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Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Long View

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58. ESV

I love the therefore in this verse. It just could have been placed in Scripture especially for caregivers. Why do I say that? It is so relevant to our callings. How rare is the moment that, while we are seeing to the most basic needs of our charges, we don’t feel like our labor, our thankless, repetitive, menial work is in vain. Who thanks the one who changes a bandage? Gives a shot? Cleans up a smelly mess?

And yet, the passage says our works—yes even these tasks—will not be for nothing. That means they are for something. All of them. (Double negatives in the English language become positives—one of the few grammar lessons I still remember from grade-school English!)

Why do we know that? Back to therefore. What comes before this passage is one of Paul’s (and Scripture’s) most beautiful descriptions of the believer’s prospects in the long view—what we have to look forward to experiencing one day in the real, if seemingly distant, future. And that future provides the why and wherefore of the therefore.

Behold! I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52

Exactly what is imperishable? Or as other translations (and great lyrics in Handel’s Messiah) put it, incorruptible? According to Spiros Zodhiates’ book The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, it means “exempt from the wear, waste, and final perishing which characterize the present body of man.” We caregivers get an up-close view of that perishing every day—and it tears our hearts out. In fact, it is a huge part of what has us feeling like our work is so futile.

But look at what Paul says our beloved Christ has in store for us and for every one of our caregiving charges who has trusted Christ:

For this corruptible must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal must be clothed with immortality. When this corruptible is clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal is clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will take place: Death has been swallowed up in victory. 1 Corinthians 15:53-54

There’s that rich word again: incorruptible, this time paired with immortal. For the believer who is a caregiver trying in vain to ward off the sting of the wear and waste and perishing that come with our loved ones’ aging processes, this pairing gives us the assurance that not only is the perishing going to be conquered in our new bodies, but the exchange is eternal—forever! It’s not like the decay is slowed down or turned back for a time (think of the healings Jesus gave to many in the crowds during His earthly ministry). No, this time, the exchange is for absolute perfection and is utterly permanent.

My pastor preached on this passage this morning, giving a stirring reminder of what’s in store for the believer. A body and soul reunited in heavenly perfection. The joy of being rewarded in that day with not only a “glorified” luminous body so like our Lord’s, but also of being crowned with priceless jewels as a result of our steadfast, immovable work in His name done in this life, with our own perishing bodies and redeemed spirits.

No wonder Paul leads into the therefore with this amazing line:
 
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! 1 Corinthians 15:57

Now, there’s a long view that ought to breathe fresh air into your lungs. I know it’s doing just that for me as I continue to dig on my own for riches in this passage.

Oh, and by the way, if you’re interested in hearing Colin Smith’s message on this passage (with a deep examination of verse 56: about the sting of death being sin and the power of sin being the law), visit this link on Tuesday of this week (or later) and it’ll all be there. Especially if you can’t get out to your own church, this is a great place to get your spiritual tank refilled every week. This one, dated January 29, 2012, will be titled “The Resurrection.” http://theorchardefc.org/arlington-heights/worship-and-sermons/listen-to-campus-sermons/. If you go there today, you will be able to access the previous three messages in the series.



Blessings and prayers,

Julie


© 2012, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Power and Weakness

Treasured friend,

My apologies for the brevity of my recent devotional thoughts. I'm knee-deep in writing my new book, on one of the shortest deadlines I've ever agreed to. In fact, though, I am on schedule--this week both passing the halfway point of creating the first draft and reaching the halfway point of the contract term. I'm feeling a little like I'm using up my word allottment for each week on book chapters, though. Like I have nothing left when I'm done with work for the day.

But I never want you to feel like I'm giving you second best. So, I want to share with you one of the Scriptures I've been studying for today's chapter. I do believe this one has direct meaning to each of us in our caregiving roles, as well as to both our ailing loved ones and our personal physical challenges.

It comes from the apostle Paul, and it is an oft-quoted passage--too often, though, quoted at us in our suffering, to chide us rather than encourage us. First, here it is:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this [Paul's thorn in the flesh], that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:8-9, ESV).
First, I observe Paul's emotional pleading to God to remove this debilitating pain from him. Second I observe that God does indeed answer. I guess I'd like to know if God answered Paul when he first prayed, or if He seemed silent until after Paul had pleaded three times. But Scripture doesn't tell us that. It only indicates that Paul got an answer he didn't want, at least initially. God said no to His servant. Here's my paraphrase of what God told Paul:
 
No, I won't take away this sharp pain that seems to be hindering your ministry. Instead, I'll give you the grace to stand it--and the power to accomplish My purposes in it. Now that you know for sure that you're weak, you'll have the opportunity to see how strong I am.
 
I love Paul's response--although I'm too often hard pressed to respond in kind. He not only accepts God's answer as sufficient, but he also is grateful for the power of Christ that shows itself so clearly in his pain.
 
Please don't think I'm one of those quoting this Scripture at you. No, I'm sharing it with you, because I've had more than my share of opportunities to live out how true it really is. Even today, I'm feeling painfully aware of my own weakness, yet even so I'm experiencing His inexplicable power to continue my work--in strength that is not my own. And so, I pray for you today, my friend, that you will experience this same assurance--that even when God chooses not to change your painful circumstances, He is gracious enough to sustain you and powerful enough to shine through you in them.

I can say this to you only because I know it to be true. And what He did for Paul, what He's doing for me, He's willing to do for you, too.

Blessings and prayers, Julie

© 2012, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Year with My Compassionate Lord

Treasured Friend,

Each new year, I seek from the Lord a verse of promise, encouragement, even challenge. I reread and review that verse, along with its related passage, throughout the coming year--and it provides a growth point for my relationship with Christ. One year, the passage was John 17--my study of which eventually became my book and Bible study: Praying Like Jesus.  Other years, the word has been to return to my first love (last year's) or to simply stand firm when all is falling apart around me. It's a tradition I've kept since college--and one I am continuing this year.

Also, for many years, I've kept a Bible open in various locations (something I learned from reading that Billy Graham does it!) throughout my home and office. Each time I pass the open Bible, I read a verse or a passage. I have one that I read when I'm brushing my teeth, for example. Another on the printer beside my computer. Another on a display table in my bedroom.

It was that third one whose pages got blown around when I was vacuuming my room the other day. So, when I looked down at it last evening, it was open to a passage I hadn't read in a long time ... Isaiah 54.

The entire passage blew me away, as it related to some of the unique pains and sadnesses on my heart. Then I got to verse 10, and realized it was the answer to my prayer for a 2012 annual verse. I share it with you from the HCSB, because it's so vibrant and personal in that translation:

Though the mountains move and the hills shake, My love will not be removed from you and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” says your compassionate LORD (Isaiah 54:10).
So much richness is there. So much promise. I love the adjective He chooses to describe Himself: compassionate! A word from my compassionate Lord is one I cannot ignore. One that comforts me in a way none other could.
 
And that promise is so vital in our topsy-turvy days. Though this world may quake and shake and all its foundations crumble, my peace with God through Jesus Christ and my position as beloved in His eyes are secure. Absolutely incredible. Only the Almighty could make that promise and keep it. And He does, and He will.
 
I challenge you some time in this first week of a new year to read this passage for yourself, perhaps even the whole chapter, and see whether our Lord has a word for you from its riches.
 
A blessed, safe, joyful, and God-filled new year to you and your loved ones!


Blessings and prayers,

Julie

© 2012, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com