Raging Against Death: The End of the Story

Raging Against Death: The End of the Story

Bible with Dead LeafYou can handle a lot – for a while. You can handle separation from your sweetheart if you know you’ll be greeted with an embrace on your return in a few days. You can put up with a horrendous mess as your kitchen is being remodeled – for a couple weeks. You may be able to tolerate the grueling radiation or chemo for your cancer while you count down the six weeks until it ends. Knowing the end of the story makes things easier.

But what if you don’t know the end of the story? Jim Collins writes of his interview with Admiral Jim Stockdale, who was the highest-ranking United States military officer in the “Hanoi Hilton” prisoner-of-war camp during the Vietnam War. Tortured over twenty times times during his eight-year imprisonment, Stockdale was credited with helping other men deal with the torture, instituting an elaborate communication system among his fellow captives who were often held in solitary confinement, and exchanging secret intelligence information with his wife through their letters. When questioned about what allowed him to make it through that time with his sanity intact, he credited his ability to be both brutally honest about his present circumstances and at the same time confident that he and the others would get out and prevail in the end. He told Jim Collins,

This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be. (Good to Great, p. 85)

Jim Stockdale was confident of the end of the story even though none of the circumstances around him provided evidence of such. That makes me think of our own circumstances – and of the end of the story that we are each a part of right now.

Continue reading...
Can You Be a Little Bit Saved?

Can You Be a Little Bit Saved?

HeavenWhen my husband Al met his Maker some weeks ago his eternal destiny was already settled. The decisions about where he will spend forever were made during his life. I believe I know where he is, and that I will see him again in glory. But if that is true, it’s not because he was just a little bit saved.

Some in today’s culture become bothered by the idea that there is any such thing as truth and error, right and wrong, good and evil. They may espouse some vague ideal of moral goodness, but only as they themselves wish to define it. They have some vague hope that if they live their lives more good than bad, they will one day get to heaven.

Would that mean, then, that you’re “sort of” saved if you live a “sort of” good life? By whose definition? And what’s “good enough?” Does a little bit saved get you a little bit of heaven?

In truth, you can’t be a little bit saved any more than you can be a little bit pregnant. Tweet that. It’s either Yes or No. As a woman, if your pregnancy test reads “Positive” it’s only the beginning.

Continue reading...
Declaring the Death of Death

Declaring the Death of Death

[guestpost]This weekend we laid my wonderful husband Al Tanksley to rest. Although my heart is broken, my spirit is determined to carry on the legacy that he left behind, and worked so hard to prepare me for. These are some words that I shared at his going-home service. Next week the regular blog post schedule will resume.[/guestpost]

Al TanksleyIt’s OK to rage against death. And I do! This is not the way it was supposed to be. God did not create us to live a few years – or even many years – on this planet, and then to die. We were created for eternity. We were created to live forever! Death is an imposter. The Bible calls death “the last enemy to be destroyed.” (1 Corinthians 15:26)

As good as this life may get, it’s never enough. It doesn’t matter how many years you live, how much money or things or success you have – or don’t have. It doesn’t even matter how many people you have around you. It’s never enough. It never can be enough. Because we were created for more. Al Tanksley was created for more. You and I were created for more. And right now Al is finally experiencing that “more.”

And we will have that more in eternity. I know that heaven is real. When people say, “I’m sorry you lost your husband” I want to say, “No, I haven’t lost him. I know exactly where he is!”

Yes, we are separated for now, but not forever.

This is not my husband. Al Tanksley is not in this box! This may be his body, his shell, but this is not him!

Paul said, “If only in this life we have hope in Christ we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Corinthians 15:19) We can grieve. I will grieve for a time. That’s as it should be. But I know that this is not the end. For Al, it is the beginning! As Buddy (the preacher) charged us at our wedding just seven too-short years ago, Al and I were given a mission. And that mission is only partially completed. And now, it’s up to me to continue that mission, and I’m committed to doing so.

Death, you may think you have won. Yes, the wounds you have inflicted are deep. And we will mourn as we nurse those wounds somewhat. But in truth you have lost again! While to human eyes you may seem to have won this battle, you have already lost the war. And every life you take – temporarily – such as Al Tanksley’s, is but another nail in your own coffin. Death, you will be destroyed! And Al Tanksley, along with me and all the rest of us who trust in Jesus, will live forever.

Now, “Where, O death, is thy sting? Where, O grave, is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)

As the gospel preacher said, “It may be Friday. But Sunday’s coming!”

Honey, I love you! And I’ll be looking for you next to the Jesus that we both love. You are, and always will be, the wind beneath my wings!

Even so, Come, Lord Jesus!

P.S. For those who wish to make a gift in Al’s memory, you can do so here.

Continue reading...
How Would You Live If You Knew . . .

How Would You Live If You Knew . . .

Most of us really don’t know. And perhaps that’s a good thing. We don’t know when the next life-altering event will change things forever. If we did know, we’d probably either be too scared to do anything at all, or put off making any necessary changes until the last possible minute. But by not knowing we’re at risk of being unprepared. How would you live today if you knew for sure that it would all end tomorrow?

In truth, there are any number of things that could happen. And many of these things are likely; we just don’t know when they’re going to happen.

Would you live any differently if you knew that one of these things would happen soon?

Continue reading...
Who Will Be Around You On Your Deathbed?

Who Will Be Around You On Your Deathbed?

Holding sick person's handNo one wants to die alone. It may feel a bit morbid, but thinking about your last earthly days is one of the most clarifying questions any one of us can ask.

The truth is there are only a very few people who are likely to be there when you take your last breath. And unless you don’t want anyone around at all, wouldn’t it be wise to invest most now in the people who are likely to be there at the end? Who will be around you on your deathbed?

For many years I worried a great deal about what everybody else thought of me: teachers, employers, classmates, coworkers, patients, friends, and business contacts. It’s right to treat all these people well, kindly, and with respect. But almost all of them are only in your life for a short time. And that’s OK.

Recognizing how temporary most relationships are is both freeing and sobering.

Continue reading...