On Leaving A Legacy

Recently I got to witness something remarkable – a true legacy. In my duties as a hospice chaplain, I get to meet many families. Few have made such an impact on their community more than Mr. Joe. It wasn’t that Mr. Joe was blind. Many people are. It wasn’t just that he worked decades at a slaughterhouse while blind, remarkable as that was (truly blind, not just legally blind.) It wasn’t that he still worked his farm everyday while blind nor taught dozens of teens how to drive while blind (as scary as that sounds, it also explains a lot…) What impressed those of us who tended to him during his last few weeks on earth was the legacy he left behind in his family.

His children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were there. Not just physically, they were present with him. Not on phones or tablets or gaming systems – they were present to attend to the needs of him and his wife. The vast majority of them are all active in church. They treated those of us coming into the home to help care for him as family, not just hired help. As chaplain I get to stay with the family following death and the same treatment continues. The family is genuine and their faith is evident. This is the impressive legacy.

Stories of Mr. Joe are many and legendary in his community. More important than the stories, as compelling and entertaining as they are, is the legacy of a godly, caring family that he has left behind. They will, God willing, continue to impact the community for the kingdom of heaven. I can only pray that when my time comes, my family will show such a legacy. What about yours?

The Return of True Christianity

One of the better articles from the past year or so regarding Christianity and the culture of American society was by Matt Lewis ( http://theweek.com/articles/448500/christians-silver-lining-losing-culture-war.) With the redefining of traditional marriage to equality based on preferences instead of biology, values held by Christians over the past 2,000 years are being systematically ignored and punished. As Mr. Lewis suggests in his article, this is not all bad news. It might be that the nominal, cultural Christianity that only pays lip service to the commands of our Lord will be stamped out. As falsely professing Christians and denominations pander to the culture, true Christianity will be revealed and empowered even as it is persecuted. I remember as a kid a missionary on furlough saying that their was nothing wrong with the American church that a good persecution wouldn’t cure.

Now, I believe that Christians, as Paul writes in Romans, are to live as peaceably with all men as is possible. I also know that it is not always possible. I know that our Lord said we would suffer if we followed Him. Peter writes that we should not be surprised when fiery trials come upon us. I do not wish to live in a time when Christians are ridiculed, fined and imprisoned for holding to Scripture. I do not wish for my children to live in such a time. I hope and pray, though, that now that such a time is coming upon us that we stand firm, holding onto our Lord without apology or shrinking back. I pray we engage those around us boldly, in love, seeking to penetrate the hardness of their hearts with kindness, compassion and the truth of God’s Word.

Now is the time for followers of Christ to examine themselves and see if they are really His or not. John tells us that we will know who was a real believer or not by seeing if they stay or leave. Do we love Christ or American Christianity? Do we follow Jesus when it is easy or because He alone has the words of life? Do we follow the changing laws of men or the unchanging Law of God? Do we cave in to keep jobs, homes, and retirement funds or do we stand firm and trust in the Lord to preserve us and provide for our needs?

Erick Erickson over at the website RedState.com coined the phrase, “You will be made to care.” No longer can the church sit on the sidelines, wringing hands and moaning the sad state of the Union while failing to engage it. Now we need to be salt and light, shining God’s truth and exposing deeds of evil. We need to be preserving what is good and pure and enhancing the communities where we live. We need to be busy practicing good works so that unbelievers see us and give glory to God for us being His representatives and presenting His presence to them. More than ever we need to stand up and choose this day whom we will serve – God or current society. You cannot serve two masters. We need to be in serious prayer for the courage and strength to stand in the face of opposition as well as for perseverance to endure hardship without shrinking.

We’re pilgrims on the journey
Of the narrow road
And those who’ve gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who’ve gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives

CHORUS:
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone
And our children sift through all we’ve left behind
May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover
Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find

Artist — Steve Green

 

Easter Giveaway — Audio Book

For a limited time, Ta Ethne is giving away a free audio copy of The 180 Project: The Power of Biblical Repentance.  Fill out the contact form (substituting your information, of course) and request a free audio book, then find and follow us on twitter. There are only 25 copies available during this free promotion so get yours now. Once they are gone, they are gone.

Free Resources This Weekend

Our Kindle edition books will be free to download from Amazon this weekend. From Good Friday through Easter, you can get Is Jesus Enough?, The 180 Project, A Heart Hungry to Worship, The Quest and Dominos from the Kindle store. Enjoy and pass the word along.

Reflections on a Tuesday evening

One of my favorite quotes that is attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr, is “We must accept finite disappointments but never lose infinite hope.” It reminds me of Psalm 30:5b “Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.” Whatever troubles are happening now, for the Christian they are only temporary. Whatever hardship we are enduring in the present will fade in the future as out Lord comes for us, vindicates us, and takes us home with Him to live a life of unending joy. Here in this world we will have trouble, as Scripture plainly teaches, but we are not to be dismayed for we serve the One who overcomes all. What a great promise for all eternity — we serve a Risen Savior who is coming again and this is what gives us infinite hope. As we head into Easter, let us lift our eyes from the finite disappointments that so easily beset us and lift our eyes to the One who is hope incarnate, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Burden of Grief

In reading Martin Luther’s Letters of Spiritual Council,” I was struck by how profound many of his insights into healthy grieving were. Since I currently work as a hospice chaplain, I spend extended time with patients and families both before death occurs and up to 13 months after it happens, I see many types of grieving behavior. Those who grew up being admonished for not “getting over” the loss of a loved one quickly or for grieving “inappropriately” would benefit from reading his wise words. Far too often, Christian leaders have used 1 Thessalonians 4:10 (do not grieve as those who have no hope) out of context. This verse does not preclude mourning, wailing or giving lament to one’s loss. It does prohibit the giving up of one’s hope of ever seeing a fellow believer again or losing one’s self to self destructive despair.

Luther insists that while we should not become hysterical, there is nothing disgraceful about mourning, nothing unfaithful in giving vent to one’s feelings (just read Job or Habbakuk.) The stiff upper lip mindset we inherited from Victorian England should have been retired long ago. Indeed, a Christian can grieve harder over death because he or she knows that death is unnatural, a consequence of the Fall. Death is described in the New Testament as our enemy. We mourn over what should have never been — separation in this life. We grieve hard over the death of non-believers, knowing their fate. The fact that they are lost to us forever cuts us deeply.  Luther, in fact, suggests that it is a sign of unfaith when people never mourn.

In “All Our Losses, All Our Griefs,” by co-authors Kenneth Mitchell and Hubert Anderson, there is this quote: “To be a follower of Christ is to love life and to value people; things that God has given us in such a way that losing them brings sadness.” p38.

Jesus wept over Lazarus’ death. Jewish people and many other cultures hired mourners and grieving went on for several days, sometime weeks. A whole book of the Bible, Lamentations, deals with loss as do many Psalms. Scripture records that the mourning for Jacob’s death lasted 70 days and for Moses 30 days (Genesis 50:3 and Deuteronomy 34:8) Why would we think that a few days off of work is all a person needs to come to terms with a significant loss.

We mourn – not at the thought of a person being lost to us forever (with the exception of non-believers), nor because we do not know where they are. We mourn because we valued them as a person made in God’s image, a unique person. We miss their camaraderie, their love, spontaneity,  friendship and a thousand other things that made them special to us. We need to let people grieve fully. We need to stop telling them to “get over it” and “move one.” Let God work the healing process. He is far better at it than you could ever possibly be. There is a time for everything, including mourning. It doesn’t last forever — one morning joy will come again and surprise us when it does. The deeper one loves the deeper one grieves. The deeper one loves God, the better one can lean on Him for strength in times of sorrow. He is well acquainted with grief. Jesus is described as a Man of Sorrows and one who suffered many losses.

I mourn my losses deeply, more deeply as the years go by, but I don’t fly into hysterics because I know my God and He is good. I trust in Him to make sense of it for me when I can’t see any sense in it. I have faith that He is both just and merciful in equal measure and that He knew what was best for my loved one’s life.

When you council with the grieving, let them know that they have permission to cry, to feel lonely, to hurt, to vent feelings without being judged. The best way to help them grieve is to help them remember the loved one. Share memories, share experiences with them. This sharing time helps to normalize the reality of death and allows the griever to know that their loved one’s life mattered to others. By talking about them, sharing pictures and moments about them it keeps alive, in a way, and diffuses the pain. Many times it allows laughter to mix with the tears. We are called to share each other’s burdens and the burden of grief is one that all of us can use help shouldering.

 

Reflections on 20 years of service

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Ta Ethne. From humble beginnings in 1995 using Prodigy dial-up to start what was then called Discernment Ministries to partnerships across the globe, God has blessed us with many opportunities. We started by offering Personal Investigative Bible Studies free to any who wanted one and writing articles on the dangers of heresies in the church. Growth was slow and while many audio and written resources were produced and distributed we seemed to struggle just to stay afloat. 2004 saw the lowest point of our existence. Grand were the plans that year, with the biggest being a Bible Institute. Courses were prepared, instructors lines up, a building secured and a launch date was set. An online option was offered and we enrolled our first students from India. Then the wheels came off one by one, the institute never materialized,  and we had to see where we missed God’s leading.

From that soul searching moment came 2005 and a new direction began. A trip to East Asia unexpectedly led us to work with the underground church and started a partnership that is still running. That was followed by training opportunities in Malaysian churches and the rest was history. Books started to be written and made available, speaking engagements started happening and our role of helping to train church leaders across the globe was cemented.

A couple years ago we relaunched with the name Ta Ethne, feeling it better fit our purpose. A move to the Southeast US was also accomplished and new resources continue to be developed.  God willing, in the coming year, we will begin production on an audio version of The 180 Project and begin work on some new resources.

Continue to lift us up in prayer as we look forward to serving another 20, 30, 40 years or longer. Partner with us and spread the word. Have us come for a seminar or conference or help donate so we can continue to offer resources free to churches in other countries. We have invitations to go and speak in India and the Philippines and simply are waiting for the funds to come in. God has blessed us these many years and we are confident He will continue to bless us in the future.