May you be blessed this Easter!
Long-time readers of this blog will know that Rusty Wright has contributed many articles to it over the years. Some have been co-written by his wife Meg Korpi. I was very sad to learn that Meg has passed away after suffering with cancer for the last few years. Today's post is a tribute to her, written by Rusty, and shared with permission.
Recently, when my wife, Meg Korpi, was dying of cancer, a longtime friend offered some advice I'm really glad I heeded.
"Hutch" Hutchins told me I should write a tribute, expressing what she's meant to me and how much I love her. I should frame it, give it to her, and read it to her personally.
Meg was on home hospice care after a three-and-a-half-year struggle with ovarian cancer. I was her primary caregiver – a demanding, 24/7 responsibility – and was reeling with exhaustion. But his advice clicked. I read the tribute to her on May 21, our 16th anniversary.
It had a very positive effect…calming, soothing. She seemed at peace, contented, with brightened spirits. It was one of her last lucid days before dying a month later.
Tribute to a rare jewel
Meg was a rare jewel. In her wedding vows, she had said she wanted me to feel like "the most blessed man alive to be married to" her. I did. In this tribute, I told her that in her, God gave me:
• A gorgeous bundle of fun, adventure, character, and faith
• A godly woman who walks closely with Him
• A faithful friend – my very best friend – and companion
• A keen mind to help me think through life's sometimes perplexing issues
• A wise counselor with sound advice at crucial junctures
• A determined spirit to prompt me to reconsider my course when needed
• A sweet lover (Whew!)
• A fun woman, whose sense of humor brings delight. I love to laugh with you!
Thank you so, so much for loving me unconditionally; for honoring and respecting me; for caring and encouraging; for listening to my heart; for sharing my joys and hurts; for looking out for my interests; for being there through good times and bad; for facing life with me as long as we both shall live.
I love you very much, and am eternally grateful to be your husband.
* * *
Lots of laughter
We loved to laugh. As world travelers, sometimes we laughed about language translation complexities.
60 Minutes television veteran Mike Wallace, speaking through an interpreter, once asked former Russian president Boris Yeltsin if he weren't being a bit "thin skinned" in his sensitivity to media criticism. The interpreter goofed, telling Yeltsin that Wallace had said, "You are a thick-skinned hippopotamus."
Shortly after we married, a speaker at a Miami meeting I attended told of efforts to translate a biblical love poem into the language of a Kenyan tribe. The phrase, "Your beauty is like that of the lily," did not connect with the rural East Africans, for whom lilies were mere cattle fodder. Their culture highly esteemed the cow, not the flower. On the advice of tribesmen, the translators rendered the romantic phrase: "You are a black cow in a herd of spotted cattle."
The speaker relating this tale suggested I use that compliment on my new bride, without explanation. Since Meg was returning to California from Philadelphia that evening, I left the cryptic greeting on our home answering machine. A few hours later, my Miami phone rang. Her first words: "And you are a thick-skinned hippopotamus!"
Most important lesson
At her memorial celebration, I presented all this, then briefly noted a conviction we shared deeply, the most important thing I’ve ever learned. I'm indebted in many ways to my Jewish friends and their heritage for it.
One ancient Hebrew book describes Job, who, despite his slew of troubles, affirmed, "I know that my Redeemer lives." (Job 19:25) That gave him hope.
A skeptic in my youth, I didn't believe my Redeemer lived. I thought it was a fairy tale. Then, my first year at Duke, I heard a lecture about Jesus' Resurrection evidences, given by Bob Prall, who later became my mentor. Jesus was executed and declared dead, wrapped like a mummy, placed in a tomb. A huge stone covered the tomb's entrance, which Roman soldiers guarded. Most of his disciples fled in fear.
Sunday morning, the stone was rolled away, the tomb was empty, but the grave clothes were still in place. Jesus appeared alive. Frightened disciples became martyrs because they believed he had risen.
Attempts to explain this away didn't work for me. The guard was too powerful, the stone too heavy, the disciples too timid. I realized it was true. Jesus had successfully predicted his own Resurrection. If I could trust him in areas like this where I could test him, I had grounds for trusting him in areas where I couldn't test him, such as eternal life and how to obtain it. He said, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die." (John 11:25)
Is it comforting to me that I'll see Meg again and spend eternity with God? Absolutely. But it's only comforting because I believe the evidence indicates it's also true. If it weren't true, it wouldn't be comforting.
I realize this is a controversial subject, and you may not agree. If you've not examined the Resurrection evidences, may Meg and I gently and politely encourage you to take a look? Lots of good books and websites present them. Our own site – which Meg designed and built – also presents them. RustyWright.com
We know our Redeemer lives. We hope you can as well.
And…I love you, Sweetheart.
* * *
You can visit Lasting Memories for more on this remarkable woman, including a lovely 5½ - minute memorial presentation of Meg's life (images and music; put together by several family members).
Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com
Christians suffer all around the world for no reason other than their Christian beliefs. Even in countries where religious freedom is a part of the law, as in Canada and the United States, Christians can be bullied, tormented and even killed by those who have differing opinions. There are some people who believe that if you don’t believe the same way they do, you don’t have the right to work, speak or even live. It’s not always that way, but there are many cases in which it is. To be honest, Christians haven’t always been the most gracious towards others with differing beliefs either, and some could really benefit by following Jesus’ example a little more closely. Ideally, differing beliefs should be the basis for reasoned debate rather than violence, but unfortunately we don’t live in an ideal world. (Genesis 6:11-12)
That is why I don’t believe that Peter, in I Peter 3:13, thought that followers of Christ would remain unharmed simply by always doing what is good. Peter had already seen suffering among Christ’s followers, and of course he had witnessed the torture and crucifixion of Christ Himself. I believe what is meant by Peter’s words in this verse is that what happens on this Earth is not the last word. I Peter 3:14 supports that by saying that if you do in fact suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Jesus said something very similar during His sermon from the mountain: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.” (Matthew 5:10) Paul also knew this to be true. Paul started out as one of the most successful persecutors of Christians; his name was Saul then. (Acts 8:1-2) But after Jesus revealed Himself to Saul, (Acts 9:1-9) and changed his name to Paul, Paul suffered much for the sake of Christ. (Acts 9:16, II Corinthians 11:24-27) And yet, Paul was the one who said that nothing, nothing, could separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:31-39)
Jesus Himself promised us that in this life we would face suffering (John 16:33), but He also told us to have courage because He has already conquered the world. He has already been declared the winner. Anything we encounter on this Earth is just temporary, and it cannot harm our eternal souls. Knowing that fact should help us to follow the advice in the second half of I Peter 3:14, the same advice that was given to Judah in Isaiah 8:12 from which Peter is quoting: Do not be afraid, and do not be shaken.
Have you been watching the Olympic Games? I have. I am constantly impressed by the drive and determination of these athletes. Their ability to keep going against the odds--age, injury, weather and course conditions, broken equipment--that make most people think they don't have a hope, is inspiring.
Mark McMorris, a slopestyle snowboarder, competed with a broken rib. He won the first medal of the games for Canada.
Marie-Michèle Gagnon, a skier, also from Canada, dislocated her shoulder in the middle of a race. She popped it back in right there on the ski hill, made it to the bottom and was sent off in an ambulance for some medical attention. She tweeted later that night that she would be back for her next race.
Noriaki Kasai, a ski jumper from Japan, competing in his seventh Olympic Games, won his second silver medal twenty years after his first. He is 41 years old. Among his competition was an 18 year old rising star from Germany. In the finals' weather conditions, experience won out. Kasai is determined to return for the Games in Korea. He is still after that gold.
The Apostle Paul knew that his readers would understand the analogy of an Olympic race when he used it in his letter to the Corinthians. (I Corinthians 9:24-27) And even if we have never competed in a sport, watching these games gives us an opportunity to see the discipline it requires. Even if it is a sport that we do not enjoy or understand, we can see the dedication of the participants. It is that example that Paul wants us to follow; he wants us to exercise self-control, as though we were training for an Olympic event. I'm sure he would want us to not give in to our natural desires to be lazy or to eat food that doesn't contribute to making us stronger, but he is more concerned with the state of our spiritual health. He wants us to discipline our actions so that when we tell others about Jesus they will have no cause to criticize us. (Titus 2:7-8) He wants us to give everything that we have within us for the sake of God's kingdom, because he knows that this life is just temporary. We are not striving to be the best in order to win a piece of inscribed metal. We are fighting for people's eternal souls. (I Corinthians 9:25)
Spiritual discipline, also known as self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) is not entirely achievable in our own strength. It is a fruit of the Spirit. That means that in order to improve it, we have to have the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is not just a matter of following the rules or going through the motions of training. Bible reading and prayer are vital to gaining spiritual strength, but without the Holy Spirit we will not succeed. Thankfully God's Spirit is available to all who invite Him in. Don't hesitate to ask for His help in developing your self-control so that you may run the race to win a prize that will last through all eternity.
Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. A dream where people of all backgrounds would be considered equal despite the colour of their skin. He gave his famous “I have a dream” speech 50 years ago today. The “I have a dream” segment is the best remembered and most quoted part of his speech, despite the fact that there was no reference to it in his written draft. Having been advised against including it because he had used that material before and it was cliché, he chose not to include it. So when he changed his mind in the middle of his speech, that section had to be completely ad-libbed.
Although I’m sure Mr. King would be pleased to see that our society has made some progress since then, I don’t think he would yet be satisfied. Fifty years ago he said, “No, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” I think he would still have a dream, a dream for true freedom. Mr. King elaborated on what his vision of freedom looked like. His vision included unity and justice, safety from violence, and relief from oppression. He also dreamed that one day “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together”. This was his hope and the faith that he would take back home with him to face the challenges which would continue or perhaps even be intensified after this one day demonstration of solidarity at the nation’s Capitol.
I think it is unlikely that we will ever see everyone living in the freedom that Mr. King envisioned. That certainly doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive for it, but I believe that the only true freedom is eternal freedom, and it is only available through Jesus. I have discussed in previous posts (July 4, 2011, March 2, 2012) that when Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32), the truth He was referring to was Himself. In John 8:36, we are given further assurance. If we accept the truth offered in Jesus we shall be really free, truly free. That doesn’t mean that we will be above the law of the land (I Peter 2:13), but that we will be free from the bondage to sin. Free from the eternal penalty we deserve because of sin. Free from the need to find approval in the ever-changing beliefs of society. Free from the fear of death. Yes, we should make our time on Earth the best we can, upholding justice, helping our neighbours, and sharing God’s love. But we should also focus on eternity. Eternal freedom comes through Jesus, and we can have it starting right now.
I wrote last week that our hardships serve a purpose and that God can bring good from our suffering. I wrote that God wants us to focus on what matters for eternity. Did I really believe that when I wrote it? This week has certainly tested that. Someone I’ve known for most of my life, and all of his, was killed in a car crash on Friday night. It all happened in an instant. No one had a chance to say good-bye. No one had a chance to resolve differences. No one had a last chance to say I love you. We are never guaranteed those opportunities. We are not promised tomorrow.
I had already picked this week’s verse (Psalm 121:1-2) before I finished last week’s post. Last week was about suffering and hardships. This week I would talk about looking to God to be the source of our help, trusting Him to be our provider and protector. The only thing is that as I look back now, last week’s hardships seem so minimal, while this week life itself seems so fragile.
Psalm 121 talks about our Creator not allowing our foot to slip, not allowing the sun to harm us by day or the moon to harm us by night. The Lord will protect us from all harm. He will protect our life. He will protect us in all we do now and forevermore. (Psalm 121:3, 6, 7, 8). The Lord never goes off duty; He does not slumber or sleep. (Psalm 121:4) How do we reconcile that with all the tragedy in the world? With the fact that a life can be taken in an instant?
I believe two things are true. First I believe that if we specifically ask for protection of our physical bodies in the circumstances we face day by day, God will protect us, unless His larger purpose will be served by allowing our suffering. Secondly, I believe that the protection which is promised in this Psalm is the protection of our souls. Everything about our life on this earth is temporary. What matters for eternity is the condition of our soul. Turn to God and trust Him to protect that for eternity. Since we are not promised tomorrow, please take time to consider this today.
I have often mentioned in my posts that in this world we can expect to have trouble; the Bible tells us so in John 16:33. That may be a bit difficult to accept if you are a perfectionist, an idealist, or someone who has a heightened sense of justice, and does not want to accept that injustice takes place and especially that it frequently goes unpunished. I fit into that category. So I can relate to Asaph, as he laments in Psalm 73 that the wicked seem to prosper. And oh, how unfair that seems!
Asaph was a Levite, from the family of priests, and a musician in the tabernacle. He would have had extensive religious training, and yet even he succumbed to envy. He envied that things seem to go so well for those who were immoral. The old adage that cheaters never prosper is untrue. Cheaters very often prosper, and that made Asaph wonder why he worked so hard to do the right thing. It didn’t seem to be getting him anywhere. Don’t we often feel the same way? We envy those who seem to be happier, who seem to have more luxuries and fewer struggles, who seem to have more friends and fun times. I wonder if their lives look as good from their own points of view, since it is likely that we don’t know all the things they are facing that they keep to themselves.
Thankfully Asaph didn’t write this psalm until he got through his time of doubt. (Psalm 73:15) What turned his thoughts around? He went into God’s temple. (Psalm 73:17) He started to look at things from an eternal perspective. He realized that the struggles we face are temporary in the light of eternity. The wicked may have the advantage now, but doing right in God’s eyes was more important, and would bring its own reward. Asaph realized that his envy was foolish and senseless. And he knew that God was all he needed. God would be there for him when Asaph went through times of weakness. (Psalm 73:25-26)
Who do you turn to when you feel like things aren’t going your way? When you start to envy the advantages of those who don’t follow God’s ways? Do you always turn to a friend or a loved one? Do you ask yet another imperfect person for advice? Try turning to God. You will find that He is enough if you trust Him to be enough. Seek Him first, and everything else will work out. (Matthew 6:33)
Regular readers of this blog will probably have noticed that I have been away for a few weeks. I have been quite ill, and I would like to thank my guest authors for filling in the gap while I was unable to write. It started out as a pretty average illness, but a reaction to medication made it quite serious. I honestly thought I might die. That’s the kind of feeling that tends to change your perspective on life, and make you think about eternity.
I believe that James was trying to teach a similar lesson in James 1:9-11. He says that the poor should take pride in their high position, and the rich should take pride in their low position. That is not to say that either are necessarily in the position they are in because of the amount of money or material possessions that they have. The point is that those who have little money tend to put their trust in God, while those who are wealthy face the temptation of putting their trust in their own riches and their own ability to control things. Unfortunately that is a false hope, because we truly do not have control over what happens to us. Yes, there are some aspects of our lives that we control; we do have the power to make wise or unwise choices that can affect our future, but there is a large part of our lives than can be affected by outside forces as well. Anything could happen at any moment that would change our life forever, or end it instantly.
The Bible is not against having wealth, but it is against making it a priority in our lives and trusting in it for our salvation from the trials that we face. The Bible tells us that God can provide for any need that we may have. (Matthew 6:19-34, Luke 12:29-32) God wants us to trust in Him, and to be men and women of strong character. He does not look at our outward appearance or at our possessions, but at our heart. (I Samuel 16:7) We need to make sure that our hearts are wholly devoted to Him, and then we will be ready for eternity.
Have you ever noticed that many people seem to focus on what is bad in their lives instead of what is good? Maybe that’s because we keep trying to fix the bad; that’s the part of our lives that needs the work. If we’re not trying to fix it (perhaps because we know that it is beyond our ability to change the situation), we may be trying to understand the reason for it. But all this dwelling on the negative only succeeds in depressing us. Maybe that is the reason that the power of positive thinking has been a topic of self-help books for years—for at least a century that I know about.
Despite the benefits of thinking about the positive aspects, we know that doing so won’t solve all of our problems. In this world we will have trouble. (John 16:33) The Apostle Paul (who also encouraged positive thinking in Philippians 4:8) knew more trouble than most of us will ever encounter, (II Corinthians 11:24-27) so he had some authority to speak on the subject. After careful consideration of all of his hardships, and the troubles faced by fellow Christians, Paul concluded that the glory that will be revealed to us when Christ returns, far outweighs anything that we are facing now. (Romans 8:18) The word that is translated as consider in this verse means to compute or to calculate. It’s not just a passing thought; Paul weighed both sides on a balance and determined that the value of the coming glory would make the present seem as nothing.
We are currently in a state where our soul is redeemed (or can be if we choose to accept God’s gift of grace), but our body is not yet. We are in a race that we must finish before we can fully know the glory that is in store for us. We can, however, draw strength for the course by having our outlook on life shaped by the Holy Spirit instead by our earthly desires. (Romans 8:5) If we, instead of dwelling on our troubles, will put our focus on eternity, it will not only help us to do the more important things in life, but will also help us to see that our present sufferings are temporary and small in comparison to the glory and restoration (Revelation 21:4) that we will enjoy forever.
Most Christians, whether they actually practise it or not, would tell you that we are supposed to give 10% of our money, a tithe, to God. We think of it as our money, and by giving 10% we are either fulfilling an obligation (like paying a tax) or we are being generous and giving to charity. Financial expert and author Michel Bell would tell you that it is all God’s money, and we are just managing it while we are here on this earth.
The Clever Steward in Luke 16:1-9 was doing something very similar. He was the manager of his master’s household and was in charge of managing his master’s finances. But the manager started acting as if he were the owner and used the money for his own benefit. The master found out and fired him. What was that manager going to do now? Who would hire him? He was used to having a desk job, so he didn’t think that his back could take doing manual labour, and he certainly didn’t want people to think he was poor, so he didn’t want to beg. He had to come up with an idea fast, and so he did. He went to the people who owed his master money, and made deals with them. He cut one person’s debt in half, and another’s by 20%. I can’t imagine that the master was going to settle for a lower amount, so I believe that the manager paid the difference. This accomplished two things. He arranged for the master to get his money back more quickly, and he also won some friends by charging them less. That meant that when he was jobless there would be people willing to help him out. His master commended him for shrewd actions. His master certainly wasn’t commending him for his dishonesty. That is why he fired him in the first place.
What does Jesus want us to learn from this? I’m sure He doesn’t want us to imitate the manager’s bad qualities—dishonesty, selfishness and pride. But the manager had some good qualities too. He was quick-thinking, decisive and focused on his future; he knew that he could make use of his money to win friends. If we were to focus on our future, it would include eternity. Jesus is telling us that we need to use our wealth in ways that will reach people for Him. Instead of spending it on things that have no eternal value, we could buy Bibles, take missions trips, or support organizations that are already working to further the Kingdom. The more people who are saved because of our use of money, the more friends we will have in our eternal home.