Friday, May 31, 2013

When's Your Appointment?

"" is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment..."
Hebrews 9:27

I can't believe we finished 6th grade today!
Where does the time go?
We packed everything away in a box,
and I opened the box of curriculum we ordered for next year.
It is amazing how different 7th grade is from 6th.
A whole new level.

Peeking into the workbooks kind of terrified me.
Zach got overwhelmed and left the room!

Then, I realized...we don't have to do this today.
There is a three month break in between today
and the day we actually have to begin 7th grade....
along with all of its intimidation and trepidation.

I sat there reflecting backwards over the past 7 years of homeschooling Zach.
How I praise God for every moment...
every single one...
even the tear-filled, frustrated ones.
He has cried.
I have cried.
We have prayed together...begging God to help us through.
It is a daily adventure.
No two days are alike.

When you have been out of school as long as I have,
you tend to forget....
especially those wonderful, mandatory things they make you learn,
even though you never use the information ever again in your whole life.
It is a learning, or at least knowledge-refreshing, experience for well as Zach.

We have made it this far.
Through God's amazing grace.
It occurred to me back in December that we are halfway done.
Halfway done??
Halfway across...the bridge from Kindergarten to 12th grade?

How it happened this fast, I cannot say.
Day kind of blends into day, and then all at once, we are ending another school year,
and we are another year older.

Everyone knows that in order to graduate,
one has to complete the necessary 13 years of school.
So, at any given moment, we can gauge exactly where we are,
and how much farther we still need to go to reach our goal....
on the other side.

We can complete lesson planning,
stay right on track, 
keep up with everything, 
and measure how far we've come...
and how many more years we still need to complete.

I wonder how it would be if life were that way?
What if when we were born, there was an expiration date 
imprinted or embedded on the bottom of our tiny, little foot, 
giving our parents the exact date and moment we would leave this world?
What if when we got old enough to understand,
we were given this tidbit of information?
Think about it.
How would it affect the way we live our lives?
If you knew you were nearing the end,
what would you do differently right now?

If you knew your spouse's expiration date was coming up...
or your mother's, father's, sibling's, friend's, or other loved one's,
how would it affect the way you treat and interact with them?

What if there were an alarm that went off, a few days ahead of time,
alerting us to the fact that the number of our days was running out, 
and we would soon reach the finish line?

What if your alarm sounded....right now?
What if it said something like this,
"Attention....Attention.....your moment of death is approaching.
This is a friendly reminder.
Please take this opportunity to make any needed changes to prepare for eternity.
Now is the time to make your peace with God,
make necessary apologies,
pay unpaid debts of gratitude,
forgive unforgiven wrongs,
release grudges,
say unsaid "I love yous".
Please use these moments to search your more time...just to make sure.
This is your last warning.
You must take heed.
Once you're gone, you're gone.
You will soon enter the realm of your eternal destination.
You will not return,
nor will you be able to change locations once you arrive.
Please do what you need to insure a comfortable eternity."

I can just hear the automated, female voice.
Friendly, but firm.
Gentle, but stern....
enough so to send shivers up and down the spine....
of the one being spoken to.

Obviously, this is not possible.
We aren't born knowing when we will die, 
nor will an alarm sound alerting us to the fact that our number is coming up.
We only know one thing.
We will die.
Every single one of us.
Some of us sooner than later.
If you don't believe it, 
pay a visit to any roadside cemetery.

Walk in.
Take some time.
Look at the names...and dates...and remind yourself that beneath the sod,
lies the physical remains of people....who lived and loved and breathed....
just like you...and and love and breathe.

They live no more.

Leaving this world by means of death is a cold, hard fact of life.
Mom used to tell me that none of us come here to stay always,
and she often reminded me that none of us know how far across the river of life we are.

This is why it pays to be prepared.

I have always been reflective and am, by nature, a deep thinker. 
I often find myself pondering profound, eternity-associated thoughts,
but never have I done this more so than since Mom died.

I don't know why, but for some reason, it has made eternity and death a lot more real to me.
Mom was the type of person I just thought would never die.
I mean, I knew she reality.
But, it was just hard to comprehend. 
Mom was resilient.
She was the strongest woman I have personally ever known.
She overcame incredible odds and difficulties to live to the ripe old age of 84.
She always bounced back.
So, when she died, it hit me doubly hard.
I just couldn't absorb the fact that she was gone.

Sometimes, I still can't.

Seeing this reality unfold in front of my eyes,
has made me ever more aware of my own mortality.

I don't think anyone, anywhere loves life more than I do.
But, as much as I cherish every moment, 
as much as I embrace every occasion,
as much as I treasure every opportunity,
I realize that one day it will all come to an end.

My expiration moment will come up,
and then I will pass off the scene....
just like Dad,
just like Mom,
just like everyone else who has gone before me.

In some ways, I kind of wish I knew when it would be.
In other ways, I am extremely grateful that I have no idea.

It is the "not knowing when" that makes it so unpredictable.
Only God knows how long any of us will live and breathe.
He holds the keys to life and death and all matters.

If death were the end, it wouldn't really matter, would it?
If we just laid these bodies down,
were buried,
and that was it,
it wouldn't really matter how we lived life...while here.

But, something happens after death.
There is an appointment....unlike any other.
This life is filled with appointments....
corporate meetings,
dentist appointments,
doctor appointments,
parent-teacher conferences,
training sessions,
lunch and dinner dates....
you name it.
Appointments are a huge component of life.
Any of them can be easily changed.
We can pick up the phone and re-schedule,
call in sick,
or cancel...any and every appointment in this life.
We aren't coerced or forced into keeping any of them.

Not so with the appointment of death...or what comes after.

" is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment..."

This "judgment" will be our moment of reckoning....
our instant of accountability....
in which we will give account of every deed we have done in this body...
in this life.

It is easy to lose sight of this...while life is full....
health is abundant....
blood is flowing....
heart is pumping.

It is easy to live like there is no tomorrow.
No life after death.
No God to face.

But, in reality, there is....a tomorrow.
Never-ending life after death.
An Almighty, Creator God to face.

So, it does we live....
what we do...while here.

Not only because we are going to be judged, 
but also because there are others walking behind us...
dropping their feet into the prints we leave behind.

I don't know about you, but these facts affect me.
They make me continuously aware....
of the seriousness of this life.

I want to get it right.
There is only one way to do this.
Only one Way to make it happen.

Remember the devotional from the other day called "the nature within"?

I have pondered it so many times since then.
I have thought it over and repeatedly come to a grateful conclusion.
I am eternally thankful that the God Who created us with a free will 
to opt to give in to and follow the sinful nature within,
also made a way for us to be delivered and cleansed from all sin...
both committed and inbred....
and fitted to live holy in this life.
To live a life that will insure an eternal place in Heaven,
after that final, unchangeable, uncancellable, unpostponable appointment.

Jesus died to forgive, cleanse, and remove all sin.
He paid the price God required.
He satisfied the debt...that you and I racked up.
He chose to bestow the most amazing gift of all.
It is called grace.

It means "the unmerited, unearned favor of God".

It means that if we receive His gift,  
we can live this life in such a way that God will be pleased.
We don't have to give in to the nature within.
We can choose to follow Christ and through His indwelling presence,
we can overcome every, single day of life....
in no way through our own strength,
but totally and completely through His.

Since we have no way of knowing our date of expiration,
wouldn't you agree that it would be best to play it safe,
since there is no preceding alarm to let us know it is approaching?
Wouldn't it be wise to just stay prepared?

There is absolutely no reason for anyone to leave this world unprepared to meet God.
There is no reason for anyone to live in constant fear, 
wondering when they will draw their last breath of life.
There is no reason for anyone to remain shackled to the chains of sin...
cumbered with a guilty conscience....
bound to the shame of continual submission to the nature within.

Jesus made a way, my friend.
For all of us.
Regardless of who we are...or what we've done.

"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, 
as some men count slackness; 
but is longsuffering to us-ward, 
not willing that any should perish, 
but that all should come to repentance."
2 Peter 3:9

Did you catch that key phrase...
"not willing that any should perish"?

That includes you.
And me.
No matter what.

You don't have to keep living life under bondage to the nature within.
You don't have to be afraid to die.
You don't have to sit around in fear, dreading the moment your number comes up.

You can be set free!
You can be changed! matter who you are or what you've done...
are not without hope.
You can actually look forward, with bright anticipation,
to the moment you leave this world.
You can be that sure.
Then it won't matter.
You will walk free...happy....ready at all times.
Because Jesus' blood is just that powerful.
It can cleanse the deepest stain,
and it can enable you to stay clean....
all the way up to the moment of your appointment.

My gratitude for the sacrifice Jesus made for me
 is something I do not know how to put into words.
I am beyond thankful that I accepted His invaluable, amazing gift of grace,
and that His blood is applied to my heart.
All glory be to Him that my heart is washed free from sin.

Time and life goes by so quickly.
I am 46.
It is an age when you realize, in all likelihood, 
that at least half of your life is over and past....
already lived.
"Middle-age"....I find it so hard to believe that I have crossed its threshold!
But, I'm here.
I will never be 20 again...
or 30...
or 40.
I am here, and I wonder sometimes....
how much longer do I really have?
How much longer do you??
When is your appointment?

Since we have no way of knowing the answers,
I pray we live ready to go.
I pray we don't waste a minute.
Not one.
Because every one of them is precious.

I have never seen it more clearly than I do right now.
I hope you see it, too.

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