Heaven/Hell

Living in the Shadow


"Funny" - Really?

Shadows of Evening

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…  (Psalm 23: 4)

Death is a scary thing isn’t it? I mean, we all know we are going to die someday right? Every human dies. Every living thing dies. Some die young and some live to a ripe old age, but death is no respecter of persons. There are no exceptions. When thoughts of death creep into our consciousness, we tend to push them aside as something to deal with later. We tell ourselves that death is in the far off future for us. We don’t need to think about it right now. But that isn’t always the case. This life we live here on earth can be over in an instant. We can be here one day and gone tomorrow. It is something we have no control over.

Our bodies are tough, but also fragile. We can be perfectly healthy and be killed in a car accident instantly. We can think we are healthy and strong only to find out that we have a hidden illness which has not yet manifested symptoms. These are constant reminders to believers and unbelievers alike that this physical life is temporary. It is only a baby step away from eternity.

  I think it safe to say that all of us have had the false misconception at times that tragic accidents which cause fatal injuries, and/or illnesses that cause death, happen to others not to us or to our family. As we travel through life we eventually learn that death touches every family sooner or later.

It has touched my own family in recent months. My husband passed away this past February after being ill for over 3 years. He was diagnosed with a terminal illness in October of 2012. At that time the doctors told us he had months, but God had a different plan. He lived for 3 ½ years after his diagnosis. During that time we always felt a shadow above our heads. It followed us everywhere.

At first I cried every day. But at some point I realized that I couldn’t live life that way. It wasn’t healthy for me or for the rest of the family and especially for my husband. So instead of crying I made up my mind to go on with life, keep it as normal as possible and enjoy our time together. I continued to work, and on my off days we did normal, and often fun things together as long as he was able. The last year of his life wasn’t so much fun, especially for him, but we made the best of it. We lived life.

My husband passed away February 2, 2016. As difficult as it was and still is, it was a relief that his suffering was over. In Jesus we have a living hope for eternity. He promises; I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. (John 11: 25, 26) I am sure that Bob is now experiencing the joys of heaven. I miss him terribly, but am confident that I will see him again when the Lord calls me home.

After his death my life settled back into a “new” normal…until April of 2016. God wasn’t done with us yet. The evening of April 9, 2016, I received a text from my 40-year-old son informing me that he was in the ER. It read; “I am in the ER, but don’t worry mom, I am okay.” That was it – that’s all it said. I immediately dialed his number. He answered and informed me that he had a severe headache and that they were giving him what is known as an IV cocktail for migraines, then he would hopefully be sent home. “ok”, I said; “just keep me posted”.

I hung up the phone and thought to myself; “That’s strange. He has never had a migraine before that I can remember.” I set that thought aside however and decided it best to just wait and see. I talked to him several times throughout the following week and he seemed to be doing somewhat better, but still had a headache. On Friday, although his head still hurt, he felt he should try going back to work.

Robert

Robert “Cruise”

That evening I called to see how his day had gone. He said; “My head is still hurting really bad and every time I move I get sick. I must have been sick at least six times at work today.” I replied; “Robert, something is seriously wrong. You need to go back and get checked out again. He replied; “I will if I’m not better tomorrow. The kids will be here soon for the weekend.” He hung up and when I tried to call him back, I got no answer. I texted Sean and informed him that his dad was feeling really bad and waiting for them to arrive. He texted back that he was waiting for his sisters to get their things together. They would be on their way soon.

When I called again later Sean and the kids were with him. His Dr. had prescribed him something for the upset stomach, so at least the vomiting had stopped. My granddaughter Toree said to me; “don’t worry grandma. We are taking good care of dad.  He isn’t throwing up anymore.” Bless her heart…I love her for being so brave.

They made it through Saturday, but on Sunday as soon as I got home from church. I texted Sean to find out how things were going. He replied; “We are in the ER again grandma. They are doing a CT scan of his head to see what is going on.” The next text read; “He has a mass.” I immediately called and asked; “do I need to come?” The answer of course was “yes”.

Milwaukee is a 6½ hour drive from Grand Blanc, MI and I had never done it alone before, but I had a good car. I called it my “smart” car because it had turn by turn navigation through OnStar. What a blessing! I packed my clothes, made arrangements for family members to care for my menagerie of pets and by 3:00 pm I was on the road.

I arrived at the hospital at 9:45 pm (10:45 Michigan time). At that time, he was finally resting comfortably in NICU (Neuro Intensive Care Unit). He had been given medication to relieve his pain and steroids to reduce the swelling in his brain.

We were told the next day that he would need surgery. He had 2 masses in his brain, both on the right side. One was on his right temporal lobe and was displacing his brain, which was what had been causing the excruciating pain. It would have to be removed. The other mass was deeper and a little more to the left, but still in the right lobe. They would not remove the second mass. Because of its location they would not touch it unless they absolutely had to, in order to prevent further injury to the brain.

In spite of the seriousness of it, we were told he was fortunate he hadn’t had a seizure – and also that it was a good thing the masses were on the right side of his brain. Had they been on his left side it would have been much more debilitating. His motor skills would have been affected. He may not have been able to walk or even stand.

In all of this, I was thinking to myself; “This can’t be real!” I just lost my husband, now my son too?” I asked the Dr.; “Is this cancer for sure? Could it possibly be benign tumors?” He said; “This is cancer. We just don’t know for sure what kind until the biopsy comes back.

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There is Hope

The cancer turned out to be Glioblastoma stage 4. It is the worst kind of brain cancer. It is fast growing, (which the Dr. said is good, in the sense that it will respond well to treatment), but it is terminal. We were told; it is not a matter of “if” but “when” it will return. Statistics give him 14 months to 5 years. It seems the “shadow” has returned.

We are encouraged because Robert has done very well since his surgery. He just finished his first round of treatment (Radiation and Chemo) on Friday July 1, 2016. He has a month off now to rest and regain his strength and then he will go on a maintenance dose of Chemotherapy for a year. He hopes to be able to go back to work during that time.

Scan_20160629

Five good reasons

He has five good reasons to live. They are Sean (age 17), Kevin (age 15), Bailey and Caitlyn (twins age 13), and Toree (age 11). He loves them so much and they need their dad. At the same time, we must remember that God knows what is best and we must trust Him.

So the Pocza family is living in the “shadow” once again. But we all live in that shadow from the moment we are born and before. We hope to live a long life here on earth, but no matter how long we live, physical death will always be the end result. God did not create us to die, but because of sin it is certain.

Death is not something we should dwell on and be worried about every day. God gives life and it is a blessing. He wants us to serve Him joyfully each day and enjoy our life. But He also wants us to be prepared at all times for the day He will call us home to eternal life. Being prepared means loving Jesus and living to glorify Him. He died in our place and paid our debt to God for our sins. Through faith we are covered in robes of righteousness and are holy in God’s eyes and fit for heaven.

Without faith in Jesus, our physical death means we will live eternally separated from God. That is a big deal because eternity is forever. Here on earth believers and unbelievers alike receive blessings from God. Being completely separated from God means there will be no light, laughter and love. Without His presence there will only be darkness, pain and sadness for eternity.

God has perfect timing and we trust His timing knowing He loves His children with an unconditional and perfect love. He will always do what is best for us. Knowing that however, shouldn’t keep us from asking, even begging Him for a miracle. I pray each day, for God to heal Roberts brain and extend his life. But at the same time Robert, through faith in Jesus is sure of where he is going. He said to me one day shortly after his diagnosis; “Mom, I am not afraid to die”. My mother’s heart however does not want to let him go. May the LORD’S will be done.

Jesus promises to never leave us (And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20), and He promises to carry our burdens for us. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30) We must let go of the things in life which are out of our control and trust Him.

Robert feels it an honor to be disciplined by the Lord in this way. My son do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son (Hebrews 12:6). He is using his illness to reach out to those who don’t know the Lord and is setting an example of faith and trust in his God. His strong faith and love for the Lord are his strength.

So my new normal now is living in Oak Creek, WI with my son. I am happy to be here and we are enjoying this time together. I am enjoying seeing and spending time, with my 5 grandchildren who have always lived so far from me. I am learning to find my way around Milwaukee and the surrounding areas. I have connected with an old friend from my high school and college days. I am spending time with my dear cousin and her husband who have been wonderful support for not only myself, but for Robert also. My sister, who was alone in California has also come to live nearby which is a true blessing.

I was lonely in Michigan. I missed my husband so much and life was just not the same. I still miss him, but I have other things to think about and other people who need me. Although I wish I would have come here under happier circumstances, I feel blessed to be here. I would have never made the decision to come here on my own, but this is where God wants me and He knew how to get me here. He just keeps me moving and I am willing to go wherever He sends me. I don’t know what the future holds but God does, so there is no reason for me to worry about it. The shadow still follows us closely, but we are ignoring it and enjoying this time God has given us.  When/if tears and sadness come, the Lord will be right there by our side.

…for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me…surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:4, 6)

 

Gloria Dei!

by Christine

Categories: Eternity, Faith, Family, Heaven/Hell, Prayer | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

ONE WAY


One way. Sesame Street had a song called One Way. Funny. It was about ...

One Way

 

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. (John 11:25)

Are you one of the many people who feel it doesn’t matter who your god is as long as you believe in “a” god – as long as you are spiritually minded? Is Allah okay? What about the gods of the Hindu religion – Annapurra, Ganesha, Maya, Balrama, Garuda, and Ram? What about Buddhism? Is Buddha your god? Maybe you are a Jehovah Witness and you believe that Jesus was a prophet and a good man- even the Son of God, but not actually God. What about the Jews. They believe in God the Father, but don’t believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah. You may be one of many people who do not worship any god, and feel that you don’t need a god to depend on. Do all these different beliefs lead to eternity in heaven?

The apostle Paul wrote by inspiration about the “unknown” God. He was speaking to the people of Athens who had many gods in the form of man-made idols.

This is what he told them:

Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth. And he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, We are his offspring. Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone–an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead. ( Acts 17: 22-31)

The “unknown God” is not unknown to us of the 21st century. We have His written Word which tells us who He is and it tells us which road leads to heaven. The only road to heaven is through Jesus. These words spoken by Jesus to His disciples were for us of the 21st century also; I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

If you are worshiping any god other than the true God – The God who made the world and everything in it, you are going the wrong way on a one-way street. The road you are on will not take you to eternity in heaven. The road to heaven is not always easy. The path is often steep and rugged and difficult to climb, but Jesus promises to be with us. He promises that if we persevere to the end we will win the prize. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:20).

God wants all people to find eternal life. He extends His never-ending grace to everyone. Don’t be fooled by people who say it doesn’t matter what you believe or who you believe in. Jesus is the only way to eternal life. Come to Him. His arms are open. He is standing at the gate ready to let you in. Come!

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it (Matthew 7:13, 14).

heavens gates

Come

 

Categories: Eternity, Heaven/Hell | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

He’s Searching for You


 In Memory

Gerald Austin 1942-2014

Gerald Lee Austin
1942-2014

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16, 17)

Jesus once told a story about workers in a Vineyard:

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, you also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right. So they went.

"He agreed to pay them a Denarius"

“He agreed to pay them a Denarius”

He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing? Because no one has hired us, they answered. He said to them, You also go and work in my vineyard.

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.

The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it,

Receive your Wage

Receive your Wage

they began to grumble against the landowner. These men who were hired last worked only one hour, they said, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.

But he answered one of them, Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous? So the last will be first, and the first will be last. (Matthew 20: 1-16)

The meaning of this parable as printed in my Concordia Self-Study Commentary reads: To work in the vineyard (serve the Lord) is a privilege and the pay is pure grace; to question that grace for others is to lose it for oneself. God’s gift of grace is available to all people through faith in Jesus whose blood shed for us on the cross covers our sins and makes us holy in God’s eyes. It makes no difference whether we were brought to faith as an infant through baptism or during the last hours/moments of our earthly life. The “pay” is the same – eternity with the Lord in heaven.

There is nothing we can do on our own to become right with God and fit for heaven. God demands holiness and we are sinners. But Jesus paid our debt of sin through His perfect life and innocent suffering and death.

Jesus paid our debt

Jesus paid our debt

I was reminded of how precious this promise of God is several years ago with the loss of a dear friend and family member. Gerry was called to his eternal home on Easter Sunday (4/20/14) at 6:15 A.M. He was not only a brother-in-law, but a good friend of my husband and me and our family for many years. He was funny and loving, and a good father. He was the type of person that people genuinely enjoy spending time with. He made everyone laugh, but beneath that fun-loving and joking exterior, was a man who truly loved his family, and when the situation demanded it, he knew how to be serious and make responsible decisions. He spent many hours with our two sons – teaching them to fish. The boys loved him and learned so much from him.

But there was always one thing about Jerry that tugged at my heart. Although he was born into a strong Catholic family and baptized as an infant, he never truly lived his faith. He grew up going through all the Catholic rituals of First Communion and Catechism, and attended the Catholic school, but outwardly it seemed as if his heart wasn’t in it.

He was introduced to the Lutheran Church by his wife in the early seventies, but still took no interest, at least outwardly it didn’t seem so. His claim was that one did not need to be a member of a church to believe. This fact is true, but there is more to it than that. A faith that is not nourished with God’s Word can become weak and vulnerable. It can get trampled and lost in the daily hustle and bustle of life.

The "Church" is not a building

The “Church” is not a building

One important thing for us all to remember is that the church is not a building or a specific denomination. The church is made up of people – people who believe in, and profess Jesus as their Savior from sin. Therefore all who believe in Jesus are members of God’s family and are recipients of His never-ending grace. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8). So we are saved by God’s grace (His undeserved love) through faith in Jesus, His one and only Son.

Our faith is the rope which attaches us to Jesus. Time spent hearing and studying God’s Word strengthens that rope. It makes our faith grow and blossom, and will cause it to deepen into a truly meaningful relationship with God. As that faith is strengthened, it will become evident in our life. We won’t be able to hide it, and we won’t want to hide it because we will have a burning desire to hear and learn more about Him. The Holy Spirit strengthens our faith through the Word, so as we hear, read and study the Word, we will see and feel Him working in our lives. Through faith we will become tuned in to God’s presence and more tightly attached to Him.

The Rope of Faith

The Rope of Faith

This attachment is not one which we need to fear, as in an earthly attachment which can be snatched away from us. Jesus promises to always be with us. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20). There are times in life when we may lose the grip on our end of the rope of faith and wander away, but Jesus will never let go of His end. He will use life situations both good and bad to draw us back into His fold where we are protected and loved.

Jesus won't let go of you

Jesus won’t let go of you

God disciplines those He loves and His loving discipline, although unpleasant and painful at times, is for our good. It is for our “Eternal” good and/or for the eternal good of others we come into contact with. His discipline makes us realize that we need Him. Jesus tells us; Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me (Revelation 3: 19, 20).

There is Hope

There is Hope

In the spring of 2013 Jerry was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Brain Cancer. The tumor was surgically removed and he went through the usual Chemo and radiation treatments, but to no avail. The tumor came back and the doctors said there was no more they could do for him.

Jerry heard Jesus knocking on the door of his heart and tugging on his rope of faith through his cancer. The Holy Spirit moved him to open the door and reach out and grab tightly onto that rope which had kept him attached to Jesus all these years. About six weeks before his death he re-affirmed his faith in Jesus and with a repentant heart he asked to be given the Lord’s Supper. We can be confident that he is in heaven receiving the end result of God’s precious gift of grace. We can be sure we will see him there on the day we are called home.

He is searching for you.

He is searching for you.

The nagging feeling I always had regarding his eternal good is now gone and I am at peace. The fact that he was called home at 6:15 on Easter morning, the same time of day that Jesus rose from death that first Easter so long ago, is a comfort to me and should be to all who love him. I believe it was Jesus’ way of communicating to us; You don’t need to worry. He is safe here with me. You will see him when you get here.

I am sure Gerry is making people laugh in heaven just like he did while he was with us here, and he has probably already found the perfect fishing spot to take his nephews to when they arrive some day.

Although he spent 72 years here on this earth, the biggest majority of that time was not spent working earnestly in the Lord’s vineyard. He is somewhat like the worker in Jesus’ story who only worked for one hour, or like that thief on the cross beside Jesus who came to faith in his last hours of life. But Gerry, like the thief on the cross and the worker in the vineyard, still received his “denarius”. He is now living in the mansions of heaven and serving the Lord joyfully for eternity. God’s grace is a free gift to all. And all who die believing will receive their pay no matter how long or how diligently they labored.

Thank you Jesus for your wonderful gift of grace!

Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. (Luke 23:42).

Gloria Dei! Amen.

by Christine

Categories: Eternity, Faith, Grace | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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