Life Can Be Cruel

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by Martin Schlomer

I just received a deeply emotional call from my son, Wesley. This morning one of his best friends, Woody Moore, died unexpectedly from respiratory failure. He was a young, intelligent, energetic, and passionate lover of Jesus. No one saw it coming because this never should have happened! Life can be cruel!

I would love to believe that young, intelligent, energetic, and passionate lovers of Jesus are exempt from the cruelty of life, but I can’t, because we aren’t. While I see this truth time and again in the stories of Scripture, I still want to believe that perhaps there may be exceptions for young, intelligent, energetic, and passionate followers of Jesus. However, these phone calls slap me and shout, “There are no exceptions.” Honestly, people have a tough time understanding and are compelled to ask, “Why aren’t there exceptions?” Life can be cruel!

As I write these words, I mourn for my son, his Christian community, and for Woody’s family. They are overwhelmed with emotions and plagued with questions for which there seems to be no adequate answers. Paul’s words echo through my own soul: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan … as a foretaste of future glory” (Romans 8:22-23a). The cruelty of this life, the questions, and the emotions create a hunger, an intense longing for a time when you and I will no longer have to put up with all the evil, sin, brokenness, suffering, and death of this life.

Folks, there is an ache within my soul that cries out, “This world is not our home!” Life is cruel, BUT God is good! He brings glorious beauty and redemption out of life’s cruelty! I can’t predict how this might happen or what it might look like in this or any other situation, but He does it nonetheless. He promised and I choose to believe Him! This is my prayer for Woody’s family, for the community of faith at Western Washington University, as well as for Christ the King Church, where Woody was so involved. God, may everyone see and experience Jesus in ways that exceed our wildest dreams!

Who was Woody Moore? Here are some posts from his friends on his Facebook page. At 21 years old, his legacy will live on.

A status can’t measure up to how much I love and will miss this brother of mine. Woody Moore has been nothing but a blessing to me as well as to others. He was a roommate, a friend and a brother. Everything he did, he did out of love. The way he lived was proof that Jesus is real. His overflowing joy and ability to make everyone smile is something I’ll miss every single day. Being there with him in his final moments was heartbreaking but also comforting because I know, without a doubt, that he is in a better place right now. I love you Woody. I’ll see you soon brother.
P.s. we were suppose to find our wives this year bro.

My heart is heavy today, my brother in Christ, the young man of God that helped bring me out of the darkest time in my life when I thought it better to not live anymore, and who helped lead me to the cross, has gone to be with Jesus. Woody Moore I love you brother and cannot wait till I see you again.

Lived for Christ, living with Christ. Woody Moore

This man changed my life. Woody pushed me, encouraged me, and loved me so well. You will always be loved and missed. Thanks for changing this world.

What a man Woody Moore was! Never met with such zeal, and willingness to go out of his way for others. He was a great friend, and truly embodied Romans 12:1
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

Today is a difficult day. This Facebook post could never express how incredible Woody Moore is. You were the best roommate, friend, and brother I could ever ask for. It was a privilege to live life with you these last couple years. You are a true example of Jesus on Earth and the only joy I have is knowing, without a doubt, that you are with God. I cannot thank you enough for the impact you had on my life and for the example you were to so many people. You are one of the funniest, most loving people I have ever met and I know anyone who came in contact with you feels the same way. I can’t wait to see you again Woody, thanks for allowing me to be a part of your life. Through everything, God is good. Miss you and love you forever brother.

I still cannot believe that this is real … I’m going to miss all the laughter that was still to be had! Woody knew how to brighten anyone’s day with a love that was so incredibly sincere! But mostly, I’m going to miss this wonderful man of God! He knew his Savior so intimately and stood for what he knew in his heart to be true. It hurts to know that for the time being, he’s gone, but I find joy knowing that Woody is home, bringing smiles to all those who are with him. My heart aches for the Moore family, the friends he loved on, and those who didn’t get to know this amazing servant of Christ. Woody, thank you for touching all of the lives that you did, for impacting me! It’s clear that so many folks have been touched by your many gifts and that God’s incredible glory shines through all that you are! You’re work on Earth is done, and I know the Lord said to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” I love you man, and I will miss you until the day we meet again!

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The Bread of Life Never Grows Stale

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AdventBy Cindy Waple  

The Bread of Life never grows stale. I saw this recently on a church sign and thought what a wonderful message for the Advent season. Advent, which means “coming,” is the season of preparation to celebrate Jesus’s birth, in whom all of God’s promises are fulfilled. In addition, it is a time to celebrate Christ’s coming into our own lives as our Savior and Lord and to prepare and await His second coming.

Advent is like an icebreaker—those large ships built to cut through the ice on the frozen Arctic waters. Advent breaks through the onslaught of the economic-driven and worldly messages of Christmas that promise happiness by receiving the right gifts being offered now at the lowest prices of the season. Advent also breaks through the familiarity and rote traditions, bringing a new and fresh vision of God’s faithfulness. Advent breaks through empty messages and unrealistic expectations of a Pinterest-perfect Christmas with the enduring truth that the sovereign, holy, almighty God of the universe, our Creator, because of His immeasurable love for us, took on the form of man and came to dwell among us—Emmanuel, God-with-us. Advent invites each one of us to step out of the holiday-prep-merry-go-round and take time to stop and pause, to consider afresh with eager expectation the gift of Christ.

Here are a few ideas and practices that Brian and I engage in during Advent. First, be intentional and make space for God and those opportunities that are energizing and life-giving, not life-draining. Try to under-schedule your time this season, rather than over-scheduling. Take time for Advent devotions and perhaps schedule a half-day (or full-day) retreat. A friend and I did this recently using a guided Advent-retreat resource. It was a wonderful time of rest and perspective shaping as we worshipped, prayed, read Scripture, and spent time in silence, listening and reflecting. This is a great way to slow down and cherish the Good News of Christmas.

Second, I have been captivated by the idea of “one thing.” During this season of many lists—to do lists, wish lists, gift lists, and so on—I am encouraged by David in Psalm 27:4, where he writes: One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in his temple. There was only one thing David wanted—to be with the Lord and enjoy the beauty of His presence. What if that was the only thing on all our lists? Or what if that was the first thing on our lists? I wonder how long (or possibly short) our lists would be if that was our primary focus.

Lastly, the greatest way to enter into Advent, to prepare our hearts, to break through the hype and ward off staleness, is to consider Christ Himself. What do you really need the most this Christmas? What is going on in your heart?

  • Are you struggling, disappointed, or tired of the trials and the hardness of life? Isaiah 61 reminds us that Christ “comforts the brokenhearted.”
  • Are you grieving a loss—loss of a loved one, a job, health, or a relationship, or a loss that comes from change and transition? Jesus promises a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair (Isaiah 61:3).
  • Is your hope diminished because of unanswered prayers for healing, for prodigals, nagging sin, the lack of transformed lives? In Christ, we have been born into a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). He is our sure and steadfast anchor (Hebrews 6:19).
  • Are you tired and weary? Christ is our Strength, our Refuge, our Rock (Psalm 62:5-8).
  • Are you in need of peace? He is our Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
  • Are you in need of love? His love for us is inexhaustible. (Ephesians 3:17-18).

This is a list that, thankfully, goes on and on. Here is the truth—whatever your deepest and greatest need, it is found only in Christ.

In a few weeks, the tree and lights will come down, the credit card bills will begin to arrive, and the gym will be overly crowded for a week or two as we try to hold to our resolution to finally lose weight. Christmas will be over, but the truth of Christ will not. We have Him and His promises into eternity. With our focus on the one thing, the only thing that is necessary (Luke 10:42), the Bread of Life will never grow stale. This Advent season, may your heart be renewed and refreshed as you ponder the good news of Christ, and “may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit Romans 15:13.

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Still friends

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I cannot tell you how many times I have stepped on a close friend’s toes and let the situation get way out of control. How great it is that we have an understanding friend like Jesus. He sets the perfect example. Let’s re-familiarize ourselves with John 15:9-17.

(vs 9)As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.( 10) If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Fathers commands and remain in His love.( 11) I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (12) My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. ( 13) Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his FRIENDS. (14) You are my FRIENDS if you do what I command. (15) I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his masters business. Instead, I have called you FRIENDS, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (16) You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear-fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (17) This is my command: Love each other.

This was pretty cool to me the first time I read this. Jesus is hanging out with all the disciples and things are going great. Jesus is teaching, His disciples are hanging on every word and loving every minute they get to spend with Jesus. If you’ll notice, Jesus refers to His disciples as FRIENDS 3 times. Yeah, they’re all friends. They support each other, they care for each other, they love each other.They’ve got each others’ backs.

Now, let’s fast forward. Jesus has been betrayed by one of His own, Judas. His friend Peter, has denied Him three times, Thomas now doubts Him and the others ran away when things got tough. Jesus is sentenced to death on a cross and none of His so called friends does a thing about it. Jesus is crucified on the cross and He dies. Now days later the disciples are all upset and confused. They have nothing to do, no teacher to learn from and follow. So, they go back to doing what they know best….Fish. Lets pickup the story in John 21. (1)Afterward Jesus appeared again to His disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: (2) Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. (3) “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. (4) Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. (5) He called to them, “FRIENDS, haven’t you any fish?” John 21:1-5

Um, did you catch that? The men that supposedly knew Jesus so well and supported Him didn’t even recognize Him. They have now come face to face with the risen Savior. Awkward! Remember what happened … Peter denied Him, Thomas doubted Him, and all the rest faded into the background when things got tough. If I was one of those disciples, I would have hung my head in shame for not defending Jesus or sticking close by Him. But, after all they did, Jesus calls out to them and addresses them as FRIENDS. He still calls them His FRIENDS because He loves them so much. . Wow! How powerful is that? No matter what we have ever done to Jesus, His love for us will never change. He is always there to forgive and to be by our side. He is our forever FRIEND. I want to be that kind of FRIEND. What a FRIEND we truly have in Jesus.

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