When Christians Die

This morning a celebration of life will be observed for a woman who was part of my Life Group from church. She passed away and entered the presence of Jesus on Good Friday shortly before midnight. My first thought was what an Easter celebration she had. ūüôā

Her final days in hospice care provided some poignant moments. One that I will never forget was bringing some grape juice and gluten free crackers to observe communion with her, her family, and a few Life Group members. I sat near her and read scripture to her, played some worships songs, and prayed as we shared communion.

When a Christian friend passes away, I am always mindful of what Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 about grieving:

brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope

Even in death we have hope because of Jesus. He defeated death for us through his resurrection. The plan is already set for our resurrection which Paul wrote about in 1 Thessalonians 4:

 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

When a Christian dies, our spirit/soul enters into heaven enjoying eternal glory but we also wait for that day our bodies will be resurrected. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:8:

We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

and home it is.

So as we celebrate my friend’s earthly life, I will be mindful of the truth that she lives on in heaven and is much better off than I am at the moment. I will also remember that for Christians death is not goodbye. It is see you again.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Music Mondays- The Broken Beautiful by Ellie Holcomb

That Your love will never change
That there’s healing in your name
That You can take broken things
And make them beautiful
You took my shame
And You walked out of the grave
So Your love can take broken things
And make them beautiful

I love these lyrics in The Beautiful Broken by Ellie Holcomb. Jesus takes our broken lives and makes something beautiful in our lives. He brings healing and forgiveness to us. He defeated death for us and through the power of his resurrection we can have new lives.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Music Mondays-As Sure As The Sun by Ellie Holcomb

There is good news,
There’s a promise,
That no matter where you go,
You will never be alone.

No matter where we go, we are never alone. Jesus is with us everywhere we go. After his resurrection, he promised-“I am with you always.”

Whatever we face in life, we are never alone. Jesus is always with us/

Whatever difficulty life throws at us, we are never alone. Jesus is always with us.

May this gentle song bless you as you begin your week.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Jesus Comes to Us in Our Storms in Life- John Chapter 6

In my state severe weather is just a part of life in the spring and summer. We have thunderstorms, severe thunderstorms, and tornados. Each year in March I teach the moms in my morning class the difference between watch and warning. Watch means maybe and warning means one is coming. When a severe thunderstorm is coming, we know from the TV alerts. If a tornado is coming, the sirens also go off.

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We can also tell by looking at the sky. Where I live, it is flat. There are no mountains to block our view of the horizon. Sometimes I like to watch the clouds forming.

After Jesus fed the thousands that I wrote about last week, the disciples got in the boat and left. Lake Capernaum, also know as the Sea of Galilee, is surrounded by mountains. If a person is on the lake, they cannot see storm clouds gathering or coming. At the time Jesus was on earth, there was no warning system. Storms were abrupt surprises.

The disciples were about three miles out on the lake when the storm came and overtook them. The boat they were in would have been small compared to what one might see today out on a large lake. Lake Capernaum is 66 square miles, 166 square km. The boat was being tossed around on the large waves. That in itself would have been frightening enough for the disciples in the boat. They would have been working hard to keep from capsizing.

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Then in the midst of the storm, they see someone walking on the water towards them. Think of the combination, in a small fishing boat on a large lake in the midst of a storm and then seeing someone walking on the water. No one had seen such a thing before.

Seeing the person walking on water took the already frightened disciples and made them panic. Their conclusion was that a ghost was on the water. Then they hear Jesus say, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” After they welcomed him into the boat, the boat immediately reached the shore. They were saved from danger.

One thing I note from this is that Jesus came to them in the midst of their peril and they had not asked for help. Jesus comes to us in our troubles in life before we ask. He is always with us.

Another thing I note from this is what Jesus said to them. It is a phrase Jesus used at other times when someone was frightened by seeing him in his glory. He says to us, “Don’t be afraid. It is me.” Jesus is the lover of our souls. He is our Savior. He knows our weaknesses. He says to us, “Don’t be afraid. It is me.”

One more thought, their peril ended when they welcome Jesus into the boat. They immediately made it the rest of the way. When we invite Jesus into our problems, things can start happening. It is much better to have Jesus with us in the midst of our problems than to try to go it alone.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Music Mondays- Stayed On Him by Terrian

There’s a world full of mercy and peace
Mercy and peace, waiting for me
There’s a land for the lost and the least
Where they dine with King, waiting for me
Yeah, His holiness fills up the temple
Still He took my sin and my shame
I didn’t deserve to be rescued
But still He has called me by name

I love the lyrics of Stayed On Him by Terrian. No matter happens in this life, the struggles, the problems, the difficulties, we can know that God is with us and will never leaves us. We can also know that in eternity we have a future in the presence of God. So through it all we can keep our eyes on him knowing he loves us.

Her song is based on Isaiah 26:3

You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.

I hope this upbeat and uplifting song blesses you as much or more than it has me.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

When God Smiles Upon Us- A Long Awaited Day

Ever have a day where it seems God is smiling upon you? You know, the kind of day when God lines up blessings for you. I had one of those days yesterday. It felt like sunshine was upon me all day.

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I received an email Wednesday that our Country Health Department wanted to schedule people from Cultural Centers in my city for vaccination. I filled out my registration and got scheduled for yesterday at 2:45pm.

Yesterday morning in class I noticed progress by some of my students. My student from Sudan is doing so much better with her writing. Two of my students from Guatemala correctly translated for themselves how we use the have verb. Seeing students succeed always makes my day.

When I came home from my morning class, I checked and saw that I have been approved to be a substitute teacher. I will probably start subbing after Spring Break in March.

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When I went to the place in my city where they are vaccinating, everyone volunteering and working were so positive. I saw some of my colleagues from my job at El Centro de las Americas that I had not seen in person since last April. One of them commented, “Matt really misses being around people.” That is so true. I was almost giddy seeing them again. I also saw some former students who are now working at other cultural centers.

When I left the vaccination site, the sun was shining and it was 54 degrees farenheit, 12 degrees Celsuis, so I walked to my car carrying my jacket. I drove home without wearing my jacket.

When we have a day it seems like God is smiling on us, we should savor the moments like there are an oasis in life. It has been a long year since last March and I am beginning to feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Today is payday for my work with El Centro and one of the pastors from church is buying my lunch. Perhaps today is another day it will seem like God is smiling upon me.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Wellness Wednesday-Depression/Anxiety-Jesus Cares

Last week I had a conversation with a colleague I mentor. My colleague is a young person who grew up in a Christian home. My friend struggles with depression/anxiety but is hesitant about seeking help because of the stigma such issues can have in some churches such as the one my friend grew up in.

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It saddens me to think that some churches place a stigma on mental health issues like depression and anxiety. If someone has diabetes, we would encourage them to take insulin and be careful about what they eat. The brain is part of our physical bodies. It is a physical organ just as the heart, lungs, and pancreas are.

That is why I share about how God helped me with depression and anxiety. I live with four chronic illnesses and each of them can cause depression/anxiety on their own. Put all four together, and no wonder depression and anxiety were issues for me. My hope is to lessen the stigma in churches.

My hope is to also share Jesus with others who struggle with depression/anxiety. When I think about things Jesus said such as in Matthew 11:

‚ÄúCome to me,¬†all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.¬†Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,¬†for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.¬†For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.‚ÄĚ

and what is written about how Jesus felt when he saw the large crowd of people in Matthew 9:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Such verse help me realize that Jesus has great compassion for us. Such verses also help us to understand how approachable Jesus is when we struggle. His desire is to help us, restore us, and heal us. Yes, he does these things through others such as doctors and counselors too.

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Dear reader if you struggle with depression or anxiety, Jesus understands you, His arms are open saying, “Come to me and find rest” just as he said in Matthew 11. We can cast all of our concerns on him because he cares for us.

It is okay to ask for help.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Music Mondays- Face to Face by Natalie Grant

My feet are tired from the runnin’
My strength is gone for overcomin’
My lips are silent, I don’t know what to pray
So I’ll wait, I’ll wait for You

In this life we face struggles that can drain us. It can get to the point that we do not know what to pray. I have had moments in prayer that all I could was mutter-ugh- and say I need your help Lord.

Waiting on the Lord, spending time in his presence, can renew our strength as Isaiah 40:31 says:

but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Whatever our struggle in life is, we can know:

1- God loves us and nothing can separate from his love.

2- God knows what we need.

3. Jesus has overcome the world.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Goodness of God-Britt Nicole

I love Your voice
You have led me through the fire
In the darkest night
You are close like no other
I’ve known You as a Father
I’ve known You as a Friend
And I have lived in the goodness of God

There have been many difficult moments in my life living with chronic illness, times of wondering how things would work out financially, concerns for people the Lord has given me to reach out to and more.

In the darkest times, Jesus has been there. God is always with us. God is always good, always providing, always watching over us.

I love this song as Britt Nicole sings of the goodness of God. I hope it blesses you as you begin your week.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

We Matter to Jesus

Yesterday morning during blogger chat, my friend Cheryl of parkinsonscaregivernet.wordpress.com shared that the books a person has on a nightstand says a lot about the person.

I do not have a nightstand, but a book that has been resonating with me recently is A Gentle Answer by Scott Sauls. In the book he writes about how Jesus made people feel valued. I love one quote from his book:

“If you were sick, poor, sexually damaged, or paralyzed by guilt and shame, for example, Jesus would move toward you and tell you what nobody else would: you matter.”

Jesus has blessed me with opportunities to get to know people from literally all over the world. They matter to me and I hope they feel that from me. My hope is that through my friends feeling that from me, it portrays Jesus to them.

Most of the people I follow on Instagram are my fellow chronic illness sufferers. As I scroll down the photos, one thing I try to notice is who is having a bad day, so I let them know I am praying for them. I want them to know they matter. That someone sees them in life while they are having down moments.

Jesus showed how much he values everyone when he died on the cross for us and defeated death for us. He could have stopped his arrest, trial torture and crucifixion with one word, but he didn’t. He allowed it all to happen because he loves us.

Jesus spoke about how valuable we are to God in Matthew 6:

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

God values everyone. We are important to him. The question I ask myself is, “Do I reflect that to others.”

Thank you for reading. God Bless.