The Aches, the Pain, and the Coming Glory

by Kathy Howard

For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. Romans 8:22 NASB

You know you’re getting old when just simply bending over elicits an automatic groan. My list of bodily aches, pains, and scars grows longer each year. The most recent sign of high mileage on my body is a small tear in my right rotator cuff. Thankfully, the doctor believes I can avoid surgery with physical therapy. But I’m definitely feeling the wear and tear of many decades of living.

Like our physical bodies, the world and everything in it suffers death, decay, and corruption. Sin has left its mark everywhere. God’s creation groans under the weight of it, eagerly longing for the full consummation of God’s great salvation. On that day, when God glorifies His children, He will also set creation free from its bondage. But until then, we wait.

The phrase “the now and the not yet” is often used to describe our current state of salvation. In this life, we experience forgiveness, reconciliation with God, the power to live godly lives, and more. Yet, we still wait for the full realization of our salvation. We wait for the end of suffering and the resurrection and glorification of our physical bodies. But we won’t receive it all until Jesus returns. Salvation already belongs to us, but we don’t yet hold it all in our hands.

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23).

In Romans 8, Paul contrasted our present suffering with our future glory to show the now and not yet. Now, we share in Christ’s sufferings, later we will share in His glory (Romans 8:17). Yes, God allows trials in the lives of His children, but He does not waste them. God works through them for His purposes. Like heat refines precious metals, God shapes us to look more and more like Jesus (Romans 8:28-29). But this transformation will not be complete until Jesus returns.

On that day, believers who have died will be “raised in glory” and those still living will be transformed in the “twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:43, 51-54). Our resurrected bodies will be transformed into the imperishable, immortal likeness of Jesus’ heavenly body. It is then that we will experience the full consummation of our adoption as God’s children. We will finally hold all the blessings of our salvation.

In the meantime, we wait, and we groan. But we also hope. We live in the now and the not yet. The seen and the unseen—what we experience in the present and hope for in the future. As we look forward and contemplate our glorious future with Christ, we see our present difficulties in their proper perspective.

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” 2 Corinthians 4:17 NLT

This post is adapted from Kathy’s soon-to-be-released devotional “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Book of Romans,” coming October 2022 from Bold Vision Books.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Kathy Howard is a treasure hunter. She hunts for the creamiest chocolate, richest coffee, and cherished stories of faith. She also digs deep into Scripture, mining God’s eternal truths. Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education and has taught the Bible for more than 30 years in a wide variety of venues. Kathy is the author of 11 books, including “Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith” and the “meaty” devotional series “Deep Rooted.” Kathy and her husband live in north Texas. They have three married children, six grandchildren, and two accidental dogs. Find free discipleship resources at www.KathyHoward.org.

Deep Rooted: Growing Through the Book of Acts: A 50-Day Devotional Journey by [Kathy Howard]

Here’s more about “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Book of Acts”: Pack your bags and join Kathy Howard for the journey of a lifetime. You’ll experience the powerful arrival of the Holy Spirit, witness the birth of the church, and walk the dusty roads alongside those first missionaries as they boldly share the Gospel of Jesus with the world. 

Join the conversation:  What do you look forward to the most in eternity?

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No Man Knows His Time

by Shirley Mozena

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. Job 23:10 NIV

A tragedy happened this week. A work-related accident took a man’s life. It was totally unexpected, yet it was not a surprise to God.

I don’t know for sure, for I wasn’t there, but I imagine that morning was most likely was a normal morning. The family rose, all busy with their tasks. The father/husband off to work at his business. His older son, who also worked in the business, walked out the door with him.  Most likely he kissed his wife goodbye, with a reminder of something that needed to be done that day. She kissed him back, busily thinking about her tasks for the day. “Bye, Dad,” the younger kids said, having no idea this would be the last time they would talk to him this side of eternity.

That day, the husband, father, son, entered eternity. He had no idea this would be his last day. Neither did any of his family. But his God, in whom he believed, did know. He knew his days from start to finish: Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16 NIV).

Of course, that wasn’t what this family wanted. No. They wanted more time. More of their husband, their father, their son. I’m sure his parents are lamenting that they were supposed to go first. Not this way.

I’m so glad every one of those family members knows their Maker. I have heard them speak of their faith in Jesus Christ. I know He will give them strength in the next period of their life which will be full of sorrow. Their lives have been changed forever.

For those of us, who stand on the sidelines, feeling great sorrow and pain for the people in their loss, ask ourselves, what can I do? We think, I cant take away their pain, all I can do is pray, I guess. But “all we can do” is the most important thing we can do. Those family members need prayer more than ever. One of the daughters said in a text regarding donation of meals to help the family, “no pressure, though, prayers are the best.” Even in great sorrow, this young woman recognized what was most important.

I can’t speak directly to this family’s needs, but I can tell you what was helpful for me when our family experienced loss. Here’s a few suggestions:

  • Do pray each time the family comes to mind. The Holy Spirit is reminding you to do this. They need your prayers.
  • Don’t be afraid to approach these people in their grief. You don’t have to say anything. Job’s friends were most helpful when they sat with him in his sorrow. It’s when they began to speak that they were the opposite of helpful and were chastised by God Himself. Your words aren’t what they need. They need you. A comforting hug. A silent presence. Just sit with them.
  • Don’t wait for them to ask for your helop. Just offer to: vacuum the rugs, wash dishes, clean the toilets, do the laundry, mow the lawn. All sorts of things that seem so difficult for the griever to do during this time.
  • Put the family on your prayer list and pray. 
  • If there are many plants and flowers donated to the family, after the memorial services, offer to take them to people who might enjoy them–a nursing home, retirement center, hospital, the church. It will help them with a task they really can’t do.
  • Offer to go shopping for them. They need coffee. Milk. Eggs. The basics.
  • Sometimes a cash offering for their use is very helpful. I remember one older gentlemen on a fixed income wrote a check to me and emphasized it was “for my use.” No strings attached.
  • Sometimes the food donated is mostly for main meals, but breakfast items are also helpful. I really liked the breakfast casseroles so family members could help themselves when hungry and heat it up. I loved the oatmeal casserole–all ready to go.

I hope these suggestions are helpful. There are many more things you can do later on.

Remember, when people lose a loved one whether it was an unexpected or expected death, they will be recovering for many months and even years to come. Pray for them. Not just now, but for months and years.

his article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Shirley Quiring Mozena is a writer, blogger, and national speaker for Stonecroft. She has written three books, Second Chances, Beyond Second Chances: Heartbreak to Joyand recently published, Second Chance at Love: Navigating the Path to RemarriageHer work has appeared in newspapers and magazines.

Join the conversation: When you were grieving, what was most helpful for you?

Whose World Is This Anyway?

by Sheri Schofield

The other day when I was playing on my keyboard, looking out over the view of forest, mountains and sky, I saw a herd of deer crossing our property. I was playing This Is My Father’s World. The deer all paused and turned their ears toward me, reluctant to move on. They were listening to the music. A robin hunting for his breakfast cocked his head at the sound and hopped up onto the roof, moving closer and closer to the song.

Yes, this is indeed my Father’s world! The animals and birds know it. In the midst of a world in panic, I can be still and know that He is watching over me. Psalm 139 tells us that God knows all about us. He sees us at all times, for we who believe in Him are His children.

The psalmist David wrote, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! (Psalm 139:16- 17 NLT).

I trust God with my present. I can trust Him with my future. No matter what happens on earth, I know I will spend eternity with the One who loves me. Therefore, I will not be afraid. This is my Father’s world. He is in control, whether in times of calamity or peace. Why then should I fear that which can only touch my body? My soul – the real me – is secure!

What is in store for those who have given their hearts and lives to Jesus? The Apostle Paul, quoting the prophet Isaiah, wrote, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9-11 NLT).

The Apostle John tells us that someday God will bring a new heaven and a new earth into being, an earth without a sea. (So those of you who love the beach, enjoy it now!) To this new earth, God will bring the holy city, the new Jerusalem, prepared beautifully, like a bride for her husband.

I love what John writes next: “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21:3-5 NLT)

 This is what is in store for those who love Jesus. Eventually, when time has ceased, we will spend eternity with the One who wipes away all tears and pain, the One who has conquered death and will eliminate it forever.

I do not know what tomorrow holds. No one can. But I do know the Lord of tomorrow! Jesus, the One who loved us so much that He died for us, holds us close to His heart and speaks peace to our souls, peace in the midst of the storm.

So I will sing with the birds this spring and smile at the future. My life is in His hands forever, no matter what happens on this fallen planet.

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.    Song of Solomon 6:3 NIV

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Whose World Is This Anyway? – encouragement from Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years. Sheri was named Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids, can be followed on her blog at her website, http://www.sherischofield.com. Questions welcomed!

Read Sheri and her husband’s amazing story in One Step Ahead of the Devil: A Powerful Love Story. Thrust into national politics because of her husband’s work, Lissa McCloud struggles to save the life of the man she loves from those who are bent on his destruction. Based on true events, the reader is taken deep into the heart of national politics –all the way to Congress and the President of the United States.

Join the Conversation: How does a secure future affect your life in the here and now?

Why I Know We’ll Be Happy in Heaven

by Debbie W. Wilson

Much to my mother’s chagrin, I loved blue jeans and climbing trees when I was a girl. I’d shimmy up the trunk of a tall pine the neighborhood boy could only reach by standing on his bicycle. My trees were forts, castles in the clouds, and hot houses for daydreaming.

My arms and legs no longer scale trees or swing from branches. But I still feel the magic when I peek through leafy limbs.

A Crepe Myrtle growing beside our garage doors below our kitchen spreads its lovely branches in front of a bank of windows. When I look out from my kitchen table, my heart smiles. I’m living in a heated and air-conditioned tree house.

I wasn’t thinking about how much I enjoyed the view from trees when we picked out our house plan or when we planted the Crepe Myrtle. But God remembered.

Our round kitchen table, which doubles as my workstation, reminds me of happy times around my grandmother’s kitchen table. Max, my standard poodle, ties me to Pepper, another lost treasure from my childhood.

Jesus said, “There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” (John 14:2-3 NLT).

When I recognized how God had restored these long-lost pleasures in my earthly dwelling I got excited. How much more will my heavenly home be filled with special touches that show God’s intimate knowledge of me? What deeper joys await us in heaven?

Not only does this help us face our own death, but also it softens the grief we feel when we lose a loved one. We know how much we’ll miss them. But when we remember they will be living the biggest dream of their lives, we can also rejoice for them.

Heaven will be better than all of our childhood daydreams combined. The landscape will beat any treetop view. And the air will be honeysuckle sweet.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”  1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT

debbie wilsonAbout the author: Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson speaks, coaches, and writes to help others discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. Share her journey to refreshing faith at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: In what ways has God granted you the desires of your heart? How does that boost your hope for heaven?

 

Holding on to Hope

by Kathy Howard

“I wonder where heaven is,” Dad sighed. Then after a brief pause, “What do you think it’s like?”

Dad and I sat on his patio in the cool of the morning, watching the birds as we sipped our coffee. My Bible lay in my lap. I had just read to Dad about the eternal life we have in Jesus (1 John 5:12-13).

My father loves Jesus and has faithfully served Him and others all his adult life. But these last years of life are not what he expected, not what he hoped they would be. He feels trapped in a body that has betrayed him. He can’t participate in the activities he enjoys. Daily he patiently endures the consequences of my mother’s dementia. He feels there is nothing to look forward to. In this life, anyway.

For a while longer, we sat, contemplating heaven, eternal life, and earthly suffering. And we turned from one place to another in God’s Word. Reading, talking, reading some more. I wanted to give Dad something to hang on to. Something solid to stand on. I silently asked for God’s guidance on what to say and what to read.

From 1 Thessalonians chapter four, we read about the hope we have even in grief because of Jesus’ sure return for those who belong to Him. From 1 Corinthians 15, we read about the resurrection body that believers will receive. From Hebrews chapter eleven, we read about the great men and women of faith who stood firm on God in spite of their physical circumstances. And from 2 Corinthians chapter four, we read how God worked through Paul’s sufferings to display His grace, strength, and glory.

Dad’s weakness can magnify God’s strength. Dad’s struggles can point others to God’s glory. And one day, Dad’s “perishable” body will be raised “imperishable.” His earthly body ravaged by disease will be perfected and glorified. The sting of death will be swallowed up in victory. Jesus Christ, our Savior, has won it for us (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

That time with Dad on the patio was precious. A holy time, reading God’s Word and basking in His glorious wonders. That morning was also an answer to prayer. I knew Dad was discouraged. He knew well God’s truth, but the sufferings of life can cast long shadows. God ordained our time together as a gentle reminder. A sweet moment to see God’s promises for him in light of eternity. To be encouraged by God’s Word.

For a believer, death is but a gateway to eternity, the fulfillment of God’s promises to us. But the sometimes physically grueling process of dying can easily pull our eyes off the greater, spiritual goal. Pain, grief, and discouragement vie for our attention. We – our parents and ourselves – need a firm grip on the One who keeps His promises.

God’s Word gives us a fresh infusion of hope. His promises are recorded there so we can remind ourselves and our parents of everything God has waiting for those who love Him. Think about these truths as you rise. Talk about them as you go through your day. Hold them to your heart and impress them on your parents. Remember His promises. And hold on to hope.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”      Hebrews 10:23 NASB

Kathy HowardAbout the author: Struggling to navigate the parent/child role reversal? Kathy Howard’s new book, 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents, explores God’s Word to find hope and encouragement for the wide range of physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual challenges the adult child caregiver may experience. Each of the 30 devotions – which can also serve as a 30DaysHope_AgingParentsCover 300RGBguide for a daily quiet time – includes a Scripture passage, a real-life illustration, biblical commentary/application, and questions for reflection. You can pre-order your copy here. The book releases on May 21.

 Join the conversation: Perhaps you need to remember God’s promises as much as your parent. Which promises have you forgotten? Which ones do you need to hear the most today?

Photo by Ron Smith on Unsplash