What do you want people to say about you at your funeral?

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And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 1 John 3:23 ESV

I lead a weekly ESL conversation class on Zoom. Typically, four of us meet for an hour.  The two women are Mexican and our one gentleman lives in Argentina.  They are strong intermediate-level speakers.  We have come to know each other and enjoy this mid-week hour as friends.  And I know they appreciate being able to practice their English.

As a language coach, I propose the weekly topic. Yesterday’s question or theme is the title of this blog.  ‘What do you want people to remember about you and how you lived your life?’ I wasn’t sure if my three friends felt put-off or startled when I sent them via What’s App the question to consider. They approached the subject with enthusiasm and we ended up learning a lot about each other’s cultures and approaches to death.

What’s interesting about this topic is that one of my sons is currently reading a leadership book for Christian men about creating a vision for oneself as well as for one’s family. He mentioned one of the suggestions was to do this very thing, to start with the end in mind. Just how DO you hope people will assess your life once you have died?

Happily, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel as Christians. The Bible provides many possibilities that are pleasing to God. The verse at the beginning of this post is one that continues to linger in my daily thoughts.

The way the apostle John condenses and communicates Jesus’ commands struck me about 2 weeks ago as a wonderful life purpose.  What pleases God is for us to rely on Jesus and love people as our Lord did while on earth.

Actually, the first part, ‘trusting Jesus’, is the main command. I am to depend on him for power to love people well.  Active love, how I treat people, is costly because it involves investing resources such as time, energy and money.  Added to that is my attitude, how I bring patient, studied attentiveness to someone in order to understand their needs and the manner in which they feel respected and valued.  I can’t do any of that in my own strength. That is why relying on Jesus is paramount.

I wish I had paid attention to John’s exhortation when I endured ongoing bitter attacks from a student at my last school. I tried to respond with love and patience, but out of my own reservoir. It got to me.  Many days I headed to school absolutely dreading French class with this gal. Her animosity and her dad’s displeasure with me lasted a year and a half before she graduated from the middle school. 

Five years later, I feel clear now on just who is my power source to obey. And in fact, I got to put my money where my pen is.  Yesterday, I realized that my mother-in-law who lives so far from us needs some TLC. At 93, she has been hit with one medical situation after another.  She said to me yesterday over the phone, ‘Maria, why is all this happening to me now?’  Thank you, Father, that your Spirit got my attention.  I booked a flight this morning for next week.

Wrapping up, what is it that I want on my tombstone?  ‘She relied on Jesus and loved her friends and family well.’  No, that doesn’t include ‘neighbors’ like my former student.  But I think that if I can mature in believing and depending on Jesus to love those who make up my family and my circle of friends, the spillover effect will extend to others the Lord places in my life.  That is my hope and my prayer.  

« ..No Condemnation.. » The Best Two Words in the Bible

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A speaker at chapel the other day mentioned that his favorite two words in scripture were, “But God..”   Compelling indeed, these two words introduce hope into a situation where none is by nature.

I now offer you my favorite words in the Bible.  If you want hope plus something else, think about Paul’s startling announcement: “No condemnation!”  Paul reinforces and explains this comforting fact in his letter to the Romans. He describes the freedom belonging to those who have been transferred from the world where Death dominates to the world of Everlasting Life.

Do you remember Venn Diagrams from Geometry Class? They can provide a visual representation of these two worlds.   Everyone born to human parents is born into the Kingdom of Darkness, one of the two Venn circles.  Growing up and living in this ‘Death Camp’, one is under God’s justifiable wrath for her inherited God-hostility (thanks Father Adam!)  No hope there!

But God (okay – these 2 words ARE pretty cool!) can transfer us OUT of the Kingdom of Darkness into the other Venn diagram – the Kingdom of Light, the Kingdom of the Son.  It’s a legal transfer – a one-way, one-time, permanent judicial action.  Why judicial?  Because our guilty charge has been dealt with.  Our name has been cleared, thanks to Christ who has assumed onto himself our guilt.  There’s NO LONGER any guilty sentence tied to us.

Since we have a new status, there is no longer any condemnation.

Here are a couple glorious implications –

1)    If I do something wrong, hurtful, embarrassing, sinful, I can remember that Jesus has already paid for this. What else do I need to do?  Repent and make restitution as necessary.  But under NO circumstances should I indulge in self-condemnation.

2)    I have perfect access to God as Father since I have been freed from any condemnation.  I have Jesus as my big-brother advocate.  And I have the presence of the Holy Spirit within in me.  Besides all the ‘stuff’ the Trinity does for me as an adopted child in the Kingdom of Light, as one who is freed from condemnation, I have fellowship with the Trinity and with other believers.  Don’t you long for genuine community?

I find myself recalling multiple times throughout the day, ‘no condemnation, Maria’.  I need that truth check because the world is pretty hostile.

But since the other night, I have paired that two-word fact with another equally powerful reminder.  This thought comes courtesy of Jonathan Edwards who was quoted in a book about puritan prayers.  He described the Holy Spirit as the ‘choicest of gifts’.  What an uplifting way of looking at the 3rd member of the Trinity!!   If we are IN CHRIST, in the Camp of Christ, in the Venn Diagram of Life, in the Kingdom of Light, in the Kingdom of the Son whom God loves, then we already have the ‘choicest of gifts’.  We have the Holy Spirit who permanently lives in us, directing and encouraging and helping us with God’s resurrection power, God’s universe-creating force, wisdom and love.

What gifts!  What a God!

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