Thursday, June 22, 2017

Oh Death, Where is Thy Sting?

Corinthians 15:54-55
54When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come to pass: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 

Wendy and I biked our regular route along the beach yesterday, and came upon a stingray a fisherman had caught. He wanted to free the stingray from the fishhook but knew the stingray would only know the pain of the hook being removed, not the freedom that would result. Thus, the fisherman wedged the stingray's dangerous tail against the sand with his fishing pole as he removed the hook. Otherwise, the stingray would sting him and prevent the very act that would set the stingray free. Keep this image in mind for the rest of our day's story...

That morning, Wendy and I had been kayaking.  A dolphin surfaced right by our boats, and continued to play with us, surfacing near while we paddled and talked for a half hour.

Finally, he tired of his game and we wended our way back to the dock. My phone rang. It was my sister Amy in a panic. The nurse's aid had been unable to waken my mom. She was completely non-responsive. My sister was racing to the Assisted Living Home.

Wendy and I were stunned and distraught. "Let's pray," I said. Everyone knows one day death will come to all, but it is never something you are ready for. Crying, I closed my eyes and prayed. I prayed for the comfort of all who love mom, strength for Dad, and a miracle. I prayed that the truth and joy of Jesus would enter not only Mom's life but the lives of all my loved ones, that the travesty of separation might only be temporary. (That part is a continual prayer of my heart.) I prayed that somehow, God would make this all well.

I finished praying and Wendy said, "A dolphin surfaced here while you were praying."

That was a comfort, as though God had sent one of my favorite animals to remind me of His providence in all creation. Still, we paddled back to dock in numb, mournful silence. We returned to the condo, planning how we could get out to Tucson that day. I even had insurance on my flight to Tucson to visit in two weeks so I would be able to change the flight, and leave from Hilton Head.

When we got into the condo, we got a text from Amy: "All is well."

WHAT???? We had been certain Mom had died. ALL is well????

Mom's vitals were all completely normal, the complete unresponsiveness had inexplicably passed after a couple of hours. She was totally and miraculously WELL. They will be doing complete tests today but no one knows what caused it, and no one knows what made it go away. We talked to Mom in the afternoon. She sounded chipper and ALIVE.

I believe God sent a miracle. A reprieve was granted. He LOVES us. He would have not one of us perish and be separated from Him for all eternity. Death has no sting when our hope and trust is in the One who overcame death once and for all in Jesus dying for our sins and rising from the grave on our behalf.

Like the stingray who didn't know he was being saved by the fisherman, but only felt the humiliation of submission as he lay powerless on the sand, ALL of us must submit to Jesus as Lord if the sting of death is to be squashed once and for all. It may seem impossible...but it is THE way, THE truth, and THE life. The stingray had to submit or he would die at the hands of the very one who yearned to save him.

Right around the time as we were rejoicing in this unexpected wonder of wonders, I got a text from one of the moms I work with. She sent a photo of her baby from a 3-D ultrasound with one of Cities4Life partner ministry, Sweet Pea 3-D Imaging. Accompanied with the picture of the baby SMILING in utero, was this message:

I love her message. "Thank you for everything you stand for."  I stand for Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. I stand for life. I stand for victory over death, and triumph over sin. The prayer that is always in my heart is that everyone will stand with me. Every soul is precious to God. Every soul longs for eternity and redemption.

Hosea 13:14 
I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them …


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