by J. Christian Andrews
December 26, 2018
A Christmas Meditation
How do I tell this story, a story that begins before the foundations of the world?
...a story that is told when God rested on the seventh day and gave us the Sabbath Rest, our salvation
...a story that came into our time at the Fall...Adam was cursed and we sweat and fight the elements for our food...Eve was cursed and has pain in childbearing and desires to rule over her husband...the serpent was cursed...though he would bruise His heal, the woman's Son would crush his head
...a story that is told when God exchanged the selfrighteous fig leaves with which Adam and Eve clothed themselves with His covering of skins before He sent them from the garden
...the story was told in the flood when eight, Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives, were saved as through baptism from the waters that covered the earth
...the story was told though Abraham when he bound his only son Isaac to be laid on the altar, and raising his knife to complete the sacrifice was stopped by the angel of the Lord who offered a ram, caught in the thorns of the thicket, in his place
...the story is told when Joseph was sold into Egyptian slavery for a bag full of silver coins and again when he was lifted from the lowest of Pharaoh's dungeons to the highest place in the kingdom so that he might save his people from certain death by famine
...it is a story that continued in the birth of a baby boy...he was laid in a basket in the river...his contemporaries, all the other baby boys, killed by the king...and he was saved by the powerful in Egypt
...the story is told on Passover, celebrated year after year among the people of Israel, the blood of a pure lamb spread on the lintel and doorposts telling death to pass by and by the blood of the lamb sparing the first born
...it is told when the nation is born as through baptism passing through the waters of the sea on dry ground
...it is told in the Arc of the Covenant, whose mercy seat would be yearly sprinkled with blood for atonement of sin pointing to the cross, the mercy seat where once and for all the blood of the final sacrifice would be made
...it is told in the wilderness when grumbling lead to death by serpent poison and faith lead to healing by looking to the bronze image raised on a pole...
...it is told in the retelling of the commandments on the shores of the Jordan, a reminder that the Sabbath now also commemorates emancipation, the Sabbath Rest, our salvation, equated with freedom from slavery and thus freedom from sin
...it is told as the wilderness wanderings are ended by that final baptism, passing through the River Jordan into the promised land, a picture of our death and our passing into our eternal rest
...it is told by the crimson cord hung by Rahab the prostitue from her window on the wall of Jericho, a cord which saved her family after the walls came tumbling down
...it is told by the Moabites who was taken in by her kinsman redeemer Boaz...Ruth the mother of Obed, the grand-mother of Jesse, the great-grand-mother of David in whose line would be born the Messiah
...it is foretold by the prophet proclaiming a voice crying in the wilderness
...it is foretold by the prophet proclaiming a light in the darkness
...it is foretold by the prophet telling of a birth by a virgin
...it is foretold by a prophet announcing the coming of the King, humble and riding the foal of a donkey
...the story is told by an angel announcing to aged Zachariah that his literally old wife would have her barren womb opened
...the story is told by an angel announcing to virgin Mary that she would conceive by the Holy Spirit
...the story is told in a dream telling Joseph to take pregnant Mary, and not pregnant by him Mary, as his wife, and to honor her virginity until she had borne the child
...the story is told by the angel proclaiming His name, Jesus, Yahweh Saves, because He will save His people from their sin
...the story is told by a census that drove Joseph and his pregnant Mary the eighty miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the family home, David's city, to be counted
...the story is told by a birth, the baby boy laid in a manger because the guest room in the house where they stayed was full
...the story is told to shepherds out in the fields with their sheep, an angel telling them of the child wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger and angels proclaiming glory to God and peace among men with whom God is pleased
...it is told by a star in the east leading wise men first to Jerusalem and then to the Bethlehem house were the family now lived bringing their gifts, gold to proclaim Him king, frankincense to proclaim Him divine, and myrrh to prepare Him for death
...it is told by an angel sending Joseph with Mary the mother and Jesus the baby to Egypt while the baby boys in Bethlehem were slaughtered by the king in his jealous rage
...the story is told by an anointing in the Jordan waters, the Holy Spirit descending like a dove, the voice of the Father calling from heaven, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased"
...it is the story told in the Jerusalem guest room where Jesus took the bread of the Passover meal, broke it and gave it to us: "Take, eat, this is My body"...and the story told in the wine of the Passover meal over which He gave thanks and gave it to us: "Drink from it, all of you; this is My blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins"
...it is the story of a dark betrayal, a bag of silver coins...a kiss...Rabbi
...it is the story of a sham trial
...it is the story of the death of the innocent, He has done nothing wrong, a crown of thorns, mocking, the 39 lashes, a cross
...the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world
...the mercy seat sprinkled with the blood of the Lamb
...the story cries out, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing
...the story cries out, "My God, why have you forsaken Me"
...the story cries out, "It is finished"
...the story cries out, "Into Your hands I give my spirit"
...the story is told in an earthquake and an empty tomb…
...and today, the story says, believe...the story says, trust...the story says, if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us; but if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness
...and tonight, the story says, Come...all who are hungry, come and eat...all who are thirsty, come and drink
...the story says, "Come, come follow Me."
September 4, 2018
There may be no way to know if the social media networks will ever "self-correct." As of this writing, we seem to be witnessing a deliberate control of content away from content that leans to the conservative side of the religious and political spectrum. It becomes, then, more and more important that we not rely on the social media giants to get our news. Instead, there is a growing advocacy for the use of RSS feeds and RSS feed readers to curate the content of what we want to read off the world wide web. RSS feedreaders are a dime a dozen. Two I have used are Feedreader Online <feedreader.com/online> and Feedly <feedly.com>. I have listed here the feeds I follow. At over 100, if is way more reading than I can ever possibly do, but it is reading that I choose to do from a list that I control and have curated. I am curious what you might think of this list and am open to suggestions of sites to drop and / or sites to add. I have grouped the sites into catergories. Not all sites lend themselves to the nice sorting, but this list gives an aproximation of the kind of content each site has. I suppose the irony of the whole thing is that my own site lumpofclay.net does not have its own RSS feed. If you want to add me to your reader, you will need to do so from Clay on the Wheel at WordPress where I double post all my material.
Adam 4d adam4d.com. Adam Ford, AKA Adam4d (you say 'Adam4d' the same way you say 'Adam Ford' btw). I'm a Christian, husband, and father of 3 young boys. See also christiandailyreporter.com
AFLB/TS aflbs.org. Association Free Lutheran Bible School / Theological Seminary news
AFLC World Missions aflcworldmissions.org.
@Challies challies.com. Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.
Canon Fodder michaeljkruger.com. Exploring the origins of the New Testament canon and other biblical and theological issues
Cold-Case Christianity coldcasechristianity.com. J Warner Wallace is a cold-case homicide detective, popular national speaker and best-selling author, consult on cold-case investigations, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, adjunct professor of apologetics at Biola University, and a faculty member at Summit Ministries
Drinking Coffee in China drinkingcoffeeinchina.wordpress.com.
FLY (Free Lutheran Youth) flyconvention.org.
Lutheran Pub lutheranpub.com. ...a theology and culture website that seeks to engage the increasingly regressive culture from a confession Lutheran and biblical perspective.
Olson Family in Africa olsonfamilyinafrica.blogspot.com.
Sean McDowell seanmcdowell.org. ...a gifted communicator with a passion for equipping the church, and in particular young people, to make the case for the Christian faith
Stepping into Eternity toeternity.org. AFLC Pastor Tom Parrish: to practically equip believers with resources and tools that are an accurate reflection of Jesus' mind and will through the Old and New Testament
Vance Christie vancechristie.com. Connecting contemporary Christians with their beneficial heritage of historic Christian biography
What's Wrong with the World whatswrongwiththeworld.net. ...dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ
Old World Garden Farms oldworldgardenfarms.com. ...two individuals committed to a more simple approach to life, who want to be responsible for a majority of the food we eat, and conserve the resources we consume
This Is My Garden thisismygarden.com. ...a celebration of passionate gardeners around the world!
Atlas Obscura atlasobscura.com. ...to inspire wonder and curiosity about the incredible world we all share
Daily Timewaster (C W Swanson) dailytimewaster.blogspot.com. So much good stuff to waste time on...
Dale's Go Running Journal dalelister.wordpress.com. I follow Dale because he is a friend and we used to run together.
Happily Dwell (Naomi Andrews and Megan Valder) happilydwell.com. ...a space to share this passion for joy filled living. We dwell in many ways. Our home is both a physical and emotional dwelling place. In life we dwell from the home we abide in to the mental space we exist in to the spiritual path we pursue.
Sincerity & Sarcasm (Matt Brennan) sincasm.blogspot.com.
Sensible Survival sensiblesurvival.blogspot.com. ...about common sense preparedness for sensible individuals. I blog about how you can prepare for anything from a minor power outage to the end of the world as we know it
The Trek thetrek.co. ...to inspire you to get out and Trek for yourself. Life is too short to compromise on your dreams. We hope that we can serve as that friendly kick in the butt to get you out of your chair and into the mountains! Live big!
Twisted Sifter twistedsifter.com. To educate, entertain, and inspire each and every day.
Marriage and family
Intimacy in Marriage intimacyinmarriage.com. Encouraging Christians toward Healthy Sexual Intimacy
Natasha Crain christianmomthoughts.com. Christian parenting in a secular world
Prepare / Enrich blog.prepare-enrich.com. ...leading relationship inventory and skill-building program used nationally and internationally
Scott Kedersha scottkedersha.com. ...counsel, wisdom, and advice on how to best prepare for marriage and how to establish, build, and strengthen a firm foundation once you're already married
Start Marriage Right startmarriageright.com. Enjoy the wedding. Love the marriage!
Thriving Marriages thrivingmarriages.com. ...encourages, informs, and inspires you to make your marriage the best it can be
True Agape trueagape.net. Nurturing unconditional love
Alpha News alphanewsmn.com. important news programming to audiences everywhere in Minnesota
Christian Headlines christianheadlines.com.
Live Action liveaction.org.
World world.wng.org. World Magazine, may need a subscription to read online articles
Adam Weber adamweber.com. Non-denominational pastor at Embrace, Sioux Falls, SD
Boat14 WV boat14wv.wordpress.com. PCA Pastor Kirk Blankenship
Brad Hoefs pastorbrad.blog. AFLC pastor, teacher, international speaker, hope coach, author and mental health advocate
cjhasgoodnews cjhasgoodnews.com. AFLC Pastor Craig Johnson
Dare To Dream pastorpaulanderson.com. Lutheran Pastor Paul Anderson
diatheke diatheke.blogspot.com. Confessional Lutheran Pastor Joseph Abrahamson
God's Word is a Hammer aflcpastorschultz.wordpress.com. AFLC Pastor Nick Schultz
goodnewsforabadworld goodnewsforabadworld.wordpress.com. AFLC Pastor Terry Culler
Just & Sinner patheos.com/blogs/justandsinner. AALC Pastor Jordan Cooper
Musings of a Country Parson predigtamt.wordpress.com. LC-MS Pastor Lincoln Winter
Pastorsamwise pastorsamwise.wordpress.com. AFLC Pstor Sam Wellumson
Preaching the Word pastorkent.blogspot.com. AFLC Pastor Kent Sperry
Servant's Pen servantspen.com. ...five Lutheran (AFLC) pastors. Our goal is to publish content that will strengthen your faith in Christ, increase your knowledge of God's Word, and encourage you to live godly lives
Soliloquium gavinortlund.com. Baptist Pastor Gavin Ortland
Surburg's Blog surburg.blogspot.com. LC-MS Pastor Mark Surburg
Trinity Pastor trinitypastor.blogspot.com. AALC Pastor Nate Hoff
Vassal of the King vassaloftheking.blogspot.com. Bible Church Pastor Geoffrey Kirkland
Carey Nieuwhof careynieuwhof.com. ...former lawyer and founding pastor of Connexus Church
Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation ccef.org/resources/blog/. ...to restore Christ to counseling and counseling to the church by thinking biblically about the issues of living
Ed Stetzer edstetzer.com. Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadershp at Wheaton College, and Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center
Facts & Trends factsandtrends.net. LifeWay providing Christian leaders with relevant information, practical ministry ideas, and biblical resources
Paul Alexander paulalexanderblog.com. ...pastor, speaker, strategist, and ministry consultant at The Unstuck Group. Most of what I write about focuses on helping churches and ministry leaders take steps to make the vision God has given them become reality
Thom S Rainer thomrainer.com. Growing healthy churches. Together.
Politics and cultural engagement - Christian perspective
The American Conservative theamericanconservative.com. ...to promote a "Main Street" conservatism that opposes unchecked power in government and business; promotes the flourishing of families and communities through vibrant markets and free people; and embraces realism and restraint in foreign affairs based on America's vital national interests
The American Vision americanvision.org. Joel McDurmon: to restore America to its Biblical foundation - from Genesis to Revelation.
BreakPoint breakpoint.org. The Colson Center for Christian Worldview is a ministry that equips Christians to live out their faith with clarity, confidence, and courage in this cultural moment.
Culture Watch billmuehlenberg.com. Bill Muehlengerg...devoted to exploring the major cultural, social and political issues of the day [with] reflection and commentary drawing upon the wealth of wisdom found in the Judeo-Christian tradition
Denny Burk dennyburk.com. Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, [and] Associate Pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church, Louisville
The Five Pilgrims thefivepilgrims.com. Donald T. Williams is R. A. Forrest Scholar and Professor of English at Toccoa Falls College in the Hills of NE Georgia. A dual citizen of Narnia and Middle Earth, he is a border dweller, permanently camped out on the borders between serious scholarship and pastoral ministry, theology and literature, preaching and teaching, Christianity and culture. He is best known as an Inklings scholar and Christian apologist.
Daniel Woodworth is a scientist by trade and a political activist by choice. He received his B.S. in Geology in 2014 from Texas Christian University, and is now a Ph.D. candidate in Geophysics at Rice University, and endeavors to use the same precise logic required for good science to analyze the political scene.
Imprimis imprimis.hillsdale.edu. Hillsdale College newsletter
Letter & Liturgy letterandliturgy.com. ...a Protestant, evangelical writing initiative. In the words "letter" and "liturgy" are two primary desires for this space: To express the deepest beliefs and practices of the Christian faith in a beautiful, erudite, and literary way. Letter and Liturgy is a place for weighty thinking about God, culture, the Christian life, politics, books, and more.
Life Site News lifesitenews.com.
Pulpit & Pen pulpitandpen.org. Pastor Hall holds to the Second London Baptist Confession (1689). All contributors are Baptist, and most - but not all - hold to the five points of Calvinism. All contributors hold other similar convictions, including a belief in the Scripture's inerrancy, young-Earth creationism, Biblical manhood and womanhood, and a general detestation of skinny jeans
Russell Moore russellmoore.com. ...president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. The ERLC is the moral and public policy entity of the nation's largest Protestant denomination
Stand to Reason str.org. ...trains Christians to think more clearly about their faith and to make an even-handed, incisive, yet gracious defense for classical Christianity and classical Christian values in the public square.
Turing Point Project turningpointproject.com. ...dedicated to educating Catholics and other Americans about the threat from Islam by arming them with the information and analysis necessary to meet the challenge
Wee Flea theweeflea.com. David Robertson is the minister of St Peters Free Church in Dundee Scotland (the church is famous for being the original church of Robert Murray McCheyne) and associate director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity solas-cpc.org.
Politics and cultural engagement
America Thinker americanthinker.com. ...daily internet publication devoted to the thoughtful exploration of issues of importance to Americans...National security in all its dimensions -- strategic, economic, diplomatic, and military -- is emphasized. The right to exist and the survival of the State of Israel are of great importance to us. Business, science, technology, medicine, management, and economics in their practical and ethical dimensions are also emphasized, as is the state of American culture.
Conservative Review conservativereview.com. To cut through the talking points and the smoke and mirrors, Conservative Review® employs two main tools: the Liberty Score® and our conservative commentary.
The Daily Signal dailysignal.com. Heritage Foundation team delivering investigative and feature reporting and the most important political news and commentary...committed to truth and unmatched in knowledge of Washington's politics and policy debates
Dan Bongino bongino.com. A multiple-time New York Times Best Selling author, and the host of the top-rated "The Dan Bongino Show" Podcast, Dan provides frequent commentary on a myriad of issues for The Fox News Channel. Dan is a contributor at CRTV, and he is the host of "We Stand" on NRATV.
Foundation for Economic Education fee.org. FEE's mission is to inspire, educate, and connect future leaders with the economic, ethical, and legal principles of a free society.
Gary Grindler garygindler.wordpress.com. PhD in Theoretical Physics. WWII Historian. Numismatist. World Traveler. Businessman. Algorithmic Stock Trader. XVIII century Classical Liberal = XXI century Conservative. Political Activist. 2A. WARNING! Politically Incorrect Zone.
Hunter Baker hunterbaker.wordpress.com. ...university fellow and and associate professor of political science at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee
Independent Institute: The Beacon blog.independent.org. ...a non-profit, non-partisan, public-policy research and educational organization that shapes ideas into profound and lasting impact through publications, conferences, and effective multi-media programs. Our mission is to boldly advance peaceful, prosperous, and free societies grounded in a commitment to human worth and dignity.
Intellectual Takeout intellectualtakeout.org. ...To serve as a refuge for those who want to pursue truth, rediscover the wisdom and traditions of the past, discuss ideas calmly, and apply what's been learned to their own lives and networks.
Just Facts justfactsdaily.com. ...to publish comprehensive, straightforward, and rigorously documented facts about public policy issues
Louder with Crowder louderwithcrowder.com.
Mercatornet mercatornet.com. ...reframing ethical and policy debates in terms of human dignity, not dollars and cents. We oppose moral relativism, scientism, utilitarianism, and materialism -- in short, any ism which reduces persons to soulless machines.
Michelle Malkin michellemalkin.com. ...senior editor and CRTV as host of "Michelle Malkin Investigates."
Minding the Campus mindingthecampus.org. ...fostering a new climate of opinion that favors civil and honest engagement of all ideas, offering an engaged debate for readers concerned with the state of the modern university and the society it serves
The New American thenewamerican.com. ...guided by our support of the U.S. Constitution and the principles upon which our Constitution is based. Specifically, we want to restore and retain the values and vision that made America great - limited government under the Constitution, the freedoms our Constitution guarantees, and the personal responsibility a free people must exercise to stay free
OpsLens opslens.com. ...daily print and video commentary on the world's most trending and critical stories related to national security, public policy and other matters of state through the lens of experience
OUPblog (Oxford University Press) blog.oup.com. ...the talented authors, staff, and friends of Oxford University Press provide daily commentary on nearly every subject under the sun, from philosophy to literature to economics.
PJ Media pjmedia.com. As a company, we've always felt a special connection to the values which make America special, as well as a dedication to keeping America great for our children and our children's children. That's why our main focus is on the three main areas that will have the most impact on the future of America: politics, parenting and lifestyle.
Public Discourse thepublicdiscourse.com. ...an online publication of the Witherspoon Institute that seeks to enhance the public understanding of the moral foundations of free societies by making the scholarship of the fellows and affiliated scholars of the Institute available and accessible to a general audience
Quillette quillette.com. ...a platform for free thought. We respect ideas, even dangerous ones. We also believe that free expression and the free exchange of ideas help human societies flourish and progress.
Selwyn Duke selwynduke.typepad.com. ...the Sojourner on the Blue Orb
Slow Facts slowfacts.wordpress.com. I have a particular interest in liberty. - Rob Morse
The Stream stream.org. ...a national daily championing freedom, smaller government and human dignity
The Conversation theconversation.com. ...fact-based and editorially independent forum, free of commercial or political bias.
Concealed Carry concealedcarry.com. ...to empower and prepare 1 million gun owners to act as "sheepdogs" or citizens that are prepared and willing to protect the innocent in our society from the criminals, predators, and terrorists that would feed on our communities.
Andrea Lynn (Christenson) andreachristenson.com/devotional-writings.
Gary Thomas garythomas.com. ...bestselling author and international speaker whose ministry brings people closer to Christ and closer to others. He unites the study of Scripture, church history, and the Christian classics to foster spiritual growth and deeper relationships within the Christian community.
Still Here and Still His (Jen Erickson) stillhereandstillhis.wordpress.com.
Juli McGowan Boit julimcgowanboit.com. My name is Juli Boit, but in the village where I live in Kenya I am known as Mama Ella. I am a wife, mom, nurse, and follower of Jesus. I help to run a hospice and dream of ways to see justice and mercy lived out around me.
Lutheran Ladies Connection lutheranladiesconnectionwordpress.wordpress.com. Christian women sharing spiritual issues
Being Lutheran beinglutheran.com. ...seeking to answer the question, "Why do Lutherans believe what they say they believe?" In answering that question, we'll be uncovering the biblical support for several Lutheran doctrinal and theological positions.
The Brothers of John the Steadfast steadfastlutherans.org. ...so that we can better equip men and women to know and defend the apostolic faith
Core Christianity corechristianity.com. ...we aim to answer the hard, unsettling questions of our times with both skeptics and committed Christians in mind. We want to give answers that not only show why Christianity is true, but also why it is good and beautiful.
Cranach: the blog of Veith patheos.com/blogs/geneveith. Gene Edward Veith is a writer and a retired English professor and college administrator and currently the director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary.
the Cripplegate thecripplegate.com. ...a small attempt to continue the tradition that [Puritan era Baptists and Calvanists who met at London's Cripplegate] started by giving a place for like-minded Christians and pastors to share their thoughts about ministry, theology, and issues that affect the church today, in a way that will bring encouragement and clarity to those who read it
Crossway crossway.org. ...to publish gospel-centered, Bible-centered content that will honor our Savior and serve his Church
From Geneva to Wittenberg g2witt.blogspot.com.
The Gospel Coalition thegospelcoalition.org. ...a fellowship of evangelical churches in the Reformed tradition deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures
Gottesdienst gottesdienst.org/gottesblog. The Journal of Lutheran Liturgy
Postcards from Palookaville alliancenet.org/mos/postcards-from-palookaville. Carl Trueman
Table Talk Magazine tabletalkmagazine.com. Initially, serving as the Ligonier Ministries newsletter...to challenge and encourage readers to dig deeper into the Word of God in order that their lives may be transformed through the renewing of their minds (Rom. 12:1-2).
Theology Like a Child (Nathan Rinne) infanttheology.wordpress.com.
Weekly Luther academic.cphblogs.com/weekly-luther.
by J. Christian Andrews
April 25, 2018
It has been said a man is fortunate to have two or three real friends in a life time. Steve Papillon was that to me. So I was humbled and honored to share the Gospel as his family and we said, "See you later."
The Psalmist wrote in the 139th Psalm:
"Do I not hate those who hate You, O LORD?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
I hate them with the utmost hatred;
They have become my enemies."
It was in this vein and with this company that I expressed my hate for death and for four short passages of Scripture that speak of death.
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."
"Precious in the sight of the LORD
Is the death of His godly ones."
1 Thessalonians 4:13
"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope."
1 Corinthians 15:54-57:
"But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, 'Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
First, I hate these texts because they remind me that sin brought death. We gathered at 11 am on Friday, April 20, because of death. And death comes in so many ways. Death comes because of war. Death comes because of crime and punishment for crime. Death comes by way of natural disaster and accident. Death come because of disease, and on that day we were so aware of how cancer took Steve's brother-in-law, Bill Lackey, Steve's son, Andrew "Drew", and Steve. And if none of these take us, then age certainly will. The human mortality rate is 100% (even statistically with the exceptions of Enoch and Elijah). And this 100% mortality rate is because of sin, and I hate these texts because they remind me that sin killed a perfect creation and brought death.
I also hate these texts because they remind me of my own sin. That sin brought death to our bodies is almost always separate from any one or any particular sin. Rarely does one die as a direct result of the commission of a particular sin. However, we are all destined to die an eternal death, a death that is actually eternal separation from God, because we are all sinners. We are taught this by Scripture, and specifically by God's Word given to us in the Letter to the Romans. We read in chapter 3 verse 23 that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Because we all sin, not a one of us is worthy to be in God's holy and eternal presence. This is what it means to fall short of His glory. We read in Romans 6:23 that the wages of sin is death. Because we sin we actually earn this eternal separation from God. And we read in chapter 5: "just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned..." (12). These texts all remind me of my own sin and my own separation from God, and I hate these texts.
Death is a key word in each of these texts, yet it is not the main idea in any of them. So, while I hate that these texts remind me of sin and death, I also love these texts. Each of them points me to life and God's solution for my sin.
Yes, we will all walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and this walking is painful and full of grief. But we have a promise, and isn't the promise that God Himself in the incarnate Jesus has walked this valley for us? Yes, God is with us as we walk the valley; but even more so He is with us because He walked the valley. He died our death. He experience hell for us. And He proved Himself more powerful than death so that we can indeed confess, "I will fear no evil,/For You are with me."
And, yes, death is real, and we gathered on that Friday morning because of the reality of death. But there is more promise because the death of God's godly ones is precious in His sight. "Godly ones" is the rendering in the NASB. Other translations say, "saints." The godly ones, the saints, are those that have been declared so because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, because of what Jesus proved for us through His resurrection. We are not godly or saints on our own merits. We are godly and saints because when we believe the promise it is so declared of us. It is, thus, precious to God when He them welcomes us home to His eternal presence. Our sin makes us unworthy. God's gift makes us welcome, and it is precious in His sight.
And yes, there is mourning. Death hurts. Death aches. Death is bitter. And we don't minimize the pain when we consider the hope we who are in Christ have. But our mourning, our grief and our grieving, is not like that of those who have no hope. We will all grieve, and we will all journey through grief in our own time and way. And I trust we will all be able to give each other that space and time to be in our own grief. But the grief we have and the grief journey we will take is not at all like the grief of those who do not know Jesus and who have not believed in His promises. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I hate that death is real, but I love that life is more real. I hate the sting of death because it tells me of my sin. But I also know and believe that God has given us victory over sin and death. Jesus bore our guilt. Jesus became our sin. Jesus died our death. Jesus suffered our separation. But sin and death could not hold Jesus. The grave could not keep Him. The powers of hell were not enough, and He indeed did prove the victory for us. So, yes, death is swallowed up in victory; and we have the victory through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
This then is not "good bye," my dear friend. This is only a temporal parting. There won't be any more of those emails you did not like to answer. There won't be any more of the ten pages letters you felt you had to write when you did. Your time on earth is over. It hurts, but it does not hurt like it could or would if indeed we were really saying "good bye." Instead, dear friend, we will see you later.