MEMORIES


Photo Album

All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall [fade] because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall [fade], but the word of our God stands forever. (Isaiah 40: 6-8)

Memories are a beautiful thing.

My father was called home to heaven when I was eight years old. After a few years I realized that I could no longer recall his face or remember the sound of his voice. I am thankful for pictures. The pictures refresh my memory of his face. There are no videos to help me recall the sound of his voice, but the pictures are a true blessing.

Memories are precious, but I know from my own experience that memories fade with time. In recent months/weeks I have been putting together memory books for my five grandchildren who lost their dad to brain cancer on April 6, 2017. All that remains for them now is “memories” of their dad.

When my son was getting close to the end of his life, his social worker suggested he make memory books for the children. She gave him five hard covered books which were a blank slate. She inked his hand and put his handprint on the front of each book. He wasn’t able to do them himself, so he dictated to his sister and I notes of memories that were precious to him and that he wanted the children to remember. I have been busy making a book of memories for each child. It includes his notes and many pictures of him with them while they were growing up.

As time passes I know their memories of him will fade, but the books will give each of them a reference. The pictures will preserve the memory of his face in their minds. In the pictures they will see his mannerisms and remember the way he played with them. The pictures reveal many of the fun things they did together i.e. fishing with the boys, carnival rides, birthdays, and Christmases. He loved his children. After God they were his top priority. Every life decision he made was made with their best interest in mind.

The verses above from the book of Isaiah remind us that this life is only temporary. Like the grass and flowers of the field, humans have a life cycle also. From the moment of our birth death is a shadow that hangs over each of us. Sickness, tragic accidents or old age will eventually touch each of us and our loved ones. But the last line states that though the grass withers and the flowers fall [fade], the word of our God stands forever.

This life is sometimes sad. People we love die. Death creates an emptiness in our hearts and lives. Thankfully the promises of God never change. Jesus promises to never leave us. He says, and surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20). He is present in our lives watching over us and guiding us His children, along the road of life.

He promises that this life is not all there is. He tells us, do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14: 1-3)

All who believe in God through faith in Jesus His Son, will live forever with Him in heaven. Our heavenly home is ready and waiting for us. There will be no more death or sadness, no tears or pain. We will see Jesus face to face and we will see our loved ones who died in the faith also. What a beautiful thing to look forward to!

I pray that my grandchildren will retain their faith in Jesus and be reunited with their dad in heaven someday. I look forward to seeing him again also along with other loved ones who have gone before me in faith, where the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Revelation 21: 3, 4).

This life on earth pales in comparison with what is to come. We live here by God’s grace. His deep love for sinners brought His only Son to the cross where He offered himself as a sacrifice for sin. What a wonderful gift! It offers hope to a dark world of sin, suffering and death.

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, 9).

Gloria Dei!

By Christine
The memory books were put together with love and are meant to be a treasure to the children. They are a little piece of their dad – a reference. When they miss him or are feeling sad they can reach for the book and see him. It will reassure them of his love for them and be a little part of him to keep close to their hearts.
This life on earth is very fragile. We, or someone we love, can be here one minute and gone the next. Our minds have trouble grasping it. After we lose someone we love to death, it often feels like their life with us was just a dream. Time seems to stand still for us, but the rest of the world keeps moving forward. We see our friends and relatives continuing as normal and feel like we are left stuck in time. We wonder, was that person real – was he/she really part of my life? Does anyone remember or still think of him/her? Pictures are a reality – something we can see and touch. They are a comfort to the grieving.
As an adult I have made a memory book of my own father from the pictures I have. It would have been very precious to me as a child to have had a collection of picture memories of my life with him to go to when I was lonely. I pray that these books will promote healing of the heart for my grandchildren and be something they can share with their own children someday.

 

 

 

What is Decision Theology?


Many church denominations today push the idea of “Decision Theology”. Maybe some who are reading this blog post do not know what Decision Theology means. It is possible also that many who are reading this do know what it means and feel or have been taught that it is the only way to heaven.

The purpose of this post is to define “Decision Theology”, state the truth, and most importantly, to offer comfort in the knowledge that the way to heaven does not depend on anything we do, say, or feel of our own decision. Salvation is a free gift of God’s love and mercy for lost sinners.

 

Decision Theology

Catechism

(Luther’s Catechism, Anniversary Edition pg.186)

Can people decide, by the power of their own wills, to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?

Unfortunately, many today speak about faith in Christ as a personal decision. They believe that people must ultimately decide whether or not to accept what God has to say and whether or not to invite Jesus into their hearts.

The Bible doesn’t teach this. Rather, it teaches that we are all by nature spiritually dead. Our human wills, in any spiritual sense, are also dead. What is dead cannot contribute toward becoming spiritually alive. Those who view faith as something brought about by a human decision are placing confidence for salvation in something other than God. Such misplaced confidence opens the door to uncertainty and doubt, leaving them to wonder if they truly believe or if they are sincere. We place our trust in God, who alone has the power to work the miracle of faith through the gospel.

There is no need for anyone to make a profession of faith to any church body or pastor, or make a personal decision to accept or receive Jesus into his heart or follow Him. No; 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 2:8,9)

So take comfort dear friends and be confident in the knowledge that Jesus did it all for you. There is nothing you can do on your own to come to Him. It is the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word. No one can say, Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:3)

I urge you to pick up your Bible and begin reading. Let the Holy Spirit take it from there. You will be blessed!

Gloria Dei!

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