So much beauty…for eternity

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart…”

This verse explains why a pandemic like COVID-19 creates such response. In our hearts we long for beauty and eternity. Anything that smothers that longing is threatening and unnatural. The promise of beauty and eternity gives us reason to desire heaven more. Why?

  • Eternity won’t have restrictions
  • Eternity won’t be isolating
  • Eternity will be peaceful
  • Eternity will contain yet-to-be-seen beauty

Yesterday a thought came to me while visiting a friend who is dying from cancer. He talked about all the different birds that visit his backyard feeder every day. Made me wonder, “Can you imagine what the wildlife in heaven will be like?” 

No pandemic can threaten eternity. Nothing will ever again separate man from God. So much beauty…for eternity.

The Faith Doctor

I’m half through the autobiography of Jerry Kill, a successful college football coach known for turning around programs. One part of his personal story is a bout with kidney cancer. In the chapter recalling the bout, he gives a shoutout to his team chaplain with these words:

He is the best Christian man I know. He knows how to talk to you, how to relate to you, and he has the “it factor.” He’s a faith doctor. You have to have your medical doctors obviously, but he was a faith doctor for me.

That’s a first-hearing someone categorized as a faith doctor. Made me ask two questions:

  1. Who’s my faith doctor?
  2. Who’s faith doctor am I?

Maybe we all should ask those questions. After answering them, we could ask further ones like…

  1. How often do I see my faith doctor?
  2. What symptoms do I need to acknowledge to my faith doctor?
  3. How willing am I to be someone’s faith doctor?
  4. What fruits of the Spirit are needed to be someone’s faith doctor?

You get the gist. This chapter, by the way, was entitled Upsetting Cancer. Whatever spiritual issue you have that needs upsetting may well be worth answering these questions.

Better & Deeper!

Serving Frank

Two weeks ago I received an email from a stranger. It was Thursday after a rather trying Wednesday. The email was from a daughter who had an urgent request. Her 86-year-old father was dying from liver cancer, living alone in Bradenton while she and her brother lived in other states. A few weeks earlier she and her husband had visited her dad and had brought him to church that Sunday.  I had spoken that Sunday; therefore her reason to reach out to a stranger with her request.

It was a simple request…Go visit her dad and talk to him about spiritual things. Truthfully, my first thought was, “I’m doing my best to keep up with what’s already on my to do list. I’m drained, but I’ll try to go by.” As it turned out, her dad Frank lived less than two miles from me. I told myself, “There’s no excuse to not go by on your way home.” 

Today, four visits later, I’m so glad I did. What a genuine, rich spirit! We could have visited for hours each time, but his strength required short visits. Thursday we said goodbye. His children came to take him with them for his final earthly trip before his eternal trip.

This interaction is on my mind for many reasons, but one has to do with the reading plan I started this week on @youversion. Author Brittany Rust penned a seven-day plan entitled Pouring Into Others When You Feel Empty. Day two’s devotional included this thought:

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, you are stronger than you know. Helping others isn’t always easy, but it’s necessary to stretch the limits of your capacity to discover the limitless strength found in God. God has made you capable of bearing the burdens of others–will you open yourself up to be used by Him to do so?

The verse she connected to her devotional was from Romans:

“Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭15:1‬ ‭CSB‬‬

There are days we don’t feel strong. On those days, God often gives us an opportunity to meet a “Frank.” My prayer is that I don’t miss anymore Holy Spirit moments, that I choose to bear the weaknesses of those who need to be served, and that I reject to please myself in order to serve future “Franks.”

Fruity Fridays: Joy in All Circumstances

The second fruit of the Spirit Paul listed in Galatians 5 was joy. According to Webster, joy is a deep emotion of pleasure or gladness. The joy produced in one’s life by walking in the Spirit as Paul is writing about is much more than just an emotion. Emotions can be driven by circumstances. A couple on their wedding day should be filled with joyful emotion. Everything has been planned to make it a perfect day. Does that mean on the unperfect days they will face together that they will not have joy? Paul is saying it doesn’t have to be that way.

Paul taught that circumstances don’t have to rob you of joy (read his letter to the Philippians). You can have inward hope and exuberance in spite of outward circumstances. That’s where we are tempted to walk in the flesh–letting circumstances determine our joy rather than our walk with the Holy Spirit. Who isn’t guilty of that?

So what does this look like, how does it work? When I think of the most joyful people I know, they have all walked through some pretty tough circumstances. And what they all tell me is that those circumstances deepened their joy in their relationship with God.

I’m thinking in particular of a couple that have two disabled children. I’ve known them for 14 years. We don’t see each other as often as we used to, but every time we see each other they have the same joyful spirit. She recently went through a cancer battle also. Have they given up on their walk with the Spirit? No, it seems by their testimony to me that it is stronger than ever. They walk a joyful life because circumstances haven’t determined their spirit. Their walk with God has produced steady, genuine, inner hope–joy in all circumstances.

What circumstance in your life tends to be your joy robber? Have you truly given that circumstance to God? It’s possible that’s your first step to this second fruit of the Spirit, to joy in all circumstances.

Perhaps God…

In Jesus, CEO, Laurie Beth Jones says that both David and Jesus were able to mentally accept and integrate injustice as being part of God’s larger, loving plan. David illustrated this when his army wanted to defend him against cursing from a family member of Sauls. David denied them by saying perhaps God has sent him to curse me (2 Samuel 16). Jesus illustrated this multiple times in the closing narrative of his life by reminding everyone the authority they had was given to them from on high (John 19).

Life is lived differently when God is credited as the plan-maker, plan-developer, plan-controller.

For an illustration of this, follow this link to a friend of mine’s blog who has recently been diagnosed with cancer, who also lost her husband to cancer just five years ago.

What life event have you have a hard time accepting or understanding? 

How might your acceptance be altered if you considered that this life event was actually part of God’s plan?

Leave a comment about your thoughts on this viewpoint of God’s involvement in our lives.