Category Archive: God’s Promises

How Beautiful Heaven will Be

Dad had just received the news that he was terminally ill with leukemia and had only a short time to live. I walked gingerly into his room to see him gazing out the window at the flowers outside.

One of my favorite photos of Dad and Mom. Dad’s been in heaven seventeen years already.

My father turned back to look at me. My eyes were wet with tears. “How beautiful heaven will be,” Dad said with his wonderful smile. I wept.

Don and I attended a wedding reception this weekend for a lovely couple. We saw friends we hadn’t seen in awhile. We met others we’d heard much about. As we spent time talking, we had some rich, meaningful conversations about how we were all connected through Karen and Jerry, parents of the groom, and about God’s work in our lives. Everyone has a story and it was a privilege to hear, and share those, from the widows to the divorced to those impacted by critical illness … but with confidence in the goodness of God.

We had a marvelous time, and hung out beyond the stated end time of the party. I thought, if it is such a joy to meet both old and new friends at a reception on a Saturday afternoon in Saratoga, California — what will our joy meter read in heaven when we meet Jesus face to face, and are reunited with those we love who have preceded us into glory?

Scripture promises that one day Jesus will return to take his followers to heaven for eternity. Some of us will be called home through death before he returns. But we have a choice. That choice is to take him at his word, to accept his forgiveness and acknowledge him as our Lord and Savior; or to reject the grace he offers and be separated from him for all eternity.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:16-17 ESV

If you have never committed your life to Jesus Christ, please consider his great sacrifice and his offer of forgiveness, hope, peace, and eternal life with him.

“How beautiful heaven will be!” I’m looking forward to it.

I’d love to talk about any questions you may have.

Home — not a Place, but a Presence

Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault.

Jude 1:24, NLT

We were talking about my friend’s house, which she enjoyed with her husband for quite a few years. Now he has passed into glory and she is thinking through her next steps. “Remember,” she said, “Home is not a place, but a Presence.”

“Presence” — defined as the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing. Another definition is “a person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen.” Scripture adds to this one of the names of God–“Emmanuel,” meaning “God with us”.

What a promise! God, creator of heaven and earth, is with us! Psalm 139:7-10 state that

I can never get away from your presence!

If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.

If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,

even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.

I looked up some synonyms for presence at thesaurus.com:

Whereas a few antonyms for presence reflect negativity, anxiety, “apart-ness”: aspects of life when we are not living in God’s presence.

Afraid

Presence of God

The Scriptures often speak of God’s presence in human history. His presence may bring fear to man’s heart, as when Adam and Eve sinned and hid from God in the Garden of Eden.

But God’s presence also provides comfort in times of trouble or anxiety (Joshua 1:5; Psalm 42:5). So if we are actively living in the presence of God, we will know the assurance of his companionship, his promise never to leave us, to guide us, to grant us his wisdom.

The presence of God finds its greatest expression in Immanuel, God with us.

God himself came to save. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, entered a teeming humanity to give his life as a ransom for us.

In his grace, God buys us back in the most unimaginable way possible: God in Christ became a man, walked among humanity, and died for his people.

J Ryan Lister (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is professor of theology at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon.

And one day those who have trusted Christ’s atoning work on the Cross will be fully in His presence in heaven, rejoicing and worshiping him for all eternity. As that precious song says, “I can only imagine …”

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When your face is before me
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine…

-Mercy Me

Delight in the Lord with me as we walk this journey, knowing that His presence is the source of our strength, our peace, and our comfort; and that we are at Home there, both now and for all eternity.

You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16:11

God Uses Pain

I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.

C.S. Lewis
Joy Davidman Lewis

Secrets. Deadly. C.S. Lewis lost his beloved wife, Joy, to cancer. But he didn’t hide his grief, writing about it in A GRIEF OBSERVED. His wisdom is meaningful because it comes out of his own life experience.

A Grief Observed

Our culture tends to think of pain as a negative, as something to sweep under the proverbial rug.

“How are you?”
“I’m fine thanks. And you?”

We may not want to take someone else’s time to share the truth of our journey, the faith crisis we’re in, the pain of loss, a wayward child, bankruptcy, or challenges within a community, a ministry, a marriage.

But secrets divide us. They raise barriers. Don’t go past this point. No more questions. Change the subject.

Have you been there? I have. In my last three posts I’ve written about being part of an inner city ministry for ten years, years that included times of significant joy and reward as we helped people through times of personal crisis, led children’s clubs and adult Bible studies, a teen choir, food and clothing distribution, and started a school in the ghetto. Joy as some committed their lives to Jesus Christ and started to walk a new path, making different, more positive choices than many around them.

But those years also included times of pain, with a controlling leader who told us not to talk to family or friends about doubts or issues with his leadership. So, along with others, I held a lot inside. I kept secrets. Was I fine? Definitely not. Did I tell anyone? Not for years.

So being with other women who were part of that organization two weeks ago was extremely meaningful. We shared honestly and openly, asking and answering questions and also sharing about our current lives. Although I know there was and is more to share, we spoke the secrets aloud. And it was healing.

Someone said when people speak about their joy, people listen and affirm. But when we speak our pain, people lean in. All of us have experienced pain, whether physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. And pain spoken loses some of its power, while pain held in spreads like a cancer.

Obviously we need to be wise. Sharing everything with everyone is neither prudent nor effective. But we do need safe places where we can be authentic with a few trusted individuals.

When we speak of our pain (within appropriate boundaries), others want to hear. They may be experiencing something similar, and they want to know how we overcame. What gave us the strength to move through the pain to new understanding, to finding hope again?

Perhaps we can begin to welcome pain as a gift to help us grow or warn us of needed changes. The child who places her hand on a hot stove learns not to do that. The pain of betrayal may caution us against trusting too quickly, about delving more deeply into a person’s integrity before getting too involved.

These are some of the women in my life now, who challenge me in my walk with God and relationships with others. Our “Fab Friday” bunch is a gift!

The pain of distance from God may remind us that we need to spend regular time with him, enjoying this most important of all relationships.

None of us wants pain. Few of us invite it. And God doesn’t send it. But he can use it in our lives as it reminds us …

  • that God is our comfort as we move toward rather than away from him. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (I Peter 5:7)
  • to serve others–God comforts us so that we can pass that comfort along to others in need (II Corinthians 1:3-5)
  • to patiently endure–“My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.” (Psalm 119:71) and
  • to rely on God–“Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life” (I John 5:12).

Out of pain and problems have come the sweetest songs, and the most gripping stories.

Billy Graham

Those are reasons to be thankful for pain’s impact in our lives.

May God guide you as you open your heart’s secrets to him, our ultimate Counselor; and to trusted confidantes, so that you may be healed.

Hope Realized

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!

Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV

I was on a Southwest Airlines flight to Los Angeles to meet women I hadn’t seen for 38 years. My anticipation was high, but I wasn’t sure what to expect.

We worked together in the Los Angeles ghetto. Some of the women coming to the reunion accepted Christ through the ministry and went on to become staff members. 

Six women in this 1970’s L.A. staff photo were among the 14 present at our reunion

During my ten and a half years of service there, we worshipped, sang, taught children and adults the Bible. Our African American teens taught us white Mennonite girls, not known for dancing, the “hustle”. Our girls laughed at us, but I won the dance competition. That’s about as much dancing as I’ve done in my life, and it was fun! We taught children’s and adults’ Bible studies. We cried together when someone we loved was hurt or killed. We took in women who were abused, threatened, hurt. We watched an SLA house burn to the ground directly across from our home. When our lives were threatened we sat up late, talking and praying until we were fatigued enough to sleep.

We were close, both because of a common purpose and because we needed each other. We built tight-knit relationships within staff and in the inner city communities where we lived. We rejoiced together when another precious child, woman or man began a walk with Jesus that changed their lives and gave new hope.

Thirty-eight years later, I wondered how the women I would be with had changed. How had I changed? Would we have to work our way past years of separation and misinformation or could we pick up where we left off?

As I wrote last week, my departure was under less than optimal circumstances. Would there be questions, rehashing, resentment? Or forgiveness and love and acceptance for each person where she is now?

Were there residual areas of healing that needed to occur? I have forgiven those who hurt me. But were there still areas I needed to address?

After taking my first ever Uber ride from LAX, I knocked on Katie’s door. Entering, I was greeted with a lingering hug, which I gladly returned.

As twelve other women joined us, the extended hugs continued. Without words, we seemed to say “I’ve missed you. So very good to be with you again.”

One missing – we were 14!

I felt at home.

After a potluck lunch the 14 of us sat around the family room. We took turns updating each other on our lives. None of us are still with the organization we left, although one or two still volunteer with it. For four and a half hours we shared nonstop.

Patsy asked why I left. She had felt abandoned, another person walking away from her life. For 38 years some of these women had no idea why I left. I shared that I had lost trust in our President, with whom I’d worked very closely for 10 1/2 years. When he realized I no longer trusted him, he told me to leave town … that night. I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. My sharing answered a long-held question for Pat, and I think brought some closure.

But I had not walked away from the Lord we all loved.

The ability to ask and answer questions, the vulnerability we shared with each other, reestablished a foundation of trust among us. And I realized that I was the first, but certainly not the only one who experienced rejection and hurt in leaving that ministry.

We had prayed for a time of healing, of restoration. My text to Don said it all. “Ohhhhh. Myyyyyy.”

Have you had a difficult challenge with a ministry from which you needed healing? That changed your faith? That caused you to question God or service?

You’re not alone.  Let’s talk about it.

Next week I’ll share more of what I learned and experienced this weekend. Still processing!

Amazing Grace

So we’ve sold our former home, and emptied it of the hundreds of tools my dear husband had organized in one of the garage bays. We’ve cleared out my mother’s apartment and she’s settling into the Assisted Living Center well, albeit adjusting to the changes, in her new digs.

We’ve donated hutches, armoires, clothing, and more, that we hope will help someone else along their journey.

We’ve worked together with family to accomplish all this, working around schedules and other priorities to get the jobs done.

We’ve prayed for strength and grace, rested when we could, and have received grace each day to go at it again. I was reminded this week of when my late husband was in the hospital. I was exhausted at the end of every long and intense day. Yet the next morning I would be ready to do it again, with joy.

God’s mercies truly are new every morning; He is faithful! (Zephaniah 3:17)

I couldn’t have done all this without a lot of help, especially from my wonderful Don, who had his own priorities to deal with in emptying out the old garage. He’s loaded, lifted, loved Mom, worked with his son and my brother and his son-in-law, and has been more gracious than I through it all. My sister-in-law and I spent several afternoons packing together; and our nephew and grandnephew both worked with us. When I’ve been discouraged, feeling like there was no end in sight, Don has listened and encouraged me that this season would end.

And we’ve experienced small graces along the way, which have again shown God’s faithful character and attention to our needs. I think of the friend of my mother’s who said she would take everything we wanted to give her … and did, including about 12 full boxes of cooking utensils and other items can no longer use or store, planters, tables, and potting soil. Don and I were amazed at how much Patty and her friend got into their pickup, and relieved to have these items picked up, many of which were going to Patty’s church to help others.

And Mom’s sweet neighbor Connie who, despite her own need for a cane, got down and cleared out some of Mom’s kitchen cupboards, making a pile for Goodwill in the process.

Or Mom’s Bernina sewing machine, which I posted online Thursday evening and sold Friday morning, our last day at Mom’s apartment before turning in the key. How perfect that in God’s timing someone saw it and wanted it right away!

As the week progressed Don and I began to see an end to the pressure, the time crunch, which allowed us to begin to relax. Sometimes rest doesn’t come when we feel the need is greatest; but when it does come it is so very sweet and renewing.

“For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” (Psalm 127:2, NASB)

As I’ve pondered my own stress due to multiple demands on my mental, physical and emotional energies, I’ve thought of the persecuted Church around the world. When missionary Tom Randall was falsely imprisoned in the Philippines, sick and weak in body, he led Bible studies and a number of men committed their lives to Jesus Christ within the walls of that prison. And when his jailers came to tell him he was being released, Tom asked if they would allow him to stay in prison one more night and day so he could teach the men one more time before leaving. That’s God’s grace in spades!

Many are dealing with the ongoing daily stress of threat, imprisonment, torture, loss. Their needs go so far beyond mine. I pray that in their circumstances they too will experience little graces that express God’s faithfulness to them, His promise never to leave nor forsake them. His promise that there is hope beyond this life that is sweeter than anything we could hope for here. His presence that sustains and comforts and yes, gives strength that is supernatural despite horrific circumstances.

Won’t you join me in praying for these persecuted saints?

God bless and guide you today in all your thoughts, actions, and decisions. May His name be glorified!