Cloudy…

02/04/2010

Recently, while driving along on a cloudy day, it was so dark that I knew the rain was just about ready to burst from the clouds above and drench my car in the storm. It seemed unwelcome, and a bit depressing…and then a thought came to me, “If Jesus is going to come back in the clouds, then clouds should be what I want.” A cloudy day can be a hope-filled day for those of us who are waiting for Christ’s return.

“The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times”…
After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching,
and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven,
two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said,
“why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into
heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”
Acts 1:7,9-11 (NLT)

After thinking about Jesus returning in the clouds one day, I then laughed a bit to myself because of a movie I recently took my grandson to see. Jackson can never remember the name of the movie, so I start it for him. I say, “Jack, what’s the movie we saw?” Then he looks at me with his puzzled look…and I say, “Cloudy…?” And he finishes by saying. “…with a chance of meatballs.” So I thought, “Ahhh, it’s Cloudy…with a chance of Jesus today.” One day, Jesus will appear in the clouds above to take us Home to Heaven with Him! What a Day that will be!

“I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize
For which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.”
Philippians 3:14 (NLT)

It’s now another rainy morning here in the Bay Area; it’s been a stormy week, and cold. Not so good for those who have to work outside…some must walk through it, and others like our son have today off from their job because of the rain, losing income in the storm. But then I think of those in Haiti, experiencing yet another earthquake on top of already total disaster, and I am thankful we just have rain. We’ve experienced the earthquakes in the San Francisco Bay Area, and they certainly change lives forever when freeways fall, and bridges come apart. It was also good to hear that the rain we are getting here today is not expected in Haiti this week—it’s certainly not what they need as they dig their way out of the rubble. But clouds…a cloudy day is what we all need in the end, for that will be the Day when Jesus will appear changing our lives forever, once and for all of eternity.

“…we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives.
And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He
will take these weak mortal bodies of ours and change them
into glorious bodies like his own, using the same mighty power
that he will use to conquer everything everywhere.”
Philippians 3:20-21 (NLT)

Conquer everything, everywhere…disease, destruction, and even death.

And the last enemy to be destroyed is death.
1 Corinthians 15:26

We all need Jesus…those who are hurting, those who are troubled, those who are in the process of watching someone about to leave their earthly body or grieving in the aftermath of that…and even those who aren’t concerned with such issues right now but are just living through the day-in and day-out of life, because life can be hard, and all of life will come to the same end…the death of “these weak mortal bodies of ours”—that is unless we are alive on planet earth when Jesus returns in the clouds one day. Those alive on that last day will be the only ones to escape the present death rate, which is 100 percent.

“Not all of us will die, but we will all be transformed. It will happen in a moment,
in the twinkling of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet
sounds, the Christians who have died will be raised with transformed bodies. And
then we who are living will be transformed so that we will never die.”
1 Corinthians 15:51-52 (NLT)

Sticking our heads in the sand and pretending this won’t happen solves nothing, and leaves us in the dark, and in fear. God doesn’t want us living in that darkness; He wants us walking in His light. Our death, and Jesus’ return to earth, is not darkness to God—it’s when the Father gets to welcome believers Home to live with Him forever. We can live in that victory each day! We can see hope on a dark cloudy day as believers in Jesus Christ!

You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light!
2 Samuel 22:29 (NIV)

When the weather is cloudy, or when our life is cloudy and filled with frustration, hurt, despair, sorrow, etc…, we have to believe that this too shall pass…we have to stay focused and allow the Lord to turn our darkness into light, because He will. It may not be overnight, it may take a very long time, but God is true to His promises. As my brother reminded me yesterday, we have to live as our Faith being Fact!

I heard Adrian Rogers explain Faith and Grace recently; he said we have to reach up our hand of FAITH, “Forsaking All I Trust Him, and grasp the hand of GRACE, God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” When we do, we will see God work things out. This is sure; this is true, in God’s timing and in God’s way.

As I look back eight years now, I see a process at work….God’s process. I don’t see an overnight transformation, or a quick healing, but I see the step-by-step way of our Lord in my life. I have felt complete devastation and a hole so large in my gut that I thought it would consume me from the inside out. When a precious child is gone from us on this earth, the air gets sucked right out of us and we wonder if we will ever be able to breathe normally again. If I may, I’d like to quote from an e-mail I recently received, passed on to me from a friend, from her friend who is trying to live this life without her precious grandson. She expresses it so well. The names will be changed, but the sentiments will be clear. She writes:

“I am still unable to explain the non-ending pain we are feeling. I get moments when I am busy helping Nancy with her new house, but the gaping hole in my stomach begins to ache again and I break. Sammy is in all thoughts. I am seeing a therapist so am told how normal this is and that there is a long road ahead—possibly a year or more until I can live a day without such pain. Most of the time I cover it up as the body can just grieve so much and then must protect itself from destruction. I cannot socialize and make small talk.  It is difficult as I want Sammy’s life to go on and not mine. I know now that here is a hell, so I must believe there is a heaven for Sammy. All my decisions are made hour by hour and I could not determine how I would feel having dinner with your family so we declined. I do thank you for reaching out and inviting us—that gives us a warm feeling that we need.”

What this grandma describes is darkness; it is some of the most intense pain we can experience on this earth. It’s not the real Hell, but it sure feels like it—and we need to know that behind even these cloudiest of days, the Son still shines, and there is eternal Hope! That YES, there is a Heaven waiting if we will simply believe that that Hope is exactly what Jesus died to give us!!

“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky,
and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man
coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.”
Matthew 24:30 (NIV)

Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him…
Revelation 1:7

I thought of that as I drove through the rain, looking up at the darkness, knowing that right up above that layer of dark, stormy clouds is a bright blue sky and sunshine. I’ve seen it from an airplane as it ascends in flight, and I’ve experienced it emotionally as eight years have passed since the death of our youngest son at the age 16 from Leukemia. Because of Jesus, clouds can bring us hope instead of darkness and depression, and because of Jesus, even despair and missing can help us find our way Home.

“The one passion of Paul’s life was to proclaim the Gospel of God.
He welcomed heartbreaks, disillusionments, tribulation, for one
reason only, because these things kept him in unmoved devotion
to the Gospel of God.” Oswald Chambers

The missing has certainly helped me focus on where we as believers are headed…it has to, for without this hope of a loving God who will bring us back together again, there is no hope—there is only darkness, and a person can’t live in that and be fully alive. As was quoted above, “the body can just grieve so much and then must protect itself from destruction.” Without Jesus, there is no way through it, we’ll get stuck in it, because Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. There is no other god that offers the same reunion that Jesus does; we can look forward with great expectation to the future because of Jesus.

In 1 Thessalonians alone, I counted at least 10 times where Paul talks about Jesus coming back…

1:10 “And they speak of how you are looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead.”
2:19 “…Yes, you will bring us much joy as we stand together before our Lord Jesus when he comes back again.”
3:13 “…when you stand before God our Father on that day when our Lord Jesus comes with all those who belong to him.”
4:14 “…we also believe that when Jesus comes God will bring back with Jesus all the Christians who have died.”
4:15 “…We who are still living when the Lord returns…”
4:16 “For the lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout…”
4:17 “…will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”
5:2 “For you know quite well that the day of the Lord will come unexpectedly…”
5:4 “…when the day of the Lord comes like a thief…”
5:23 “…may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until that day when our Lord Jesus Christ comes again…”

Therefore encourage each other with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:18 (NIV)

After Phil died, we took off on a seemingly never-ending flight—it was on a “plane of pain.” I wondered if we’d ever reach a level, cruising altitude of life again. Would there always be such darkness as we peered out through our tear-filled eyes unable to see beyond the cloud of grief we were in. Would we ever be able to breathe normally, be able to carry on small talk, or even care to ever again? The only way was Hope in Jesus Christ and a focus on all that He was offering us in this life and the next. I say that without reservation because the promises of God have rescued “us from the one who rules in the kingdom of darkness, and he has brought us into the Kingdom of his dear Son.” (Colossians 1:13 NLT) We “continue to believe this truth and stand in it firmly.” (Colossians 1:23) There are other Band-Aids out there, but there are no other cures for a completely shattered heart.

As a friend of mine was struggling through a tough week, which included literally dark rain clouds, cold winds, frustrating days on a job that requires being out in the weather, and other problems along the way, we talked. We talked about focus, and how when we take our eyes off of God, even for just a short while, the way gets harder. God is not promising us a perfect life or perfect weather, but He is promising to help us through each day step-by-step if we are willing to accept His help. When my friend regained her focus, even on that very first day “back,” God was there for her, and she knew it. She said, “He’s not asking for all that much, is He? It’s a pretty good exchange…” And yes, it is. All God wants is our love, to have an intimate, working relationship with Him. He knows when we fail to do that we will quickly get buried under the darkness a day can bring because our enemy, satan, prowls around looking for whom he may devour. We have to know that Jesus is alive and active in every step of our lives and that one day He will return in the clouds. If we don’t know this, our hope can quickly disappear as frustrations mount.

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you
before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy, to
the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority,
through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!
Amen (Jude 24-25)

Our lives can be messy, our days can be messy, our thoughts can be messy…and yet because of Jesus Christ, we can stand before our Lord without fault! I read that same thing this morning in Colossians—by means of Jesus’ shed blood on the cross, “…he has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” (1:22 NLT) Are you kidding me!!? That’s powerful blood! Without a single fault!

“God takes his perfection, mixes it with the blood of Jesus Christ,
and paints his perfection over our imperfection.”
Jon Walker

Wow, who doesn’t want in on that deal! And like my friend said, “He’s not asking for all that much.” Just our devotion, just our love, in exchange for all His love and devotion and help and HOPE!

“It takes twice the energy to hate someone as it does to love them.”
Beth Moore

How much energy has been expended on turning our back on our Creator? If we would simply turn towards Him and love Him, He would more than meet us halfway, He will carry us in His arms all the way Home when our time on earth is through. I’ve read we should “under-promise and over-deliver” to build our reputation as one who keeps their promises. God promises are always kept; God has a perfect character even if He does things differently than we would choose for them to be done. I put it this way, “HMO-WG.” Which means, “Have My Opinion-Want God’s!” I wouldn’t have chosen for our son to get sick and die, no one would, but when we HMO-WG, we can rest in God’s decisions because He shows us how to fully live a surrendered peace-filled life no matter what. Clouds are not meant to cover the sun, they are there to bring us much needed rain to keep us alive—and dark clouds in life are not meant to cover the Son, they are there most times to bring us into a much needed intimate relationship with our Lord to help us fully live.

“We rarely see God's good purpose in pain or failure or embarrassment
while it is happening. When Jesus washed Peter's feet, he said, ‘You do
not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ (John 13:7 NIV)

Only in hindsight do we understand how God intended a problem for good.
Extracting the lessons from your experiences takes time.” Rick Warren

I could not have known eight years ago where I would be on this day in my relationship with God. I could not have known that we’d be expecting the blessing of our sixth grandchild this year, or that I’d go back to school after age 50 and get a job working in a career that I love and that most importantly enables me to minister to many in an up-close and personal way. I could not have known that it would be possible to learn to live with an amputation in my everyday life of someone I love so dearly, and learn to live with it so much so that I even begin to wonder what life would be like now if our son was still here? It’s a strange thought, and it’s a strange thing to share with you—but as I thought about it the other day, about that amputation of living without Phil…it’s like if we lose a limb, or an eye, or deal with a health issue like diabetes perhaps or even paralysis, it becomes a part of us. We adjust to a new routine, a new way of being, a new way of handling each day…and that is what our family has done in the last eight years. We haven’t forgotten our son, our brother, our uncle, our nephew, or our grandchild, but we have learned to live this life with only our sweet memories of Phil, because we can’t have his physical presence, he is gone from us. We have learned to celebrate Christmas and Thanksgiving without him here. We have learned how to continue to love without love being diminished because we could get hurt again—but instead how to love even deeper because we know how precious each moment together is. We have learned how to go on in life without forgetting the past, but by using the past as a foundation that is firmly set in the promises of God and the future He gives us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Our lives will never be the same again, but then, whose is? Each day lived changes the past, into the present, moving us into the future.

“The thought of this future may well relieve the darkness of the past
and the gloom of the present. The joys of heaven will surely compensate
for the sorrow of earth.” Charles H. Spurgeon

Paul knew Jesus; he was temporarily blinded by His great light on the road to Damascus. Paul’s life was never the same again and he lived each day with his regained sight set on the reality of Heaven, as his feet walked this earth proclaiming the Good News to those who would believe. Paul said: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far…” Philippians 1:21-23 (NIV) When I read this verse to our son during his last days on this earth, his eyes lit up and he looked at me, it seemed that someone understood his thoughts, it brought Phil peace. Phil told me he agreed with that statement. He wanted to go on to Heaven, yet wanted to stay with us, not knowing what to choose. How awesome that our God shared these feelings, these thoughts, in His Word through Paul so that I could share them with our son, and bring him comfort in his struggle to live or die.

As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work,
your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1:3

I talk about death as a matter of fact now, because to me death is as much a part of life as living is. I can’t live each day without thinking about dying because of what we’ve been through with Phil—but that doesn’t bring me down, it brings me up…it points my thoughts heavenward, and it gives me hope. It helps me to know that this world is not our home; we are only passing through so we might as well enjoy the journey. I’ve had eight years to think very hard about all this, to pray about it, to fear it or look forward to it, and I realize that going to live with Jesus is a hope-filled future for all believers…we will live in Heaven one day. It may seem strange to some that I think about Heaven so much, but when I read what Paul wrote in Philippians, “for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain,” I too agree with our son, and with Paul, I am torn between the two. Of course we don’t like dying, we don’t like the dying process, we don’t like saying good-bye, that is very true, but we can like what is waiting in the clouds one day. We can like the Hope that Jesus died to give us. We can like that no matter how messy things get here, someday we will stand faultless before our God, forgiven because of the blood of our Savior.

And what if that someday is not all that far off…

Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives across the valley from the Temple.
Peter, James, John, and Andrew came to him privately and asked him,
“Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will show us that these things
are about to be fulfilled?” Jesus replied, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for
many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many.
And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must
take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation,
and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in many parts of the world,
as well as famines. But this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.
Mark 13:3-8 (NLT)

So when the earth is shaking in Haiti, and when the weather report is “Cloudy,” let us all remember, “It’s Cloudy…With a Chance of Jesus,” and then we can live in great Hope! In Jesus own words He said:

“Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you:
In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."
Matthew 26:64

Until we meet again or in the clouds,

Diane