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Fridays with Phil

Life, family and unshakeable faith

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Heaven

Death, where is your sting?

My mate, Bruce. 27/07/1955 - 11/09/2014
My mate, Bruce. 27/07/1955 – 11/09/2014

On Tuesday, I officiated the funeral of one of my best mates and a fellow pastor, Bruce.

I also closely witnessed his last few weeks on this earth.

What struck me most in those last days was Bruce’s assurance of heaven and eternity. Each time I asked him “how are you in here mate?” pointing to my head, or “how are you in here mate?” pointing to my heart, he would answer “it’s all good buddy!”

And it truly was – he had a tremendous peace and unwavering faith.

I remember sitting there with him contemplating the terminal illness Bruce had and hoping other people I loved didn’t have to face what he was facing. I realise now we all have what he had: mortality.

Most people live this life like it will never end and prepare for the next life like it will never begin, but it comes to all of us whether we prepare or not.

We are all terminal but we are also all eternal.

This life on earth is short so we need to make it count by being present, by loving, being grateful for the little things, and forgiving. Talk to people about what matters, not what is the matter with life.

Bruce taught me that “this side” is so fragile and short and because of that, it is so precious.  Like many valuable things, life’s value is derived from the fact it is in limited supply.

Whether you like to think about it or not, we are all living in temporary accommodation, our skin gets a little more creased and our hair a little more grey or a little less full stop. It’s a confronting reminder that sooner or later, we will all be evicted from our bodies.

The question this raises is, what’s on the other side?

I appreciate that it’s hard for us to imagine the other side.

Some people just decide that there is nothing over there. But you do have to wonder why the rumours of the other side stay so persistent.

And so the human race wonders.

As a Christian, I believe that Jesus Christ has defeated the sting or darkness of death so that we can have real life today and eternal life on “the other side”. I believe that God has made a way for us to be with Him forever through faith in Jesus Christ.

From this side, for us, death can be a time of sorrow, loss and of separation. But from the other side, for people like Bruce, it is a time of release, reunion, rest and reward. It is the beginning of a bright new eternal life.

Heaven is a reality where there is no pain, no tears, and no sorrow. Gone will be the nights filled with terror, fear and violence. Hunger and thirst, not even a memory. Heaven will be a place of endless joy.

A little girl was taking an evening walk with her father.   She looked up at the starry night sky and said, “Oh, Daddy, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, what must the right side be like!”

This one’s for you buddy, my mate Bruce, on the other side.

Phil

Heaven, healing and the in between

My neurologist just put me through my least favourite range of tests since being diagnosed with MND / ALS.

These electromyogram and nerve conduction tests are gruelling and painful.

They involve the signals to and from my muscles and brain being measured by using electric shock.

Other treatments, like the 3 hour immunoglobulin infusions I have once a month, are a breeze in comparison.

Light exercise to boost my happy endorphins, a drug for MND / ALS patients called “rilutek” said to increase life expectancy by 3-6 months, juicing for breakfast, and  a cocktail of about 40 vitamins I have self-prescribed through my own research have all become a regular part of my life.

Taking it deeper, daily I pray and believe for Jesus’ life, light and love to flow through my body, bringing life to my motor neurons.

I read my Bible and meditate on God’s word and His presence in my life, bringing my mind into a place of peace, not worry.

Why do I do all this stuff? 

Why do I fight this disease with medicines and subject my body to research? Why do I hang my hope on the life-giving power of God’s word?

It’s because I believe in the power of prayer and the word of God that brings life and transforms.

I also believe that God has blessed man with wisdom and knowledge to appropriate healing through medicine.

Is there a tension between me doing what I can and believing God for a miracle?

Yes, there is a tension and for the Christian living in a fallen world: there always will be.

I personally walk the line between doing what I can in the natural, and believing God to do what He can in the supernatural.

They are not mutually exclusive.

We don’t disqualify God from intervening in our situation by relying on man’s advancement in medicine.

I believe God is at work in a number of ways in sickness and health through:

  • the supernatural intervention of Gods miraculous power
    (e.g. defying doctor’s predictions and seeing a medical turnaround. like people healed from cancer);
  • the process of regeneration in our body that has been created by God
    (e.g. the body healing itself from scrapes and bruises);
  • medicines and medical advancements of our time, a gift of God’s wisdom and knowledge to man
    (e.g. antibiotics to treat an infection, or radiation to treat cancer); and
  • the comfort and wonder of one day entering heaven and eternity, a place God has prepared with no sickness or sorrow
    (e.g. death of our physical body causing us to pass from this life to the next).

All are expressions of God’s love, care and kindness towards a world that will continue to struggle against sickness and disease.

If you are sick today, I would encourage you to do whatever is available for you to do as provided by God through medical advancement and trust God to do what only He can do.

This will bring you great peace.

Phil

Me and one of the legends from our MND / ALS small group
Me and one of the legends from our MND / ALS small group

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