My dear friend, Patricia, found out she had inoperable cancer about three weeks ago. She put it on Facebook so that her friends and family knew. Her hubby asked people to come for short visits as they had put her on hospice.
A friend and I went a few days later. She was upbeat and wanted to share some things about her life with us. There were no tears from either side, hers or ours. Instead, there was a peaceful acceptance as we prayed together for the last time.
People came that first week and then she had difficulty talking as her lungs continued to fill with fluid. She posted short notes on Facebook and then a few days later turned off her phone. She continued to post on Fb and then about ten days ago came her final post. Her last words to us were “Over and Out.”
I can’t tell you how that post comforted me. She knew she was passing into the arms of Jesus and was ready to go. It took about ten days until she finally took her last breath. The woman lived a life of love and in the end she went fearlessly into the next life.Farewell, Patricia. I will miss you but you will always be a shining example to me.
The other evening, I couldn’t sleep. I began to pray for a member of our family that keeps making mistakes over and over. As I prayed for him, I talked with the Lord about the things he kept doing. Eventually, about 1:00 A.M., I fell asleep. The next morning, when I woke up I was discouraged and didn’t know why. I thought about it and realized that I had been focusing on the mistakes this person kept making.I could see I needed to flip the script.
I then remembered Ruby, a friend of mine, who would say, “Don’t pray the problem!” I looked back at the evening before and that’s pretty much all I had been doing. So what should I do instead? I prayed about it. The first thing I needed to do was to get my eyes off the person and his problems and place them on the Lord.
I spent that day focusing on the greatness of God and his ability to answer my prayers. After all, He created the universe. He keeps the stars fixed in the heavens and the planets spinning in alignment. Surely, He has the ability to help solve the problems that concern me. Psalm 113: 4-6 says, “The Lord is high above all nations, His glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, Who dwells on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth?” Clearly, our God has the power to answer our prayers.
That evening after thinking about the greatness of God, I felt the Lord nudging me to be thankful for the things He had done for me. He reminded me of the time when I could have accidentally killed my brother. He was not even injured after the incident. My entire life would have been ruined had I hurt my brother, but God in His mercy, prevented that from happening. He also reminded me of the times He protected me during the years when I was not living for Him. Psalm 118: 1-2 says: “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” Surely, I could see how God had been merciful to me and that He would be merciful to my relative.
The last thing I was reminded of is to be careful where I put my faith and focus. The Lord instructs us in His word to believe that He can and will answer our prayers. The disciples had been trying to cast out a demon and they were unable to. Jesus showed up on the scene and cast it out. The disciples wanted to know why they had failed. In Matthew 17: 20 Jesus answered, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” Again, even though this problem seemed impossible to solve, the Lord was reminding me that nothing is impossible for Him.
So the next time you become discouraged in prayer, flip the script and remember Ruby and her advice, “Don’t pray the problem!” Place your focus on the Lord, His greatness, His mercy, be thankful and have a little faith in Him. He can do anything!
Recently, I have been asked by a couple of people what plague or disease I thought was coming next. People are understandably concerned after having dealt with Covid over the past two years. The women I have spoken to thought possibly Ebola would be the next pandemic we would experience. After watching outbreaks of Ebola over the last several years, I wouldn’t think so. Ebola does seem to be controlled with proper sanitation, hospital stays and isolation. One must have close contact with a person with Ebola to get it.
Covid, Ebola, Monkey Pox, Swine Flu, and Bird Flu are all examples of zoonosis. Zoonosis is“adisease which can be transmitted to humans from animals,” Oxford Dictionary. The worst epidemics in history have been caused by a vector (flea or mosquito) transmitting the disease from a host to a human. One only has to think of the Bubonic Plague that killed millions during the Middle Ages as an example of zoonosis.
I do think that what people are most concerned about are the viruses that exist in labs today. Is gain of function research being done on them? Are some of them being genetically engineered to cause them to be transmitted in an aerosol form? Are some of them being developed as bioweapons by governments of the world?According to the UN, “Historical biological weapons programmeshave included efforts to produce: aflatoxin; anthrax; botulinum toxin; foot and mouth disease; glanders; plague; Q fever; rice blast; ricin; Rocky Mountain spotted fever; smallpox; and tularemia, among others.”
I do think if we knew what was going on in labs in other countries that we would be quite concerned as my friends are. Other countries do not have the constraints our labs do and the laws governing them are different. There is always a chance of an accidental leak or in the case of war, deployment of a bioweapon could be unleashed.
Scripture does tell us that in the last days we will experience plagues and Revelation does mention that many will be killed by the wild beasts of the earth. The word used is “therion” which in the Greek is the diminutive of “theria,” a word used to denote a wild animal or beast. Sharon Gilbert believes that this word might have to do with the bacteria or viruses that come from the beasts of the earth.
No matter what is coming down the pike in the future, we know we cannot depend on man, science or our government to save us. Surely they will try to use whatever is available to them as far as medicine or vaccines to help the population but modern medicine can only go so far, especially if some virus has been genetically altered in a lab. If nothing else, Covid has taught the world that man is indeed susceptible to zoonotic viruses and that it will take a while for pharmacological helpto reach the general population.
What’s next? I have no idea. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. I believe we each only get today (that’s why it is called “the present”). We are not guaranteed another one. Rather than live in fear we can trust our lives to the Lord and leave our future in His hands. I rely on the words of Psalms 23 and 91 in order to find peace in an insecure world. We are, after all, finite and we need Someone greater than us to provide the protection we need from seen or unseen forces.
“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.” Nuke LaLooch (played by Tim Robbins) in Ron Shelton’s screenplay for “Bull Durham”
Snowy owl at Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota by Lee Kensinger.
Kim Crocker, a volunteer at the Sachuest National Wildlife Refuge near us, reported a tale that reminded me of the rule of fang and claw, talon, and blood. After an absence last year of any overwintering snowy owl at the refuge, this year we have two visitors, neither of them yet fully mature, but hardy enough to make the trek from the tundra. Snowy owls can live nine years in the wild and up to twenty-eight in captivity. Fully grown, they have a wingspan of close to five feet: beautiful, formidable hunters, and relentless predators.[i]
Mr. Crocker told me the ranger observed a Cooper’s hawk make a quick kill, probably a vole or field…
Ever since the war in Ukraine started, the world has been on the brink of WWIII. A cursory look at the last two world wars shows us that these wars don’t always start immediately when a conflict begins. Sometimes it takes several months for different countries to be pulled into the skirmish. In this day and age, when combatants are using smart technology, we know that a bomb or drone can get off course and accidentally strike the wrong target.It wouldn’t take much, perhaps a bomb exploding over the border in Poland or Romania, to draw NATO into the conflict and then voila, thirty more nations are involved in the conflict. It could happen today, tonight or tomorrow. We hope and pray that it doesn’t, but it is a real possibility.
When we think about the possibility of a wider conflict, knowing we are on the brink of another world war, we feel sober. Yes, very sober indeed. Our way of life could change in an instant and we could be the ones facing shortages, famine, and exploding ordinances on our own soil. This idea certainly diminishes any sense of security we might be feeling being a continent away from the current war.
When we think about our own sense of security, we base it on many variables: where we live, work, drive, our economic status, our health, etc. When we think about our lifespan, we look at our parent’s lives, i.e., how long did they live and what might our chances of a long life be? As a believer in Jesus Christ, I get a lot of my security from knowing Him and from the words in the Bible. In this case though, the Bible does not give me a lot of security. It doesn’t tell me that I will live a long life; in fact, it tells me a different story. It tells me that I also live on the brink in this world. Only this brink is the brink of eternity. Over and over, I am reminded that my life is short, very short indeed in light of eternity. James 4:14 says, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”
In light of this particular brink, am I even aware of it? Do I believe that my life is short in an eternal sense, or do I feel I have lots of time to make decisions that may affect my eternal destiny? None of us are guaranteed tomorrow; any decision we need to make had better be done today. So, I would urge you to make those choices that will ensure a positive outcome in eternity. In the words of Isaiah, “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”
On the brink. Yes, it is a sober thought. But there is something we can do about it that will give us a greater sense of real security while we watch the events around us unfold.
My husband and I were watching a movie the other night. A man had taken a woman on a date and asked her if she wanted to go for a ride in his boat. He then picked up his cell and tried to make a call. No coverage. He then told her they needed to go “further out” to get more cell coverage. She had no problem with that. What she didn’t know was that the man was trying to get her away from shore so that he could kill her. The audience knew it but she did not. We all wanted to say, “Don’t go further out. Stay near shore where there are other people and it is safe!”
The audience knew the man did not mean “further out,” he meant “further away.” Further away from safety. People that don’t have our best interest at heart want to do that. They try to isolate us from the people that love us, i.e. our friends and family, so that we have no one to turn to if we need help.
In life though, it is just not people that want to do that. As believers in Jesus Christ, we have an enemy that wants to isolate us from other believers. For a Christian, it is a dangerous place because we need other believers to pray for us and support us. During the pandemic, there was a time when everyone stayed home from church because the churches were closed. However, when they opened back up, everyone did not return.
According to George P. Wood in his article, “Six Reasons People Aren’t Coming Back to Church,” there are several reasons people are not returning. Top of the list is Covid Hesitancy. Many are afraid to return and be exposed to large groups of people. That is understandable. Others though are not returning because of Inertia. They have gotten used to staying home and it is hard to get them moving again to get up and attend church. The third reason is Weak Attachment. The people did not have a strong attachment to Christ or their church and the cares of the last year have strangled the little faith they had.
Anyone looking at those that are getting “further away” from their church know they are in a dangerous place. The seas of life are rough and we need other believers to help us through the difficult times. We need good solid teaching from the Bible to ground us during the uncertain times we live in. The Scripture speaks to us in Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as in the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching.”
Are you in the boat? Is someone taking you further out, further away from other believers? Turn back while you still can! Better yet, get out of the boat and stay close to shore, close to others where there is safety in numbers. We don’t want to end up being a statistic. A statistic such as Lifeway Research found: After the Pandemic, 6 percent of churchgoers said they would attend less often, 2 percent said they would now attend rarely and 1 percent said they would never go back to church.
Further out? Further Away? Not on your life!
Six Reasons People Aren’t Coming Back to Church. George P. Wood. July 23, 2021. Influencemagazine.com
Marco looked across the bay. He loved watching the ocean from his office window. Today, there was no fog and he felt like he could see forever. The blue of the Pacific Ocean was stunning as it glistened in the full sun. It was late Friday afternoon and he was calling it quits for the week. He turned around and looked at his office. He smiled as he saw all of the awards he had received throughout his career as a real estate broker. It had been quite a ride and he was still enjoying the thrill as each sale closed and his company received its commission.
Tomorrow was his 50th birthday andhe and his family were going to spend the weekend at his parent’s winery in Napa. He loved his parents but had chosen not to stay in Napa and work with his dad and brothers. Growing grapes and making wine did not compare to the thrill of making thousands of dollars from just one real estate transaction.
Marco walked out the door of his office and headed for the elevator. As he started to reach for the button, everything went black and he collapsed on the floor. He woke up as his spirit left his body and traveled upwards. In a few moments, he was in a room filled with light and millions of books. He looked around and saw what he believed were two angels. They looked at him and then turned and opened a gigantic door. A being filled with light entered and when his eyes adjusted to the light, he could see the most beautiful being he had ever seen. Not only was this person filled with light, he could feel love emanating from his every pore. He could see the scars on his hands and feet and he knew instantly who he was. This was Jesus, the Son of God that his parents had taught him about when he was little.
Marco could do nothing else but fall on his face and worship Him. Jesus came forward and lifted him up. As He touched Marco, love filled Marco’s being. He knew he was loved completely at that moment. A flash of fear coursed through Marco’s mind. What was he doing here? Had he died? What about his life? As those thoughts went through his mind, Marco began to see his life pass before him.
He saw the things he had done as a child and as a teenager. He saw his rejection of God in his college years and his obsession with money and his career in his twenties, thirties and forties. His life looked oh so shallow and self-centered. Had he done any good? He saw how he loved his wife and kids and how his company contributed every year to the homeless shelter near his office. He wondered, was that enough to get him into heaven?
No words were spoken as Jesus looked into the Book of Life that one of the angels held in his hand. He searched for Marco’s name but could not find it. “I’m sorry Marco. I created you to spend eternity with me, but you rejected every advance I made to offer you my love.” Marco then saw the hundreds of times that Jesus had protected him and spoken to him in a still small voice. He watched himself ignore those moments as he hurried on about his life, anxious to cut another deal and make another great commission.
Jesus turned and left the room. One of the angels pointed to the Hellevator and Marco knew that he was going to have to take it and live in a Christless eternity. He began weeping as he was escorted to the Hellevator. The door opened and he saw a demon waiting to take him to Hell. He tried to back up but a force just kept drawing him forward into the Hellevator. He started screaming, “No, No, I am so sorry.” He heard his voice echo off the walls in the Hellevator and the demon smile a wicked smile. Just as the door began to close, everything went dark again.
“One, Two, Clear.” A bolt of electricity shocked his heart. His heart began to beat and he heard, “He’s back. Let’s get him down the elevator and to SF General.” He could feel them lift him onto the gurney and he heard the elevator door open as they rushed him inside. In just a few moments, he was on the street and they were loading him into the ambulance. Someone was talking to him, “We’ve got ya buddy, just hang on. You’re going to be okay.”
Marco felt the weight of his body and knew he was back in it. His chest hurt and he felt weak, so weak he could hardly talk. He looked up at the paramedic and whispered, “Thank you.” He then looked up through the roof of the ambulance into heaven, “Thank you Jesus, for a second chance. I won’t let you down.”
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:16-17.
A few weeks ago, I was flipping through the channels and saw a pastor playing the organ at his son’s church. I was a bit shocked as this pastor had a spectacular and highly public fall from grace in the late 1980’s. I had pretty much assumed that he was out of the ministry or at least the public eye. You know, kind of the “one and done” philosophy…one mistake and you are done.
I thought about him for a while and I realized that although that might be how the world looks at people, it is not necessarily how the Lord operates. If a person repents, gets counseling, does their time (if there is any to do), and is accountable to the church leadership and has proved over a period of time that he has truly changed course, there is the possibility that he or she may be restored to some type of ministry.
Why would anyone take the time to restore a person who had made a large mistake? This would be about love and grace, which are subjects for a different day. Besides the love and grace aspect, one would think that the Lord would just wipe his hands of someone who had blown it in a big way, but that is not true.The Scripture says that, “For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.”Romans 11:29
So, what exactly does that mean? Well, let’s look at what irrevocable means: “not able to be changed, reversed or recovered. Final.” Oxford Languages.In other words, when the Lord gives us certain gifts and calls us to do certain things, He doesn’t take them back.
What does that mean for us? Is there someone sitting out there reading this who feels like they have blown it too badly to ever be used by God again? Have you failed Him or quit on Him in a big way? Can He or will He forgive you? Do you think He has given up on you…you know, one and done?
Unbelievably, when we read the verse above, we know that God is not in the business of taking back what He has given us. Not the gifts that allow us to serve Him, nor the calling to do it. They are ours to do with what we can. Have you turned your back on God or do you think He has turned His back on you?
You are the one who needs to turn around and look into the face of God. You will find His grace and love waiting to restore you. If you are willing, He is certainly willing.Is that kind of grace hard to believe in? Do you need an example from the Bible? In Acts 15: 36-41, we find two disciples arguing over John called Mark. He had deserted them in Pamphylia and Paul, the apostle, was not willing to take him with them again. You know, one and done; but Barnabas wanted him to go and he eventually took John Mark with him to minister to the fledgling church in Asia Minor.
So here’s the takeaway if that’s you. Turn around and take heart. God is not done with you yet. It is still not too late to be used by Him.