimum wage debates
- Free trade agreements

If I continue reading the paper as I have - the subscription has expired but is still coming so we'll see - I'm sure I would have a similar list of different events. The 17th century "Britisher" may not have gained as much information on a daily basis as we do, but he also knew that the world was a mess. "Tonight, on earth, it is total confusion", says Alistair Begg. This is the state of things. But our God is in full control, all the events in the news have purpose, and the Bible gives wisdom to help us endure and interpret them. In the process, God creates in us a longing for our redemption that is drawing near, and a passion to share this news with others. I have a lot of work to do in this area. Would you join me diving into Scripture to know how to interpret the time, so we can more effectively follow Jesus?

SEEK HELP

Finally, God has blessed this generation with individuals who can help us with this process. I will name two: Albert Mohler and Janet Parshall. There are others, but through their podcast and radio show alone, not to mention their books, they give great guidance in how to understand the events of the world from a Christian worldview. Mohler's podcast is called The Briefing, and Parshall's radio show is called In the Market, on Moody Radio. Their voices are timely, winsome, and biblical.

In summary, start with Scripture, get your news, go back to Scripture, and seek help. May God help us as we follow Jesus in this world with our heads raised.

Now, I am going to go back and catch up on my papers. I heard something about a video by a woman named Veronica who wants me to be mindful about going into the ocean. Not sure what that's about yet, but I have a trip to Florida coming up so I better be prepared. #WatchTheOceanFromADistance

"The strength of the good solider of Jesus Christ, appears in nothing more, than in steadfastly maintaining the holy calm, meekness, sweetness, and benevolence of his mind, amidst all the storms, injuries, strange behavior, and surprising acts and events of this evil and unreasonable world." - Jonathan Edwards

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Grieving as a Grandson



These are the thoughts shared at my Grandma's Celebration of Life service, June 25, 2015

I am indeed humbled to be able to say a few words about and in honor of my sweet Grandma Gibson. I confess that I had thoughts prepared, and I did so because my Grandpa asked me to. Though I'm not under any illusion that this will be easy. So I'm counting on you to bear with me and even help me through it.

I thought it would be good to speak as if I'm inviting you into my own grief. In other words, perhaps my approach to grieving, spoken out loud, can help and encourage you, as you remember her with the smile that we all know she wants for us right now.

Two words immediately came to mind as I considered sharing: gratitude and hope.

GRATITUDE

I am deeply grateful to God for the life of my Grandma, and the time we all had with her.

There are infinite stories and moments that could be shared, and I really can only mention a few. My hope is that they will spur you on to remember many on your own. Don't limit yourself to just a few!

There memories are really characteristics of my Grandma represented by individual moments; characteristics represented by moments. Again, these are only a few.

First, she was others-centered. She considered others more important than herself. I know this was displayed in her selfless care for my Grandpa. For me, I'll never forget as a youngster, at the funeral of her mother - Great-Grandma Ward to us - during the service she turned around in the pew and, perhaps noticing my sad, confused, or scared face, she grabbed my hand with a smile and told me it was going to be ok. I was reminded this week that I was 7 years old at the time. Amazing love and empathy at her own mother's funeral.

Second, Grandma was joyfully content. Just a couple weeks ago, at my parents' house for a great summer day with family and friends, I remember her and Grandpa sitting on the screened-in porch, a little away from the action outside on the deck. but close enough to enjoy the presence of family with the utmost contentment. She displayed this so well because she truly was content and full of joy with life. I don't think I ever shared a meal with her where she wasn't absolutely delighted with the food and company.

Third, she was generous. She and Grandpa faithfully supported a golf marathon fundraising event for a college ministry that I have participated in for several years. I have a sweet memory of an unexpected call from her after the event last year, where she said that she received this nice thank you note from this nice young man, somewhat loosely connected to the same ministry, but somewhere overseas or something, and who obviously wasn't me. She wanted to make sure their gift to me was received. We both got quite a laugh out of the mix-up, and fortunately, I was eventually able to get it straightened out.

Finally, my Grandma was so loving and faithful. I'm sure most of us can remember a "dancing moment" with her and Grandpa, and I certainly remember a very special one at Katie and I's wedding, but more recently, I'll never forget their spontaneous dance at their 65th wedding anniversary party last year, after my dad cued up their wedding song. It was a classic tear-jerker moment.

There are so many more. I encourage you to reflect on them and write them down!

There is a book that has helped me greatly in the past as I have dealt with death and loss. It is called Death by Living, and it is about how our lives are meant to be spent, our lives are what take us to the end, and life is ultimately what causes our death. I wanted to share a few quotes because they remind me so much about my Grandma.

"Live hard, and die grateful."

"May your living be grace to those behind you."

"Drink your wine. Laugh from your gut. Burden your moments with thankfulness. Be as empty as you can be when that clock winds down. Spend your life. And if time is a river, may you leave a wake."

What a wonderful wake that is left by Ramona Gibson.

HOPE

But as we remember her with gratitude, it is still hard that she is gone. So where is the hope? Is there hope? Yes. There is...a sure hope. Because this is a celebration of life. It is a celebration not only of past life, but also of future life! I know of only one source for this hope.

I need to hear the words of the Apostle Paul, who says, "For we know that if the tent that is our earthly body is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens... So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil."

He continues, "For the love of God controls us, because we have concluded this: that one (that is, Jesus) has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves, but for him who for their sake died and was raised."

What a sure hope! Died for our sake. Raised for our sake.

Paul also says, "But we do not want you to be uniformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope."

I don't want to be uninformed about my Grandma, or myself eventually. And I don't have to be. So I ask myself out loud so that I can ask you also, Joey, do you grieve with no hope? The answer is no!

Paul continues, "For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep."

Jesus himself says, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though they die, yet shall they live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?"

So I ask myself out loud, Joey, do you believe this? Yes, I do!

Paul also said that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Joey, do you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead? And the answer is yes, I do!

As I personally grieve during this time, my belief compels me to share. Elsewhere in the New Testament, Paul says to Timothy, "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost."

And then he says, and I say along with him, "But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost of sinners, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life."

There is great hope in the eternal life offered to us! And it is an eternal life into which we will be physically raised and live together in peace and joy forever - where the dwelling place of God is with us, and where he will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, for the former things have passed away. The tears, the crying, the pain, the death - all gone!

So as we reflect on the life of Grandma Ramona Gibson, and her wonderful attributes that are so worthy of imitation, my prayer is that we all may live in such a way that - like her - our life ultimately causes our death, so that then, in Christ - like her - we may come to life again.