Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Another post on death

When I was in nursing school, I thought I was special... I believed that I was going to, somehow, some way, never lose a patient. I was going to save them all! People would be amazed and awestruck by my ability to heal! God was going to use me in this way to show everyone just how good, and awesome He is... and then, I graduated, started working in my little slice of MICU, and I've learned that my grandiose plan of exactly how God would use me was just plain wrong.

I lose a lot of patients. Above the average among my peers. For awhile, this kind of bothered me, I thought maybe I was doing something wrong... I easily joked with others about the numbers, there is even an angel of death that greets me on my locker every morning, but in actuality, it bugged me for awhile. Until I started seeking God in this area of my life.

The vast, vast majority of the patients I have lost have been due to withdraw of care. Families deciding that we are moving beyond the wishes of their loved one, and opting to stop and let them go. This is not the easiest decision to come to, and as I have become more comfortable in my role, and how God is truly using me, I am realizing the depth of importance that exists in the nursing care of the patient and family during these times.

A deeper understanding of my place in God's will came recently with the passing of a patient, as well as discussion with some close friends...

We all can usually recognize one thing, we are all going to die. And until that time comes, we are in a state of always being in the process of death. We feel our own bodies, and can easily see others', breaking down over time. We know that no matter what we do, this physical form that we indwell is destined to decay, break, and wither. It is the recognition of this finite timeline of our brief life on earth that can often cause us to look into eternity and try to figure out what is there. For the Christian, we must recognize that the soul that resides in each and every physical human body has eternal life. We will all live forever, somewhere. Jesus reminds us over and over again that He is more concerned by spiritual health. He, being God incarnate, knows how much longer each of us will be dying, how much more decaying, pain, and brokenness we have left to endure... He also knows that at the moment that our physical life ends that we are either healed to the uttermost, perfected in glory with Him... or we endure torment and pain apart from Him for all eternity in a place called Hell.

With a better and deeper, and much more cognizant, recognition of this truth, I am more readily available to take part in helping with this transition. It's humbling to help these people understand the truth if passing from this life, as a believer, and into heaven. I can now gladly accept Christ's working through me, to comfort, support, and ultimately help people as they pass from physical life into their eternal destiny. For those who do not have a personal, saving relationship with God... It serves as a reminder to seek to build relationships the way Christ did, keeping their spiritual life the priority over their physical.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The beauty of redemption

As I was sitting in church this past Sunday, I experienced a slow, painful gut check...

We continued on our journey through the gospel of John, arriving this week at the story of Jesus' miraculous healing of a man at the pool of Bethesda. While examining this story and looking at the awesome power and love that Christ showed to this man who had been confined to a laying position, on a mat, by the pool, for 38 years, I was listening intently, grateful for the work that Jesus has done in my own life. Shortly after this healing takes place, we encounter Jesus again, in the temple, where He finds this same man, worshiping... and Jesus said to him, "See you are well now. Stop sinning so that something worse doesn't happen to you."

The verse instantly struck, but I didn't know why. I wrestled with why the verse had hit me as it had, and prayed to God saying that I didn't know why I couldn't get past those words and asked simply for some clarification. Brought into the forefront of my mind was my recent mindset and attitude, the last post or two that I had written, and discussions that I had had with my wife and with some other folks. Echoing those thoughts were words that we had discussed in our ongoing study of The Saving Life of Christ, we do not have the right to remember that which God forgets.

As those thoughts went spinning through my mind, I realized something... I've been stuck. My thoughts and my attitude have been much more often on the sins of my past, and on the condemnation of the flesh, than on redemption. I was trapping myself in a self-imposed prison of depravity! I was focused on the condition of my self, outside of God. I had allowed Satan the foothold of washing over me with my failures. I was making it all about me, what I did, and what I cannot do I was forgetting the beauty of redemption.

Its a common, and nasty, trick that Satan uses on us all, but in particular, to steal joy and freedom from a Christian... get us to focus on ourselves, instead of on the glory and love of God. By focusing on the lostness of the flesh, its easy to forget that, as a Christian, we are hosting two natures. we are both condemned flesh and redeemed soul. Too much focus on either is unhealthy, we are to remember our flesh as God does, and live our redemption as Christ does.

How does God remember our flesh? His word says that at the moment of salvation, He remembers our sins no more. Its important to know that remembering no more is vastly different from truly forgetting. It means that, though we are dead in our transgressions, as a sinner by nature, and by choice, that we are offered to share in with the righteousness of Christ... and when we choose to share in that inheritance, God no longer allows our sin to be present in his consciousness. When He looks upon us, He choose to see only our redeemed self, price paid by death of Christ. Martin Luther called this the great exchange, the sins of all humanity, past, present, and future... traded for righteousness. God's word tells us that the price for sin must be paid, and that the price to be paid is death. Therefore, each of us, for the sins we choose to commit, and the nature of sin we all possess (thanks for that one Adam & Eve), are guilty, and are required to pay the price for these sins... we must die, not only physically, but also spiritually. Jesus, on the cross, chose to pay the price for us... transferring His righteousness to all of humanity. The biggest thing about this to me is that the price for your sin, and mine, has already been paid... the price of the sin of everyone, everywhere, no matter what they believe, was satisfied at the cross, and the exchange is offered to us all. We just have to accept the gift... when we make that choice, we become co-heirs of the righteousness of Jesus!

Our flesh then becomes only a memory, a necessary portion of our being that allows us to keep in perspective the price paid for me to be called a friend of God. It is to be remembered only to bring glory to God, to show others His might in rescuing us from it. From that grounding and humility, of understanding the state of our existence without God, we are then able to walk forward humbly in redemption. Doing all things first for the glory of God, and second to advance His kingdom. By properly balancing the memory of our flesh, and the beauty of our redemption, we can keep our focus on the glory of God. Keeping the focus where it needs to be allows us to better understand who God is, and that growing understanding allows us to better serve others and love them as we are called.

I am thankful for the conviction found in the words of Jesus, to realize that I am healed. And equally thankful for the warning to not continue in my sin. I had allowed my focus to shift too much, resulting in being out of contact with the life I am called to lead. Continuing that patter of sin could only lead to more disastrous consequences. I am a redeemed friend of God, made righteous by the blood of Christ, and I hope you are too.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Utterly Destroyed

I was struck and convicted pretty hard yesterday, reading through and discussing the next chapter of Saving Life of Christ, Ian Thomas talks about Saul. I just want to take a moment to summarize the story and point in an attempt to help myself remember...
As king, Saul was commanded by God to utterly destroy a people, all of them, all of their possessions, everything. God had determined that there was no salvageable thing within this people, and condemned them to death. They were a people who had been at war with God from generation to generation, who sought nothing other than the destruction of God's people.

Instead of obeying the command of God fully, Saul chose to save the king of this people, their best oxen, and their best lambs. Saul decided that there was some good within these things and that they should be offered up as sacrifice to God. The hitch in this plan was quite simple... God had already deemed all of these people, and all that they possessed as being condemned, they were to be destroyed!

To steal a line from Thomas, Saul was preparing to offer God the best of what God hated.

The implications of this, and where the conviction lives with me is quite plain... How often am I offering God the best of what he has condemned? The book parallels these people with human nature and our self-righteous flesh. Both are defiled by sin, both are deemed, by God, to be unsalvageable, and both condemned to total destruction. As followers of Christ, we are called to lay our lives down, deny ourselves, allow our flesh to be, in essence, utterly destroyed by accepting utter and complete dependence on Christ within us. We are commanded, as Saul was, to allow God to wipe out the evil at play. Yet, when the battle begins, we start to hang on to things that we deem are worth saving. Things we think are good! Things we like, and we offer them as things we can do for God's glory. We offer what we decide is the best of ourselves as a sacrifice to God, forgetting that God had condemned all that we were, without Him, to be destroyed.

I have nothing, outside of surrender and submission to the will if God, to offer. There is nothing in me that is good... Nothing in my flesh that is holy, righteous, and deserving of sacrifice. There is only dead flesh...

All that is within me that is good, has come from God, and its only His Spirit in me that is right or good... my decision to submit to that spirit is all that hinders me from doing the will of God.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sins of a father

I am not one to tout things as being life-changing, or to say that someone else's words change my outlook on life or caused me more than a moment to reflect. Outside of the gospel of God's inextinguishable, undeserved and unmerited favor to bestow grace upon us to the extent that, as Paul says, while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me... that truth is truly life changing. I am a sinner, and so are you... until the day I cross into the eternal glory of a perfect Heaven, and until I am undertaken through what I can only imagine to be the beautifully excruciating and perfectly sublime experience of full glorification, when I will shed the beaten and destroyed shell of my flesh and enter into a glorified, perfect body... on that day, and only then, will I no longer be a sinner. I sin by choice, not because I don't know how to not, but because I still fall prey to trying to satisfy the hunger of my soul with things of this world. Often with good things, things like my wife's love, or my children's joy... great things, intended by God to be blessings and glimpses into His reality... but I use them so often to replace God. I forget that it is my obedience to His will, and submission to His work through my life, that I will walk, filled by the spirit and pouring out those wonderful fruits of love, and joy. They are to be celebrated as glorifying to His splendor. I forget that often, and worse, I sometimes choose to fulfill my thirst with things of this world that lie in direct opposition to  the glory of God. I struggle through the battle of my two natures, as Paul called it, and I choose to fight the battle on my own, not seeking the strength of God that resides within me...

I am a sinner, that much is for sure... but something different happens now when I find myself making decisions based on my flesh... It starts when I remember a phrase. A phrase I would actually call life-changing... one of the first messages I can remember hearing our pastor preach after coming to our church, he said these words (or at least something like them)-- If left unchecked, the sins of the father will be multiplied in the sins of the children.

Conviction begins, so often, with those words echoing in my mind... followed by scriptures relating to parenting, and righteous living, and being a man of integrity... then, I see my kids, their smiles, and most of all their eyes. My kids were blessed to receive the deeply beautiful, piercing eyes of their mom. They have long been my favorite physical feature of her, and when I see those eyes, I feel the weight of my sin. I think about what the future will look like through those eyes. My heart breaks when I think about the sins they will endure through their lives, and the role the my current sin will play. If left unchecked... I am passing along a foothold for Satan to use to get to my kids. If I continue to take back the control and refuse to give it to God... I hate to think of what my kids will have to go through. Life is hard enough, dealing with your own bad choices, you don't need the sins of your father following you around. But what breaks my heart more is knowing that if I leave my sin unchecked, my kids will have to check it for themselves, or let it ruin them... we see this in families where dad's an alcoholic, son grows up, either compounds it as an abusive alcoholic, or has never touched the stuff because he wasn't going to be like his dad. A graphic example, but a true look at the concept.

This all goes through my head, the weight of it slamming through my soul, when I am confronted with my sins. It happens so fast, but the feeling lingers, my innermost being cries out to the God who created all things, I echo once more the words of Paul... searching out why I continue to do that which I do not want, and not do that which I desire... and this Creator of everything, forgives me... reminds me that my sins were nailed to the cross. my sins were part of that darkness the Jesus felt, as He was torn into separation from His Father. It was for that sin, the one I just committed, that Jesus cried out in agony as His heart literally, and brutally broke. My God reminds me that it was no small price to reconcile my sins, but that it was paid. He reminds me to stand up, and lead my family. He comforts me with words of grace, and promises of love.

I am a sinner, and I am redeemed... at a high price, that was willfully paid.

My sin is real, and needs to  be checked, so I can lead my family... so that maybe, just maybe, my sins won't be theirs to bear.

I am a sinner, saved by grace through faith, it is not of myself so that I may not boast...