Tag Archives: death

THE ARCHER

‘For sin shall have no dominion over you, for you are not under the Law but under Grace.’
ROMANS 6:14

Lately my mind has been on archery and the movement of an arrow. For the arrow to go far, the archer must pull its tail and the bowstring in a direction directly opposite to its projected trajectory (just follow, I’m unto something here, don’t worry). With his/her target set on the bullseye, the archer releases the arrow and lets it sail through the air. Its path is influenced by prevailing air currents, physical laws such as the downward pull of gravity, and the material the arrow is made of. All of these forces active, the archer’s attention and input is in that initial pull on the arrow. And he/she fires. If it misses it’s intended target, he/she misses a few points. In ancient Hebrew parlance, this scenario is a ‘sin’ (not in the ‘religious’ sense, just as a term, for now), meaning ‘to miss the mark’.

Our lives can be like that arrow. The Ultimate perfect good life is everyone’s target. But our getting there is influenced by conditions within, conditions around, and the downward pull of the Law of Sin and Death (like gravity), which makes man miss the target. That’s what sin is. But you know what, sometimes we don’t even know the right target. God does.
His intended bullseye for us all is much better than the targets we all want to achieve. It’s called ‘The Glory of God’. It’s a life that’s so awesome, it’s victorious over all spheres of life. It’s the Life of God, Eternal Life, and that’s His target for us all, His Plan for us all. So not only do our arrows fall short of that target (Romans 3:23: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God), sometimes the life of man may be focused on the wrong target altogether.
That’s a life under the Law of Sin and Death. With an arrow pointed away from the target, it has no choice but to result in ‘sin’ over and over again.

But then God’s Grace…oh, how Amazing this is!
God’s Grace is God’s energy directed towards us, working through us, helping us, making us reach His bullseye! And you know how He exercised it? He did it, like the Archer, by focusing on the initial pull of the arrow in a direction directly opposite to its projected path: to give us Life, He died.
His Death and Resurrection dealt with every single thing that could have held us bound to sin. He made us free from the Law of Sin and Death and gave us a Life that operates under a new law: the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus, i.e. Grace.
So He pulled the arrow (died) and when He released it (resurrected), He rose with us, now we’re in Christ. Identified with Him, we’ve been released with a force so great, no physical laws can stop it. It’s the Power that raised Christ from the dead and set Him far above all principalities and power (Ephesians 1:19-23). And with all those laws silenced, we’re given a Life that reaches God’s intended target for us at all times!
I pray you see and comprehend the depth in this.
This is a Life where sin (missing the mark, and all that could make you miss the mark) has no dominion over you, for you are living a life under the Grace (enablement) of God. It’s His strength, His power, His Life at work in you (Galatians 2:20: I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me. And the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me).
Whenever, if ever, you feel weak and these things don’t seem true, if it seems your career or family or academics or any other sphere of life seems not to exhibit this life, look again into what God has done for you in Christ. That’s where your victory lies through all eternity. It’s through His death that we have life.
And your faith in His work is what gives you access into this Life of Grace (Romans 5:2: By [Christ] also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God). It’s established in Scripture that when you recieve this Gospel message, it comes with faith, and you have the faith required to gain access. (Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God…Romans 10:17)

So don’t live life as if it’s one hustle to another that helps you survive. Acknowledge and thank Him for His grace at work in you, assured that He’s the one that taking you forward, closer to Him, closer to where He wants you to be.
Let all you do and all you are be identified in this, and you will see His Grace at work.

🙂

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If I Had to Die for Someone

if2

With one final gasp of the acrid air, Martin hurried into the burning building to the screams of the onlookers below. The window gave in to his weight as he stumbled into the smoldering room. In the smoky interior he winced as his eyes watered, his nostrils stinging, heat searing his skin. It was hell.

Help!” The scream came from downstairs. “Somebody! Please! I don’t want to die!” There was more, but it was swallowed up by the roar of the fire and the crackling of burnt wood.

Abigail!

The staircase was gone. Getting down there would be close to impossible. The fire was everywhere, and that breath that still lingered in his lungs would soon give out. Never before had he missed fresh air so.

But Abigail could not die. Not now. Not ever.

Dear God … what do I do now? His shirt stuck to his back, his face matted with sweat. He coughed, desperate for more air. With nothing to hold, he sank to his knees.

“Abigail!” he called. “Where are you?”

“I’m here!” The faint cry reached him. Now that he thought about, maybe she really wasn’t downstairs. What if…?

He bounded towards the toilet, stopping short at the door. It had the profile of a girl on it.

Really, Marvin? Still wondering if it’s OK to enter a girl’s bathroom at a time like this?

He pushed the door in and it shriveled into bits under the heat. There, in the ceramic-walled –and hot— bathroom, curled in a corner, was the most beautiful person he knew. Wide-eyed. Scared.

Abigail. Even with soot on her face, she still looked amazing.

Marvin thrust his hand out. “Come with me if you want to live!”

She just stared at him for a moment, heaving in shock. “Seriously? Like, are you … a firefighter?”

“What … me? No, I’m … Marvin. Marvin Bishop. We’re in the same class. Same school—“

“I don’t know you.” She looked genuinely wary.

“Look, that’s the thing. I figured you wouldn’t remember me. So I came here, to rescue you so you can know me … and I can finally show you how I … how I feel about y—“

“Look, I’m sorry, I’d really love to hear what you’ve got to say, but it’d probably be more interesting if there wasn’t a BURNING ROOM BEHIND YOU! We’re gonna DIE!”

Marvin squinted. “Th-that’s what I said. I came to rescue you and get you out of that window over there, risking life and limb, ‘cause I lov—

“Through that fire? How’ll we get there? I’ll get burnt!”

“Y-you don’t have to. See, I’ll carry you. I’ll protect you—”

“This all just sounds like a really bad script.”

Marvin was stunned. “Do you want to get rescued or not?”

He never got to hear her answer because a burning log dropped from the ceiling and knocked him out.

At least that’s what his friend, Bob’s knock on his head felt like as he woke up from his latest daydream.

“What?” he yelled at Bob, back in their classroom. “What was that for?”

“You daydreaming about rescuing Abigail from a burning building again?” Bob asked, a smirk on his face.

“No!” Marvin turned to stare at her across the classroom. As usual, Abigail was laughing with her friends, oblivious to his very presence. He sighed. “Yeah.”

“Dude … that’s just —“

“Don’t say ‘romantic’,” Marvin interrupted. “The word makes me sick.”

“I was going to say ‘disturbing’.” Marvin shot him a double-take. “Seriously? It’s sick! You want to set a building on fire and put some girl in it just so you can tell her that you … like her?”

“I wouldn’t set a building on fire. That’s crazy.”

“What, you think burning buildings grow on trees?”

Marvin waved him off. “Let’s just forget about this, OK? And I never said I was thinking about that. You did.” He picked a book to start reading. “And I wouldn’t put her in a burning building. I’d rescue her from one. Thats the point.”

“I thought you wanted to forget about this.”

“Right, right, yeah … let’s … forget about it.” He returned to pretending to read. “Never happened.”

 

———-

PRIVATE KEN YOUNG stared at the landscape around as their Humvee bounded across the Northern Afghanistan landscape. The howling winds around them kept reminding him that winter was approaching. It wouldn’t be too soon for his platoon. There was little to look forward to here.

Vasquez nudged him in the side and showed him a picture. “That’s my li’l Whitney.” The joy in his voice only barely masked the choke behind it. “She’s already crawlin’. Should be walkin’ by Christmas, I reckon.”

Ken smiled. It was probably the twentieth time that Vasquez had shown him the picture of his newborn baby girl, a daughter he had not seen since his tour in Afghanistan had begun. Ken could only imagine the pain the man was going through in their separation, so he allowed him his bragging rights.

“It’s awesome, man,” Ken said.

“Should be ropin’ cattle by the time I get back. Just like her Pa.”

Ken smirked. Yeah, right. “You sending her anything for Christmas?”

The man nodded. “Making an Afghan with her name on it.”

Ken nodded. It’d been six months since he’d left the States. He was already missing home, his friends, the life he had been used to. He wondered if he’d ever stop missing it all. Or if he’d ever get back at all.

“You know,” Vasquez added. “She probably doesn’t know me. Has never set eyes on me. Sally put to bed just days after I reported in.” He smiled despite himself. “Gonna take a while for her to accept me as her dad.”

“You’re gonna be a great father, Vasquez.”

He arched a brow. “I think I already am a father.”

“I meant … you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, just foolin’ with you, kid.”

Vasquez chuckled, and then he sobered after a while. He tapped the photograph. “This here … it’s what makes it all make sense.” Ken was going to ask, but he knew it was best to listen when this guy needed an ear. “When this crapfest gets in my head and I wonder why I’m here, why 9/11 brought us to Afghanistan of all places … I think of her. Whitney, Sally … everyone I care about. They deserve to live without fear. And these Arabs do too. And if my toting a peashooter around till kingdom come is going to make that happen … then I sure as heck will tote my peashooter the best I can.”

Ken smiled weakly with a shrug. He’d never seen a purpose to this. He’d always wished he did. Perhaps it’d make it all make sense. Maybe if he was here for someone … somehow it’d all make more sense. “Keeps everything in focus.”

“Thanks for the rousing speech, Vasquez,” Kirk said from the opposite row. “Should get you an Oscar.”

“Oscars are for movies, doofus,” Vasquez said.

“Yeah, whatever, man.” Kirk said. “But you’re wrong. We’re not here because of some honourable piece of—“

“Easy there,” another private said.

“No, he’s gotta hear this. We’re gonna die out here ‘cause we’re messing with something that wants to be left alone.”

“We’re trying to help them—“

“What if they don’t wanna be helped? Al Qaeda is just the beginning, man. It’s not going to end anytime soon. You just wait and see. Soon the body bags would be lined up on the ground, and BOOM! It’s all over. Hastalavista, baby.”

“Well, aren’t you full of goodwill today,” Ken said.

“Wait,” Vasquez cocked his head. “What do you know?”

Kirk stared at him for a moment, then shrugged and spread out his hands in front of him the way he did anytime he wanted to share something. “ ‘Kay, there’s this guy that supplies the base with merch and stuff. Ali? We’ve been talking lately. Told me there’s this group of crazies, a deviant sect, developing within Al Qaeda, destined to take over if Bin Laden dies.”

“How does he know that?”

“Rumors travel fast out here.”

“Bin Laden dead? Yeah, like that’ll ever happen,” another officer added.

“Let’s just say it will. These guys are more brutal, and they’ve got it in their thick skulls that they can model the world after their own brutal image. They’ve already got a name. It’s weird, I know, but I hear they call themselves ‘ISIS‘. “

“ISIS?”

He never got a response to that because, in a second, it was all over. The Humvee hit a mine, and the resulting explosion reverberated for miles. No one survived. Not Ken, not Vasquez, not Kirk – no one.

It was another statistic in the casualties of war on the news that year.

 

———-

I’m sorry that story ended quite abruptly. I hope it’s not too dark for you. If it is, then this part is for you; a light little intermission before the final story, where I explain what all this is about.

The thing is we know we’re not going to be on this planet forever. We know that the only way we’re leaving is either by dying, or in the Rapture, or perhaps on a trip on a rocket from NASA (OK, that one would be temporary, but still…). Death has been a sure part of the human cycle since Eden. It’s like a game that resets over and over again, with new players at each reset: Live, Die, Reset…Live, Die, Reset…Live, Die, Reset…

Over and over again.

But we don’t want to just … die. We know we’re leaving here soon, yes. But if we’re leaving at all, some of us want to leave with a bang! To make a real difference. And it seems the only way to leave with a bang is to die for a cause. For someone or something.

When people die for reasons beyond themselves, they are remembered as heroes. It doesn’t matter how much their lives may have sucked. As long as they had a selfless heroic death, they are hailed for generations.

In stories, sometimes a man may risk his life to rescue the typical ‘damsel-in-distress’. In some tragic stories, this heroic character dies (and I wonder why such stories ever bothered being written, except in some cases where it contributes the story or its central theme). We leave that story remembering them this way.

But what about the girl, the damsel that’s left to go through life tormented by traumatic images of the man that loved her and that died instead of her? The therapeutic sessions she’d have to go through? The resistance she’d have to other men because of her perceived devotion to the dead guy?

OK, I almost digressed there. But, at least Shakespeare had the decency to not allow even Romeo and Juliet to end that way…

 

Soldiers risk their lives for a cause they believe in. A country, a home, an ideal … or, admittedly, the paycheck they’d get (though I doubt that last one is a factor for most). They are trained for the worst, to be the ones to bridge the gap where others never could, to do what’s necessary to secure the country to which they are loyal. And many die in this effort; some forgotten by all except their families and those that loved them.

 

When I think about these scenarios, I wonder if I’d ever do that. Would I willingly give my life – as in, die – for a person, or a cause? Is it worth it? Sure, there’d be lots of honour and stuff, but I’d never get to enjoy it. My family would miss me. Sure, we’ll meet again in the future, but then they’ll have to endure unnecessary hurt.

Is it worth it?

But, in a sense, it seems exciting. Not to just die and go back into the earth, but to actually die for a reason. It comes with this surge of adrenaline, dying for something bigger and something better.

What would I die for?

I hope I’ve jolted some questions in your mind. What would you die for?

Would you die for anything?

Here’s the last story … and then … I’ll be back (hey, anyone else notice the Terminator references so far?).

 

———-

Winter’s cold winds washed against the man’s coat as he trudged through the snow that night, a sack lugged over his shoulder. His breath came out in heaves, trailed by short steamy wafts.

Katya’s old bike still stood in the lawn, draped in snow and ice. He decided to carry it in later. It would be good to finally meet his family after so long.

He sneaked a peek behind him. The neighbourhood was quiet. He turned and knocked. He could have tried the secret knock, but he wanted this to be a surprise. Who knew what they could expect in times like these?

After a tad suspicious thirty seconds, he heard a strong female voice call out. “Who’s out there?”

He could not hold it back any longer. “I’m home, my darling.”

It took a moment, and then she hurriedly unbolted the door. She was in a scarf and her characteristic brown blouse, a hand on her chest. The shock and beauty in her face warmed him to his heart as he dropped the bag and held out his arms for an embrace.

“You … didn’t use the secret knock,” she struggled to mutter.

“I wanted this to be a surprise. I’m sorry—”

“Pyotr…” She hurried into his embrace. “You’re back!”

“I love you, Corrie,” he whispered. What was that? He should be hurrying inside in this cold. But that was the only thing left to say in his melted heart after the sight of his beloved. “The Lord has kept me. I’m home.” They kissed.

Man, I’ve missed home!

She pulled back and held his face in her hands. “You’re home…” Her eyes were moist, her smile curving into those beautiful cheeks. “Oh, thank the Lord. Quick, come in, come in! It’s cold out here!”

Pyotr picked the bag. “Really? Cold? Somebody should’ve told me.”

“And don’t think I’m kissing you again until you brush those teeth.”

“I’ve missed you too, Corrie…“

“Pyotr?” It was Ivan, his brother, peeking from a doorway. “It’s you! You’re back! Thank the Lord!”

It was his brother. Faithful Ivan. Pyotr smiled and came over to embrace him, as Corrie hurried in to tell the others.

“You didn’t use the secret knock,” Ivan whispered.

“I know, I’m sorry, but you were all faster this time. I could have been the police. Can’t be too careful, these days.”

“How’d you get past the border?”

“Not now, brother. I just want to have a nice dinner with my family.”

“We’re being followed more and more these days. We have to be careful.”

Pyotr placed the bag by the doorpost and stretched in the warmth.

“Is that it?” Ivan gestured towards the bag.

Pyotr nodded. The stash of Bibles and Christian literature was the result of the contributions of believers in the West, so that Pyotr’s people could have the words of God to live by. In the radical Communist stronghold on their region, uninstitutionalized religious activity was rapidly becoming more illegal in definition. Believers were sequestered to hidden secret gatherings when possible. Without these books, much doctrine was subject to the whim of those that taught it. But it was Pyotr’s dream and the dream of thousands more, to get these into the hands of those that needed it the most.

Ivan palmed through the sack, poring through one book.

“Papa!” Katya bounded out of the dining room and into her father’s arms.

“My, how you’ve grown!” Pyotr exclaimed.

She giggled. “I missed you, Papa!”

“I missed you too, my angel. Let me look at you. My, you’re beautiful as ever.”

“You didn’t use the secret knock, Papa. We were all scared getting everything out of the way—“

“I know, I know. And I’ve been rightly chewed out for that. I’m sorry.” He stole a glance at Ivan as he ruffled her hair. “Dear God, I’ve missed you.”

“Papa, why are you … smelly?”

He tried to stifle a laugh. “Papa’s been on the road for days, dear.” He leaned in and whispered. “I haven’t had a bath in—“

She pulled away and covered her nose, laughing. Pyotr chased her around, laughing. It was good to be home, with the people he cared about. “I’ll take that bath, don’t worry.”

“Did you bring a present for me?”

“Now, Katya,” Corrie was back. “Let your father have his space. He needs to meet everyone.”

“I actually brought one especially for you, Kat,” he said as he followed them in, Katya on his arm. It was a colouring book of Bible stories. “I’ll give you in a moment. You just wait.”

“Brother Pyotr!” One, and then another, called from the dining room. It was like heaven to him. There was Old Mark, Vlad the baker from Leningrad, the Stefanovichs together, the Groznyys … and many others he did not know, all families united by one faith in one God through Christ.

All he had been through on his trip suddenly felt worthwhile.

It is worthwhile, Pyotr.

After greetings all round, they then settled to pray, thanking God for Pyotr’s safe delivery through the tight security at the borders, for the sake of the Gospel. Never before had he felt so close to heaven.

It couldn’t get any better than this…

As footsteps bounded down the stairs, Pyotr realized that all was not well. They were faster and more resolute as they approached. He opened his eyes and his gaze fell on Katya, her eyes still shut. Corrie was staring at him, worry etched on her features. She knew.

“Run,” he mouthed.

But it was too late. Patric, their lookout stationed in the attic, stumbled in. “They’re coming!”

The next moment, just one moment, that passed among them all dragged for a few seconds. In that time, the enormity of the situation dawned on them all. Pyotr’s eyes were still on Corrie’s. Lord, save us. He realized that he should have been suspicious when he noticed the deserted streets. Who knew how long they had been watched? But now… dear God …

And then the scurry began as everyone tried to hurry to the basement. This was no drill. But that was when the front door burst open with the police officer at the door preceded by an icy cold wintry draft.

“Hold it right there!” the officer yelled. “If anyone moves we will fire!”

To shrieks and screams, more policemen bounded in, weapons trained on them. Pyotr tried to take a headcount. Everyone was still here … right?

The captain walked in, and the other officers surrounded them. Pyotr recognized him from border patrol. Had they followed him since then? Their eyes met. The captain snarled.

“Get him!”

Pyotr stood tall. “This is my house. What’s going on here?”

Two officers grabbed him by the arms, to Corrie’s screams. When the Captain raised his hand to slap her Pyotr edged closer but was summarily stomped to the ground by a boot. Corrie covered her mouth, tears trickling down her face.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…

The captain walked around Pyotr, staring him down. He finally stooped and placed his baton under his chin, nudging his face up. “The sack. Where is it?”

Pyotr would not reply. I will fear no evil … for You are with me…

After a moment, the Captain struck him with the baton, cracking his jaw. “Search the house!”

The officers smashed all the windows, flipping furniture over, all in an effort to trash the place. Books toppled to the floor, leaving the room a cluttered mess.

“I know you carried a sack in. If there’s anything incriminating in there, I swear you all –all of you, including that little girl – will never see the light of day ever again.”

Pyotr stared up at his daughter. She looked scared. It had all happened so fast. No child should have had to see this. It’s going to be OK, my dear.

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me…

He sneaked a peak at the doorpost where the bag was supposed to have been. It was gone.

The captain followed his gaze and headed for that area.

“Here,” an officer said, holding up the sack. “Found it.”

The only problem was that the sack was empty. How did—? Pyotr turned and his eyes fell on Ivan’s knowing gaze. He had emptied the bag before the soldiers came in. Good one, brother. But where had he taken the Bibles? Had someone escaped with them? Who wasn’t here? That Patric kid, where was he? Had he taken them?

The captain squeezed the sack in his hands, fuming.

You have prepared a table before me, in the presence of my enemies.

The officers flung the dishes of food against the wall, breaking the table in two.

You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows…

The captain was visibly furious. He wanted to break something … or someone. And Pyotr was unfortunate to be the subject of his anger.

Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…

“I know you’re all spreading sectarian doctrine, poisoning the minds of our good citizens. You’re a cancer, I swear! I’m of a mind to arrest you right now. But let this be a statement.” He pointed at them all, staring at Pyotr. Then, with pent-up rage released, he kicked his head in, smashing his cranium in.

Katya, I’m sorry you had to see this…

The captain waited a couple of seconds more, and then pulled out a pistol. Carrie was barely containing herself now, weeping with all she had.

He trained the gun on Pyotr’s head. Adrenaline washed over his body. “Tell me, Pyotr Konor, are you a follower of the Christian doctrine or are you a citizen in good standing with the community? If you are a good citizen … then renounce this Jesus. Right now.”

They all stared. This was it. The moment of truth.

Pyotr’s eyes could not leave Katya’s. She was scared, her gaze panicky. What’s going on, Papa? She would probably have wanted to ask. Why is this happening to us?

He knew that his choice right then, what she saw, would have its effect on her. Probably for the rest of her life. Lord, keep her…

And Corrie… Dear God, Corrie… How could I have been so blessed to meet a woman like you?

I love you. I really do.

I know you understand.

“You’re trying my patience.” The captain said, his anger grating through his words.

…and I will dwell in the house of the Lord … forever.

The Bibles were out of reach of these men, and that was a good thing. Many would get their hands on those books, and the church would grow. If for that reason alone, Pyotr hoped it was all worth it.

And with that, he leaned forward, eyes shut, and placed his forehead on the nozzle of the pistol.

Amen.

 

———-

 

I grew up reading and listening to stories like that last one. I always wondered what I’d do if I was asked to renounce Jesus or die. Would I give in?

I’d like to say that I’d never give in. I’ve always believed that I would never give in. But, until that day comes, if it comes, I guess I may never know the answer to that.

Or do I?

We’ve come a long way from just ‘leaving with a bang’ now, huh?

Some famous guy once said that something to die for is definitely something worth living for. (You probably need to read that again and think about it. And, while we’re on the subject, I don’t remember the famous guy that said it first. But he said it, and I said it now, so I guess that makes it TWO great guys that have said it now … OK, I was kidding there. But, seriously, you probably need to read that sentence again. Have you?)

So I could go with a bang for something, yes, but would I live for it? If it is worth dying for, then it is probably worth living for too, right?

But living for something is much harder than dying for it, in my opinion. Don’t think so?

Think about this: If I died for something, everyone would know when it happened. I would not need to do anything more, because my statement has been made in my death. It’s done once, and that’s it.

But if I were to LIVE for such a thing, now, no one may know at first. It would show in my lifestyle. I may not get the rewards or any public acclamation immediately … or ever. I would give my every word, my every waking moment, thinking about what more I could for the person or the cause for which I’m alive.

I would lose my identity for that thing. It’s like a living death in itself.

And I would ask myself, “Is it worth it?”

That’s what love is. You love your wife or husband, so you live for them for the rest of your life.

It’s what being a parent is like. You love your children, so you stick with them and raise them. You’re not bothered if they do not appreciate you or not, or if they’re naughty or not. You hang in there, diligent make them better because you love them. Even when it’s not convenient, you hang in there.

It’s what life in the military is. You lose your right to a unique identity for the discipline and uniformity needed to operate as a unit, for a common goal.

It’s what living for Christ is like.

Love is the defining factor in all these examples. Paul knew what he was saying when he wrote that “…if I have not love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2) We could offer our bodies to be burnt instead of someone else that deserves it, or give all we have away, or win all awards we can, but if it’s not done in love, then all we’ve been doing is making noise. Anything outside this is not life.

We may not all have to decide who we’ll die for at gunpoint, but we can choose who we live for. We may not all have to ‘die’ because we serve God, but we’re all called to live for Him.

In Romans 12:1, we’re encouraged to “…offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy (separated) and acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service.” It’s the only reasonable way to live. Every waking moment: our eating, sleeping, breathing, surfing the Net, watching movies, gisting … give it to Him. Let Him define them for you.

Like I like to say, it’s sacrifice, but that’s the only way we’ll ever find true freedom.

And it’s awesome! The good thing is that, He doesn’t leave us to figure out how to please Him. When we believe in Him, He lives through us, working through us to make us want to do what pleases Him, and to actually do what pleases Him. We can decide to get with the programme and allow Him to use us and make us all He wants us to be, ‘cause that’s the best we can ever be … and it’s a bazillion times better than the best we think we could ever be!

Soon, you’ll realize that there’s no better way to live; that there’s no other way to live.

Than to live for Him.

The point has never been who you die for.

It’s who or what you live for.

GRAVE ROBBER

Grave Robber header

Working on The John 11 Story has been an interesting experience for me. Sure, I’ve known the whole story about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead for years, but taking it from this new angle was a pretty amazing opportunity. And sure enough, it looked as if God had pre-prepared the story to fit the format in which it is crafted here, with specific lessons to pick from on Love, Faith and Hope. And I love the way it all rounds up on my favorite story: Life over Death.

The first installment, Love, tells of the part when Jesus first heard that Lazarus was sick. He loved his friend so much … that he waited and let him die. I gotta tell you, this blew me away. But that’s what Jesus did, because He knew it was best for His friend. It didn’t matter that others would see it as downright inhuman, He saw the Big Picture and He lived according to that.

The second installment, Faith, shows us a little bit about ‘walking in faith’. It’s an assurance we have based on God’s reality that affects all that we do and how we live. Others may not see into this other reality, so walking in faith may look crazy to them. That’s probably how Jesus must have looked to his disciples and friends back then. With discouragement on the outside it can be quite hurtful. But He held on, not changing His conviction and confession.

And then, it all boils down to the final installment. Hope.

To many, hope means nothing more than a baseless expectation. Some even preach and teach –with the best intentions, I’m sure— that hope is inferior to faith. But they are so wrong.

But Hope is a word very dear to me. It’s entwined in my heart and in all my stories. I see Hope as … uh, like a rope –a sure and steady rope— that keeps us connected to our expectation. It’s like you’ve been on a ship sailing, with nothing but water for miles. Then suddenly, your shipmate yells from the crow’s nest, “Land ho!” Suddenly everyone rushes to the starboard side to catch a glimpse of the land to which we’ve been headed and they turn the ship toward that direction. We can finally see where we’re going. In a sense, we feel connected to that place already because, on the inside, we are finally home.

That’s Hope.

For children of God, we have a sure and steady hope waiting beyond this sea we’ve been sailing all our lives. It’s an anchor in another world, waiting just beyond this one. We know that we are going to still live even after we leave this world. And why will we live? Because we believe in Jesus, the One that is Life Himself. So no matter what we go through in this world down here, everything seems worthwhile. It is worthwhile because the satisfaction waiting for us is much greater, much better, more grand, extravagantly more amazing than anything down here. Such joy, such peace, such fulfillment and satisfaction in that Other World called Eternity.

And because of this Hope we have on the inside, we are connected to our Home. We already experience the joy and peace and life and love waiting beyond. It’s a life rooted in Eternity, and we call it Eternal Life. It flows on our insides like a river, and overflows to bless this world. It’s literally Heaven on Earth … through us. That’s what Jesus was probably talking about when He said that “The Kingdom of God is within you” in Luke 17:21.

We know it’s not a baseless hope because of the One Who has been there already, and made a way for us to get there. His name is Jesus. He died and rose to life so that He could open the portal for all that believe in Him to join Him, so that they can also have Eternal Life. Nothing can beat that. Not even Death.

Ha! Even death is no match for Eternity’s Conqueror.

He defeated Death so that we would not have to fear it anymore (Hebrews 2:15). The fear of death keeps us from living life to the full. It holds men in bondage all their lives until it finally snatches them away. But Death does not ‘snatch’ those who have Eternal Life. It serves them to bring them Home, at the right time. If you believe in Jesus, you need not fear Death any longer.

But Jesus ended all that. He literally dealt with Death, and rose up to life. It’s actually more awesome than the way I described it, but you get the gist, right? Because He is alive, our faith is effective! Because He is alive, we have Hope, a real Hope. Because He is alive, we can go the extra mile for others out of Love. Because He lives.

But then, it did not end there. He did not just defeat Death that day. Something bigger is coming.

 

The Grave Robber is Coming.

Here’s how the Bible describes it.

Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

1 CORINTHIANS 15:51,52

One day, everyone who believed in Jesus before they died will rise to life and their bodies will become immortal. Death’s very throne room –the graveyard— will be raided instantly, and everyone that belongs to Christ will rise to meet Him and be with Him forever. And everyone who is alive and believes in Jesus will also join them. It would all happen in an instant, ‘in the twinkling of an eye’.

There will be no more death for us ever again. Ever. Forever.

We’ll have finally reached the shore.

———-

That’s part of why I love this Hope, especially since my father went Home a couple of years ago. I don’t talk about it much, I know, but one good thing God brought out of all that is that my attention has shifted from this world to the next. Sure sometimes I get distracted by the holograms of this world and forget my true identity, but my Home –my true reality— is in the next. Nothing fulfils me completely except it’s also rooted in that World. I tell myself, “Oi, if you ever want to see your Dad again, you better be good!” I believe in Jesus. My father also did. Our Hope is in Jesus. And I believe that one day we will both meet together at that Grand Reunion. But I get the feeling that our attention would be taken, not by ourselves, but by the One that got us in this great story in the first place.

Jesus. Eternity’s Conqueror.

So I’m no longer afraid of death because I have Jesus.

But I’m not suicidal, no. I don’t go around looking for death. I just have the confidence to live to the full without being afraid of death. I’ve got the Eternal Life of Jesus Christ in me. He influences how I live, so that I can bring His Light into the darkness around. This is what my life is about. The Hope and freedom that I have in Christ is what I share in my writing and artwork, so that you can see Him in me and come to the Hope we have in Him. You don’t have to fear death any longer.

Jesus is here. He loves you sooooooo much! Yes, He really does. Really.

Come to Him and find Life. Outside Him there is nothing but darkness and gloom and fear and Death.

Have you received Jesus? You can receive Him today.

 

Below are the words to one of my most treasured songs. It’s called Grave Robber, by a group called PETRA, and it explains everything I’ve been talking …uh, ‘writing’ about so far.

 

GRAVE ROBBER

(Based on Hebrews 9:27, John 4:14, 1 Peter 1:24, Romans 8:11, 1 Corinthians 15:26, 51-55, Revelation 7:17)

There’s a step that we all take alone
An appointment we have with the great unknown
Like a vapor this life is just waiting to pass
Like the flowers that fade, like the withering grass
But life seems so long and death so complete
And the grave an impossible potion to cheat
But there’s One who has been there and still lives to tell
There is One who has been through both heaven and hell
And the grave will come up empty-handed the day
Jesus will come and steal us away

(Chorus)
Where is the sting, tell me where is the bite
When the grave robber comes like a thief in the night
Where is the victory, where is the prize
When the grave robber comes
And death finally dies

Many still mourn and many still weep
For those that the love who have fallen asleep
But we have this hope though our hearts may still ache
Just one shout from above and they all will awake
And in the reunion of joy we will see
Death will be swallowed in sweet victory

When the last enemy is done from the dust will come a song
Those asleep will be awakened – not a one will be forsakened
He shall wipe away our tears – He will steal away our fears
There will be no sad tomorrow – there will be no pain and sorrow

 

The day is coming. And everyone will see. Believe in Jesus and receive the life He came to give.

The Grave Robber is coming for His own.

 

We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go.

It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God…

HEBREWS 6:18-19

THE JOHN 11 STORY: Hope

<< INTRO

<< Episode One: Love

<< Episode Two: Faith

John 11_hope

And so we got to the tomb. A rock was fixed in place over the entrance of the cave to seal it. And there I saw him. No one else could see him except me. I saw the enemy himself.

Leaning on the gravestone, his hands folded, my foe stared at me through hideous eyes cold from millennia of nothing but darkness. He just stared at me, an ugly sneer playing at his lips.

“It appears we meet again, Son of God,” he said, sarcastically dragging that last part.

So this was the monster that had held man bound for years. The one whose lethal sting festered in the blood of men, bringing them slowly to the grave through sin. This was the one that had kept humanity in chains, in oppression because of sin.

“What do you think you can do here?” he hissed. “Too late to heal this one, so you want to take him out of my hands? Like you did in Galilee? What’s your deal? I have a right to keep them, and you know it. However, you’re too late. It’s been four days. This one’s spirit is long gone.”

Yes, this is the monster that I will defeat on a cross. The last enemy. A painful reminder of what is in store for me.

But I was not there for him. Not yet. I was there for Lazarus. My gaze was set on what lay beyond Death. I would not let him have the final say here. I would not engage him before his time.

I turned to my disciples. “Brothers, take that stone out of the way.”

Martha started at that. “Master, are you—? I mean … he’s … he’s been dead for days! Four days—“

“Martha…”

“His spirit’s gone and I get it that you want some closure – I probably even get that more than you do – but … the stink! He’d be rotten by now.You don’t—“

“Martha, dear Martha … didn’t you hear me say you would see God’s glory if you believe?”

She stared at me, wondering if she should dare believe in what I was implying.

Yes, I dared her to believe, to expect the ‘impossible’. Let hope be rekindled in your dear heart. She stared at the tomb, her mouth agape.

“Go on,” I told my disciples. “Get the stone out of the way.”

They were already pushing the large rock. Behind me the crowd gasped in shock, some in horror. It was downright disrespectful disturbing the dead, they must have thought. To some I must have appeared like a hopeless rebel adamant to see my dead friend’s body one last time. The cold interior was opened. And, sure enough, the putrid odour drifted toward us. The others withdrew behind me. But I kept on staring into the darkness beyond, where my friend’s dead body lay.

“So that’s it?” Death scoffed. “You’re just going to ignore me now?”

Never again will death oppress those that believe in me, and those that will believe. The day will come when I will take all that Death has got for their sake, and dump it all on myself. I will die too, yes. But I will rise again. Death will lose its sting. The grave will lose its victory. That’s my Father’s plan.

“You do know that you are just a man,” Death growled. “All men eventually come to me. Men die. You may have taken three or so from my claws … but who will raise you when you fall into my hands, hmm?”

One man would die for all men to be saved. That would be me. It is all playing out as my Father had said. Death’s biggest mistake would be to take me, the one who is Life.

“I will maim you, and crush you, and destroy you before their very eyes, Son of God.”

See? The winner has already been decided. It is already written.

I lifted my eyes. “Thank You, Father! Thank You because You have heard me! Of course, I know You hear me always. I just said that for the people standing here, so they can believe that You have sent me.”

Some thought I had finally snapped. Death was furious, seething because I gave him no heed.

“I will deal you the worst death ever,” he said.

“LAZARUS!” I called out. “COME OUT!”

You dare take him from my hands—?!“ But then, he vanished. No doubt, with vengeance in his heart.

Death was gone.

The crowd peered into the darkness from a safe distance. In the silence that followed, the passing breeze and the chirping of birds filled our ears. Heavy breathing echoed behind me.

And then there was a scream. Someone had observed movement in the tomb. But then she was not the only one.

“Look! There! Do you see it?”

“See what? Oh, wait … oh my! Oh my—“

“Where? What’s going on?”

“It’s a GHOST!”

“Good God!”

But he was not a ghost. My friend bounded out of the tomb to their screams and cries for mercy. I’ll admit, it’s not every day you see a dead man come to life. He was still bound and wrapped up in strips of cloth so he could barely move. “Quick,” I said. “Someone, unwrap him. Get him out of those … clothes.” They hesitated at first, but then some of my disciples went ahead, the others too scared to come. The sisters held back, crying.

When the sheet from his face was removed we all saw him. Lazarus. Thank You, Father.

The sisters ran to embrace him, crying out loud. The screams of terror turned to cries of joy. The man held his sisters, joy streaming from them. The news was spreading, the grapevine already reaching the village: Lazarus is alive! So many people that doubted before believed now. They had now seen what my Father is capable of.

It was totally amazing as faith rose that day. I saw people trust in God again. Many who had given up on God’s saving power were now filled with faith. They could now see that God could do anything, that He was here for them, and that He had sent me here. They had faith in me. These people were getting set up for the days of the kingdom, after the final battle comes to pass, and is won. They will believe. They do believe.

It does not matter that they may not continue believing. My story is not done.

I will die. I will rise. All who believe in me will be filled with eternal life, and they will never fall into Death’s hands. Death will become my vehicle to victory, and theirs too.

It will be painful for me. Torturous and unearthly for me. So that you can be free.

And the result will be awesome. Everyone who believes in me will be filled with the Life that conquers Death. Yes, everyone— even you!

Ha!

It surely is worth it.

 

‘Whoever has this hope in him purifies himself, just as He is pure’

1 John 3:3 (NIV)

 

———-

[POST-CREDITS SCENE]

In the recesses of the study in this palatial mansion, a group of men meet to discuss. They are leaders and priests, the top in the land. And the high priest sits with his fist on his mouth, deep in thought. A messenger has just arrived with the news.

“Are you certain?” one of them asks.

“Yes, sir,” the messenger says. “I saw him with my very eyes. The man lives.”

“BAH! There must be an explanation,” another says dismissively. “No man can bring the dead back to life.”

“He’d been in that tomb for four days, sir!”

“Do you expect us to believe that this demon-possessed Galilean – a chronic blasphemer– can raise the dead?”

“Well … I, uh—“

“It’s a trick, nothing more. A very costly one. There must be a logical explanation.”

“But his sisters mourned four days. We all saw them—“

SILENCE!”

“Even worse,” another puts in. “With such miracles – or rumors of miracles – this Jesus will have many more people believing in him. They’ll make him some sort of Deliverer. A … a messiah.”

“Some think he’s the Messiah.”

“That could be dangerous.”

“There would be an uprising. They will try to defeat the Occupation.”

“The Romans … they won’t take this lightly. There will be bloodshed. They’ll tighten their control—“

“And we’d be removed from our positions!”

“That … that would not do. For the sake of the people, of course.”

“We must stop this Jesus!”

A very deliberately audible groan from Caiaphas makes them all fall silent. His hand is on his forehead. “You’re all so stupid! Isn’t it obvious what we must do?” He stands, staring them down. “One man dies, and this uprising is no more. One man’s death, and our nation is spared destruction.” The priests warm up to what he’s implying. “He dies … and everyone is saved.”

Truer words have never been spoken, unbeknownst to him.

In the shadows, Death smiles.

It is all playing out as my Father said it would.

Now, more than ever…

…it has begun.

 

THE END?

 

This story is inspired by the eleventh chapter of the account of John Bar Zebedee on the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God.