From Blest Atheist Stand Back and Let God Work (Anne Bender)


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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Blest Guest Wednesday #1: Stand Back and Let God Work (Anne Bender)

Since early August, it has been difficult for me to post regularly although I have somehow managed not to let more than a few days go by between posts. Considering that my crazy travel schedule is definitely going to continue for a few more months, I have come up with an idea for bringing a little sanity to the blogging part of my life: ask for help. For that reason, I am asking some fellow bloggers to write posts for me on Wednesdays, hence the name "Blest Guest Wednesday." As today's "Blest Guest," I asked Anne Bender, who writes a blog that I follow closely: Imprisoned in My Bones - Releasing My Inner Jeremiah. As you will see here, she has several children; two of her sons are considering the priesthood. Her stories are uplifting and insightful, and I thank her for the touching one she wrote for today's post. (Oh, the image of a priest's hands is hers, too, and can be found on her blog.) Here is her post:

When things seem really bleak, and I feel full of worry and stress over little things, God always seems to find a way to pull me out of myself and remind me of the important and meaningful things in life. It seems to me, that his favorite way of doing that is through my children. When I’m aware of how He works in this way, I can only stand back and let the tears of astonishment overflow from my heart and fill my eyes.

Jack is ten years old, and will be eleven next month. He is in the 5th grade. But to me, I can’t ever imagine him as anything except a sweet and innocent little boy and I’m amazed every time I realize that he’s growing up so fast. He was born with developmental apraxia of speech, but we didn’t realize he had this disorder until he was two years old and wasn’t talking. The apraxia means that in his mind, he knows what to say, but something breaks down between his mind and his mouth, and the words don't come out, they stay kind of stuck in his head. It was extremely frustrating for him. So, just before he turned three years old, he began speech therapy, and he continues to require this weekly service. Of course, he really speaks very well now and most people can understand him and don’t even realize that he has this disorder. I am most aware of it when he is sick or tired and that's when his speech becomes more garbled and difficult to understand.

Jack works very hard to overcome this difficulty. Most of the time he is a very quiet boy and he easily disappears in our loud and unruly family. When he is stressed, he can barely express himself except through tears. But when he is relaxed and happy, he can turn into a real chatterbox, especially if he is talking about the current sport of the season. I always thought that God gave Jack the gift of athleticism to compensate for his speech difficulties. As he began his school career, I worried that he would be teased because of the robotic way he spoke and that friends would be few and far between. But Jack found a way around his speech difficulties by bringing a ball of some sort to school every day. Other children always gathered around him to play and he quickly became quite popular. Nobody cared about whether or not he spoke well because he was fun and kind. He included everyone in his games and shared well with others.

Whenever the talk of future careers would come up in our household, Jack always spoke of a career in sports that is typical for most boys. Whether the season was football, baseball or basketball that is the sport he wanted to play as a professional when he grew up.

Until last year, that is. Then Jack started expressing an interest in the priesthood. I didn’t pay too much attention thinking he was just copying his older brother John, who is feeling called in this direction. And when I would watch him fidget in church, constantly checking his watch to see how long the Mass lasted, I would completely disregard the possibility of priesthood for Jack.

I like to visit the Seminary Library, and when I’d take Jack with me, he began to ask the librarian for books about the priesthood. She would apologize to me because she didn’t have much on the subject for younger children. I always said, “It’s ok. He really doesn’t read much anyway, you’d just be wasting your time hunting some down. As soon as we get home, he’ll be outside playing instead of quietly reading, because that’s what Jack does best.”

But this week God had a surprise for me. Jack had an evening with a few hours unattended while the rest of the family was busy with other activities. He told me that he spent that time looking at our Seminary’s “Think Priest” website. I smiled and told him what a good boy he was and that I was glad that he was interested in that, and then sent him off to bed. I didn't give it another thought.

Last night I received a phone call from our Associate Pastor. Fr. Dennis asked me if I knew that Jack had sent him an email. (I didn’t.) He told me that Jack had complimented him on his All-School Mass Homily and then said that he wanted to be a priest. Fr. Dennis said the email surprised him because Jack never says a word to him in person, he won’t even crack a smile, but rather is always very serious.

I went outside to find Jack racing up and down the street on his scooter and told him that I wanted to talk to him. He immediately assumed he was in trouble for something and the tears began. I assured him that he was not in trouble, but that I just wanted to spend some time talking with him. He sat on my lap and I asked him about the email to Fr. Dennis as I wiped his tears away. He said yes, he had sent it. He also sent one to our Pastor, Fr. Dave, our friend Fr. Don, who is the Rector at the Seminary and to Mr. Wisniewski, the school principal. He said he established his own email address and told all of these men that he wanted to be a priest and was wondering if they had any tips for him. He took me to the computer screen and showed me his list of sent emails, and there they all were, just like he said.

Now it was my turn to cry. My mind raced with questions. Could God really be calling two of my four sons to the priesthood? What moved Jack to send these emails without telling me his intention? Will this desire for the priesthood last or is this just a phase that he is passing through? Does God really send the call to priesthood to such young boys?

I watched him closely at Mass this morning. I saw him fidgeting with the eraser that was in his pocket during the homily. I saw him looking intently at Fr. Dave during the consecration. I noticed him smile and wave at Fr. Dave during the sign of peace. My heart is pondering the wonder of it all, but I know that all I can do is stand back and let God work. After all, Jack has always been His child, long before he was my child. In the end, it will be God’s will that wins. It will always be God’s will.

Does God Expect Me to Stay Married to a Jerk?

      Does God Expect Me to Stay Married to a Jerk?

    Years ago, a family therapist was asked, “What are the top three causes of divorce?” to which he replied, “Selfishness, selfishness, selfishness!” Of course this is an oversimplification of the varied and many contributing factors to divorce but there is an element of truth in this statement that permeates each.
    At the core of all that ails the human race is selfishness: this innate love of self-self-worship-or pride. We alienate ourselves from one another when we elevate our desires, our opinions, and our feelings above others. We cheat and steal because we want, we lie and deceive because we give priority to our self-interests, we murder-in actuality or with words-because our puny sense of supremacy is threatened. This is the very sin that separates us from God: our love of self over and against the Father. In short, we are deplorably selfish beings consumed with satisfying our own appetites and desires, often without regard for anyone else.

    This is the dreadful state in which the Lord finds us-and despite our active resistance to his rightful rule in our hearts, our thoughts, and actions, he lovingly subdues our rebellious pride with his grace and mercy. He saves us from eternal alienation that our stubborn resistance brings! The old man, so infatuated with himself, is crucified and buried with Christ; we are raised to a new life in Christ (see Romans 6:4). However, this new life doesn’t just happen. Our will, which was once in bondage to sin, has been freed to pursue godliness in obedience to Christ through faith. Paul, writing to the church at Ephesus, tells us that we are to be taught to cast away our “old self” and “to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22–24, NIV).

     C. S. Lewis summed it up in saying, “To become new men means losing what we now call ourselves” (Mere Christianity).

    The clearest clue to what this new self looks like is given in Paul’s letter to the Philippians when he writes, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:5–7, NIV). This is a radical departure from our selfish nature into one that denies self even in the face of offense. This same nature is, of course, the foundation for marriage-but also all relationships.

    In Ephesians, Paul lays out the foundation of marriage as being rooted in a mutual love and submission, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord” and “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:22, 25, NIV). Notice also that Paul begins this chapter with the charge to “Be imitators of God,” another reference to the disposition described in Philippians chapter two. Later in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul compares this joining of two people into “one flesh” to that of Christ and his bride, the church (see Ephesians 5:32).

     Thus marriage-this “profound mystery,” according to Paul-transcends anything resembling a mere contractual obligation. Nor is marriage simply a self-serving means to personal happiness; Christian couples should strive for and display this self-denying disposition.

    Another aspect that should govern Christian marriage is the doctrine of God’s sovereignty.

    Do we believe that when we suffer, we suffer outside the will of God, or do we believe that God allows suffering to enter our lives for his good purpose? Isn’t there the expectation that we, too, will share in the sufferings of Christ, that “we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22, NKJV)? While we do not eagerly seek to suffer, don’t we believe that suffering bears sweet fruit nourished by bitter tears and that such fruit is nothing less than holy character (see Romans 5:2–4)? If we believe that God in his providence causes everything to “work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose”(Romans 8:28, NLT), then wouldn’t it be reasonable to conclude that such suffering may also come in the form of a troubled marriage?

    That being the case, wouldn’t we be expected to persevere rather than seek escape, trusting God for both endurance and the outcome? It is here-in the domain of our so-called domestic happiness-that we may be tempted to draw a boundary, saying, in essence, “Lord, you may come this far but no farther.” It is often in this context that the old self returns in an effort to assert his rights: “I need, I want, I deserve!” However, the Christian is compelled to lay down these rights and instead trust in God, believing that his grace is indeed sufficient in all things including an oppressive and loveless marriage. It is here that the Christian patiently endures, trusting the Lord for the grace to do so, and hopes for a future where God may be pleased to set things right.

    Please do not think I am suggesting that the person suffering physical abuse remain in a situation whereby he or she is subjected to physical harm. I am not! However, that is a topic for another time, as I am presently addressing divorce for no other reason than the failure to achieve personal “happiness.” This is where we Christians either begin to differ from the world or remain worldly. The Christian life does not culminate in a quest to be happy but to be holy!

    If our attitude is to be the same as that of Christ Jesus, then consider how Jesus responds to his frequently unfaithful bride, the church. Every one of us has, at some point, been unfaithful to Christ; we have wantonly rebelled against him, we have been indifferent, even abusive in our disregard toward him. We have all failed to love him at times and we constantly put our needs ahead of his. And yet Jesus never says to us, “That’s it, I’ve had it! I will not take this abuse anymore; you are selfish and uncaring; you don’t love me or make me feel special, so I am out of here!” Can you imagine these words coming out of the Savior’s mouth? Never!
    So it is to be with us. For those poor souls who walk in darkness, there is no chance of assuming the self-denying character of Christ; but for those whom Christ has made alive, there is the all-sufficient well of grace. It is to Christ that the Christ-follower must go with his “irreconcilable differences,” not to the courts. It is only Christ who reconciles the unrighteous with the righteous and it is Christ that can reconcile husband and wife.
    The question for the church is this: Will we truly trust him in all things, including while we suffer marital maelstroms? Will we follow Christ when it is most difficult? If we won’t, then not only will we fail in our witness, we will never know the freedom of living by faith.

    S. Michael Craven is the President of the Center for Christ & Culture. Michael is the author of Uncompromised Faith: Overcoming Our Culturalized Christianity (Navpress). Michael's ministry is dedicated to renewal within the Church and works to equip Christians with an intelligent and thoroughly Christian approach to matters of culture in order to demonstrate the relevance of Christianity to all of life. For more information on the Center for Christ & Culture, visit: Michael lives in the Dallas area with his wife Carol and their three children.

    Tens of Thousands Pray in NYC's Times Square

    Tens of Thousands Pray in NYC's Times Square

    Around 30,000 people representing over 300 churches and 65 youth organizations gathered Sunday for an hour of prayer in New York City’s Times Square.

    On the day that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proclaimed to be “Prayer in the Square Day,” the thousands who gathered for “Prayer in the Square” prayed for the nation in three-minute intervals with songs performed by a 180-voice gospel choir between each prayer segment.

    "Since its establishment, this event has encouraged the faith of all those in attendance, celebrating their beliefs through praise and worship,” commented Bloomberg, who is Jewish by faith.

    “‘Prayer in the Square’ provides an opportunity for all Christians – regardless of their age, race, gender, or denomination – to renew and deepen their commitment to our city’s spiritual community,” Bloomberg added. “In all our diversity, New Yorkers share an appreciation for the power of faith. After all, our city was built by people who came here in order to worship God freely.”

    The mayor called the hour of prayer a “powerful symbol of unity.”

    Hosted by Times Square Church, “Prayer in the Square” has been held for the last three years for the sole purpose of gathering people for one hour of prayer, in humility, with all denominations represented and no personalities or ministry showcased.

    And this year’s gathering was particularly meaningful as it was expected to be the last and as it was held amid the current economic recession.

    “In prayer three years ago, we felt that 2009 would be a time of great distress for our city and country,” commented Carter Conlon, pastor of Times Square Church. “I do not believe that He would have called us to gather in such a place and at such a time if He had not planned to answer our prayer.”
    Last year, more than 18,000 people from over 200 congregations convened in Times Square for “Prayer in the Square.”

    This year, aside from the tens of thousands who gathered in New York, people also joined from 26 other states and 19 countries, including Burundi, Pakistan, Kenya, United Kingdom, Benin, Singapore, and Israel via the live webcast for the event.

    “I believe we will see the fulfillment of why God has asked us to pray," said Conlon.

    Maybe today you feel that same frustration ~ Jon Courson

    Because there’s a good chance you’re feeling frustrated about something even now, I want us to look at a man who faced frustration in his own life to see how the Lord dealt with him.

    The situation is this: The disciples had just returned from a mission during which they had seen blind eyes opened, the sick healed, the oppressed liberated (Matthew 10). Wisely realizing they needed time to unwind, to be rebuilt and renewed, Jesus took them across the Sea of Galilee (Mark 6:30-32).

    After crossing the Sea, and arriving in the town of Bethsaida, however, they discovered that a crowd had figured out where they were headed, and had gone around the lake to meet them. Seeing the multitude, and knowing their need, Jesus turned to Philip and said, ‘Philip, we’re in your town. A lot of these people are your friends, your relatives. What are we going to do?’ (John 6:5). ‘I don’t know,’ answered Philip. ‘We don’t have enough money to even begin to feed this crowd.’

    Maybe today you feel that same frustration. Maybe bills are piling up on your desk. Maybe the job you hold is not generating the necessary income to keep your books balanced. Maybe a relationship seems to be lacking the love you desire. Maybe you find yourself frustrated — like Philip.

    The Frustration of Philip

    Philip was frustrated by the situation he was in. I can relate to that. I face frustrations which are very great, very deep, and weigh heavily upon me. You do too. ‘Lord, why are You picking on me?’ Philip must have wondered. ‘Why don’t You ask Peter what to do? Or James? Why single me out, Lord?’

    Do you ever feel that way? Amidst times of challenge and periods of frustration in each of our lives, there is a tendency to want to pass the buck. ‘Why, Lord, are You asking me what to do with these 5,000 people? Why not ask someone else?’

    Philip was frustrated not only by the situation he was in, but by the figures he had. ‘Lord, as I add up our account, I realize we have enough money to feed about thirteen people.’ He was frustrated by the figures he had because, dear friend, he was looking to his own resources rather than to the Source.

    How easily I fall into that same trap. I find myself looking at figures, statistics, facts — and coming up short. Yet even though Philip failed to see with the eyes of faith, his failure didn’t frustrate God’s work. I like that!

    Even though Philip was frustrated, God’s work still went on.

    Folks, the Lord’s work will go on. And even if we go through seasons of failure, lapses of faith, I am so thankful He’s bigger than our failure, bigger than our lack of faith. He’s building His Church, establishing His Kingdom, pouring out His Spirit, and proclaiming the Gospel to all the world in these last days.
    Philip’s failure had no effect upon the work of the Lord. Neither did it disqualify Philip from the work of the Lord. Although Philip didn’t see what could have taken place had he been a man of faith, Jesus still said to Philip, ‘Can you get everyone to sit down in groups of fifty and pass out the goods?’ (John 6:10-11).

    This is what is so neat about Jesus.

    Even though Philip wasn’t able to see the miracle come through him, the Lord didn’t say, ‘You turkey, Philip. You lacked faith. I’m not going to use you in any way in any time. Hit the showers. You’re through.’ No, He gave Philip something else to do. Philip didn’t see miraculous power flow through him in the way he could have, yet Jesus used him anyway.
    The Confidence of Christ

    While Philip was sweating it out, Jesus was cool as a cucumber. He knew what He was going to do all along. Why, then, did He ask Philip’s advice?

    In order to give Philip the opportunity to stretch and to grow.
    The same is true in your situation. Whatever is frustrating you today — whatever fears you face, whatever tensions you feel, whatever burdens you’re bearing — Jesus already knows what He’s going to do concerning them. We don’t, but He does. And He wants us to walk by faith, to trust Him. Not only did Jesus know what He was going to do, but He also knew how He was going to do it. Before the miracle ever took place, He lifted up His eyes and gave thanks to His Father (John 6:11).

    So too regarding your dilemma, your frustration, your fear — do what Jesus did. Lift up your eyes and say, ‘Thank You, Father, that You’re going to take care of this situation. I know You will. You are faithful. You have never let me down thus far, but have done exceedingly abundantly above all I could ask or think. When I thought I wouldn’t make it, You pulled me through. When I thought I was going under, You pulled me up. When I thought I was out of it, You pulled me back. You’ve been so good. Thus, I give you thanks right now in this moment of frustration.’

    In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (I Thessalonians 5:18). There is power in praise, gang. The Lord is pleased with people who are thankful, as opposed to those who complain, murmur, and worry as they utter words which are depressing, defeating, and discouraging.The Lord blesses those who take what they have — as insufficient as it might seem — place it in His hands, and say, ‘Thank You, Lord. I believe in You.’ Philip and Jesus — two men standing in the same place — one frustrated, the other at rest; one hot and bothered, the other cool and confident.

    The difference? Philip looked at the figures. Jesus looked to the Father.

    We have a choice to make, both as a church and as individuals: We can follow the example of Philip and say, ‘Why are You picking on me, Lord? My resources are so limited. My situation is impossible’ — Or we can be like Jesus and lift our eyes to heaven, give thanks to the Father, and watch Him multiply and bless.

    I’m asking you today to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. In everything give thanks. Give Him what you have and expect Him to multiply it. You do not have to be frustrated today.

    You can be free right now if you’ll fix your eyes on heaven, have faith in the Father, and in everything give thanks.

    Reflections on the sudden departure of my son to Heaven ~ Greg Laurie

    "You Choose, Dad!"

    Reflections on the sudden departure of my son to Heaven

    By Greg Laurie

    Thursday, July 24, 2008 was the most devastating day of my life. The unimaginable happened.

    We never think about our children leaving this earth before us. But it happened when my son, Christopher, was suddenly called to heaven.

    At first, I couldn't comprehend the news. It was like the worst dream I had ever had, and I wanted to wake up. But I couldn't. Friends and family were immediately at our side—loving, hugging, and holding us.

    But in the end, there are no answers for a situation like the loss of a son.

    In accepting God's will, Job said,
    "Naked I came from my mother's womb,
    And naked shall I return.
    The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
    Blessed be the name of the Lord." (Job 1:21 NKJV)
    In acceptance, there is peace, but not always answers. God grants us "a peace that passes understanding," not one that necessarily gives understanding. There is no "why" in the midst of our pain, just "what" and "who."

    I loved my son with all of my heart, but I have to say, he gave us some hard moments. He would be the first to admit that he had been a prodigal at a point in his life. But his mother and I always loved him and prayed for him. He knew that, and we know he loved us.

    The last years of his life were glorious. He had committed himself completely to the Lord, and wanted to serve God with his talent. And he was so talented.

    People would often come up to me and say, "Greg, your son Christopher is an artist just like you!" The truth is, he was a far greater artist and more talented then I ever was.

    He designed much of what we see around us in this year's Southern California Harvest campaign, including bumper stickers, posters, and flyers. This is how he was serving God, by creating beautiful art that pointed people to the beautiful message of the gospel.

    If there is one thing I'd ask people to do to pay tribute to Christopher and to serve God in this particular moment, it would be to make sure you get a Harvest Crusades bumper sticker on your car, and put up posters around Southern California.

    There is a selfish reason for me asking this, for Christopher—or "Topher," as we called him—poured his life into that design. In fact, he designed my personal Web site, our Harvest webpage, almost all of my book covers, and so many other things. Every time I see one of those stickers on a car, I point it out to whoever is in the car with me and say, "Topher designed that!"

    But the reason he designed these stickers and all of the other art he designed or had a hand in, was to use his gifts to serve God. He wasn't called to preach specifically (though he could speak effectively and persuasively when he wanted to).

    Christopher's calling was to use his artistic skills to glorify God and point others to Christ. He also poured his heart into the design of this year's Harvest Crusades event at Angel Stadium, as well as the crusades to come later this year in Philadelphia and New York City. He loved to see people come to Christ, and that is why he did what he did—and why I do what I do.

    When we were in Israel several months back, Christopher made a public proclamation of his new dedication of the past few years by being baptized in the Sea of Galilee, where our Lord began His ministry. I had baptized him in the Jordan River in Israel, when he was a young child, but this time he was doing it to acknowledge what God had been doing in his life.

    Christopher and Brittany had recently begun hosting a Bible study in their home for others to grow spiritually. We were marveling at what the Lord was doing in their lives.

    I cry for my son every day. Sometimes, every hour. Sometimes, every few minutes. I miss him and I wish I could take his place, but I can't.

    My wife Cathe is grieving with me. She is the most godly woman I have ever known. I cannot imagine why the Lord allowed me to have such a wonderful wife.

    My son Jonathan has been our rock, and has helped me to think through the many decisions we are facing in this difficult hour. God is going to use him mightily.

    My daughter-in-law Brittany is a sweet and lovely woman of God. She is trusting God through all of this, and opening her heart to whatever His will may be. And Brittany's family has been an amazing source of support to their daughter every step of the way.

    In the midst of this tragedy, I have been reading and thinking about 2 Timothy, the fourth chapter in particular. I felt that there was a part for both Christopher and me. My part (and really our part) begins in verse 2:
    "Preach the word of God. Be persistent, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

    For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to right teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever they want to hear. They will reject the truth and follow strange myths.

    But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don't be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at bringing others to Christ. Complete the ministry God has given you." (2 Timothy 4:2–5 NLT)
    Those are my marching orders, and that is what I intend to do by God's grace and with His help with even a great commitment and passion.

    Christopher's part is found in the verses immediately following, beginning in verse 7:
    "I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his glorious return." (vv. 7–8 NLT)
    No life is an incomplete life.

    Christopher completed his task. He finished his race (he used to be quite the runner when he was younger, too!), and he is safely in the arms of Jesus. But I will be honest with you; I still deeply, deeply miss him.

    My wife, Cathe, was the greatest of all mothers to Christopher, from the time he was little through the years of his young manhood. She never stopped praying for him.

    Christopher would make us beautiful cards by hand each year, be it for our birthdays or Mother's Day or Father's Day. For his mom, whom he loved so much, he gave her a special shadow box with a photo of him, an image of a cross, and a little piece of paper with a statement by President Abraham Lincoln, which said, "I remember my mother's prayers, and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life."

    There is a story I have often told about a time I took Topher shopping for Star Wars figures in the late '70s. I had told him to pick out one he wanted. He thought about it a long time, and finally decided on one of the small figurines from the bottom shelf, which as I recall, was the Han Solo one.

    Meanwhile, I had been looking three shelves up at Solo's spacecraft, the Millennium Falcon. I said, "Well, why don't we get this to go with your new figure?"

    His little eyes lit up. "Dad! Thank you!" And he gave me a big hug.

    We would come home from the toy store with some big new prize like this, and sometimes my wife would roll her eyes, because we really couldn't afford it. But then Topher and I would run upstairs to his room, plop on the floor, open up the toys, and play with them together.

    Looking back now, I don't regret any of it. Nor does my wife.

    After a while, Christopher learned that when we were in a toy store and I asked him what he wanted, his best bet was to say, "You choose, Dad!" And I would always get him something better than he would have chosen for himself.

    I have often used that as an illustration to point out that we should let God choose for us, and never be afraid to commit an unknown future to a known God. God's plans for you will always be better than your plans for yourself (see Jeremiah 29:11—13).

    Now in this moment of crisis, I am the son and I am in the place where I am saying to God, "You choose." It's not the choice I would make, but I believe He has chosen well, and I rejoice that my son is in heaven with Jesus Christ.

    My heart is broken, but I also know I will see him again. This all has made heaven closer and earth less attractive to me. It has increased my burden for people who do not know the Lord. I have a personal investment in heaven.

    Thank you for your prayers—and even for your expressions of personal pain. People have written me from all around the world with such beautiful, touching, encouraging words. I have been called by great men and women of God who have spoken into my life in ways I have never heard before, about what the Lord will do through these days of loss and grieving.

    It is a luxury I do not deserve.

    Many of you knew our Topher and loved him, too. But this we know, our faith is real. There is Life—Life with a capital "L"—after death.

    Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die" (John 11:25 NKJV).

    And then He must have looked His friend Martha right in the eyes, and said, "Do you believe this?" (v. 26)

    I do believe it.

    Jesus also said, "I assure you, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life" (John 5:24 NLT).

    Thank God for that hope. I trust you have it, too. If you don't, I invite you to go to a site my son designed, where you will find out more.

    Greg Laurie
    July 31, 2008


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