Your Brother

My husband’s brother died today.

Having lived with a diagnosis of cancer for the last several months, this was an expected event.

Even though it was expected, our family could not really prepare for what it would feel like when that moment came.

Sadness.

Grief.

Thankfulness.

Love.

At dusk this evening, my husband wanted to drive to a nearby area and take a walk.

As we did, we noticed the tall cross that stands on the property of a local church.

I stopped for a moment to photograph it.

A flood of emotions comes bursting forth when the finality of death is before us.

Yet, there is hope.

Hope brought to us by Jesus.

In the eleventh chapter of John, there is the account of Jesus’ conversation with a woman named Martha, who had just experienced the death of her brother, Lazarus.

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die;  and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that You are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

–John 11-21-27

My husband’s brother will rise again.

He continues to live by having believed in Jesus.

Do you believe?

 

 

 

brother

For You Are With Me

It’s a perfect day, really. 

The sky is clear and the temperature is mild. 

Even though it is cold and wintry in many places at this time of year, in my own yard wild flowers are blooming and new, green leaves are sprouting from plants. 

It was a very good day for a funeral, and that is where I have been this morning. The father of a very good friend passed away. 

The service was encouraging as the pastor spoke of my friend’s father and the importance of having a relationship with God, our Heavenly Father. 

After arriving home, I went about my day as usual. While pausing to look out my front door, I noticed the shadow of a small, barren tree on the walkway. 

Immediately, I thought of this verse from the Bible:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

—Psalm 23:4

God will never leave us. 

He removes fear from our hearts. 

He comforts us. 

Even through the valley….

 

Control Your Mind

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.  So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.  For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.  That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

—Romans 8:5-8

What do I want to be controlled by?

Dominated by?

Do I want death or do I want life and peace?

Each of us must make that choice.

 

 

 

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So Death Spread

Walking near a park area in the early morning hours, I noticed some trees—well, they used to be trees, or maybe they still were–but they hardly resembled trees anymore.

Having been absolutely overtaken by a growing vine, the trees were almost unrecognizable.

Instead, the tightly intertwining vines had taken over, creating a lush, green shroud.

The trunks and branches beneath this blanket are probably in danger of dying from the vines that hold them in bondage.

People are kind of like those trees.

Once sin came into the world, it brought death with it.

Sin and death have spread, covering humanity.

Jesus came to set us free from the bondage of sin that entangles us.

He died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin.

Because of Him, those who believe are rescued from its heavy blanket of death, restored to new life, forever.

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Sin came into the world through one person, and death came through sin. So death spread to everyone, because everyone sinned.

–Romans 5:12

 

 

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A Way That Appears

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It was very dark and somewhat difficult to see.

As I was driving on a multi-lane highway, I turned left at the signal to enter a two lane highway that intersected it.

Although the pavement over the four lanes I had to cross was marked with paint to guide vehicles to the correct point on the other side, I somehow failed to follow it correctly.

When I entered the two lane road, I did so on the wrong side of the double yellow lines into a turn lane for oncoming traffic.

I had made a serious error.

Immediately aware of the double yellow lines and my placement to the left of them, I called out loud, “God! I’m in the the wrong place!” as I looked in my rear view mirror to see some headlights behind me.

Instantly increasing my speed and moving to the correct lane without a collision from the rear or the front, my heart was beating quickly.

I was thankful for God’s protection in the midst of the danger.

In essence, we all must come to a point where we call out to God for help, realizing that we are in the wrong place—a place of sin and separation from Him.

Proverbs 14:12 reads, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.

When I turned my car into the wrong lane, it appeared to be right at first–but it wasn’t.

When we call to God, He hears us.

When we ask for forgiveness, He grants it.

When we give our lives to Him, He saves us.

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To Number

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It has been a night to speak about important matters.

I have a family member who has a terminal illness.

While speaking with him, he mentioned this quote by Winston Churchill:

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

It is difficult for our loved one to communicate, but I think I understood why these words were spoken.
As a Christian, the life he has lived here is only the beginning of his eternal life.
His passing from this earth is not the end for him.
It’s not even the beginning of the end.
The Bible says,
“Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.”
—Psalm 90:12
While some people live to be 100 years old and a little beyond while in their mortal state, we all know that the time will come for all people to die.
Understanding that our time is limited–even if we were to live to be 100–we come to the realization that our our days are numbered and they are precious.
With wisdom that can only come from God, we can choose wisely how to spend our time.
Our lives here may be long or they may be short by human standards.
Even so, when we die, it is not the end….
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Let Not Your Hearts

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It’s hard to say goodbye.

When someone that you love has left this world, there is a pain that is unlike any other.

An empty chair at the table.

An empty bed.

A photograph of times gone by.

For those who love the Lord, the pain and grief of loved ones left behind will be replaced one day in Heaven with rejoicing as they are reunited.

Knowing this deep within our hearts is a testimony of faith and God’s Spirit within us.

Jesus said,

 

“Let not your hearts be troubled.

Believe in God;

believe also in Me.

In My Father’s house are many rooms.

If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.

And you know the way to where I am going.”

—John 14:1-4

 

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To Be With Me

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It really needed to be done.

It was definitely time to throw some things away, straighten up, clean and rearrange.

The “office” room is where my computer lives, along with two bookshelves that are packed and a host of other important (to me) items.

Things like old photo albums, camera boxes and a microphone stand.

A hard hat that I wore while on a tree logging tour. (What????)

A wooden back scratcher given to me while staying at a cottage on the Gulf of Mexico.

Even a hand made (but not functional) shofar used in one of the musicals I directed years ago.

You know…..stuff like that.

While going through a stack of papers, I found a little Polaroid photograph of our second son as a young child.

As I recall, there was an event at church where children were supposed to dress up as animals.

One of the men at the church dressed as Noah.

Each child could have their portrait made with Noah.

According to the sign on the wall in the picture, portraits were available for 50 cents each.

Years later, our son was killed in a car accident as a teenager…..

As I picked up the old photo of our son and the “pretend” Noah, there was a split second of grief shooting into my heart.

Following right behind it with lightning speed, these words came to my mind:

“He’s with the “real” Noah, now.”

Yes.

That’s right.

My son knew Jesus while here on Earth, and God has given me assurance that he is in Heaven right now.

I don’t think I’ve ever considered that my son is able to see Noah and talk to him.

It just hadn’t crossed my mind.

What was the cost to be with Noah in Heaven?

Much more than all the money in world.

It cost the death of Jesus on the cross.

My son is with Jesus today, along with Noah and countless others.

Now, when I look at that picture, joy springs forth.

Thank You, God, for bringing comfort out of pain. Thank You for salvation and the promise of Heaven for those who believe.

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Jesus said,

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.”

—John 14:1-4

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the place

Life is in the Way

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Life is in the way of those who are right with God, and in its path there is no death.

 –Proverbs 12:28

Because of Jesus.

Because of Jesus and what He did for me.

Because of Jesus and what He did for me by paying the penalty for my sins.

Because of Jesus, I am right with God.

What path is before me?

Everlasting life.

No death.

Because of Jesus.

Do you know Him today?

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Through the Valley

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When I drive, I sing.

A lot.

At different times, the lyrics that I am singing resonate in my heart in a significant way.

Today, I experienced just that.

One of my favorite songs is based on the twenty-third Psalm in the Old Testament.

As I was singing along with the music in my car, these words came alive in my heart:

IF I LET MY HEART BELIEVE THAT YOU CAN DO ANYTHING, I CAN SEE BEYOND THE VALLEY TO THE MOUNTAIN OF MY DREAMS.*

Of course, I have known the words from the psalm that say, “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil….”

Strangely, I have never considered what it might be like to look beyond the valley I’m in toward the mountain.

That higher place in my journey with God.

The truth is, there have been, and will be, many valleys to go through.

There will also be many mountains.

Mountains of my dreams.

Mountains where the desires of my heart meet the will of God in a perfect union.

If I let my heart believe that God can do anything—-

even when things don’t look very promising,

then I can let my heart believe that He can bring me through any valley I might be traveling in.

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Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

—Psalm 23:4

*Manwell Reyes

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Imperishable

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So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable;  it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;  it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.  So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.  The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.  The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven.  As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven.

— 1 Corinthians 15:42-48

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perishable

Who Believes

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When I got up this morning, I was planning to go to a funeral later in the day.

The sister of a dear friend of mine had passed away after battling cancer.

A couple of hours later, I received a phone call with the news that my cousin, who was also battling cancer, had died.

Both my friend’s sister and my cousin were Christians.

I know they are both with Jesus now and that is a comfort to me and to their families.

After leaving the funeral this afternoon, I drove to the cemetery.

As I was leaving the grounds, I noticed some beautiful red flowers blooming at the entrance by a brick wall.

Flowers so vibrant and full of life!

For those of us who know Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we will live for eternity with Him.

Vibrant and full of life, as well.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is found in the conversation between Jesus and Martha when her brother, Lazarus, had died, just before He raised Him to life.

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;  and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

—John 11:23-27

My cousin and my friend’s sister believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God.

Do you?

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Even Though They Die

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He had many friends and he invested his life in others tirelessly.

A friend and mentor to one of my sons, died at this time of year awhile back.

His widow recently purchased flowers for the church sanctuary in his memory.

I received a call from the church secretary, telling me that she had asked that I take the flowers home after the Sunday services.

Feeling honored, I did just that.

The arrangement was a beautiful addition to my home for many days.

When some of the flowers began to wilt, I removed the lively ones and placed them into two different vases.

There, they continued to brighten my kitchen for quite some time.

Today was a cloudy day, with soft white light filtered from the sun.

Deciding to take one of the bouquets outside for a photograph, I placed them on the walkway leading to my front door.

My friend’s husband loved the Lord and he loved other people.

I believe he is alive today with Jesus.

How can I know that?

In the Gospel of John, there is the account of a man named Lazarus from a town called Bethany who had two sisters named Mary and Martha.

Jesus was close to all three.

Lazarus became ill and died, so Jesus traveled to their home to see them.

Here are a few verses from that account:

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;  and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

—John 11:20-26

As the passage continues, Jesus tells someone to move the stone from the opening of the tomb.

He then calls to Lazarus to come out.

Very much alive again, Lazarus obeys!

My friend believed in Jesus.

Even though he died, he lives.

In fact, it’s as though he never really died, because he went immediately from life here to life in Heaven with Jesus.

I believe this.

Do you believe this?

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live again final

The Gift

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We give gifts at Christmas.

We give gifts on birthdays.

We give gifts at Valentine’s Day.

We give gifts to show love.

The one who receives the gift then has something that they hadn’t before.

God did not want us to be lost forever without Him.

He didn’t want us to be separated from Him.

He sent His Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sins.

Then, He offered us the gift of eternal life.

We did not have eternal life before.

There was no possible way for us to get it for ourselves.

The gift must be accepted.

What if Jesus spoke these words to you—

“My child, won’t you please accept this gift from Me?”

Would you accept?

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When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.  What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

—Romans 6:20-23

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Swallowed Up

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People we love and care about pass from this life.

We cannot keep it from happening.

Because Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, we do not have to enter eternity without hope.

If we accept His gift of eternal life and believe in Him, we are promised life after death.

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I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,

nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

Behold! I tell you a mystery.

We shall not all sleep,

but we shall all be changed,

in a moment,

in the twinkling of an eye,

at the last trumpet.

For the trumpet will sound,

and the dead will be raised imperishable,

and we shall be changed.

For this perishable body must put on the imperishable,

and this mortal body must put on immortality.

When the perishable puts on the imperishable,

and the mortal puts on immortality,

then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
 “O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

1 Corinthians 15:50-55

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God Cleared a Path

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As we walked out to the shore, the moon was almost directly overhead.

The waves were glowing as its light fixed a glowing beam upon them.

We were gathering at the ocean’s side to have a time of worship and prayer.

A wooden cross had been placed in the sand.

It was a meaningful time of reflection.

A time of quiet before God.

Walking down the shoreline, we followed a path marked out for us.

It led right up to where the cross was standing.

God cleared the path to Him through the sacrifice of Jesus.

Is it time that you followed the path and made your way to the cross to find forgiveness?

It was through what his Son did that God cleared a path for everything to come to him—all things in heaven and on earth—for Christ’s death on the cross has made peace with God for all by his blood.

Colossians 1:20

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He Was Commended

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Every time I think about it, I become quiet and sad.

I was out of town last night.

Wondering what the weather was going to be like for the evening, I picked up my cell phone to check the forecast.

When I did, I also read something posted on a network site I use.

A friend of mine from my teenaged years had just days before been killed in a car accident.

I thought of memories of him when we were both young.

He was funny.

He was talented.

Since I had moved several hundred miles away from our home town, I had not talked to him in several years.

Feeling earnestly saddened by the news, I chose to read from a Bible app on my cell phone.

It had been awhile since I had last read from it.

Opening it, I found the scripture that I had most recently viewed.

The book of Hebrews, chapter 11, verses 4 and 5 were there.

 

By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.

 

When I found out about the accident, I looked at an online obituary and read comments there made by his friends and co-workers.

The part of the scripture that read, “And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead,” really stood out to me.

When someone truly serves God with a faithful heart, doesn’t their example live on as a testimony, even though they are dead?

Another part of the passage that was meaningful to me was, “For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.”

Wouldn’t you want that to be said about you?

Wouldn’t you want that to be the truth about your life?

That you were one who pleased God?

I believe the passage from Hebrews was left on my phone for a reason.

God knew that I would find out about my friend and begin reading from His word.

These two verses spoke to me at a time when I was contemplating the end of life’s journey here.

God is like that, you know.

He never leaves us, and when we need comfort or guidance, He can bring it to us in His perfect timing and in His way.

 

 

 

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