Friday, September 09, 2005

Losing a loved one...

This past Sunday night, my oldest brother passed away. He had a heart attack several months ago, one that was so bad the doctor's said his heart was only 17 percent functional. But by the power of God he survived and stymied the doctors.

This all sounds kind of standard stuff that you would expect from a story like this one. A last minute miracle, a family in crisis... I know at least I've heard it a few hundred times. But I want to look at what really happened for a minute. I've turned it over in my mind for quite a while now, so I want to share some of what I've gleaned.

First of all, my brother didn't remember any of what happened to him. Some of my friends from church had become adept at pointing out that "God did this to show your brother his power", but the only people who saw that power was the family. They saw him defy the odds, even improving in certain areas where the doctors and nurses said he should be dying. They saw his arm, which had grown infected, actually getting better while he was supposedly dying. They saw him respond to them calling out his name when he should have been totally unresponsive...

The family saw all of that, but my brother remembered none of it.

He was also, at least in many of the family's estimates, not a christian. So the first thing they did when he was conscious again was to tell him about the big "miracle" that he had experienced; the miracle that he couldn't remember. They were at a loss as to how to convert him, it would seem, until my little brother and some members of his church went to his room at the nursing home where he was staying came and preached the gospel to him.

See, it wasn't the "miracle" that got my brother saved. He couldn't remember that. It was hearing about Jesus and hearing about what Jesus' blood had purchased for him that my older brother came to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior. It was hearing "the good news" that did it. the "miracle" didn't do it at all, for all the miracle did was prolong his life long enough to recieve the true "miracle" that is salvation.

Jesus told some followers about this in the Gospel according to John.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. "Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal." (John 6:26-27, NASB)

Jesus saw the "miracle" of the loaves and fishes as "food that perishes". The people, after Jesus fed them with this "miracle", wanted to sieze him and make him king. But Jesus went away from them and only later exclaimed the difference between the bread that they ate that was the "miracle" and the bread that comes from heaven. Jesus meant that the true miracle lies in Him alone.

"Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life." (John 6:61-63, NASB)

The miracle that saved my brother wasn't being spared death in this life that one time, but rather the miracle of the gospel. Our faith doesn't depend on seeing miracles, but rather on Jesus alone.

I miss my brother. But I'm glad that he came to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior. That's the greatest miracle of all.


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the big test

Since someone, somewhere, has seen fit to deprive the world of Issues etc and take a huge bite out of confessional Lutheranism at the same time, I will not take up the mantle of working to see that those who did it answer for their actions.
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