Now faith, hope and love…

 

A couple of years ago I camped out in 1 Corinthians 13, well known in Christendom as “the love chapter”.  I got to the end and was baffled for the thousandth time about the last verse, which reads,

“Now faith, hope and love, abide in these three.  But the greatest of these is love.”  

The previous 999 times, I guess it was just doomed to be a forever mystery to me, as are a few other Biblical texts.  But this time I decided to investigate more thoroughly.  I wanted to know how in the world love could trump faith and hope.  Truthfully, I felt kinda stupid because I had never known the answer to this question, but I decided to overcome my pride and seek outside counsel.

Don’t you hate it when you ask a question and someone basically tells you to figure it out for yourself?

I called Jonathan Morris, who at that time was pastoring the church in which I grew up – Union Baptist Church in El Dorado, Arkansas.  When I asked the question, he pointed me back to the Scripture, back to the entirety of 1 Corinthians 13… Don’t you hate it when you ask a question and someone basically tells you to figure it out for yourself?  Ugh.  But he wasn’t leaving me, he was merely guiding me to see it for myself instead of him directly telling me the answer – that’s what great teachers do…. dang it.  He challenged me to read through the text again to see, beginning in verse 8, that there was a time element associated with various gifts from God like prophecies (they will pass away), tongues (they will cease), and knowledge (will pass away) and give way to something far better.  These gifts are contrasted with love, which will never end.

And then I saw it.  Praise God, I SAW IT!  Immediately my eyes filled with tears when I comprehended this eternal truth – faith and hope are temporary.  We will only need them while we are here on earth.  But, when we die in this life and gain entrance into the perfection of our new heavenly home, we won’t need faith anymore – our faith will have been realized – our faith will then be our sight!  And we won’t need hope anymore because our hope for the future will be fulfilled as we begin to enjoy the fruits of our labor and finally be face to face with the living God.  But love… oh LOVE NEVER ENDS.  I know, I know… for many of you, reading this is NOT new news… you’ve known it for a long time.  Or you figured it out by yourself.  But for me this was a revelation.

This absolute truth is one that I will rest on today as we bury my friend, Sharon Lynn.  Besides that great and marvelous Scripture, 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18, I am filled with joy to know she no longer requires faith or hope.  She has moved into the next life and will forever enjoy seeing and being seen, knowing and being known, and loving as she has been loved.  Forever in the presence of the One true God – our great Lord and King – God the Father, the Son and the Spirit.

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A Gem in Gold’s Gym

Meet Linda Owens, a brand new friend of mine.  I’m doing a blog post about her because she inspires me.  Why?  Because I saw her at Gold’s Gym pulling around an oxygen tank that helped her to breathe while she exercised.  I come from a family of people with lung issues… I’m familiar with oxygen tanks.  People who need them 24 hours a day don’t go to the gym.  So I wondered, what makes her different?  Why is she here, still trying to gain muscle tone and cardio fitness?  So we sat down and I asked her.

About 3 years ago, Linda was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis (PF), a disease that causes scar tissue to build up in the lungs.  The scar tissue leads to increasing difficulty to get oxygen into and out of the body.  It’s a terminal diagnosis and there is no cure.  But the doctor gave her a plan of action to prolong her life and she went for it.

When I asked Linda why she chose to come to the gym, she said, “You can say ‘poor me, I have a terminal disease’ or you can choose to get up and go.  And I’m going!  Life changes when you get a terminal disease.  You look at life differently.  You put things into perspective.  You think about what has to be done – wills, emotions… And you live every day as if it was you last day.  It could be.  You don’t know.  With PF you can be feeling great one day and flat on your back the next.”

I asked, “What makes it better?”  She said, “To know the path you need to take and follow it.  For me, that’s exercise.  I do the treadmill, cable machines, dips, sit ups, stationary bicycle, and upper body.”  She figured out what exercises she should be doing when her son, Shawn, sent her to a personal trainer. And she is very determined.  “I’m going to fight.”  Linda’s doctor tells her she is the poster child for Pulmonary Fibrosis.

What’s the most important thing you want people to know about you?  Linda thought long and hard about it.. maybe as much as a minute of silence.  Finally, she softly said, “I want people to know I care.  I care about the person on the treadmill beside me.  I want to help and fix things.  That’s always been true of me but even more now, there’s a sense of urgency.  People need a smile, a ‘good morning’.  A hug.”

This soft-spoken, gentle spirited widow and mother of two grown sons is also strong in her faith in God.  She attends Warrenton Bible Fellowship here in Warrenton, Virginia.  “God made me better mentally and physically.  I couldn’t have done it without Him.  I hope if people are diagnosed [with PF], they will know it’s not a death sentence.  This is not the end, you can have some good years if you have a plan.”  Linda stresses over and over the importance of having a plan. “PF has helped me to be a planner and not a procrastinator.  There is a verse – Jeremiah 29:13.  It says that God has a plan and maybe this interview is part of it.  Maybe someone will read this and have a change of heart about their illness.”

She has had several people tell her, “You inspire me.”

Well, Linda…. You inspire me too.  Thank you.

 

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Salt, Light, etc.

 

In a church class setting recently, some friends and I were studying ways to turn everyday conversations into gospel conversations (turns out there’s a book with that title).  This training involved role playing, which is awkward at best and terrifying at its worst.  We all struggled.  But then something eye-opening happened for me.  It was a not-new comment by one of the ladies in response to my encouragement to draw an oikos map with names of people nearest me who are not following Jesus.  This sweet lady, maybe in her early 70’s said she couldn’t think of anyone she knew who is not already following Jesus.

What surprised me wasn’t her comment, but my thought pattern as I reflected on her comment.  I wasn’t surprised because most of us who have been reared in a thick churchy culture tend to stay in that thick churchy culture.  I know we will find ways to be with others who are likeminded – even at work or recreational places.  I know that because I do it too.  I immediately commented that this is surely one of our greatest problems – that we hole up with our own.

Jesus told us we “are the light of the world, a town on a hill that cannot be hidden.”  He also told us we “are the salt of the earth.”  I’ve known those statements by Jesus for many, many years.  But for the first time, I really began to think about them practically.  How?

Well, if you are at the beach on a bright, sunny day and you turn on a flashlight – so what?  Who will notice?  Likewise, look at this picture… this is a rare picture the Morton Salt Mine located 2,000 feet below Lake Erie.  If you go in there with some salt of your own, what difference will it make?  Who cares?

You can see the point easily – I don’t claim this to be rocket science here.  That salt mine is like your holy huddle.  When we spend all of our time with light-filled, salty Christians, we will never advance the good news of Jesus Christ to grow the Kingdom of God.  The only way out of this predicament is to consciously, intentionally plan to be with people who are not following Jesus.  Once there, then we may let our lights so shine and season the environment with our salt.  We must share the gospel (good news) that people can be forgiven of their sins because of the work Jesus did for us.

So – where are you strategically placing yourself to be in the world?  If we are more intentional, maybe those conversations would happen more and more frequently and take the edge off our awkwardness.  Maybe?

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Who are you? THAT is the question.

So, I was doing some thinking today. I had this thought of when I was in HS and I was taking German. The teacher taught us something that has stayed with me. In English we say “Practice makes perfect”. Instead, in German the phrase is “Ubung macht den Meister”, the last word being translated as “master”. That day he taught us that perfection is a journey, not a destination. In the end, we strive every day to master something, but perfection is simply an intangible.

The next thought I had was what do I want to master? What do I want to do? Then it hit me, that I’ve spent my entire life trying to “do” something. I do for my job, for family, and even for myself. But, I should really ask myself; who I want to be. How many can answer this, or at least express in words what they really want to be. How many spend their lives chasing the next “to do”, hoping it will fill their void. In the end, it is nothing more than an achievement. An object that is gone as soon as it is reached.

What we should wish is to alter our goals. Instead of pursuing a “do”, we can work for who we wish to be. Instead of pursuing perfection, simply desire to improve each day and be a “master” at who we are.

As Christ taught, “be ye therefore perfect”, Peter taught the process comes through changing who we are, the “being” in and of Christ.
2 Peter
5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is what we teach people. This is what we represent to those who are seeking. When they knock, will we answer? ~ S.E. Brisbane (thank you for letting me steal this!)

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