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
Today's post was written by Rusty Wright.
Chinese student Chai Ling helped lead the massive 1989 demonstrations in Tiananmen Square that drew the world’s praise and her government’s wrath. Twice nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, today this Harvard MBA is a successful businesswoman who still risks persecution to bring reform to China. Her current activities might surprise you.
For weeks during spring 1989, global attention focused on massive protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Chai Ling says the protests were “for a better, freer, and more loving China. …We wanted to know the truth about our country, our lives, and our beliefs.”
Love, Hope, Dreams of Freedom
She recalls that “the whole country, and the whole world [were] touched by that energy of love, hope and…glorious dreams that we could be free. Free from hatred…violence…separation… fear.”
“Even the thieves in Beijing called a strike,” she notes, “and stopped stealing to support the movement.”
Government leaders reacted differently.
“When we offered [China’s leaders] love and peace,” observes Chai Ling, “they handed us death and massacre. None of us could believe it at first. How could I believe the People’s Liberation Army would kill its own people?”
“I grew up with them. They were uncles and aunties to me. We love them and they love us. … I raised my head to the sky and asked in silence, ‘Why? Why? Why? Why do they have to kill us for wanting to have a dialogue?’”
High on Communist leaders’ most-wanted list, Chai Ling escaped to Hong Kong in a wooden crate. Her planned eight-hour journey became four days of dark isolation. She eventually traveled to the United States.
She married, had a family, built a successful software company, and donated funds for Tiananmen victims in China. Upset with her activism, Chinese authorities threatened her and her family. Over time, telephone eavesdropping, a hacked computer and mysterious deaths of Tiananmen dissidents brought her confusion and panic.
Then a friend gave Chai a film based on the biblical Gospel of John. John records Jesus as saying, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) “Each time I watched the movie,” she recalls, “and heard the words of Christ, it brought an unexplainable sense of peace and calm into my burning heart.”
At a congressional hearing about China’s forced abortion practice, a victim said finding faith in God had sustained her. That woman’s story would influence Chai Ling’s personal and professional passions.
One afternoon in 2009, Chai knelt in her office and said a simple prayer: “Dear Lord, Jesus Christ, I now accept you as my Savior and my only God. Please forgive all my sins, known or unknown, please come into my heart and guide my life.” Expecting fireworks, instead she experienced “an amazing sense of peace.”
All Girls Allowed
As her faith grew, Chai found a strong desire to present God’s love to China’s leaders and nation. She found a new revolutionary cause, rescuing victims of China’s One-Child Policy and bringing dignity and respect to China’s women. She founded a nonprofit, All Girls Allowed, to help counter cultural preferences for male children that lead to abandoned female babies and aborted female fetuses.
Emphases include “ending gendercide, educating abandoned girls, rescuing trafficked children, defending mothers,” and celebrating “the work of God in bringing life, value and dignity to girls and mothers.” Her 2011 book, A Heart for Freedom, relates her journey and mission.
Definitely a revolutionary worth watching.
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
I spent a lot of years working in elementary and secondary schools. The schemes and ideas that students thought were fresh and new, I would see year after year. They thought they were being clever; I thought they were being kids. The one issue that was a constant is what I call “pushing the line”. Students wouldn’t necessarily cross a line that I had set, but they would always push it. Not so much that it would seem like a big problem, just enough to get a little more free time, do a little bit less work, or maybe get a few more marks. (To be honest, I often allowed time, after essential work was done, to do something fun but still subject-related, and I usually allowed some way for them to earn bonus marks on tests.) The problem is that once you allow the line to move a little bit, the students know it’s moveable. The next time it moves a little more, then a little more…. Before long, you can’t remember where the line used to be. The solution that I shared with my teacher candidates at the beginning of every year was to set your line where you’re comfortable with it, and don’t let the students move it. If you stick to it for the first month or two, they’ll realize it doesn’t move, and the rest of the school year will be much more pleasant.
I have known some Christians who treat God’s standards the same way. They try to push the line on whatever rules they have in their mind as “God’s rules”, taught by their parents, their church, their school, or even possibly the rules they have just imagined in their own minds. This often happens when young people leave home and go off to university or take what is now commonly known as a gap year. Things they didn’t do while they lived in their parents’ home, they can now make their own choices about. They try something, or a few things, for the first time. That wasn’t so bad. The sky didn’t fall. No one even had to know. But then the line moves. And before long they don’t remember where the line used to be.
So many of those things that they made choices about aren’t spelled out specifically in the Bible. The rules aren’t clear. What is a person to do? How much is okay? That is not the right way to approach the issue. The question should not be, “How far can I push the limits before God’s grace doesn’t apply to me anymore?” Our perspective should be, “God sacrificed His only Son. Jesus was willing to give His life to pay for all of my sins—past, present and future. What can I do to show God how grateful I am, how much I love Him?”
In Jesus’ last words to His disciples before He was arrested, tried and crucified, He said that He set Himself apart on behalf of His disciples, so that they may be truly set apart. (John 17:19) The word translated as “set apart” derives from the same word as sanctify, saint and holy. It means to be completed dedicated to God. Jesus was so dedicated to God that He was willing to suffer and die, so that we wouldn’t have to. Because He did, we can have the same status with our Heavenly Father that Jesus does. John 17:20 very clearly indicates that Jesus is praying this prayer on behalf of all who believe. Jesus prays that we will separate ourselves from the world and be one with Him just as He is one with the Father. (John 17:21)
If we want to do just enough to “get by”, we need only accept the gift of Christ’s sacrifice. Our soul and spirit will be sanctified—set apart and made holy by His effort. But we still make the choices of what we do with our body—our words, actions, attitudes. Do you love Jesus enough, appreciate Him enough, to want to glorify Him with what you do? To glorify Him means to make Him known to the world around us. Does the world see a difference in us, or are we giving in to the pressure to be just like them? Jesus set Himself apart so that we too may be truly set apart. (John 17:19)
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.
“What’s the ‘S’ stand for?” Lois Lane asks Superman in the new movie. “It’s not an ‘S’,” responds the Man of Steel. “On my world, it means ‘hope’.”
A symbol of hope for humanity: That’s how Man of Steel portrays the legendary hero.
There’s plenty of action and drama: General Zod, a villain from Krypton, warns Superman, “Surrender within 24 hours, or watch this world suffer the consequences” and appeals to earthlings to turn him in. The explosive action and special effects were so fast-paced in places that I found myself wishing it would slow down so I could take a breath.
There’s also light romance: Journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) kindle some sparks as she seeks to unlock his past.
But beyond the escapism, at its core the classic Superman story is about good vs. evil. This movie highlights sense of purpose: Young Clark’s adoptive earth father Jonathan (Kevin Costner) encourages his quest for identity: “You were sent here for a reason.”
There’s nobility and inspiration: Jor-El (Russell Crowe), predicts of his biological son Kal-El (Superman), whom he sends to earth from Krypton, “You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They’ll race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you…. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.”
There’s no Jimmy Olsen, no Kryptonite, but there is Daily Planet editor-in-chief Perry White (Laurence Fishburne). And there’s a motif that might surprise you.
Misinterpreting the Story?
When I first heard talk of biblical parallels in the Superman story, I thought that overzealous Christians were reading their biases into the popular tales. Then I looked deeper; they were right. Superman Returns (2006) clearly displayed biblical themes. Man of Steel is full of them.
CNN asked composer Hans Zimmer if there were any similarities between his two recent projects – Man of Steel and History Channel miniseries The Bible – “since both involve a savior figure (Jesus, Kal-el) sent by his father to Earth.”
“Yes,” Zimmer laughed. “Once you see Superman, you’ll see how close you are…. Both stories are passions…about a struggle to do the right thing.”
Jor-El views Superman as Earth’s savior: “You can save her [Lois]…you can save all of them.”
Public-rejection concerns accompany both figures. Kal-El’s biological mother worries, “He’ll be an outcast. They’ll kill him.“ “How?” replies Jor-El. “He’ll be a god to them.”
The adult Clark recalls, “My [adoptive] father believed that if the world found out who I really was, they’d reject me. He was convinced that the world wasn’t ready.”
Jesus, of course, got a mixed reception. His close friend recalled, “He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” (John 1:11-13)
As for Superman’s public reception…well, I don’t want to spoil this movie for you. One could make a game of seeing how many biblical parallels you can find. (I’ve only mentioned a few here.) And you might want to consider some life insights from what you’ll find there, too.
Man of Steel is a fun film, simple in plot but deep in theme as it taps profound human desires for self-identity, purpose and hope. “Hope” is especially timely in our world filled with nuclear rogues, homeland terrorists, devastating disease, and financial uncertainty.
But in real life, absent some trustworthy basis for lasting hope, are we all just whistling in the dark?
Paul, a first-Century General Zod (of sorts) who became Jesus’ follower, wrote: “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope….” (Romans 15:13)
Film is “rated PG-13 [USA] for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language.”
Man of Steel opens June 14, 2013 in USA, Canada and UK. Worldwide Release Dates throughout June.
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
I love to go to Christian conferences, partly because I love to learn and to see things from fresh perspectives, but I also love to meet new people who are already sisters and brothers in Christ. Even if our opinions on some matters differ, we are all on pretty much the same wavelength. Our beliefs are similar enough that even though we may have never met before, we are like family. Being with them gives me encouragement in my faith, knowing I am not alone. That is not true for us in every environment we enter, and it was not at all the reality for Jesus’ disciples. There were such a small number of people who were followers of Christ while He walked the earth, and so many more who followed the religious leaders of the day or who were heathens, that the disciples faced a lot of doubt, criticism and persecution.
Before Jesus was arrested and crucified, He prayed for His disciples. Jesus knew that because His disciples had believed in Him, the world would hate them. So Jesus prayed that the Heavenly Father would protect them. John 17:15 tells us that Jesus did not ask God to protect them by taking them out of the world, but that He would protect them while they stayed in the world. That did not mean that the disciples would not face physical harm or discomfort. We know that they did, but Jesus' prayer was that their souls would be protected from Satan for eternity. Jesus had a purpose for His disciples to be in the world and not isolated from it. He wanted them to represent Him and His Word to those around them. He wanted them to spread His love, joy, grace and truth to others. That purpose and Jesus’ prayer still apply to us today. John 17:20 includes us if we believe in Him.
I think sometimes we expect that if we follow Christ our lives should be comfortable and full of blessings, and so we are always disappointed or frustrated when the opposite happens. We should not expect life to be easy, but we can expect God to give us the strength we need to face it. Are you being criticized by others for your beliefs? Do those people represent Jesus or the world? If they represent the world, do not try to win their approval. Instead, represent Jesus in a way that will glorify God, and trust Him to protect you from the evil one.
Here we are a week into the new year. Is it really a happy one for you? For some there have been almost inconceivable blessings; for others, it has been one frustration after another. Others are just getting back into the work and school routine after the holidays. Either they are feeling a little let down, or they are thankful to get back to “normal” life. Whatever the circumstances of our lives are, they will almost certainly be affecting our perception of whether or not this is going to be a Happy New Year. And most of us have probably realized by now that we truly have very little control over those circumstances. Sure we can make plans and work hard to try to control our lives, but there will always be events that are beyond our ability to manage and which will influence our degree of happiness.
But what of Jesus’ promise that our joy would be full? (John 15:11) First we need to realize that joy and happiness are not the same thing. Happiness is an emotional reaction to circumstances. According to Kay Warren, author of Joy: Because Happiness Isn’t Enough, “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.”
Second, we need to look more closely at the context of that promise. This verse comes very soon after the parable of the vine and the branches, in which Jesus teaches us to abide in Him. It comes directly after Jesus tells us that He loves us just as the Father loves Him, and instructs us to remain in His love. (John 15:9) Then He tells us that the way to remain in His love is to obey His commandments (John 15:10), and that His commandment is to love each other the same way that He loves us. (John 15:12). So many people who don’t know Jesus think that following His commands would make life tedious, and would take all the fun out of living. Jesus promises just the opposite. Abiding in Him, loving Him and each other, this is what will make our joy complete.
According to Google Maps, the distance from Cana to Capernaum, on currently existing roads, is 37.4 kilometres (23.2 miles). Google suggests that you can walk it in 7 hours and 40 minutes, but warns that “this route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths”. I don’t know about you, but I think that I would have trouble keeping up a 5 km/hour (3 mph) pace for 7 hours and 40 minutes even in the most ideal conditions. This route is in mountainous terrain, and Capernaum is approximately 200 metres (700 feet) below sea level. Even Google Maps realizes that it will take longer to go from Capernaum to Cana than the other way around, and estimates that the same route up will take 8 hours and 19 minutes. They do offer other routes, but each requires going around Mount Arbel.
When Jesus had returned to Cana after His time in Samaria, a royal official with a sick son was desperate enough to see Jesus that he made the trip up from Capernaum to find Him. Some people read the Biblical account of this event (John 4:46-54) and think, based on what Jesus said regarding the people not believing without seeing signs and wonders (John 4:48), that this royal official had no faith. I think that if he left the his family’s side during this uncertain and difficult time, he had to have had some faith, imperfect though it was. What is not evident in all English translations is that the you in John 4:48 is plural. It wasn’t just the man that Jesus was speaking to, but the crowd. The father with the sick child had enough faith to realize that Jesus could help him, but did not understand that He had the power to do so from a distance or even after the child died.
Jesus could have gone with the man and healed his son in person, but He chose not to perform this miracle publicly. If He had gone home with the official, surely a crowd would have followed to witness it. But Jesus is not limited to healing only those in His presence, and so He healed the boy from a distance, and required the official to choose to have faith in His word (John 4:50), rather than a visible sign. What a difficult choice for that anxious father. After all, he couldn’t just call home, or even run home, and check to see if Jesus was telling the truth. He had to choose to believe or not believe.
People today also ask for proof that God is really God. They want to see signs, but God won’t always give them. As Jesus said to Thomas, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing.” (John 20:29) Interestingly, those who choose to believe first, often get to see and understand later, just as the royal official did. Some things are made clear to those who are willing to see, and some things will have to wait until we are permitted to know fully. (I Corinthians 13:12) The choice is yours though. If you refuse to believe, if you fight against believing, don’t expect God to make understanding easy for you. He requires us to have faith.
This post was inspired by a sermon by Rev. Danny Smith of Middleton Baptist Church.
For the last couple of weeks I have been talking about various aspects of the passage of scripture found in John 15:1-17. Two weeks ago I spoke about John 15:13, and how the greatest act of love is to give up your life for another. Last week I spoke about abiding, remaining, in Jesus. (John 15:4-5)
This passage is the one in which Jesus tells the parable of the vine and the branches. The concept of healthy vines would have been very familiar to Jesus’ listeners, since growing grapes was a common agricultural activity, and it would not have been the first time that the vine was used as an allegory. Just as it is necessary for a branch to be connected to a vine to survive and bear fruit, we need to be connected to Jesus in order to bear spiritual fruit, to do things that will bring glory to our Heavenly Father. In order to bear the best fruit though, we must go through the pruning process.
The term translated as “takes away” (John 15:2) can also have the meaning of “lifts up”. If a branch was not producing fruit as it should, the gardener would lift it up to get more air and light and would prune away the dead wood of the branch. The word translated as “prunes” (John 15:2) has the meaning of “cleanses”. Pruning is not limited to cleaning away the bad parts of the branch; it also sometimes requires removing good parts to allow for better, and removing better parts to allow for the best. When our Heavenly Father, as our gardener, cleanses parts of our lives by changing our circumstances, it is because He has a better plan for us. He is helping us to produce not only more fruit, but much fruit, (John 15:5) fruit that will have lasting spiritual value, and will glorify God.