In Sickness and in Health

I was going to write a post about our visit with a very dear friend today and his wife. John beat me to it and I must say did a much better job than I would have. Therefore, I’m including his most recent post. Needless to say, this has been an emotional and blessed day.

pinch_back_smallThere’s a picture of my friend George and his wife, Patty, slow-dancing in their old age that hangs next to Patty’s bed. I did not realize until today how sick Patty was. George, who cares for her nearly constantly now, told me the story today of how they met in the late 1960s. At that time, Patty was a part-time secretary at the N.C. Forest Service and a young widow with two small children recovering from her previous husband’s tragic death. (His truck had plunged off a bridge in Michigan into a river in the middle of January.) George, having narrowly avoided a trip to Vietnam after being drafted, had taken the first job he could find and was a stranger in a strange town. He says Patty “conned” him into their first date, loudly exclaiming her disappointment over the office phone that her friends had backed out of their bowling night at a time when he was sure to be listening. He took the bait and asked her out, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, Patty no longer recognizes George and could not respond to him even if she did. He talks to her plenty anyway, feeding, bathing, and caring for her every single day. His love for her is clear—he always refers to her as “my wife,” as in “Excuse me, I’m going to go into the other room real quick and turn my wife onto her other side.”

“People ask me occasionally whether I wouldn’t enjoy a day off,” he says, grinning. “Wouldn’t I rather someone else took care of her for a while? That just ain’t me. I want to be near her as long as I can.” There’s a joy in his voice as he says it, the same joy evident in his eyes in that picture of better days that hangs next to his wife’s bed. With the benefit of retrospect, I know that the love in that picture was genuine, for it has not faded, even though she cannot return his gaze, even though she no longer remembers his name.

With Healing in His Wings

Guest post by John Adams.

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While visiting Haiti several years ago, on a sleepless night, I heard a sound that made my skin crawl — the sound of cruel laughter and jeering mingled with angry, accusatory shouts coming from beyond the wall around my parents’ house. The mob dispersed and the sound dissipated in less than ten minutes, but on the way into work the next morning, our groundskeeper found a young man’s body sprawled in the street. Someone had accused the young man of being a thief, a mob had gathered, and the young man had been dragged into the street and his throat had been slit. Rumors flew afterwards that the young man hadn’t even done anything wrong. He had simply crossed a set of vicious men who had set him up that night and made sure that he died.

This week, my thoughts have returned to that young man since his death, if the rumors were true, paralleled the death of Jesus in more ways than one. Like that young man, Jesus was a poor man from a fractious part of the world who had the misfortune of crossing men of power and influence in first-century Palestine, men who decided to turn him into a cautionary tale. Seized in the middle of the night, Jesus was beaten before he had even stood trial and testified against at his shambolic trial by false witnesses to give his inevitable execution a veneer of justice. He was then executed in a brutal manner and his body left in a public place until nightfall. It was the first-century Palestinian equivalent of a lynching. Three days later, however, God would raise him from the dead.

Given the opportunity to finish the story, how would you have done it? Out of all the possible ways the story could have gone from there, vengeance would seem to be the most likely ending. Had he had the opportunity to revisit his enemies, the young man whose throat was slit would probably have been tempted to exact vengeance similar to the manner in which he was killed. Perhaps he would have shocked his unassuming killers one by one and dragged them before the public, forcing them to confess their guilt in excruciating detail before executing them for their crimes.

When they first heard and began to believe that he had risen from the dead, that is probably exactly what Jesus’ enemies thought he would do to them. When Peter first announced the resurrection to them (Acts 2:14-40), Luke writes they were “cut to the heart,” asking one another, “Brothers, what shall we do?” What could they do? Jesus was alive, and they had killed him. Peter’s reply must have taken them completely by surprise. “Repent and be baptized,” he proclaimed, “in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit!” God was not angry at those who had wronged his Son. On the contrary, he had used that very sin to save them, offering them the opportunity to become his sons and daughters.

The concept of grace is one of Christianity’s unique contributions to the flow of world history. Its impact has been felt in every culture in which the Gospel has taken root. Philip Yancey recounts a poignant example of grace in post-apartheid South Africa at one of the hearings for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where people who had committed horrific abuses of power were offered immunity from prosecution on the condition that they confess their crimes to their victims before a tribunal:

At one hearing, a policeman named van de Broek recounted an incident when he and other officers shot an eighteen-year-old boy and burned the body, turning it on the fire like a piece of barbecue meat in order to destroy the evidence. Eight years later van de Broek returned to the same house and seized the boy’s father. The wife was forced to watch as policemen bound her husband on a woodpile, poured gasoline over his body, and ignited it. The courtroom grew hushed as the elderly woman who had lost first her son and then her husband was given a chance to respond.

“What do you want from Mr. van de Broek?” the judge asked. She said she wanted van de Broek to go to the place where they burned her husband’s body and gather up the dust so she could give him a decent burial. His head down, the policeman nodded agreement.

Then she added a further request, “Mr. van de Broek took all my family away from me, and I still have a lot of love to give. Twice a month, I would like for him to come to the ghetto and spend a day with me so I can be a mother to him. And I would like Mr. van de Broek to know that he is forgiven by God, and that I forgive him too. I would like to embrace him so he can know my forgiveness is real.”

Spontaneously, some in the courtroom began singing “Amazing Grace” as the elderly woman made her way to the witness stand, but van de Broek did not hear the hymn. He had fainted, overwhelmed.

Is there hope for a world in which a mother loses her son and then has to watch as her husband is murdered? And even if there is, how can the victims of such tragedies move forward without being overwhelmed by sorrow or overcome by hatred? God answered both questions by raising Jesus from the dead. “Easter opened up a crack in a universe winding down toward entropy and decay,” Yancey writes, “sealing the promise that someday God will enlarge the miracle of Easter to cosmic scale.” The Scripture tells us, however, that God chose to raise Jesus with his scars intact — Jesus is a wounded healer. The hope of Easter rests in being healed as Christ Himself was healed, and in choosing to become a source of healing to others just as Christ, in his refusal to return evil for evil, has become the “sun of righteousness, risen with healing in his wings” (Mal. 4:2).

The Power of His Resurrection

Guest post by Pastor Nelson Hopkins (Impact Church, Morehead City, N.C.)

images-1The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest phenomenon known to man. By His resurrection, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. As He once lived, He forever lives in the many infallible proofs of His resurrection demonstrated through His Body, The Church. He has been raised from the dead and will never die again. Through His death, burial and resurrection, He holds the keys of death, hell and the grave. ALL authority has been given unto Him in heaven, on earth and beneath the earth. No one else ever has or ever will be able to make such a claim of genuine truth. The physical body resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the immutable point; separating the gospel of Jesus Christ from all other religions. By the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Almighty God has established forever there is no other Name under heaven by which men can be saved.

Other than believing he was raised from the dead saves us from our sins, how is His resurrection significant to those who already believe?

Paul said that I may know him AND THE POWER of His resurrection. What is the power of His resurrection? Romans 8:11 says that the same Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead living in you now makes alive your mortal body. His Spirit is the light of God in His sons and daughters. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify God.” The power of His resurrection is Christ now living in you the hope of glory. No longer under the dominion of sin but delivered from it to rule and reign over every power of darkness. The resurrection of Jesus Christ makes the Gospel of Jesus the “Stronger man” gospel as recorded in Luke 11. We who believe are now living in a kingdom of power, not of word only. The same Spirit of God’s power that raised Jesus from the dead now lives in you and makes alive your mortal body to do immortal or eternal works for God.

The Church today now believes in, CELEBRATES and remembers the resurrection but we are to also and even more so show forth works that demonstrate His resurrection with MANY INFALLIBLE PROOFS.

We are not just forgiven but now we also are to preach reconciliation to God through faith in the resurrected Jesus Christ with signs and wonders that confirm He is alive and working the same works and greater than He did before His death on the cross. The resurrection is not just a fact for our faith to recall and receive but is also a truth to be demonstrated through preaching with signs and wonders that Jesus is Lord over death, hell and the grave as well as over every work and consequence of sin plaguing humanity today. The resurrection is words to believe and works to be seen as confirming that Jesus was delivered for our offenses but raised for our justification.

We are the just. We are the redeemed. We are the power of His resurrection living in this world today.

So this Easter, remember and rejoice in Christ Jesus and resolve not to neglect so great a salvation and live in the fullness of the resurrected Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

A Longtime Supporter Speaks

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One of our most faithful supporters of all time, Myrtle Wickham, has written a few words of encouragement to our readers. Myrtle traveled to Haiti for several years to spend a month at at a time with us. She’s been with us through good times and some very difficult ones. Her support of this ministry, both financially and spiritually, has been unceasing and we are so thankful to also call her friend. Myrtle has always wanted to come back to Haiti to visit, but the lack of funds has not permitted it. She travels to Haiti every day though through her prayers. We have relied tremendously on her intercession for us through the years and honor her with this post. For those of you that don’t know Myrtle, she’s the one on the left in the picture. We love you, Myrtle!

When I think of Haiti one of the first things I remember is the church building. The first time I visited Cap they were working on the foundation for the new building. I wanted, and still want, so much to see that building completed and full of the precious Haitian people. I have been there when the church members brought their first Sunday offerings for the building. I would think to myself, “Father, they don’t have anything but they gave what they had. Reminds me of the widow’s mite. She only had two pennies to give but she gave them. The people of the Center for Christian Formation give. God sees and He knows. There is no more blessed thing we can do than give to God. I can remember hearing stories of people who gave out of their need. The people of Haiti give out of their need. They don’t come to church in nice cars; they come on foot. Even in the rain, they come with their shoes held in their hands. They don’t walk a block or two; many walk a mile of two. They come for every service, they come for prayer in the early morning. At 5:00 AM there are a lot of people there praying. I believe God is going to build that church and He is going to get great glory from it. His arm is not shortened that He cannot move and do wonderful and marvelous things. He sees and He knows; we don’t hide anything from Him.

I pray that many who read these messages will pray and ask Father God what He would have us do and then dig deep and give toward the completion of that church building. I pray when it is completed I will go to see it for myself. It is going to be beautiful. I promise you.