When Death Shall Be No More

Claire Wineland is an 18 year old woman who is living with a chronic illness called cystic fibrosis (CF). Claire has a mission, and an admirable one at that. She aims to raise awareness about CF and raise money to help families affected by this disease.

If you keep up with current events, charities, or have been on Facebook recently you may be familiar with her message.

(here is a link to one of her vlogs if you’re not)

She has been fighting for her life since she was 16. She’s living her life with an incurable disease, but is making the most of what she’s been given.

She’s living an amazing legacy and has accomplished more in her first 18 years of life than many of us ever will. I admire her efforts to normalize death and ultimately teach coping mechanisms, but I want to take the opportunity to present a greater message.

The Normalcy of Death and Coping with Loss

Death is not a normal thing.

Despite our best efforts to live a longer, healthier, or even more *organic* life, death still happens. And it still feels odd.

On this side of Heaven, we must experience and learn to cope with death. It’s heart breaking when you lose someone you love and causes us to feel grief. When faced with death and our own mortality we are left with the decision to either give into despair or be propelled into hope.

Death is hard because I’m not sure if it was part of Gods original blueprint for Humanity. If that’s the case, then there’s a reason it feels so incredibly unnatural.

I’m not enough of a theologian to know if that last statement is definitively true or not. But I like to dream, and in my imaginative/uber nerd mind I see His original plan for death being a little like a scene from Lord of the Rings. I like to imagine that you would reach an age where you would board a boat that “retired” you to a place like Valinor…but we’ll leave that idea to my crazy imagination 🙂

(please keep reading if I just lost you on that one…lol)

No matter what passing into Eternity would have looked like before the fall, we must face the fact that in the here and now, it’s difficult. Much like our friend Claire, there are healthy ways we can help each other understand death and cope with it, but I long for the day that death shall be no more.

Live it Well:

This begs the question: In the here and now, with death being inevitable, how will you choose to live your life? Chances are you don’t have a disease that has limited your life span. Chances are that you have a long life ahead of you that will be filled with many blessings and a life that I hope will be lived of love.

Do not be afraid of death.
Death will be conquered.
Do not be afraid of that last breath.
While you are here, live of love.
Live as if every breath might be your last.
No one is promised tomorrow.
Only today,
and not even the rest of today.
We are only promised the PRESENT.

Live selflessly.

Live well.

Live each day like your legacy depends on it.

In His grand plan of redemption, death is put to death and will be no more when he comes to make all things new.

Though death is inevitable, so is its defeat.

Our Conquering King will return.

He will wipe every tear from our eyes.

Death will be no more.

There will be no more mourning.

No crying.

No pain.

And behold,

He will make all things new.

I’m thankful for the message Claire is bringing. One that teaches us to cope with the inevitable. I feel that it’s a message that speaks hope into our fallen world. I’m not sure if she has a Christian worldview or not, but her approach to what we will inevitably face one day is a message of hope.

Claire, I doubt we will ever meet, but thank you for changing the world. Thank you for being a living example of what it means to make the most of life. Thank you for living selflessly and changing the lives of countless individuals.
May God bless you richly for your work.

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For Freedom.

For freedom Christ has set us free;
stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
-Gal. 5:1

No amount of self hate, regret, past mistakes, condemnation, guilt, or shame can take away our freedom. There is NO ulterior motif to the freedom that Christ has given us. Standing firm in the promise of His word will extinguish the fiery darts of the enemy.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry,“Abba! Father!”
Romans 8:15

When I am tempted to despair over the man I was and the people I hurt, these promises ring true. God gave us a spirit of adoption. He set us free and we can stand firm in that freedom. The very offense that brought you to the cross has been redeemed and forgiven. And shame, sorrow, and past regrets are lifted.

Fear not; you will no longer live in shame.
Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you.
You will no longer remember the shame of your youth
and the sorrows of widowhood.
For your Creator will be your husband;
the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name!
He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,
the God of all the earth.
Isaiah 64:4,5

And there is NO CONDEMNATION IN HIM. He looks upon us and says
“Who stands to accuse you? Go and sin no more.”


Father,

Continue to wreck me with this truth. You are the true artist, and you have interwoven me into a story you have been writing since Creation. Thank you for your redemption. Thank you for your perfect love that casts out fear. Thank you for the freedom that is found in  your forgiveness.

YOU PAID THE PRICE. NOW I AM FINALLY FREE.

Where the Light Shines Through

Vulnerability is never an easy thing.
Even the thought of it is enough to make me cringe.
But I truly believe that “From Him, to Him, and through Him are all things.” (Romans 11:36). I truly believe that I can not know the mind of God and I know that His ways are not my ways.  So when God creates sensitive places in  your life, when there are scars from past relationships, abuses, neglect, even abandonment, those scary places from the past are exactly where our loving Father is calling us to go.

God is calling us to go to where our deepest wounds exists;
And your calling exist within your deepest wounds.

Your name is graven on His hands.
The very hands that were pierced for our transgressions.
The very hands that paid the price for the wounds we feel.
He understands woundedness.

We serve God…the author and perfecter of our faith.
He is writing our stories… and your past failure may lead to someone’s present victory.

Let’s take steps together toward vulnerability.
We’ll see we’re not that much different.
Don’t be selfish with the story God has written in your life.
It may be the only light of hope someone desperately needs to see.

Divorce and the Holiness of God

For freedom Christ has set us free;
stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1

Everyone experiences God in different ways. Some come to Him through addiction, some come through financial difficulties; Some come through a natural born faith. More than likely, if you follow Jesus, you have faced some form of difficulty that drew you to Him. My story isn’t different from that at all.

I’ve struggled with identity my entire life. Because of that countless relationships and friendships have failed. When you are void of definition, anything the wind blows your way can and will become your god. I was a sinful man prone to despair and despondency, and when you are in a despondent state, hope is a very hard thing to see. You desire to cling to it with all your might, but the energy doesn’t exist. Hope seems fleeting, and shame puts you into the mindset that you are no longer worthy of grace. That you are not worthy of hope.That’s a huge part of my story.

I don’t know what happened in my life to pull me away from Jesus, but I do know this…He is not satisfied when His children stray away.

Before Jesus redeemed me, I lived in fear. I was a very angry, anxious, and depressed person. My version of pursuing Jesus was the pursuit of intellectualism under the veil of Christianity. But faith in Christ and love were far removed from this.

Somewhere down this path shame and anger became my identity. They were two great wrecking balls in my life and they were the veil that I wore for a very long time. Growing up, when I was submissive to the teachings of Jesus, the veil of shame wasn’t so heavy, but when I began to wander away like the sheep describe in Luke 15, It became more than I could handle.

Because of this I had the tendency to fall into despair very quickly. I ran from God because I was too ashamed to admit I had issues. I ran from other believers too. Church became very offensive and I would do anything to stay away and not be confronted with my sin. The further I strayed away from God, the more roots of shame took over my life in most every way imaginable.

I was a miserable man incapable of feeling joy. I had uncontrollable anger issues and fell into depression at the drop of a hat.I had no hope that I could ever be saved, but Jesus in His great love and mercy had other plans.

My wandering state cost me every relationship and even lead to a failed marriage. I wasn’t innocent in the failure, in fact it was largely my fault. but God has a way of working through our failures to get our attention. I’ll never pretend to understand why he chose to use this method to do so. But I do know this. I was lost. I was defined by cycles of anger, malice, hate,fear, anxiety, and depression,
But God, in His great love and mercy redeemed me.

On the second night after my marriage fell apart, the Holy Spirit began to speak life into me. I laid in my bed, too exhausted to move, too depressed to sleep, and even too tired to get up to throw up. I was lonely, scared, and broken. My sin destroyed this sacred calling. My bible stayed with me that night and ever so slightly at the urging of the spirit I could hear him telling me “Just open it. Trust me. Read it.” At this point it had been many months since I opened the word of God, but didn’t know what else to do. So submitting to the Spirit for the first time in a long time, I opened it up and began to read.

I was immediately lead to 1 Corinthians 13.
This is what it says:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith,so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things…So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

My misery began with the pursuit of the knowledge of God while I neglected His love. I was a bitter and jaded person incapable of loving anyone or accepting love. I was so controlled by my anger that it dulled every good emotion until I was consumed with self hate.

God revealed the depth of my sin in that moment. He showed me though I spoke like His child and even understood complexities of the faith, I didn’t know how to love or what love was.

Over the next year God took away a lot of the knowledge I had gained over the past 10 years and replaced it with the fruits of the Spirit. This was a very slow, painful, and surgical process and many days I felt like he was slowly killing me, but all the while His perfect love was casting out fear. He was restoring me. He tore me so that He may heal me. He struck me down and he bound me up. (Hosea 6:1)

He was the one removing deeply rooted sin in my life that I tried so many times to remove myself and failed miserably. He was removing the veil of failure and shame that was my identity, and restoring to me the joy of Salvation (Psalm 51)

He lead me to Jeremiah 29:11 A very common verse that never carried any weight for me.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

These words brought amazing comfort into my life. Surely the plans God has for me are the same plans he had for Jeremiah. He also lead me to Romans 11:33-36 through the process.

“From Him to Him and Through Him are all things…” became my battle cry. And although the pain of failure hurt, even though separation and abandonment was painful, through those two promises, I knew He was working behind the scenes on something immeasurable.

This isn’t the path I chose. It was chosen for me as a result of my sin, and God redeemed it to reclaim His lost son. Though I didn’t choose this path, I couldn’t imagine not traveling it. It has been a very rough road, but our Father, who is rich in steadfast love and mercy, is the God who redeems.  For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Because of what Jesus has done in my life, I am now able to stand firm in the freedom that Christ has given and extend the invitation into that freedom to others. I am no longer defined by waves of depression, fear, anger, or anxiety. I am a child of God. I am proof that Christ will set you free.

So friends, When I write about fighting despondency, It comes from the overflow of what God has done in my life. It comes out of the love and mercy that He has shown me. I want you all to know that even in the hardest of trials and darkest of depressions or pinnacle of anxieties, there is always a bigger picture taking place with God.

There is always a master plan, and there are countless second chances given to us at the Cross.

I am thankful for a God who redeems all things. I am thankful that in Him there is no condemnation and that He is working all things out for the good of those who love him and work according to his purpose. I am thankful for the Joy of His Salvation!

I pray that this story is full of hope, because we serve a Holy God who restores the broken and binds up their wounds, and the story is long from over.

 

Future Glory

For the past year in a half God has completely redefined my world.
I’ve never lived with such an utter dependency upon His grace, His Son, and the Word for which we are given to know His will. This dependency wasn’t something that magically happened or popped up over night, It came through suffering.

There were many nights when it was hard to hold onto hope. There were many days I fell into despair and despondency. Fear, anger, and depression defined me, but God has a way of shifting our focus off of self and re-focusing us onto Jesus, where all hope is found.

So, as I write about suffering, it’s not an easy place for me. It’s not an easy place for anyone. But my hope is that you will be encouraged after reading this.

Before Jesus redeemed me, I was like a ship setting out for a journey without a sail. I would be tossed and turned by any wave that happen to come my way. Countless relationships were ruined because of this and I was too ashamed to turn to Jesus, but God in His great love and mercy took compassion on His wandering son.

For the first time in my life I was confronted with the ugliness of my sin. A growing cancer in my soul whispering the lies of the enemy. “worthless…you’ve strayed too far…Jesus doesn’t love you…anger defines you…un-redeemable…” But just as I was confronted with the insanity of my sin, I was confronted by the voice of Jesus calming those winds and waves.

This experience is so incredibly hard to capture in words. At the time I knew He was doing something special, but I didn’t know what. I feel as though, to use producer language, He was writing a new script in my life. He was painting over an old canvas and creating a new image, one that reflects Him. There was a bigger picture taking place behind the suffering I was experiencing.

The Bigger Picture

When any amount of suffering is taking place, it’s incredibly easy to neglect the good that Jesus is doing in your life. It’s incredibly easy to lose hope and see only the temporary circumstance, but there is no reason to fear or give into despondency because there is always a bigger picture taking place

Romans 8 does an incredible job of speaking life into this. There’s a section of it that reads like this:

…I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.. (Rom. 8:18-19)

Paul is letting us in on a big secret here.

Pain produces a peculiar glory,
one of which we may not see until we are with our savior in paradise.

He is introducing a concept called Future Glory. It’s arguably against the American (and millennial) culture of instant gratification.

What future glory begs us to to is to look beyond a temporary circumstance
into the eternal perspective. It invites us to look beyond our temporary suffering into a future in which the circumstance shaped us to be stronger and more fit for Kingdom work.

But that’s easier said than done.

Why is this so hard for us to do, even as followers of Jesus?

Culturally, it is very American to desire instant gratification. We love fast food. We love fast internet. Hate waiting in lines or traffic and love to express every bit of emotion on social media. You are in even more danger of falling for this if you are a Millennial. (because we barely had the chance to know anything different.)

It goes beyond our culture though. Romans was written around 57-58 a.d. and as someone who is reading as a Millennial I feel like Paul is writing this letter to me! The sufferings that the followers of Jesus were facing at that time were much more extreme than anything we face here in the U.S. (we can worship openly without worrying about death) but holistically we still struggle with this when pain hits whether it be physical, spiritual, emotional, or mental.

We have to know that God is working something good through our suffering.

It is inevitable that our peers may not understand why we are able to worship God through hard circumstances, but scripture makes it incredibly clear that we are not defined by a temporary circumstance, or even our response to the said circumstance.

When you look at life through the lens of Scripture,
it changes your perspective on suffering.
You begin to see there is hope found in suffering.

Paul continues to write in Romans 12

 I appeal to you therefore, brothers,by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

This is relevant to many situations we face as believers, but can be applied to how we process suffering.

Don’t give up hope.

Remember Romans 5? There is a cycle of hope behind any suffering.

Suffering produces endurance
Endurance produces character
Character produces hope
Hope does not put us to shame

What the flesh will try to dictate is your suffering is eternal.
It is not. It is temporary.

Shame?
Temporary.
Anxiety?
Temporary.
Fear?
Temporary.

Remember, behind every ounce of suffering is a future glory that is being revealed.
Hold onto hope. Keep pressing hard into Jesus. 


Scripture to consider:

“Through him (Christ) we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Romans 5:2-5 ESV

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18


A Helpful Song

 

BEAUTIFULLY BROKEN

The scene had been set.
The undesirable sinner walked toward the home of her prestigious accusers.
The Carpenter teaching the ways of the Father speaks to the prominent men.
Laughing, learning, teaching, hearing.
Then all voices stand silent at the unpredicted staggering sight before them,
The woman walks into the room…

The weight of shame prevented her from lifting her eyes from the ground.
She looked not to anyone…but only to the One she sought.
Walking into the room she sees the One who forgives,
Standing with the men who denounce her very life.

Shame couldn’t speak for her.
Fear melted away.
Regret faded.
She looked upon His face.

There He sits.
The Carpenter.
The Nazarene.
The Prophet.
Messiah.

Falling to his feet at the sight of his resplendent eyes
She responds with bountiful amount of tears.
Wetting the feet of the only man who has the power to condemn or forgive.
The weight of seeking salvation through worldly means had broken her.
She wets the feet of her newly found Messiah with sorrowing tears.

Weeping.
Uncontrollable lamentation.
She couldn’t speak.
But He knew her thoughts.
He knew her every sin.
Her every avenue of countless abuses of grace.

She unravels her hair,
Wiping the feet of the One who Forgives,
as he wiped away her veil of shame.

Knowing her every thought.
Looking upon her with nothing but compassion in his eyes
and forgiveness in his voice
He calls to her accusers.

“Do you not see? With much forgiveness comes much love.”

Breaking an alabaster jar
She pours the ointment on his feet
Beautifully broken, pouring everything she owned
On the feet of the One who saves.

The sweet smell of redemption filled the room.
The sweet smell of forgiveness that could only come from the Nazarene.
Her indictors could not escape the nectarous scent
filling the room and the nostrils of the pious.

“Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

Shame melts at the sight of our savior.
Like wax before a hot sun.
Shame is interrupted.
A slave no more to the chains of the past.
Redefined by our Savior and given redemption.
Go in peace the mighty savior said.
Even before her enemies a banqueting table was set.
Beautifully broken she stood and feared not
For the Lord was with her.

She’s set free.