Where Does Real Courage Come From?

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Christmas Knock


John Stott had all the right pieces in play.

As a young Christian man, he took time to pray, read his Bible, go to church. He tried to do good and be good. What more can you ask for?

In 1938 while at school he heard a sermon on Revelation 3:20 where Jesus said:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me…”

Stott later recounted this moment:

“For, intellectually speaking, I had believed in Jesus all my life, on the other side of the door. I had regularly struggled to say my prayers through the key-hole. I had even pushed pennies under the door in a vain attempt to pacify him. I had been baptized, yes and confirmed as well. I went to church, read my Bible, had high ideals, and tried to be good and do good. But all the time, often without realizing it, I was holding Christ at arm's length, and keeping him outside. I knew that to open the door might have momentous consequences. I am profoundly grateful to him for enabling me to open the door. Looking back now over more than fifty years, I realize that that simple step has changed the entire direction, course and quality of my life." 1

This moves me in three ways. First, I realize what I’m doing. Know it or not, I tend to keep Him outside. At arm’s length.

Second, I realize He wants more. He wants to come in. To be at home with me, to be at table in dynamic communion with Him. No separation.

Third, I realize there’s something to do. He’s enabling me to open the door. To welcome the most profound change anyone will ever know.

And do it every day. Keep the door open!

This is the problem with sin. I get lost in a “me-world”. Without knowing it, I keep gently, quietly closing the door. Again and again. I fall back into patterns of doing all the right things and push Him away. Keep a safe distance. At arm’s length.

And there comes a knock on the door. He wants more.

Something terrifying happens when we do this for a long time. We actually lose our hearing. We stop hearing the knock. We lose our desire to read the Bible, go to church, get godly counsel, and live in daily fellowship with Him.

And so He knocks. And knocks. But we can’t hear.
He wants us to open the door and keep it open. Always open. No more separation. No more keeping Him at arm’s length.

For John Stott, this simple step “changed the entire direction” of his life.

Maybe this Christmas, the very same thing will happen to you.

Just go, open the door.




1 Timothy Dudley-Smith, John Stott: The Making of a Leader, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1999. p. 95




Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Would you consider giving to c2d?


The Breakable Unbreakable

Years ago, a man sat in my office sobbing uncontrollably.

He had found the fence. That should have scared him away. But it didn’t. He came right up to it. Felt it with his hands. Before he could really take time to think it through, the impulse seized him and he jumped it.

Straight into the arms of another woman.

He tried to replay the scene for me. Why he did what he did. Trying to find some reason, some excuse. It was a business trip. Couple of drinks afterwards. It just happened. Almost like he had no control of the moment when he knew, even as he said it to me, it wasn’t true. He knew what he was doing.

No one will ever know. My wife will never find out.

All he saw was pleasure in the moment. Confidence that he could handle it afterwards. A quiet whisper over his left shoulder that he will jump back over the fence in the morning and that will be that. As if it never happened.

Complete control. Arrogant self-confidence. The good church-going husband and father doing in the dark what will NEVER come out in the light.

Morning came. The business meetings that day went on as scheduled. The flight home, the first sight of his three little boys as he walked in the house, the first embrace of his wife. All normal. As if it never happened. And it almost worked. He almost got away with it.

I’ve got to tell her. I can’t go on this way. But if I tell her, it’s over. I know what will happen. I’ll lose her. I’ll lose my boys, my family. No, no, I can’t lose them.

The guilt inside his soul was too strong for him. He needed me to help him, to tell him to do something, anything, to make it go away. In the crazy, mixed-up world of his mind, he wasn’t trying to get right with God. Sadly, that didn’t concern him. He needed to get back over the fence to his wife – which, on the wrong side, was too high to jump. Do you think, he asked, God will help me?

Will He fix my marriage? I can’t lose her. I can’t lose my boys.

I did my best to give counsel. To turn the conversation to the only One who can speak into moments like these. But it was to no avail. He didn’t want to hear about Jesus. Only one thing mattered to him. He had to tell his wife and come clean. And that’s what he did. A year later, the divorce was finalized.

Fences. 1

There are fixed boundaries in covenant relationships.

On the one hand, unbreakable. In the marital bond, the words go like this: "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." (Mark 10:9) This is it. It’s His work. He takes the two. He makes them one.

On the other hand, there is this IF world: “If you do this…then.” There are ways to break the unbreakable. There are fences, boundaries. Oh yes there are! So if we do the unthinkable, if we leap the fence and commit the immoral act of giving our body, our heart, our soul to another, we break the covenant.

And the soul, the conscience – if it hasn’t frozen hard and cold – knows it.

This is exactly how the Bible speaks of the unbreakable covenant with Him. It is just that – unbreakable. The promises God made to Abraham were passed down to Isaac and Jacob and the children of Israel. All of His promises, the apostle Paul said, find their YES and AMEN, in Jesus Christ. (2 Cor 1:20)

He has called a people to Himself. He has rescued us, saved us, and if we truly belong to Him, He has put His resurrected life into our mortal bodies causing us to be “in Christ” and “Christ in us“ by the Holy Spirit, “born from above.” 2

We are His. He is ours. Forever. And that by His doing.

But that doesn’t mean we get to go do what we want to do when we want to go and do it.

Deep inside the Old Covenant stands the IF. IF we obey the Lord our God. IF we turn to Him with all our heart and soul – THEN we live. But IF our heart turns away. IF we are drawn away to worship other gods – THEN we die.

See I have set before you today life…and death…So choose life. 3

Just as deep inside the New Covenant stands the powerful IF. It’s true. We who belong to Christ Jesus are not allowed to “continue in sin.” 4  It is wrong, ungodly thinking to think that if we’re Christians we’re done with fences.

We can do what we want to do when we want to do it because we are saved forever in Jesus!

IF you think this way, THEN you need time in Hebrews 10:26-27:

For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES.

Fences. There are fences, boundary lines. Stay inside and we find what the Bible calls BLESSINGS. Leap outside and the Bible calls it CURSES.

But thanks be to God who has poured out the Holy Spirit into our hearts to guard us from leaping the fences; who has given us the Body of Christ, our brothers and sisters, to come around us in times of temptation; who has given us His Word to light our way; and who provides perfect access to His throne. 5

He knows how to keep His own.

He knows how to keep the unbreakable-unbreakable in our relationship to Him, in our marriages, and in our relationships to others. That’s what He does!

But don’t think there aren’t fences. Don’t get cocky and over-confident and wake up one morning on the wrong side of the fence – in the terrifying world called the breakable-unbreakable.


1 I highly recommend a book called Same Kind of Difference as Me. The heroine of the story is an amazing woman named Deborah Hall who, after the infidelity of her husband, set him on a path to Jesus. Reads like a novel.
2 Romans 8:11; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2:20; 1 Peter 1:3
3 Deuteronomy 30:10-20
4 Romans 6:1
5 Romans 5:5; Galatians 6:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 4:16

Monday, November 22, 2010

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

"Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms." Psalm 95:2


Promises, Real Promises

Did he have his fingers crossed?

Did she?

Did their vows mean anything? They gave themselves to each other, forever. Their love declared, no matter what, through it all, until death do they part. Was it just the feeling “in the moment?” So when things change, feelings shift, the magic disappears, we’re out? Is there “fine print” at the end of the contract?

Whatever happened to: One’s word once given is binding?

And so it happened, it really happened, the bride came down the aisle in all her beauty. The groom waiting to receive her. The church packed, standing, and joyful. The pastor ready to officiate the ceremony.


Did she just say, “…faithful, as long as we both shall love?”

Maybe she’s nervous. She misspoke unintentionally.

But then, did he just do the same thing? Did he just say, “…faithful, as long as we both shall love?”

The pastor was horrified. He had a choice right then and there, and he took it. He excused himself and the couple. He told the musicians to play and they went off through a door in the front of the church.

Two words. One vowel. “Which is it?” the pastor asked sharply. “As long as you both shall love? Or as long as you both shall live?” The couple was caught. Yes, they had planned it. Yes, they wanted an “out” clause in their vows so if they fell out of “love” they wouldn’t be bound for life.

Five minutes later, they were back out in front of the church. They repeated their vows. This time, they did it right.

Fingers crossed.

Is it possible that this is it? That relationships rise or fall on a single vowel?
What if the world is constructed this way? What if the core design, the basic structure of the universe, rests on this relational principle “as long as we both shall love?” Imagine it, a world that only promises love today. Right now. Deeply. Passionately. But never binding. No commitment for tomorrow.

Maybe it goes something like this: We’re in love today. Few years later, out of love. Few years later back in love but with someone new. Head over heels in crazy love! Feels like forever love until the one we love actually falls out of love with us and finds a new love to love.

As long as we both shall love.

And the impact on our children?

Of course we love them. But if we think about it, the same goes for them too. It’s not binding. It’s love without commitment for them too. They have to take it all in stride – when Mom leaves. Or Dad. Or there’s a new Mom. New Dad. New school. Weekends with one. Weekdays with another.

Big hugs with funny words: We love you as long as we’re here to love you.

A world where nothing is safe. Where trust is never known.

So imagine this is who God is. That when the Bible says God is love it means this kind of fickle, feeling-based, no commitment, no promise for the future kind of love. Imagine that He entered into a legal, binding covenant with Abraham and all his descendants with this never forever kind of love.

As long as we both shall love.

So that’s it? There when He feels like it. Gone when He doesn’t?

Surprising, isn’t it? This might actually reflect our relationship with God. We go to Him when we need Him. When our lives are a mess and we can’t handle the storms shaking our world. But the moment the sun pops out? We’re gone.

Fingers crossed.

But is He? That’s the question. Is He like us? Are His promises like our promises? What does the Bible mean when it says God is love?

Here it is, the incomprehensible! A love story like no other love story the world has ever known. The Lord, the God of heaven and earth, takes to Himself the picture of the Bridegroom in pursuit of His Bride.

And here is what the Bridegroom does: He enters into a covenant, a binding, legal, marital covenant with His people and He makes promises. Real promises. With real words like Faithfulness, Compassion, Forever.

                 "I will betroth you to Me forever;
                  Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice,
                  In loving kindness and in compassion,
                  And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness.
                  Then you will know the Lord.
                                                           Hosea 2:19-20

This is our God. He is faithful. He is trustworthy. He promises as long as we both shall live and then He promises us forever. A real forever. Because when He speaks, His word is binding. His commitment is true because it is not based on a fickle, feeling-based passing whim “in the moment.” It’s based on Him. His character. And He not only gives love. He is love. This kind of love.

Though we may come and go. Love Him then leave Him. He remains faithful. Always faithful. Trustworthy. Always trustworthy. And that’s how the story goes. At the end of time, there He stands, the Bridegroom, with His most beautiful Bride. A people of His own choosing. Bought with a great price.

No fingers crossed.


Is this what you’ve been looking for? Do you know this kind of love?

Promises, real promises.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Integration...





WITH THE CALL COMES FAITH


I think about Julie a lot.

It was my first pastorate. She was adored in the church. For over a decade, people came around her to drive her, three times a week, to the dialysis center. When she suffered a heart attack, we were amazed to hear her story.

“I was there!” she told us, “in the presence of Jesus.” Then – thump! – she was back, looking into the face of a doctor. “Oh how that surprised me!”

Years later the phone call came. Julie was taken to the ER. I rushed to the hospital and found her already in the ICU. She was conscious but weak. A team of doctors coming in and out until they finally decided to take her to surgery. Another demanding, invasive, not-sure-she’ll make it surgery.

“I’m done,” she told them. “I can’t do it.” She was bleeding inside, just weeks after open heart surgery. The doctors wanted to go in, find it and stop it. But she didn’t have the strength. Her body was done and she knew it.

I will never forget the brightness in her eyes.

Her daughter and I stood on either side of her bed. At some point Julie asked me to recite Psalm 23. I didn’t have my Bible, gave it a try and completely messed it up. Julie looked me straight in the eyes and frowned, “That’s not it. You need to memorize Psalm 23 in the King James!” And I did, the next day.

But what surprised me most was something I’d never seen before.

She had faith to go home. Not just faith in the Lord. She had that. I had that. This was different. She had strength in her broken, weak heart to see the door of the Kingdom of God opening to her. I saw it as she comforted her daughter. I heard it in the gentleness of her voice. I felt it in the touch of her hand.

Nearing midnight she said to me quietly, “I’m sorry it’s taking so long. You need to go home and get rest.” And then she smiled. How was it possible? Here she was facing death and concerned for me? So peaceful. So ready to go home.

Julie, I’d rather you not go.

But she did. As if it was all perfectly orchestrated, Julie’s daughter began to sing Amazing Grace and, just before the last verse, the Lord came for her.

Home at last.

In the weeks and months that followed, I struggled with what happened that night. Julie had faith I didn’t have. But why didn’t I have it? Shouldn’t all Christians have it? I mean, it’s the heart and soul of who we are and what we believe. Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. He has forever defeated death.

Julie knew that. But not just knowing it in her head. She experienced it. She held it, or was held by it, like a little girl safe in the arms of her Father. She was not afraid. But I was. She was not anxious. So why was I?

Does it mean I’m a Christian in my head but not in my heart?

I turned to the Bible. I continued the story God laid out from the beginning. It amazed me to find Abraham in the same struggle of faith. This man knew the call of God on his life. He eventually left everything and followed the Lord to the Promised Land. He even received the blessing of Melchizedek.

But he didn’t understand.

He was told he was going to have a son. He was an old man. His wife beyond child-bearing years. It was impossible for them to have children. So Abraham did what most of us would do. He came up with a plan. He reasoned that Eliezer of Damascus, a man born in his house, would be his promised son.

“This man,” the Lord shot back, “will not be your heir; but one who shall come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.” Then the Lord showed Abraham the stars in the heavens. “Count the stars, if you are able to count them” the Lord declared. “So shall your descendants be.” (Gen 15:4-5)

Then it happened. The impossible became possible. The Genesis 15:6 miracle.

The Lord opened Abraham’s heart to believe the promise. He gave him faith to see the child before the child was ever born. Faith leaping beyond reason! Faith that sees with God’s eyes. Faith that knows. Faith that experiences. Faith that holds the promise to come as if the promise is already here!

The gift of God come down from heaven!

Oh, thank God, it’s something He does. It’s not something I do. Faith is not something worked up by me or in my own strength. He does it. He opens the heart. He gives the gift both to believe in Him and to believe in His promises.

That’s what Abraham had. Faith to believe in God, yes. But also this special, particular faith to believe that he, in his old age, would have a promised son.

It’s also what Julie had.

It seemed to make sense to me. Julie had a call of God on her life that I didn’t have. It was as if she stood at the Jordan River ready to make the crossing into the Promised Land. It was her time. The Lord was calling her home. And with the call came the faith she needed to see Jesus, to know, rejoice, and cross over.

And she did. And I got to be there. At first, it confused me. Why didn’t I have this gigantic miracle faith coursing through my veins? I wanted it. I felt guilty not having it. It made me question everything. Was I, in fact, a Christian at all?

But then I understood. The gift the Lord gave me was front row seats! I got to come right up to the banks of the Jordan. I got to see Julie hear the call of God and then to receive the gift of faith that triumphs in the face of death!

The impossible altogether possible.

Faith to go home! I knew that night that someday in the future the same would happen to me. I’ll find myself at the riverbank. I’ll hear the Lord call my name. And suddenly my eyes will see. My heart will know. This gift of God will come at just the right time. It’s all because of this simple biblical principle I saw lived out in Julie’s life that night. Something I will never ever forget.

With the call comes faith.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Blog-break 2


If you’re new to the blog-site – welcome!

We post new blogs each week. We’ve just finished a series of blogs called “Identity in Christ.” You’ll see it posted below on the right.

Taking the blog break for 2reasons: First, to encourage you this fall to be intentional about being in discipleship, active in your growth in Christ. Make Sunday worship non-negotiable. But make discipleship non-negotiable too.

Second, I want to recommend a short but provocative book: The Radical Disciple   CLICK HERE

Imagine it: John Stott is in his late eighties. An Anglican clergyman, noted theologian, writer, speaker, whom Billy Graham once called, “the most respected clergyman in the world today.” He decides to write his final book at the age of 88. In the Postscript of the book he writes, “As I lay down my pen for the last time…”

So what’s his final message?

He could have written about anything. What was his passion? It’s this: Be a Radical Disciple of Jesus. It’s more than what we believe, it’s how we walk. It’s being the 4th disciple in the Parable of the Sower where the seed of His word goes to the root.

So Stott writes, “The English word ‘radical’ is derived from the Latin word radix, a root.” And so, he points out, “the seed sown on rocky soil…had no roots.” He goes on:

“Our common way of avoiding radical discipleship is to be selective: choosing those areas in which commitment suits us. And staying away from those areas in which it will be costly. But because Jesus is Lord, we have no right to pick and choose the areas in which we will submit to His authority.”  (p. 16)

Don’t avoid it. Be radical. Go to the roots!

As Stott takes a look at eight neglected areas of Christian formation, he drives home the one point that concerns him most. To summarize where we are as Christians today, as the believing Church, all he needed were three words.

Growth without depth.

The statistics on church growth, he writes, “are amazing. Explosion is not too dramatic a word to describe it…At the same time we should not indulge in triumphalism, for it is often growth without depth. There is a superficiality of discipleship everywhere…” (p. 38-39)

To say it again: There is a superficiality of discipleship everywhere.

A few responses. Next week at call2disciple we begin going on the road. Each month, we’re offering a retreat in different parts of the country to help promote the work of discipleship in local churches. We’re taking John Stott’s book with us. We want people to read it. In fact, at our home church in Connecticut, we will be taking this book to heart, applying the principles both in our Sunday morning Bible study and in the weekly fall sermons.

And here’s why.

Growth with depth impacts the mind, the heart, the soul, the whole person. The Lord, by His word, by His Holy Spirit, wants to work a work in us so we “look like the Christ we proclaim.”

Christlikeness is the will of God for the people of God.

How can we talk about being Apostles sent into the world without first being Disciples, Radical Disciples of Jesus Christ? So when we go out, who we are is the first message! What we say is the second.

Get the book. Read it. Make a commitment this fall to be a Radical Disciple. And if we can help, write us back!

Go to the Roots!

The Lord bless your week,

Thad

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Blog-break!!


Question for you: Are you in discipleship this fall?

What do I mean?

Being in discipleship is something intentional. It’s more than being in a bible study. It’s more than doing private devotions. Both well and good and important in the Christian life. But discipleship is more.

It’s intentional.

It’s done in community.

It’s a passionate desire to grow and mature in Jesus.

It’s where Christians older in the Lord come alongside those younger in Him.

It’s where the Bible is integrated into our lives.

It’s where we see Christians encouraging one another, holding each other accountable, and spurring each other on to live outrageous for Jesus.

It’s where we see change. In us – and in others.

It’s where worship deepens.

It’s where we learn to pray with passion.

It’s where we begin to see the Holy Spirit giving us a heart for service and mission; for those inside the church and for those outside.

It’s where the Bible comes alive. Step by step from the beginning, as the Lord teaches us the elementary principles of His word and grows us.

It’s the only way to become mature – complete in Christ.

Discipleship: It’s what Jesus told us to do – Go and make disciples!

It’s how we come to know Him more and more, so we can say with the apostles Paul: I want to know Christ!

So – let me ask it again: Are you in discipleship this fall?

At call2disciple, we want to help you any way we can. Call our office. Contact us. We have all kinds of resources that can help you get started. But whether or not you use our resources, the most important one we offer is this.

We’re available.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Scare2Death

It’s hard to look into the mirror. I mean really look.

It’s why preachers avoid using mirrors in the pulpit. Mirrors that make us see ourselves as God sees us. It’s why they don’t say “sinner” or quote passages like, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins...” (Eph 2:1)

That’s the problem with the modern church, a Christian leader wrote recently. It’s “growth without depth…a superficiality of discipleship everywhere.” 1

Because we don’t want to look! Plus the poor preacher is constantly under the gun just to get people to come to church – let alone stay. Especially with stiff competition. There are all kinds of churches out there committed to making us feel good, do good, think good, be good. Simple rule: No mirrors.

People want superficial. Give it to them. Disciple them later, when they’re not looking. When they least expect it. For now, just get them in the door.

Spectacular church growth…without depth.

Here’s what I think. I think we need mirrors.

I know. It’s hard to look in the mirror. Really hard. To see me as God sees me. Not the image I put on for others. But me, alone, by myself, the way I am.

I remember being eight. It was my first big trip out with my mom. Every year she had to go to Chicago for medical tests. One year she took my brother, the next my sister, then it was my turn. And I mean Chicago!

My aunt Jo and uncle Lee lived in an apartment way up high in a big skyscraper overlooking the city. It was spectacular at night – all the lights, the hustle and bustle, as far as the eye could see. For me, at eight, breathtaking.

And my own room. With big windows to see out. But that night, in the middle of the night, something happened. A bad dream. Those kind I got when I was sick and everything was whacky out of proportion. Big things little. Little things big. And I shot out of the bed and ran to the window and looked out. Then down. Way down. I felt this hand behind me – pushing me.

For a split second I could see it, feel it. My insides flipping, my head spinning. As if I was falling. Like the window had broken open and out I went. We were so high up. And all I could do was open my mouth and scream as loud as I could. With everything inside me.

Fear, outright fear.

Rushing through every part of my body. Coursing through my veins. Not some monster from the outside – but a monster inside. Roaring so loud I actually felt it was going to happen. I was going to hit the ground. I was going to die. And I didn’t want to die. All I knew to do was scream. And cry. And wail.

What kind of world is this?

There are monsters in it. It’s dark and scary and completely unsafe. Even at eight, I knew fear real and big inside me. And specific, a fear of death. Afraid to die. Scared to fall and fall and fall and then die. When the only thing I knew to do is scream. Scream until someone comes and makes it safe.

Will someone come? Can anyone hear?

It didn’t take me long to find out that there was more than fear in me. There was sin and selfishness, rebellion and pride, lust and longing for things to satisfy me, and all kinds of ugly if I didn’t get it. It’s about me. Me. ME.

Mirrors. The real me.

Finding our real identity. Going back – way back – to when the first couple entered this world. Not the world of Eden for which we were intended. But I mean the world after Eden. This broken, fallen, demon-filled world where death and the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2) reign outside.

Reign inside.

And then trace the story. Read through the opening six chapters of Genesis. What mess. What horror! A world engulfed in sin, evil, murders, lusts, and open rebellion to God. A people already so irreconcilably wicked that God unleashed His wrath on them. World-wide and cataclysmic judgment.

Mirrors into who we are without Him. Best not to look. Best to play pretend.

Best to run to our dressing rooms. Put on our disguises. Tons of make-up and make-over until we can stand in the mirror presentable. Palatable.

Best to get preachers who tell us we look good. God thinks we look good. Never talking the language of sin and fear and monsters with power2scare.

Scare2death.

Fake mirrors that don’t tell the truth. That make us feel safe, fake safe.

Lest we see ourselves the way we really are. The way God sees us. And then do the only thing we know how to do. Must do. Can’t stop from doing. Scream. Scream until someone comes and makes it safe. Until we honestly, sincerely turn to Him with nothing in ourselves to help ourselves.

And growth with depth begins.


1  John Stott, The Radical Disciple, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 2010. p. 38

Friday, August 13, 2010

THE DAY THE WORLD CHANGED


Bookends.

Last Friday night, our daughter Krissy married. The service was held on a beach in the Florida Keys where her husband, Doug, proposed months ago. Right behind them, as they exchanged their vows before the Lord, the sun set.

And for the next twenty minutes, the sky exploded into colors. Brilliant, dazzling, playing off the clouds, then gently fading, giving way to night.

What incredible delight to see the joy in Krissy’s eyes. To welcome Doug into our family. To thank the Lord for such abounding blessing.

Up the coast, just outside Charleston, SC, the other bookend.

The day before Krissy’s marriage, Connie Lyle went to be with Jesus.

We’ve known Gordon and Connie for thirty plus years. Pastors, counselors, friends, elders, and prayer warriors unafraid to ask hard questions. They’ve been a lifeline for us on so many occasions. And every summer we’d meet in Maine for a meal and then time for prayer. We simply adore them.

Connie, a gentle, gracious, lovely lady who cared deeply for others.

In joy, one marriage begun. With sorrow and tears, another ended.

But that’s the story. We say it in our vows: “until death do us part.” In every generation, in every culture, the fine print is always the same. We can’t have each other forever. There is a limit, a time set when we will, we must, separate.

That’s the way it is. It’s something we all live with, right?

Well here it is. Do you want to know the whole story? Not just the one that we experience here and now. But the bigger one?

The story He tells.

Then let’s go back to the beginning.

That’s where discipleship starts. The Lord wants us to know Him. Who He is. How He created. What He intended. He wants us to know what happened and because of what happened, what He did. What He planned.

For this is true, always true: He loves us. He wants us to know.

In God’s original creation, life, His life, was the governing principle. Not death. Imagine a world without the constant forces of opposition, decay, always eroding, destroying, and making what’s new old. Broken. Withering. Until finally death comes. That’s life as we experience it.

But it’s not God’s life. Life that’s real life that He calls – eternal.

It’s why He put the tree of life in the garden of Eden.

Early on in discipleship, our growing up in Christ, we must come to Genesis 3. The Lord shows us in Scripture how evil came into the world; how the serpent deceived Eve; how Adam was tempted, and in being tempted, chose.

The other tree.

This was the day the world changed. When sin entered into the world and entered into us. The day when death took its throne and began to reign.

And on that day, the man and woman were driven out of the garden, away from God, away from the tree of eternal life. It was like there was a door and they were now on the outside. No longer in the Kingdom of God.

But in the Kingdom of Death. Where the devil presides. Where darkness fills the heart. And immoralities, impurities, passions, evil desires and greed now course through our minds and souls. It’s the way we are. It’s not the way we were intended. But we know it. We know it because we experience it.

It’s the fine print for all of us. We love. We live. We make our money. We build our empires. We look for all the applause in life we can get.

“Until death do us part.”

And the door shut. Then bolted. Leaving us outside life. God’s life.

If you don’t know this, you’ll blame God for all your sorrows and tragedies. But come hear His story. Let Him tell you who He is, really is. And who you are, as He planned you to be.

Let Him tell you that although you stand outside the door in this world where death reigns, He has a plan.

He has a way home.

A way that our friend Connie knew. And her husband Gordon knows today. It’s the only thing that brings Gordon comfort.

For he knows this, really knows this. The door into the Kingdom of God, an entrance bought by the precious blood of our Savior, opened. And Connie slipped in. To be with Jesus. In life, real life. Eternal life.

And one day that door will open for him. He too will cross the threshold. And there, in the presence of the Lord, there will be no more fine print.

Forever.

John 15:1-11, the Vine and the branches. "Is He everything to you?