Monday, January 27, 2014

A Grieving Parent's Obedience

In Matthew 16, Jesus rebukes Peter for trying to suggest that Jesus should pursue anything other than to fulfill the Father’s calling for his life—a sacrificial death on the cross. Rather than calling us to a lap of luxury, Jesus tells Peter and those of us who have been called as His followers to “deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24). About this death, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him to come and die.” In becoming His disciples, we are called to suffer for Him. The “deaths” we must die are different for every believer. Those of us who are grieving the death of one of our children have a difficult cross to bear. As demonstrated in numerous instances throughout the gospels, Christ holds the power of life, death and even resurrection. Since we lost a child, we have had to come to grips with the fact that, while Jesus held the power to save our child at the very moment of our child’s death, he chose not to heal our child. Unlike many grieving parents who grieve the fact that God wasn’t strong enough to save their children, we trust that our child died not because God could not save the child, but because our child’s physical death is a means (albeit a nasty, heinous, terrible one) allowed in order to achieve much greater purposes. In trusting in this greater good, we have to pick up our cross, daily, by casting aside our own dreams for ourselves and our children, and instead obeying God’s promises that His purposes for our lives and our child’s (shortened) life will, in full view of eternity, far exceed our own expectations. Will you pick up your cross and carry it with me on your own road to Golgatha, regardless of where it might light, in the sure hope and certainty that it will be worth the cost, in the ultimate end?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Daily Disciplines and Eternal Consequences

In his short fantasy novel, “The Great Divorce” C.S. Lewis follows a man who is given the opportunity to travel to a fictitious “Heaven.” This “Heaven” includes both the saved (the “Solid People”) as well as the unsaved (“Ghosts,” who are residents of “the town” or Hell). In this fictional novel, even who are not saved are given the opportunity to visit this Heaven. Lewis, of course, tells his readers not to think that this conception of Heaven is in any way theologically-sound. The novel does provide us, however, with a great glimpse into a very basic (but often overlooked) aspect of our Christian lives-that is, how seemingly small decisions made every day will ultimately impact who we become, not only in this life but in eternity. In other words, every day decisions will ultimately impact our desires, our personality, and who it is that we become, in Christ. During one interaction between the main character and a member of the Solid People, we are told, “Not only this valley but all their earthly past will have been Heaven to those who are saved. Not only the twilight in that town, but all their life on Earth too, will then be seen by the damned to have been Hell. That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering ,”No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say, “Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences”: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the qualify of Heaven; the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness.” C.S. Lewis, Great Divorce, Page 69. As we grieve the death of our child, will we renew ourselves, day after day, in the promises of Hope found in scripture so that, by reason of years of practice, it becomes second nature to us? Are we taking the necessary (seemingly insignificant) mundane steps to steep ourselves in the encouragement of fellow believers? As Lewis notes, the consequences of these daily decisions have eternal consequences.