Archives For April 2012

The Final Enemy

Tim Jackson —  April 27, 2012 — 10 Comments

“The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor. 15:26)

Those words have been stuck in my head these last two weeks–and the reminders are everywhere.

As you read in last week’s beautiful post by my fellow blogger Allison about the unexpected death of her sister Jodi, death still seems to be winning. The previous week marked what would have been my dad’s 86th birthday. We lost him last July, just 8 weeks after my mom lost her battle with cancer on June 3rd. Her birthday on May 1st is not a day I’m looking forward to, nor is Mother’s Day.

And as I write, my friend and co-worker in the cubicle next to me is watching vigil with his family gathered at the bedside of his elderly mother who is slipping away into eternity. The eerie parallels to last May for my family are uncomfortably familiar.

Death stinks! I hate it. It’s a ruthless enemy. I know it’s the last enemy to be destroyed before Jesus starts making everything new. I, for one, can’t wait.

In his vision of the way things will someday be, John wrote of it this way:

“‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the thrown said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” (Rev. 21:4-5)

The real deal is that someday, death will be decisively crushed under the heel of Jesus Christ, the One who tasted death for us all so that we too can share in His victory dance.

“‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting.’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:54-57)

So, until that day when we will dance on the grave of death with our Lord, let’s embrace one another with words of comfort, prayers of support and acts of compassion in our times of loss, sorrow and grief.

For more on facing death, check out Michael Wittmer’s The Last Enemy.

My Sister Jodi

Allison Stevens —  April 19, 2012 — 30 Comments
My sister Jodi died unexpectedly yesterday. I’m so incredibly sad, and I still can’t believe it. My heart breaks that she’s gone and that I can’t talk with her. I know she’s with Jesus—she’s happy, fulfilled, and satisfied in the Lord; and that gives me comfort. I love you, Jodi, and I look forward to seeing you again when Jesus comes back or takes me home. Rest in peace, my dear sister.

My sister was sick a lot during her life. She struggled with drug addiction. After one terrifying, almost-fatal overdose at 50 years old, she was convinced into going to Teen Challenge for drug rehab. Funny, isn’t it, a middle-aged person going to Teen Challenge?!  But for Jodi, and she would tell you this, that was one of the best decisions of her life. God used that place and those people to change her. I remember one conversation in which she told me that she knew God loved her and that she was learning to obey Him. She’d call me and tell me Bible verses that meant a lot to her. She was reading the Bible like crazy! Over time, I saw my sister become the loving and kind person she was deep inside but that the drugs had overshadowed for so long.

My family, friends, and I prayed for Jodi for years—not months or a few years, but decades.  Often, I’d think, and I’m so ashamed to admit this: “Why bother? She’s never going to change.”

I’m sorry I thought that and thankful that I did not stop praying, because Jodi is proof that God can change anyone. My sister praised God for helping and healing her. She wanted to tell the world about her transformation. Jodi was not a quiet person! When she believed in something and wanted something, she went for it wholeheartedly.

Jodi was a consummate Southerner, and in true southern fashion, she wouldn’t hurt a fly if she could help it. But if anyone crossed someone she loved, boy-howdy, they’d better watch out!  She was fiercely loyal.

She was also generous. Even when she didn’t have the means, she found ways to show people how special they were to her. When my son was born, she didn’t have any money, but she made a pillow for him. When my daughter was born, she made a blanket for her. She consistently sent us gifts and cards for special occasions. Jodi loved her family—her husband, children, parents, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews. And I can’t adequately describe how crazy she was about her grandchildren.

If you’re in a relationship with someone who’s addicted to drugs, you know how difficult it can be. But don’t stop praying for your loved one. Never give up, because you don’t know what God is doing and when His Spirit will bring that person to his or her knees. Never ever stop praying.

Jodi was clean for 2 years before the Lord called her home. I’m so proud she was my sister!

“Recalculating”

Jeff Olson —  April 12, 2012 — 4 Comments

A comedian once mused that he wished someone made a GPS for husbands. It went something like this:

GPS: “Compliment your wife on her appearance.”
Comedian: “Hey honey, you look really good tonight.”

GPS: “Ask her about her day.”
Comedian: “How was your day, sweetheart?”

GPS: “Pretend to be listening.”
Comedian:
“Oh…yep…really…”

GPS: “Compliment your wife’s hair.”
Comedian:
“Uhmm…Hey, your hair doesn’t look as gray as it did yesterday.”

GPS: “Recalculating.”

The Bible is far, far more than a GPS, but it records Jesus dropping “GPS like” directives to help us “recalculate” how relationships are to work now that He had come.

Here are just few:

“Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31, NLT).

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37, NLT).

“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39, NLT).

“There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent” (Luke 24:47, NLT).

The life, death and resurrection of Jesus birthed a new way of doing relationship with others and with God. The fallen way of selfishness and revenge and pride is now being replaced with His Kingdom way of love and reconciliation and humility.

As theologian NT Wright puts it, “It’s a way nobody’s ever tried before, a way that is as unthinkable to most human beings and societies as—well, as resurrection itself. Precisely. That’s the point. Welcome to Jesus’ new world!”

In Michigan, we had a crazy mild winter. To top it all off, in March we hit all-time record highs in the mid and upper 80s. I for one was thrilled. Bring it on! I love seeing plants sprout back to life from the stark, cold barrenness of winter. I’m already dreaming of savoring the lush tomatoes from my garden that make BLTs so delightful as I sip iced tea on the backyard patio.

I tilled my garden on March 17th! Unheard of for us north-dwellers.

Flowers are popping up all over the place. Trees are blossoming. Life is exploding all around. Anticipation of the return of lushness and vivid colors to our lifeless brown landscape is reverberating everywhere. It’s a comeback story.

And Easter is this weekend.

How appropriate. Easter. The climax of the greatest comeback story ever. The resurrection. The return of Jesus, the Christ, who suffered and died as a sacrifice for the sins of many so that all who believe in Him can share in His comeback victory over death.

John, the last of Jesus’ original 12 disciples, makes this statement in one of his last letters of encouragement to other Jesus follows regarding his encounter with the living Savior:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete” (1 John 1:1-4).

So, this weekend, with all the signs of spring that are exploding all around you in your neck of the woods, I invite you to take some time out to celebrate the greatest comeback story ever. The One who came to show us what life was all about and to save us from the mess we’re in is the same Jesus who died and came back to life to give us a taste of a new and better way to live.

So, how about it? You up for a celebration? Maybe it’s time for your comeback too.