Easter 2016: Prescription for Life

Walking through the door

I not only believe in Jesus I also believe Jesus! “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and His life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” (John 1:4-5 NLT)

A number of years ago I had an epiphany of a sort and realized that eternal life doesn’t begin the instant we pass from this world to the next it begins when through the Holy Spirit Jesus takes up residence in every facet of our life. I believe with all my heart, mind, and spirit God’s ultimate goal for Jesus’ participation in this world and specifically in each of our lives is and was to personally open the door of eternity so we can walk through it. Jesus himself introduces us to the door of eternity in chapter 3 of Revelation.

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia. This is the message from the One who is holy and true, the One who has the key of David. What He opens, no one can close; and what He closes, no one can open: “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed My word and did not deny Me.” (Revelation 3:7-8 NLT)

While the door Jesus is talking about isn’t a door we can actually walk through that doesn’t mean we can’t visualize one with the “eyes of our hearts” and see ourselves walking through it. If you were to visualize the door to eternity what would it look like? Some would see a set of pearly gates. Some might see a huge door made of gold. When I close my eyes and visualize it I see Jesus standing outside an empty tomb with the stone rolled away and his arms outstretched and I can hear him saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will have life even if they die. And everyone who lives and believes in me will never die………do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26, NCV)

“Yes, Jesus! I believe you are the resurrection and the source of my life! I am a living child of the Resurrection!”

So many times over the course of my life those 22 words have echoed in the hidden reaches of my life. They have been both a blessing and curse, challenging and accepting, illuminating and darkening, healing and afflicting, comforting and conflicting. And with each succeeding year they become increasingly more intimate and life shaping. That became more apparent this thre years ago as I underwent artery by-pass surgery, had a near fatal heart attack then this past December it was discovered all four of the arteries that were grafted have sense closed off 100%, and now in addition to pulmonary fibrosis I have been diagnosed with prostate cancer. It has been commonplace or me in my prayers to pray, “Well God, what next?” There is of course only silence on God’s part but I suspect if I could see his face he’d be smiling.

The two brushes with death and my diminished lung capacity and prostate trouble are doing a great job of challenging me to deepen my understanding of, “Those who believe in me will have life even if they die.” I have no trouble understanding the having life after death part but with the recent maladies I’ve experienced how am I to understand, “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” (John 10:10, The Message, emphasis mine)

Not a day goes by but what I some point I don’t look toward heaven and wonder what life is really about. Because I believe not only in Jesus but also in what he promises me, if I really believe in him shouldn’t I expect “a better life then I’ve ever dreamed of”? The reoccurring problem I am constantly running into is whose definition of “a better life” do I look to mine or God’s? Author Mike Erre in his new book Astonished: Recapturing the Wonder, Awe, and Mystery of Life with God stomps my definition of “a better life” into the ground. “…so many of the things we look to God to take away are things He wants to use to draw us deeper into His kingdom. Mystery. Paradox. Tension. Unfulfilled desires. Longing. Emptiness. Separation. Loneliness. Difficulty. Futility. Loss. Grief. God will use all of these and more to draw us to Him. God isn’t the author of all the pain that comes our way, but I do think He values what this kind of pain does.”[1]

But he does not leave me bruised, broken, and lying in a heap on the ground he paints a word picture for me of a God who not only stops but also bends down picks me up pats me on the head and puts me on his path. “Those things listed above effectively put us into the kind of spiritual soil out of which faith, trust, and love grow. God takes us to places where we can’t figure it out or depend on our resources or intelligence. He does it because He wants us to trust Him, not our formulas, spiritual disciplines, or knowledge of the Bible.”[2]

For me the greatest lesson of Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday is “It’s all God or nothing!” On the cross the human Jesus died. Yet because the Holy Spirit had given Jesus Life the Jesus that exited the tomb was the Spiritual Jesus. In a like manner whatever form the “Grim Reaper” puts an end to the human Gary Piper because I am a child of the Resurrection the Gary Piper who exits my deceased body will be the Spiritual Gary Piper.

However, since I am a child of the Resurrection and I get “God and everything” the things I am trying to escape listed above rather than being adversities and burdens become instead links in a chain that anchors me to God. I would be less than honest if I tried to say I greet all the difficulties life throws at me with a smile because even though God has been making lemonade out of my lemons for years I still cringe when something or someone hands me another batch of lemons.

Jesus says to you, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in Me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in Me and believes in Me will live to walk through the door of eternity. Do you believe this, my friend?” (John 11:25-26, adapted)

Grace and PEACE

Gary Piper

“Scriptures marked NCV quoted from The Holy Bible, New Century Version, copyright © 1987, 1988, 1991 by Word Publishing, Dallas, Texas 75039. Used by permission.”

“Scriptures marked MSG have been taken from THE MESSAGE. Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.”

“Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.”

[1] Erre, Mike (2014-04-01). Astonished: Recapturing the Wonder, Awe, and Mystery of Life with God (pp. 23-24). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.

[2] Erre, Mike (2014-04-01). Astonished: Recapturing the Wonder, Awe, and Mystery of Life with God (p. 24). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.

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