Saturday, May 31, 2008

In Loving Memory

Today. One year ago today. I was visiting my grandfather for the last time. To say goodbye. A tearful visit, a voiceless kiss, a whispered farewell, and one, long, final glance over my shoulder. I was emotional, to say the least. It was time to let go.

On the way to the VA home that day, we drove past her house. I thought of her and smiled. Looking back, I remember thinking of how I needed to call her and how I was anticipating teaching VBS with her once more. Little did I know. How could I have known that even then, that very day, that tragedy would strike? It did.

Later that afternoon, my father, sister, brother, and I returned to the home of my mom's parents. The house was cold, silent, and dark in a way that I had never seen before. Something, something was wrong. It was too quiet. As I entered the living room, I saw Poppop sitting in Mommom's rocking chair. He never sits there. The room was dark. His face was long, his eyes were sad, and I clearly recall what he said. He looked at me and asked, "Erin, did you . . . did you hear what happened, honey?" A wave of fear broke upon me as I shook my head. Then, he told me. She was dead. I remember feeling sick, reeling from the impact of the news. No! She COULDN'T be dead! But she was. I turned and found Mommom. She was crying. So was I. She held out her arms, and held me as the three of us wept, wept for her. We loved her, oh yes we did. Whenever I went up to teach VBS for the summer, she always looked out for me, always had a kind word to say, a smile to offer. Always she was full of enthusiasm, life, and joy. Or so I thought. I don't know the full story, I probably never will. What I do know, however, is that she loved Christ, and I could always tell that she loved me. I wrote this poem to comfort myself a year ago, just after her tragic death.

A life lived for others, a life of love,
The life of a servant of God above.
A woman who poured out her life and shared
All she was. A woman who showed she cared.
A life lived for God, a life in His will.
That life left a void only God can fill.
A woman who now rests in God's glory
With a happy ending to her story:
Finally her peace and joy are complete.
Those left behind will mourn her empty seat,
Her missing presence, the lack of her voice.
Many will wonder at her final choice.
But knowing that God is sovereign still,
That He always has and always will
Work all things for the good of His people
Will help comfort those under Faith's steeple.
And let all remember this woman's life:
Good mother, grandmother, good friend and wife,
A true example of good Christian love.
Her story ends in bliss with God above.

~In loving memory of Carol Cummings

This is how I remember her. This is how she was to me. I praise God for the time that He gave me with her, for the blessing that she was in my life, and for the lessons I learned from her. Today marks one year since she left us, and though her departure from this earth was tragic, I wanted once more to celebrate her life and honor her.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Passivity, Activity, and Blessing

"Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call upon the Lord with a pure hear." 2 Timothy 2:22

"Flee also youthful lusts . . ."

Lust is a problem all over the world. In American culture, however, it runs especially rampant. Pornography is just a couple of clicks away on the internet, provocatively dressed women can be found on nearly every channel on television, scantily clad people "grace" the covers of the magazines that line the racks at the supermarkets, etc. etc. etc. Lust isn't something that should be taken lightly. It can lead to greater sins. How many times have things started with looking, then desiring, then touching, then taking, then consuming? Do not only turn from youthful lusts, FLEE them. Run from them with all that is in you. Do not take it lightly. All sin must be taken seriously. Do not take a casual approach to this sin. Flee it! Do what ever it takes to avoid it. Whether it's getting rid of the internet, television, avoiding certain stores, or getting an accountability partner, DO IT. Think not that you can just dabble with sin. Not only is that wrong, but it is dangerous. Lust is a deadly sin. I have seen families torn apart, limb by limb, through the sin of pornography, men driven almost insane because they are caught in the grip of addiction. Stay away, avoid, and flee. Be active in fighting sin.

"But pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call upon the Lord with a pure heart."

So often, it is a temptation to fall into "passive" faith--to be content where I am, to think that all I need to do is pray, read my Bible, and "be good." While those things ARE necessary and vital to the Christian walk, I was truly convicted when I read this verse. Pursue righteousness, pursue faith, love, and peace . . . the word "pursue" is an action verb. It doesn't say "Sit back, relax, and God will bless you with these things." It says pursue. Let's think about that word for a minute. What are some examples using the word? "The policemen are in hot pursuit of the murderer." Okay, wow. They are CHASING him with diligence and passion so that they can bring him to justice. "John is pursuing a law degree." Is he sitting on his sofa just waiting for it to fall into his lap? No, he's working HARD to earn it. "Bob is pursuing my best friend because he wants to win her heart." How about this guy? Is he passively just hanging with around, or is he going after the desired prize with all he has? If he wants it, he's got to really turn it on. My point is, in all of these examples, there is active, dedicated, passionate pursuit of the thing being sought, and that to pursue is something that requires great and constant effort. Therefore, how does this apply to running the Christian race? We cannot just wait around for holiness to find us, we must seek after it diligently. This past weekend, I attended the New Attitude conference in Louisville, KY. John Piper was one of the speakers, and, while both of his messages were excellent, something really stuck out to me. He compared sanctification to swimming upstream in a river. Basically, the river is our sin--vile, foul, and reeking, and we are trying to swim against the strong rapids of our sin toward holiness. If we stop swimming, we don't just stay where we stopped, we get pushed farther and farther back into sin and away from holiness. This really struck me. If we stop pursuing righteousness, faith, love, and peace, then we will not just sit around chilling until we've rested, we will be pushed farther and farther away, and we will have to fight even harder to return to the place where we left off. Push on, run on, and continue on and do not stop. Not only will it sanctify us and help us to grow in our Christian life, but it also will mean that we are obeying the command of God. Pursue. A statement. An order. A command. Not pursuing or stopping pursuit is not an option. Obey the command and be blessed.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Materialism and the Christian

John 6:27

"Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you."

In this age of American consumer-minded materialism, these verses are especially worth noting. With men being so driven in their quest for castles in the sand, it is good to remember that the things of earth fade away, and the riches of this earth will perish in due time. Americans are motivated by wealth, and the desire for worldly riches overshadows the pursuit of God. These verses, however, teach that seeking after God is the most important thing in the world, surpassing the need for worldly wealth. Believing on the Son, Jesus who was sent by God as a propitiation for sinners, is crucial. So many families are ruined by the false belief that money is everything, that if they can only work hard and earn enough now, that they can be happy and relax later in life. Don't be fooled by this LIE! The Bible makes it clear that our main focus in life is not to be on temporal things, but rather on seeking after God.

"Labour not for the meat which perisheth."

This is not saying that we cannot work for a living, that it's wrong to have a job, that one cannot support his family. Rather, the Bible teaches that those things are very important:

1Ti 5:8
But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

2Th 3:10
For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

It is easily seen that laboring for food and providing for one's house are necessary things, and that those who fail to do these things are in sin. However, the verse as a whole emphasizes that making money should not be the main focus of our lives. This truth is CRUCIAL in modern day American culture. So many families are driven apart because one or both parents are more concerned with material things than with seeking the Lord, spending quality family time, etc. Therefore, do not abandon your vocation, but temper your time there, and do not place money over God and family. Seek God first. Always seek Him first. Some might argue that they might not be able to provide comfortably for their families if they did this. Well . . .

Mat 6:33
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

This verse isn't promising that you'll have money coming out your ears when you seek God first, but it is assuring that God blesses whose who put Him at the forefront of their lives. Whether those blessings will be made manifest in this life or withheld till the life to come we do not know--it is different for all people--however, know that God HAS promised this, and that God ALWAYS keeps His promises. Seek Him first. Failing to do this because we fear poverty is not trusting God. Don't abandon your job, but don't put in in the place that God rightfully deserves in your life. God freely grants eternal life, He freely blesses His people with wisdom and knowledge of himself, so take advantage of that. Seek Him with all that is in you, run after holiness, and put God first in your life at all times. I'm not saying that this is easy--to the contrary. The world is like a strong vacuum, attempting to suck us down into sins like materialism--it must be resisted through prayer, reading the Word, etc. Resist sin. God blesses those who obey Him, so labor for God, and He will be faithful to provide.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

An Update

Man, I haven't been on here in a while. In fact, it's been so long that I couldn't remember my password today when I tried to log in. Things got hectic . . . between dealing with a carpal tunnel flare up for a month, studying for finals, and everything else in between, things were schedualistically (new word?) brutal for me. God has been amazingly bountiful with His blessings over the past month. Someone should remind me of that next time I complain.

Anyway, I had an amazing gospel opportunity about two weeks ago. The best way to explain it is probably to just post a copy of the letter that I sent to one of my pastors:

I work as an English tutor in the writing lab at HCC, and
my closest friend/coworker there is a Hindu woman from India named Seema. Our personalities clicked right away, and we've had a lot of fun working together. Over the course of the semester, I have had several opportunities to witness to her. Recently, I helped her proofread a paper for her religion class. She was comparing Islam and Christianity. Not surprisingly, she has absolutely no concept of sin (she asked me what I meant by the word sin), and knows nothing about Christianity except for what she learned from her research . . . and even that was seriously flawed (I was able to help her fix some of those misconceptions and help give her a clearer understanding of some aspects of Christianity).

Anyway, after her paper was written, she asked me if she
could come to church with me. She's never been to a Christian service before, and she wants to see what they are like. We were discussing this again today at work when another of her
Hindu friends came in. When she asked what we were
planning for Sunday and Seema excitedly told her that she was coming to church with me, her friend (Jessica) got excited too. "I've never been to church before! I was just telling my husband that I have never been to church: not in India, not
here. Can I come too?!" All that to say, both ladies are eagerly
anticipating coming to Trinity for the morning service on
Sunday, and they will then be coming back for dinner at my house. When I left, they were both still pretty excited about coming to church. I know that this Sunday is
Mother's Day, but I wanted to let you know that two
(perhaps three, if Jessica's husband comes) raw pagans are planning to be in church. I don't know what you have planned for your sermon so far, but I would really, REALLY appreciate a strong, clear gospel presentation for these two girls who I have come to love so much. Seema is moving to Chicago
at the end of this month, so I only have a little bit of time left
face-to-face with her. I am so thankful to God for this opportunity, and I am praying that He might use it in the salvation of my friends.

After a week of much prayer in their behalf, both girls came to church with me on Mother's Day. They loved it. Although I know that much of it was probably because Hindu's tend to be very tolerant of all religions, both girls found the service to be beautiful and profitable. Jessica, who it seems will be rather lonely with Seema gone, indicated that she would like to come back again. Both were thrilled that many people came up to meet them, and they were very impressed with the church building (of which they took pictures). Once the service was over and we had fellowshipped for a while, a huge crowd of people came back to our home where, on Mother's Day, my mom served a huge meal of meatless pasta. Seema and Jessica were challenged to consider their eternal destiny, to think about the difference between the hopelessness of reincarnation and not knowing what their god requires of them and the assurance and eternal life offered freely in Christ. They were taught about sin and how nothing man, even a "good" man, can do will save him, and of repentance, and salvation. Both girls accepted everything that was said, appreciated it, conversed well with everyone, and gushed to me once I drove them back to the library where I'd picked them up. They could not get over our family, our church, and what a wonderful time they'd had at their fist dinner in an American home. Please pray for Seema and Jessica as I and others continue to share the love of Christ with them.

I am so thankful that God granted me this amazing opportunity, and that He gave me and those present that day the boldness to share the gospel with them.