Ten

I'm pretty sure one of the reasons why I never preached a series on the 10 Commandments before is because #10 kicks me in the pants. I'll let you in on a little pastor secret: We don't like preaching messages that confront our own sin. So we do one of three things with scriptures that do: 1) we avoid it, 2) we come up with a skewed interpretation, or 3) we confess it.

God gets inside my head with "You shall not covet..." No one knows I want what other people have, but I do. God has a way of uncovering the heart in all these commandments (just look at the way Jesus did that in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew).

It would be helpful to take a moment to try to explain that word "covet". It's not really a term we use much anymore. We try to substitute it for words like 'jealousy", but that's not a good fit really. Jealousy is defined as being "very watchful or careful in guarding or keeping what is yours", whereas covetousness is a "great desire to possess something that belongs to someone else". There's a big difference. Covetousness (and its derivatives) get a lot of attention in the scriptures [check out Mark 7:22, Ephesians 5:3-5, James 4:2, and Proverbs 15:27], even though we don't talk about it much.

So why is it so problematic?

1] When we compare ourselves to others, we lose. These are always unfair comparisons -- their perceived blessings vs my perceived lack or their perceived security vs my perceived weakness. When we focus on what we don't have, we lose sight of all God has given! It kills gratitude -- and we lose.

2] When we want what others have, it puts us in competition with them to get it. Cain wanted what Abel had, and when he couldn't get it, he killed him. Competition can cause us to use people as a means to get what we want. We begin to see others as an opponent to defeat and an adversary to conquer. It puts strife in relationship when we use others to get what we want from them.

3] Discontentment robs us of peace with God. It's a soul-killer. We have bought into the lie that true contentment is not from God but from the pursuit of stuff and status and success and security.

Let's take a trip back to the Garden...a place designed with everything Adam and Eve needed. And God was walking among them. It was perfect. Then the serpent slithered over with an attractive smile and began whispering discontentment into the ears of Eve.

"This isn't enough. You can have more. God is holding back from you. You can be like God."

And with those seeds of discontentment sewn, all chaos that has ever gripped the story of humanity ensued.

"God is holding back from you. You can have more, more, MORE! You're being robbed. You deserve more. What you have isn't enough. They have it better. You'd be happier if..."

Eve wanted what God had, and it put her in competition with God, and God's nature in her was fractured as a result of her sin. When we pour our lives into pursuit of what we don't have, we miss out on what we do have. And when we do gain, the temporary satisfaction leaves us more empty in the end. The fulfillment fritters away fairly fast.

We were made for God -- and only He satisfies. Central to the Gospel message is this idea of the sufficiency of Christ. God has given us what we cannot obtain ourselves. Jesus is the Bread of Life -- so we will not 'hunger' again. Jesus is the Living Water -- so we will not 'thirst' again. This God who has designed this world, given us life, formed our bodies, and breathed His Spirit into us -- the One who formed our tangible and intangible parts, the One from Whom all life comes -- He is our only sufficiency!

We've been convinced we need more than God, but more than God means less of life designed by God. It's a trap that can cut us off and leave us feeling empty and used. We all know too well the wasted time and effort that has gone into feeding our vacuous appetites.

What does the 10th Commandment tell us about God's nature? He is sufficient.

And He is good.

Nine

We struggle with truth. We struggle to know it, and we struggle to speak it. In an era of "fake news" and social media, the false narratives seem to flow freely, often making it difficult to distinguish between what is true and what isn't. Truth is elusive in our age of subjectivity.

The ninth commandment ("You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.") uses legal language, but it is not limited to just giving false testimony in a court of law (nor is it a commandment just about telling lies). It's about speaking falsely of others.

We have a lying problem. That's why we make people swear to tell the truth in court -- because we know they won't. It's been said only drunk people, children, and yoga pants tell the truth! There is, however, a big difference between lying and false testimony. Lying damages our own reputation; lying about others damages theirs. When we speak falsely of another person, our motives are more sinister as we try to undermine and destroy the other.

The 9th commandment isn't just about saying false things about others; it also addresses, I believe, our desire to believe false things about others. The reason why falsehood flourishes is because we want to believe the worst about people we don't like. When we have our preexisting beliefs and ideas, sometimes we are quick to accept and seek out confirming information while ignoring or discrediting the source of contrary information. In other words, we believe the bad stuff because we want to believe it.  These false narratives are flying at lightning speed through social media, affirmed by our likes and clicks and shares as we give it energy. This commandment exposes our hearts.

If we believe everything we hear about our enemy, we are not loving our enemy.

Truth is harder to discern. If we value truthfulness, here are some things we should consider:

1] Pursuing truthfulness requires us to be impartial (insert belly laugh). We have to be willing to filter through our biases and emotion carefully to lay aside our prejudices.

2] Pursuing truthfulness requires us to consider the motives of the source. Why is this being told? What does the party passing along the information stand to gain from it?

3] Pursuing truthfulness requires verification. We should verify before accepting, and we have to learn how to fact check the fact checkers. We have to do our research, but we don't do this very often (either because we are lazy or we like what we hear).

4] Pursuing truthfulness requires self-discipline. We don't have to receive the gossip, we don't have to entertain it, we don't have to take the bait.

5] Pursuing truthfulness requires followers of Jesus to filter everything through God's (T)ruth. Truth does not originate in the mind of humanity but in the nature of God. God is Truth, and He has created us to love Truth.

In our series "Ten", we've been looking at how each of the 10 Commandments reveal an important aspect of the nature and character of God. We don't murder because God creates life. We don't commit adultery because God is faithful. We don't steal because God is a giver. And we don't give false testimony because God is Truth.

[Read Deuteronomy 32:4, John 14:6, and John 17:17].

When Jesus was being tried in Pilate's court (and falsely accused, I might add), Jesus spoke these words: "The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." (John 18:37). That has serious implications for those of us who may have bought into the enterprise of lies, trading in the commodities of deceit. Slander and falsehood are an injustice, and these things could not be more opposite to the Spirit of Christ.

If we belong to the Truth, we should be people who value what is true...people who speak what is true...people who do the hard work of truth. We were born to testify to the truth -- to point people to Jesus. Jesus is the Truth, and those who follow him love it.

 

Eight

There was only one man I feared in my hometown when I was a boy: John, the owner of the drug store where my mom worked. For a number of reasons, I tried hard to fly under the radar when John was around. He was a good guy, but his intimidation factor was high for this little guy.

When I was 4 or 5, I stole a 3 cent Dum Dum from that man's store. When my mom got in the car, she knew the sucker I was enjoying was not an honest acquisition, and I was busted. Doing what any good mother would do, she marched me into the store and straight back to the man I feared the most in the whole world. It was like I was walking the long, green mile to my executioner. There, at the feet of this towering man, I confessed my larceny and awaited his verdict which would seal the fate of my young life. I don't recall what happened afterward, but I know I never pilfered another Dum Dum in all my life.

Stealing is a big deal -- big enough to make it into the top 10 commandments from God. Stealing is a spiritual problem with tragic outcomes. Why? Because it is so opposite of who God is! Our series "10" has been looking at the 10 Commandments to discover more about the heart and character of God. We don't murder because God is a life-giver. We don't commit adultery because God is faithful. And we don't steal because God is a giver.

When we mirror His image, we also take on the nature of a giver as His Spirit cultivates generosity in the heart of His children who reflect His image. The problem with stealing is it positions us in life to be takers, to get from others what isn't rightfully ours. We begin to utilize others for our own personal gain at any cost. This is opposite of the heart of God.

Our lives should reflect God's generosity. Are our lives being lived in pursuit of what we can get, or are we living in a way that gives richly to others? How is my life a benefit to others? What am I contributing to enhance life and build up others? How am I cultivating generosity in my time, my abundance, my words, and my gifts? Am I hoarding or helping? Am I taking or giving?

The New Testament has a lot to say on the subject [Matthew 6:2-4; Matthew 6:19-24; Ephesians 4:28; Luke 3:11; 2 Corinthians 9:7; Acts 20:35].

God is a giver. He can't help but give, and we don't need to look any further than Jesus.

Let's do the same.

Seven

I recently led a church hike to the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge (which is a wonderful place to take families, by the way). We had a group of kids that went with us, and two of the boys (my young son included) wanted desperately to go to the bookstore to do a little "shopping". They persistently pleaded their case, but I knew we needed to keep the group together and start the 5 mile hike.

So I did what any grown, mature adult would do: I pinky-promised them we would stop by after our hike. As we approached the visitor center on our return, I heard the unmistakable wailing of a disappointed six year old and instantly realized the bookstore had closed a few minutes before we got back.

But I pinky-promised.

The kids got over it (after I took them to a nearby diner for milkshakes all around), but it gave me food for thought as I started thinking about the seventh commandment: Do not commit adultery. We wrongly assume God's laws are about restriction, even going so far to say they are oppressive, but that couldn't be further from the truth. This commandment is all about the faithfulness of God and how he has created us to mirror himself in this world as his image-bearers.

For God, faithfulness is limitless -- God's covenant with us was established by God when he created the universe and made us to be his reflection on the earth, a covenant which was attacked by the Adversary and broken by us time and time again. But this covenant has been forever maintained by God and is fully restored and realized in Jesus (the New Covenant).

God is faithful. We are not.

We tend to treat our promises to God and to each other as though they were pinky promises, something we do at the moment to get what we want at that moment (in the same way I wanted to get the boys to start the hike). We break promises and covenant all the time, and everywhere we look, we see the human agony caused by our shattered covenant with God. So when God said to Israel, "Do not commit adultery", he was saying, "Be faithful, as I am faithful. Reflect who I am to each other."

The good news is we can comeback from our unfaithfulness. In fact, much of scripture's story describes our unfaithfulness, God's faithfulness, and us repenting and returning. We don't have to remain broken.

I feel like the whole history of humanity can be oddly summed up in this one command about fidelity: remain faithful.

Faithfulness is in the heart of God.

Small Crew, Big Hike

Our first church hike of the summer was to the Nisqually estuary near Lacey. A lot of kids joined us on this 5 mile roundtrip hike to view wildlife and get outside on a beautiful PNW afternoon. We will probably have a part deux of this same hike again in the near future since there were others who wanted to participate but couldn't this time around. Our next scheduled group hike is to Twin Falls in July.

Six

If we came with a warning label, I wonder what it would say? What horrific harm are we capable of inflicting on others? When God called Moses to the mountain top and gave him the 10 Commandments to guide the people, he did so because he knew them (and he knew what they were capable of).

You would think "do not murder" would be a given in any society, but apparently we needed to be reminded of the sacred nature of life. I was curious what people thought about the sixth commandment, so I went to the fountain of all wisdom and knowledge to seek answers: Facebook (and people had a lot to share on the matter).

I also called a Rabbi friend to get a Hebrew perspective on it, and he told me this: "Life is the highest aim of Torah." He went on to say how, from a Jewish perspective, to destroy human life is to deface the image of God. Beautiful stuff. He had me hooked, so I dug a little deeper and also found that Jewish civil and ceremonial law also considered shaming another person publicly is like murder and how character assassination is a great evil.

And that's exactly where Jesus went with this in Matthew 5:21-24 in his great sermon. According to Jesus, I am capable of murder. So, seeing life through the eyes of Jesus, here's what I think this sixth commandment means for us:

1] To love God and love others means to love life - and not just our own! Loving life as Jesus did was self-sacrificial and generous, not self-seeking and self-centered. Jesus poured himself into the lives of others.

2] To love God and love others means to protect life -- and not just our own. We must be exceedingly pro-life (and that ain't just about abortion, folks). We must look out for each other and protect the innocent and vulnerable.

3] To love God and love others means to step out of the tribalism that seeks to diminish the value and worth of those we disagree with. Uh oh. Remember, people, our faith is characterized not by how deeply we love our family and friends but by how deeply we love our enemies.

4] To love God and love others means to uphold the sanctity of life in all its unseen forms. What we say to others matters; we are responsible for the damage we do to others when we diminish the worth of another human being (like when we trash our political enemies -- just sayin'). We are people who must be willing to uphold the sanctity of human life in all its unseen forms. Just because we can't "produce a body" doesn't mean we haven't murdered.

God is a life-giver (and a life-protector). He spun life into existence and breathed his life into us -- and he is redeeming us from how broken it has become.

And he wants us to do the same.

Five

I remember being really annoyed with the fifth commandment when I was a kid ("Honor your father and mother..."). It felt like an unfair commandment to all those kids like me who had an absent parent. "Because God said so" didn't really connect with my heart. It took me a long time to wrap my heart and mind around those words.

According to Jewish tradition, children should honor their parents as though God himself dwelled with the family and they were honoring him. Parenthood -- as God intended it -- is a part of God's creative order of the world. Healthy parenthood imitates the work of God: creating life, care-giving, nurturing, instruction, identity (and so much more). Parenthood isn't a random institution but was a foundational part of creation. "Male and female, in the image of God he created them..."

It's the only one of the 10 Commandments that has a blessing attached to it: "so that it may go well with you in the land." That wasn't some sort of cosmic threat; it's just the way it is. In ancient tribal societies, if you rebelled against your parents, you were isolated from community -- and you could not survive without the tribe.

We think we are much more evolved than primitive tribalism, but I think this still holds true. Children and young people with disrupted families struggle. This is the story of almost every gang-affiliated and incarcerated young person I know.

We live in an era that celebrates dishonor and disrespect and tries to tear down every construct of life. Nothing means anything anymore. But then God enters our wilderness and reminds us that there is an order to life, and this order -- as God designed it -- is a gift to us. Parents need to imitate God so that things may go well with their children, and children need to honor their parents as God's provision for their lives.

This commandment is deeply rooted in the love of God! He wants it to go well with us in the land. God knows how we are designed, and he's given us parents -- mothers and fathers -- to care for us in the same way He cares for us. The love of God always gives us what we need.

Honoring your mother and father is a way of honoring the Father of Life whose creative order sustains the universe. Honor starts in the heart of God, and it begins in us in our hearts and homes.

Four

Friday was a lot of fun for me. I took my wife on a much-needed lunch and movie date and followed that up with a daddy-daughter date that evening (which involved a trip to Toy's R Us and dinner of her choosing -- and may or may not have included a stop at Rita's for some frozen custard). When we got home, she looked her brother in the eye and said, "I am not done with daddy." She had been craving this time with me for a while.

How much more does the Father want for us to carve out time in our busy lives for him?

The fourth commandment says, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." In other words, it's important for us to set aside one day of our week for special honor -- a day given to God so we can be rescued and redeemed from a consuming world.

On Sunday, I offered four reasons why we need Sabbath:

1] To Rest

We think we are super heroes with an endless supply of strength. We are not. It's funny how the older I get the more Sabbath makes sense to me! I wonder at what cost to we pay the price of endless busyness? Sabbath is a gift to us from God (Mark 2:27), and it is God's way of rescuing us from the curse of toil and labor. Our modern life of working 7 days a week just isn't sustainable. It's no wonder people burn out mid-life!

2] To Reflect

The Sabbath is also designed to reconnect us with our Creator. The world takes 6 days from us (and would take 7 if we'd give it). We stop that activity one day a week to intentionally connect with our Source of Life and be reminded of the purpose of life.

3] To Recharge

Turning off a flashlight won't recharge it; it needs to be plugged in. We, too, need to be plugged in to our Source. Sabbath busts the myth of self-reliance, that lie that says we can do it on our own and don't need anyone but ourselves. God designed Sabbath to recharge our body, mind, and spirit for the week ahead.

4] To Rebel.

Yes, rebel. Sabbath is rebellion. When we take a day and give it to God, we are rebelling against the clamor of commerce and our slavery to our work. Sabbath helps us take a step back from the competing values of the feeding frenzy of culture that drains and consumes us. God gives us permission to check out! It's necessary for our survival to be able to stop and step out in order to seek God's sanctuary -- that sacred space where our souls are saved from being consumed.

We chop up our lives and try to keep it all together with our own strength, all the while being consumed by everyone else that wants a piece of us. Sabbath reminds us that we are not a commodity but people who are created in the image of God -- a God whose mission is redemption and restoration.

His gift of Sabbath is a gift of love.

Take a Hike

A couple times a year, we plan church family hikes somewhere in our beautiful Northwest. Our first hike of the summer will be friendly for all levels of ability as we head to the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge near Lacey. Following worship, we will head to Nisqually, packing our lunches with us and enjoying between 3 and 4 miles worth of boardwalks and birds. Entrance to the refuge is $3 per vehicle.

Baptisms

We will be celebrating baptism on Sunday, June 4th (Pentecost Sunday) as a part of our Sunday worship! If you are interested in making a public commitment of your trust and commitment to Jesus Christ and would like to be baptized, speak with Pastor Mark in the week ahead.

This Weekend

Leah J Hileman from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania will be in concert at Covington Community Church Saturday, May 20th at7:00 pm. This will be a night of story-telling, familiar songs, and new ones. Leah will also be with us Sunday morning, May 21st for our worship where she will lead us and speak on "A Bright Future". We hope to see you!

Three

I was in the 1st grade the first time I ever got in trouble in school. I was excited to find out my teacher Mrs. Gunden had a real, human first name. We were sitting in our small reading groups, and I was learning to sound out letters to make words. Our teacher had to go to the office, and as she walked out the door, I said, "Bye, Julie."

The whole classroom froze in suspended animation. Audible gasps of horror filled the air as Mrs. Gunden stopped dead in her tracks. I couldn't breathe. She turned around and with a glare in her eyes that could have melted the armies of the antichrist, she said, "Who said that?" I was immediately betrayed by dozens of finger-pointing cowards who were still gawking with their mouths hanging wide open.

I did not have the right to know her personally. This lesson about honor and respect stuck with me.

The third commandment is "Do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain." Many people make the mistake of thinking this is a commandment about cussing. It sort of is but mostly is not. This command, unlike the previous two, was written in the 3rd person, and God reveals his name to us: Yahweh (Lord). Modern translations miss the original intent of the word "take" which means "to carry", so when we understand this commandment more completely, it really means "You shall not carry the name of Yahweh in an empty way."

We often refer to God by his titles: God, Creator, etc. But God revealed himself to his people by name: Yahweh. To his people, his name is given in the familiar. Jesus called him Abba (Father). God reveals his name to us so we can know him personally. This commandment is about trying to carry his name without really knowing him at all.

None of us like to be taken for granted, do we? This is probably especially true if you are the creator of the universe and sustainer of all life. We can become flippantly familiar with God and approach him with a flippant disregard for who he is, like when his name rolls of our tongue as if it doesn't really matter or if we claim his name and then live like it doesn't matter.

We can misuse the name of the Lord when we use it cheaply (cursing, swearing oaths, making promises, damning, etc). But we can also misuse the name of the Lord when we misrepresent who he is (by disregarding his counsel, damaging others in his name, or embracing false teaching).

This is another command about the affection of the human heart. God does not want to be taken for granted but carried with significance in our lives as we walk in this world. In these first three commandments, he is reminding us what loving him looks like: 1] no other gods, 2] don't worship created things, and 3] don't treat your relationship with me casually or flippantly.

It's so much more than just watching your mouth.

"Two"

My kids love playing games. They also love making up games. They get excited when they come up with a new game (and I pretend to be excited). It's not that I don't support the development of their imaginations, I just know that logic has not completely kicked in yet and there is potential to be total and utter chaos as we play their game. The little stinkers just make the rules up as they go -- and it always works to their advantage, of course. After the usual descent into chaos, we usually end up playing a game with well-established instructions, and peace resumes.

God knew what we needed when he invited Moses up on the mountain and gave him what we have come to know as the Ten Commandments. For over 400 years, the Israelites were living in slavery under the rule and culture of the Egyptians. This idea of One God and no idols wasn't quite what they were used to.

The first command was this: no other gods. The second one was similar: don't worship anything created by human hands. This isn't just a command about carved deities; this is about what has the affection and loyalty of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It's really an issue of trust. On what are we pinning our hope? Who is the object of our affection and honor? What are we submitting our lives too?

God knew we would love the work of our hands, and God knew we would want to be the masters of our own destiny. It's all part of that first lie whispered to Adam and Eve (pst...you can be like God...).

The second commandment was immediately tested when Moses came down the mountain. While Moses was on Sinai, the Israelites thought they should take matters into their own hands. You can read the whole story in Exodus 32. In short, the Israelites wanted gods and Aaron capitulated...and then told Moses a golden calf "accidently" popped out of the fire (no really, he said that). Moses got so angry he threw the stone tablets to the ground, and they shattered. He later had to hike back up the mountain and ask God for a do-over.

The 2nd commandment is about the loyalty, hope, and affection of the human heart. The Creator of the universe wants to competition with created things. Forgive us, Father, for thinking anything in heaven or on the earth could compete with you...

So let's bring this a little closer to home. Since I don't see many shrines to Baal, Ashoreth, or Molech in our homes, I wonder what some of those 21st century American idols might be? I'll leave that to your imagination. I am sure the Holy Spirit challenges us to apply this command to the affections of our hearts. I know there are way too many things that demand too much of my attention. I know I get tempted to turn good things into ultimate things.

But this commandment reminds us that God alone is sufficient for our lives. And he gives me what no idol can give. He loves me. My work can't do that. Celebrities can't do that. Sports can't do that. A perfect body can't do that. My political allegiance can't do that.

Only God.

"One"

When an artist creates, we get to enjoy what's been made when it's shared with us. No one can take credit for what an artist creates. Even if we take ownership of the art, that piece is still attached to its creator. We celebrate Van Gogh's Starry Night, DaVinci's Mona Lisa, and Michelangelo's David. The art we enjoy flowed out of the artist's creativity and life.

What God created he called good (and very good). He is the Creator of the Universe: the One who breathed life into us, the One who sustains all life on the earth, the One who set everything in its place and has given all things purpose, the One who hung the stars in place and caused the waters to flow on the earth and blood to pulse through our veins. It is His. We are His.

And He claims unique ownership and love for what He has made.

Exodus 20 tells the story of Moses going up Mt. Sinai to meet with God. For over 400 years, Israel had remained captive in Egypt, and now they were free and on their way to the land God had promised them. They had lived under the law of the Pharaohs for centuries and were out of touch with what it meant to be God's covenantal people. He gave them this law as a foundation for their lives.

"You shall have no other gods before me."

This one may have come as quite a surprise to people who had grown up in the pluralistic and polytheistic culture of the Egyptians. The One True God had no interest in being one of many. The most important prayer of the Jewish people today is the Shema which contains these words: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One."

Jealousy is His privilege over us. Before you judge Him for being a jealous God, we have to admit there is some jealousy that is good. I'm jealous for my wife's time, affection, and presence. I am jealous when other things compete with my time with my family. Those I love deepest are "mine", and I am theirs. This isn't about possessiveness; it's covenant.

It's love.

He is a jealous God. There are no other gods in addition to Yahweh, and yet we are inclined to give our hearts to them anyway. The first commandment is about the order of the universe, the source of life, and our loyalty to God. God does not want competition for the affections of the human heart.

At the heart of this Law is love, and as we will learn, God does nothing -- absolutely nothing -- without covenant.

Next week: "Two".

New Series

Right after Easter, we started a new series called "Ten" that takes a look at the 10 Commandments given to Moses and Israel in the book of Exodus and what these commands tell us about the character and nature of God. God is a law-giver, but everything God does is intentional and for the benefit of his creation. The 10 Commandments show us just how much God loves us (and just how much he wants that love returned to him and shown to others). Join us on Sundays at 11:00!

I'm Afraid of Death

It was a week of contrast for us at CCC over the Easter week. We celebrated new life with baptisms and mourned the death of a friend of our church. We had plenty of times of joy and grief intermingled together in a special week. I don't know when Easter has ever been so real to me. I had no idea death would come so close to us at Easter when I planned my series "The Curse and the Cure", but God is always ahead of us in the place we are not yet.

That's worth repeating: God is always ahead of us in the place we are not yet.

Mark Twain wrote this about death as he faced his own mortality: "A myriad of men are born; they labor and sweat and struggle; they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other; age creeps up on them; infirmities follow; those they love are taken from them, and the joy of life is turned into aching grief. When the 'release' comes at last -- the only unpoisoned gift earth ever had for them -- they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence, a world which will lament them for a day and forget them forever."

Mr. Twain, I respectfully disagree. We don't succumb to such negative affectivity. We don't bury our dead and forget them. We commit them to God in Whose presence life continues!

There are a lot of reasons why we fear death: we fear how we are going to die. We have regrets about the life we lived. The fear the loss and absence that comes from the separation. We are anxious about the unknown on the other side of it. And sometimes we are not at peace with God.

For the believer in Christ, the lynchpin of our faith rests on the resurrection of Jesus -- overcoming death. Did they really think the One who created life could stay dead? You cannot kill God. You cannot extinguish the breath of God. You cannot destroy the one who belongs to God. You cannot thwart what God has planned for those who love him. Death simply cannot be the end; it is impossible.

Our family has an adopted dog named Poudre. He was a rescue dog. My wife and I went to the shelter to adopt a dog for me to have as a trail dog, a hiking companion. I picked him out, I paid for him (and saved his life, I might add). And what did he do in return? He chose my wife! It's her dog. I'm pretty sure he hates me (the feeling might be mutual).

Poudre has a 6th sense about Brenda. When she is gone, he mopes. He won't eat, he won't play, and he won't do anything at all. He spends his hours or days in a lifeless, empty existence as if his world has ended. Then suddenly, he will spring up like a puppy chasing a squirrel and run to the door with his tail wagging so hard his butt is knocking over small children. He can't see what's on the other side of the door, but he knows who is on the other side. It is his Brenda.

He just knows whose on the other side.

We just know.

There may be a lot of unknowns for us at death, but we know enough to be hopeful. God is there, and He is good! It's hard to look at death as victory because we're looking at it from the side of loss and grief). But on the other side, we will see it all clearly.

"Death, where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory?" Life has the final word; the One who created life ensures it.

Christ is risen!