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How Can Anyone Know About Life After Death?

How Much of You Does God Get?

5 Ways Not To Return From a Mission Trip

Mission trips can be exhilarating. If it weren’t the case, so many wouldn’t be signing up and going out. More Christians than ever seem to be serving abroad in some capacity, whether constructing buildings, or prayer walking, providing a VBS, or doing disaster relief.

While voices have begun to question the necessity, viability, and even benefit of embarking on these trips in the first place, I’d like to address the manner in which we return. We make mistakes not only in the way we go on mission trips, but also in the way we come back from them. Here are five such ways.

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Rest at the Cross

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I was planning to write a blog about faithfulness. How it is important to be faithful in the small things. How impact is not found in quantity but in quality. How sometimes the day-to-day feels monotonous, one day melting in to the next, with nothing extraordinary to show for it when the clock ticks 12:00am. How change oftentimes happens in slow, incremental shifts that go unnoticed; unseen until hindsight sharpens to 20/20. How seemingly insignificant words and actions have far reaching impact.

It’s funny how the best laid plans can go awry.  

Because these words have been wiped from the slate of my brain, which feels uncharacteristically empty; a reflection of a heart that is broken, battered, and bruised.  

A heart that is aching for all things to be made right.

It’s easy to think of Haiti as a place of never-ending summer, beaches, and sunshine. Sometimes, believe it or not, it’s easy to forget how broken Haiti is; how broken humanity is. After living here for just over a year, the things that were initially shocking have become normal life. The sights, the smells, the experiences; I find myself on autopilot more often than not. I settle into my daily routine, content and happy in the sphere God has placed me in, forgetting the messiness of life. And then something happens to bring the neat, self-constructed scaffolding of my falsely secure world crashing down around my feet. I am reminded afresh of the ugly nature of sin and the brokenness of this world.

And my heart breaks.

Two weeks ago, a bridge in Port Au Prince collapsed, causing a chain of events to unfold that resulted in the brutal, senseless murder of three Deaf women.  

Murder.  

The word feels as ugly as it is. Three beautiful, vibrant, precious women gone, who just days before were laughing, loving, and living. When I was in their village that Monday after the bridge collapsed, the worry was palpable. No one had seen or heard from Monique, Vanessa, or Sophonie since Friday when they left for Port Au Prince. One of Sophonie’s sons grabbed my hand to tag along as I visited friends to catch up on life. And life was okay. Relatively speaking. There were, of course, the normal concerns of clean water, jobs, and night-time lights for a community of people whose language is visual. But the underlying current of concern pulled and tugged at conversation, was seen in the way my friends looked at Sophonie’s little boy, and was felt in the way they grasped my hands to say goodbye. And then the call came Monday night.

Those three women would not be returning home.

Shock. Anger. Confusion. Fear. Doubt. Sorrow. Weariness. My heart felt like it had imploded. And as I looked across the table into the eyes of a dear friend and one of the leaders of the Deaf community, I saw my own emotions magnified and amplified. The tenuous blanket of security felt by the Deaf community had been cruelly and suddenly stripped away. The grief leaked out of the corners of my eyes, tracing a hot path through the sweat and grime on my face.  

Six children now without a mother. A community that lost a skilled artisan and entrepreneur. A church that will miss the joy and grace of one of their song leaders and members. A tightly knit community of people who will keenly feel the loss of three beloved women. This is the raw reality of life, the ugly, savage nature of sin. And it’s horrible.  

How does one even begin to process this? How do I quiet the tumult of questions in my mind? And how can my broken heart and the shattered hearts of a community of people find healing and rest?

The answer is the cross.

The past two weeks have been wrought with heaviness, hurt, and darkness. But in the midst of the oppressive weight, I can feel the Spirit drawing the eyes of my heart to the cross. And I know the truth that is there. But sometimes what I know to be true is overwhelmed by the lies and deceit of my sinful heart. And that is why I must let truth dictate thoughts and emotions. Not the other way around.

I know that at the cross the One who said He would never forsake me was forsaken by His Father. The One who had lived in perfect unity with the Father and Spirit was suddenly bereft of that unity and experienced the agony of utter abandonment. He underwent hell so we wouldn’t have to.

I know that at the cross the perfect, sinless One willingly chose to drink the full cup of God’s wrath for me. He emptied it.  The furious anger meant for me was absorbed instead by the Spotless Lamb. He knows suffering that we cannot begin to fathom.

I know that the cross is indisputably the best and most perfect picture of God’s love for me. “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16).  “He did not even spare His own Son but offered Him up for us all…” (Romans 8:32).  “Yet the Lord was pleased to crush Him severely…" (Isaiah 53:10)  All this for us. There is no doubt of God’s love. The cross persuades us of this.

I know that at the cross there is victory. Because sin and death did not overcome. It is at the cross we find hope for future restoration, hope for a King who will rule and reign with justice and goodness.   for a day when He will right all wrongs.

In Matthew 11, Jesus beckons those of us who are weary and burdened to come and learn from Him. And every single one of God’s promises finds their “yes” in Him (1 Corinthians 1:20).

So, when I am doubting the promised goodness of God, I look to Christ and remember that He is unspeakably good and loves me and this community of hurting people beyond measure.  

When I am feeling lost and broken, I look to Christ and remember that He was forsaken so that we never will be.  

When I am feeling the crushing weight of sin and despair, I look to Christ and remember that His power is greater and that He has already overcome.  

When I am feeling suffocated by hopelessness, I look to Christ and remember that He is our hope.  

When I worry for these six children, I look to Christ and remember that He is a father for the fatherless.  

When sorrow threatens to overwhelm my soul, I look to Christ and remember that that He intimately knows our sorrows and tears.  

When I falter in my weakness, I look to Christ who is my strength.  For it is in Christ that we find healing. He is the mender of broken hearts, and the giver of hope. It’s simple really; just a rehearsal of God’s promises, but, oh, the life-giving power that is found in God’s words to us. It is here, as my heart settles on these truths, that I find rest; rest at the foot of the cross. And it is here I want to stay.

in Hope

Reversed Prognosis

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Like everyone, I hate death.

We should.

It's a result of the Fall, and is due to my, and your, rebellion against a Holy God. However, how glorious it is that God used the Fall, which brought death to all, and turned it upside down to bring life back to His children!

After working as a nurse on a cardiac unit for over a year now, God has assured me that my own death is a healthy reality to think about. Being mindful about my own dying one day leads me to remember Christ's death which brought me life and humbles my soul as an undeserving sinner who daily receives grace upon grace from her Savior.

In the medical world, I have observed many patients who assume that doctors and medicine in our first world country can cure anything.

In America, we have the tendency to avoid thinking about dying because of the abundance of opportunities and resources in our culture and society which give us things to look forward to constantly. The danger in this is that we long for things of the world more than we long for Christ's return and being in Heaven.

I am convicted when I find myself desiring marriage and having a kids more than I desire God. I believe this is a good, God-given desire, but when I start to think, "it would be nice to at least have a family and raise children before Jesus comes back or I pass on", I am not treasuring and longing for God as I should.

Caring for patients who have terminal illnesses has led me to question how I will respond one day if or when I hear similar news about myself. Several times I have been with a patient while they listen to the blunt, cold statements from their physician regarding a poor prognosis.

Driving home from work, I have asked myself, "If I were that patient, what would be going through my head after receiving similar news?" At 23 years old, I imagine I would be grieving all the milestones, future memories, and experiences I was planning on making throughout my life. This would not be a bad thing to grieve; it's to be expected. But eventually, I have confidence that the hope only God can give would set in, for my life on earth is a millisecond of grace in comparison to the fullness of life I will receive in eternity from my Creator.

Scriptural Backup

In Ecclesiastes 2 & 4, King Solomon shares his God-given wisdom to tell us that "It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart." Way to be a Debbie downer, King Solomon! However, humility and longing for the Lord is gained more through trials and suffering than times of abundance and indulgence. Being mindful of how short life is, God heightens my desire to bring Him glory in how I spend my time and how I interact and converse with others.

Christ tells us in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." This world is rubbish; Satan runs rampant, and satisfaction will never be found on this earth because of our rebellion against God. Yet out of His loving jealousy for us, The Good Shepherd laid down His life for our redemption. He wants us, knows us, and is pleased to give us His joy and life.

Revelation 21:4–5a "And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall their be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'" Maybe this is just me, but it's almost hard to imagine what it will be like without trials or pain. All we've ever known is a world where evil and sin exists, but I cannot wait until "death shall be no more!" Many of us will probably have passed on before Christ's return, and perhaps some of us will still be alive on Earth. Either way, our outcome as believers will all be standing, dancing, kneeling, faces planted, etc. (who knows?) before Yahweh in New Jerusalem.

Let us daily remember the complete reversal of the hopeless, and fatal prognosis of our souls which Jesus' death and resurrection provided for us. We, as believers, on this side of heaven, have not even tasted the infinite extent of life our Savior will drench us with in Heaven. I pray His Spirit gives us daily humility as undeserving sinners before our abundantly gracious Savior, to look forward to the continuation of eternal life with Him when we arrive Home!

Listen to John Mark Mcmillan’s song, Death in His Grave here.