Encouragement From The Word

Tomorrow is not promised

I’m conducting the funeral tomorrow for the son of a neighbour.  When the funeral home called me, I was surprised; he was young – younger than me.

His heart simply gave out on him.  It was all so sudden.

I’ve often said, “Tomorrow is not promised.”  I’m sure I didn’t come up with that, but it’s true.  By all means, we should plan for retirement, and plan for the future, but we should by all means keep in mind that tomorrow is not promised.

I once knew a man who saved all his hopes and dreams for travel until after he retired.  He died six months after he retired.

Tomorrow is not promised.

That’s why it’s so important to be in relationship with the Lord now.  Some will say they’ll wait until later in life to make amends with their Creator, since they presume that he would only want to cramp their style in the meantime.  (Spoiler: that’s not really the case.)

But tomorrow is not promised.  Restore your broken relationships, for your sake and theirs.  Keep short accounts.  And come to Jesus today.  His hand is extended already, waiting to receive you by faith, and to offer you the joy of his salvation.  (To learn more, click here.)

Seek the Lord while you can find him.  Call on him now while he is near.  Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong.  Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.  Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously” (Isaiah 55.6-7, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

I Give You My Heart

Reuben Morgan, a musician who is part of the Hillsong Church movement that began in Australia, penned these simple words.  Meditate on this short prayer to centre your day in the Lord.

This is my desire
To honour You;
Lord, with all my heart
I worship You.
All I have within me,
I give You praise.
All that I adore
Is in You.

Lord, I give You my heart,
I give You my soul,
I live for you alone.
Every breath that I take,
Every moment I’m awake,
Lord, have Your way in me.

I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.   And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations” (Ezekiel 36.26-27, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Valentines

For some people, the one day that’s scarier than Friday the 13th is Friday the 14th…when the 14th lands on a Friday in February!  (Okay, there’s also tax deadline day, but that’s another story.)

Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day.

As a child, I remember that it was customary to bring a valentine for everybody in my class at school.  Looking back, I think that seemed a bit artificial, but there was value in leaving no one out.  At the same time, I sort of wished I could have just brought one valentine…usually for the prettiest girl in the class.

Though Valentine’s Day is in no particular way a Christian feast day – not even among most of those who celebrate saints’ days – my childhood experience does reflect something of God’s view on love.  That is, God has a valentine for everybody.  After all, Jesus said that God so loved the world – not a select few.  God’s love for everybody is what sent his only Son into the world…that whoever believes in him will have eternal life.

Here’s a way I’ve seen it depicted visually.  Spend a few minutes pondering this image, and give thanks to God that he sent you a valentine in Jesus.  Will you send one back to him?

john-316-coloring-valentine

Musings

My Favourite Centenarian

I received word this evening of the death of my favourite centenarian.  She was a friend, a counsellor, and a true Barnabas, a real encourager.  And she was my honorary grandmother.

I met Eleanor when she was but a young thing, aged 77.  She was a member of the search team that called me to a congregation I served.  At the time I was being interviewed, she was simply another member of that team.  But when my call was processed, she was part of the group that came to support the call.  After the call was sustained, I escorted the group out of the church where we were meeting, and she said to me, “I’d like to be a grandma to you if that’s okay.”

I readily accepted.

Little did I know how much I would come to appreciate her wisdom, her faith and faithfulness, and even just her presence.  She had a spiritual gift of hospitality that manifested itself in countless ways, not least of which were leading and hosting two small groups for the church, and welcoming her Pastor at anytime of the day or night, with the promise of being able to put up my feet, sip on a wee dram, and share what was going on – good or bad.

She was a faithful member of the Session (the elders’ board) during my entire tenure, and always had a wise word to offer to whatever issue was being deliberated.

When the Lord led my wife and me to serve another church, and our house sold and closed the day before my last Sunday, Eleanor put us up for the night before my final service.  We have kept in touch ever since.  In more recent years, our keeping in touch has been limited to telephone calls, usually on her birthday or mine, since they are a day apart (plus a few years!).

I spoke with her on my birthday, not quite two months ago.  I was not surprised I could not reach her on her birthday, since I expected she was being well feted by her caring family, for one who turns one hundred years old ought to be celebrated!  And she wisely went to bed early that night.

I have always wished that the Lord would bless every church I served with an Eleanor.  In fact, I wish that every church ‘period’ would have an Eleanor, for every pastor and every church need people who will provide calm wisdom, a loving smile, and an open door.

Eleanor provided all that, and more.  I will miss her.

I am teary for me, and for her close family and friends.  But I am not sad for her.  For though she has seen ‘through a glass darkly’ as the old King James put it, now she sees ‘face to face’.  The Lord Jesus, whom she served so well, has welcomed her to her eternal home.

As they say good-bye to Eleanor, her family will sing a song that probably is not often sung at funerals.  It is a song that I introduced to the church in which we were co-labourers, and one that she so loved that I remember her saying, perhaps 20 years ago or more, “I want this sung at my funeral.”

It’s not a song about being sad.

It’s not about gardens or flowers.

It’s about Jesus.

The Eleanor I knew centred her life on Jesus.  So it’s very appropriate that her send-off should include something that turns the attention of those present to the Lord she loved and served.

I’ll append a YouTube video below that plays you the song and displays the Jesus-centred lyrics.  It was written by Graham Kendrick, a British Christian musician.  It’s called “Shine, Jesus, Shine.”

Jesus shone through Eleanor in a way to which I can merely aspire.

I pray that her family and friends will take comfort in the grace of the Lord Jesus that shone through Eleanor.