As I am sitting in Kansas waiting for my time to fly back home, I can’t help but think of the words repeated over and over again by Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”
This is true in so many ways. It’s true in the way, that as much as I love my larger family—my sisters, brother-in-law, nieces and nephews, and aunt and uncle—I love my wife and my children more. And being away from them is not something I enjoy experiencing for any extended period of time. Sure, going out for a few hours to run an errand or two, going to work knowing that you will be back home—those all are part of our days. I’m good with those things, but going to bed in a different place at a different time is not something that I put anywhere near the top of my list. Yet it is something that needed to happen, and I am glad for the time with my family. It has been a very long time and I have enjoyed getting to see them and having the chance to catch up and renew our relationships if only for a little while, even getting to meet a great-niece for the first time. But even in this there was a sense of heaviness as the reason that we came together was because of the passing of my sister, Margy.
There is another sense that there is no place like home, and that is being around another family. When I placed my trust in Christ for my salvation I was knit into another family, with which I have in some ways even stronger ties—ties which I do not share with many in my birth family. And this disparity, as loving as everyone has been, has rung in my mind and hung heavy on my heart as I heard a different gospel being preached. Yesterday I had looked at my flight information wrong and was hopeful to attend a small church here in Scranton where I would share something in common with a people that I do not know but with whom I share this second family bond in common. I love my family and as difficult as I am at times, they love me. But in times like this it is heartbreakingly clear that the Christ I believe in is not the same as them. So, as I sit here in Kansas, not fellowshipping with people of like faith, I am reminded again that there is no place like home.
The last way in which I thought of there being no place like home is in relation to eternity. I came to Kansas to join my family at the time of the passing of my sister and to mourn and memorialize her together with them. As I sat in the service yesterday and heard a plan of salvation presented I was stuck with just how much emphasis there was on the path. Yet, for me the path is not one leading to salvation, but one that springs forward from salvation.
Salvation is not something I earned or contributed to in any way. It is a free gift, not as a result of any work that I did or can do. The Bible tells us, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NASB95) I am a simple person. “Believe,” “shall,” and “have” are straightforward words that need no clarification or qualification. Forgiveness, salvation, and eternal like are a package deal. They are a gift from God at the expense of His Son, and not as a result of any work no matter how good or worthy. In Ephesians 2:8-9 we read, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9, NASB95)
I had a few brief discussions while in Kansas, and for the most part the distinct difference in our belief is not seen, until it is brought down to this one issue. The path that I follow in not one leading to salvation, but one that results as a proof of salvation already received. Ephesians 2:10 goes on to say, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, NASB95) There are other distinctions that could be drawn, but this is the real heart issue. As a redeemed child of God I am forever placed into God’s family.
Some believe that Margy is set for eternity because she walked the path well. I, on the other hand, believe that she is set for eternity for an entirely different reason. Margy, as a young teen in Port Hueneme, California trusted in Christ for her salvation and followed this up with a first step of responsive obedience by being baptized. During a season when she had left the Mormon church, while living in Grants Pass, Oregon we had talked about this quite a bit. The Bible teaches that salvation is a gift received by belief or trust, granted simply by asking, and it is one that will not be revoked by God when they themselves stray from His truth or maybe even with good intention walk a different path.
Jesus said in John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” Again, I read things pretty simply and take God at His Word. He who hears and believes “HAS.” It is a done deal. It is already accomplished. This is what I hold onto for Margy, and in that I trust my good and faithful God.
As for works, the Bible does say a lot about them. I already quoted Ephesians 2:10 speaking of how we were created in Christ Jesus for good works that God had already prepared so that we would walk in them. But this is a result and not a means. In Romans 12:1 and 2 we read, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1–2, NASB95) Because I love God and I treasure so much what He has done for me, the only good, right, and reasonable spiritual thing I can do is to give myself fully back to Him in obedient and worshipful service.
Yesterday I heard a different gospel and a different hope being spoken of, and I know that some who read my posts believe in that gospel path. As they pray that those who do not know this path might come to understand, I also pray that they might shed the extra words and focus entirely on the only given and fully inspired Word of God—the Bible, and the Christ spoken of.
There really is no place like home. While I am so thankful for the time spent with my family and having the opportunity to even grieve together the passing of Margy, I cannot wait to board that plane to go see my wife and children and to return to worship with those of like faith. Then one day, when God determines that the time is right, I look forward to making one last trip and I trust that among the crowd of witnesses spoken of in Hebrews 12:1 that I will find my sister Margy.
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18, NASB95)
Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (11/24)
Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity. That is why I have instructed you to give thanks for everything. There is an element of mystery in this transaction: You give Me thanks (regardless of your feelings), and I give you Joy (regardless of your circumstances). This is a spiritual act of obedience—at times, blind obedience. To people who don’t know Me intimately, it can seem irrational and even impossible to thank Me for heartrending hardships. Nonetheless, those who obey Me in this way are invariably blessed, even though difficulties may remain.
Thankfulness opens your heart to My Presence and your mind to My thoughts. You may still be in the same place, with the same set of circumstances, but it is as if a light has been switched on, enabling you to see from My perspective. It is this Light of My Presence that removes the sting from adversity.
“always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;” (Ephesians 5:20, NASB95)
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” (Psalm 118:1, NASB95)
“How blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! O Lord, they walk in the light of Your countenance.” (Psalm 89:15, NASB95)