This evening, the news of a famous retired basketball player dying in a helicopter crash has caused many in our nation to take pause. He was only 41. His life, one of a truly, gifted and amazing athlete, was followed by wealth and fame. Sadly, it is now all gone. What will remain are the memories and legacies to which he may have imparted; be they good or bad, as a two-edged sword, we may never know.
Each morning we awaken, we are afforded another precious gift; another day of life. We should never take one of them for granted, for we never know when this may be our last.
Today I was afforded the blessing of meeting a friend at a church on the mountain, one that he was looking at possibly joining in the future. As I drove along the winding road, there was much to reflect upon. Overhead, the skies were a crystalline clear as the John’s river’s icy waters. Their reflection of earth’s outer sphere, like a deep cerulean blue, gave the rising sun something with which to compete for the beauty and majesty. As my car drove up the mountain, the sunrise cast long shadows behind me, forcing darkness in pockets upon the eastward facing slopes; behind them, the veil of white lay waiting. As I made the crest of the mountaintop, the morning’s first light made the snow-covered forest come alive. Like a multitude of angels at Jesus’ birth, so too were the trees enshrouded by the luminescence of an untold number of diamond-like snowflakes.
Here and there around each bend, chimneys spewed forth slender columns of woodsmoke, each rising like tendrils into that azure blueness above. Each a signal of life within. Inside the humble cabins, the morning coffee had begun to percolate as the fire cracked and popped. Somewhere nearby, bacon sizzled in a cast-iron skillet. Some would be preparing for church while others would simply be rising to live another day of life, one with the hope of a tomorrow and the other just wishing there was one.
For every portion of living, there is a double-edged sword with which we must contend. One side of the blade, as my friend put it, is Mercy; the other side Justice. Life cannot have one without the other. Justice without mercy is a formidable and a fearsome judgment to any who have received it. Mercy without justice is like giving freedom without having any fear of retribution; there is nothing for which to be freed if there is nothing for which to fear. Yet, God hath given us a sword for which the balance between justice and mercy is perfectly balanced. In fact, on the traditional broadsword, the center of the sword is slightly raised, giving height to the intersection of the two opposing sides, taking the high road, if you will.
Through God’s love for us, we are afforded the perfect balance of Justice and Mercy. For with each gradual trial we weather, by His Grace, we grow stronger in our faith. For if we find ourselves facing the proverbial headwinds in our daily walk with Christ, we must know that we are going in the right direction. For faith without trials is a faith untested. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
Just as each edge of the blade could be considered to stand for justice and mercy, so too could they stand for Thoughts and Intent of the human soul. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
Just as the word of God is quick and powerful, so too are its intention. Like a playbook on how to live life, its instructions are clear, succinct, and powerful. Yet, to the unbeliever, the words are only that, just printing on the page. As God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” He gave us Christ, with whom we were spared eternal damnation and the expected end we deserved, with that ultimate justice; his death was the punishment for our sins.
To the unbeliever, the Bible is nothing more than theory; conjecture of good intentions.
As I was speaking to one of our department’s professors this week, the difference between theory and application came to mind. While we are immersed in the pursuit of education at our institutions of higher learning, most of what we achieve is theory. It is not until we go out into the “Real” world, get jobs, and start careers that we actually apply that theory. That application becomes the tools of whatever industry we pursue, sometimes for the rest of our lives. However, God has allowed me to return to the place from whence I began so long ago. As I listened to the very well-meaning professor describe the course layout, I found my mind jumping from the theory he was describing to the applications I had used in my nearly two decades of working in the industry. From that life of experience, from the applying of theory, I once more made the jump back to the present and was able to interpret his descriptions, but far from the conventional line of thought to which he was used to instructing.
For those of you who have learned or are trying to learn to speak a foreign language, you can relate. You at first have to think of the foreign word’s meaning in your mother tongue and then speak the foreign word. Slowly, as you become more proficient, eventually, you can skip the literal translation because you just know the foreign word, has finally become one of your own, no longer foreign. So too is the word of God. Like many who are lost and haven’t come to know or accept Christ into their lives, the words in the Bible are only that; words. But Jesus told his followers that they would not be alone; that he would send a Comforter. He also said that he would never leave us nor forsake us. That Comforter, that being with whom he spoke, was to be the Holy Spirit.
Through the Holy Spirit, we are made anew, “And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
From whence we came, is to which we shall return. For once we have walked in the way, we are made anew, and from there, we can speak to those who have yet to find the way, the truth, and the light. From our experience in the application of the word, we have become wiser, and with this wisdom, we are then able to help those who are lost. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and unbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” From theory, as some may say, to become one with the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are changed. Walking in Christ, we are no longer living in theory, but rather, in the application of what it was meant to be, where Justice and Mercy meet in that high rounded middle of the blade, to which nothing can prevail; neither spirit nor soul.
As the finger-like wafts of smoke rise into the morning sky from their hand-hewn stone chimneys below, so soar the spirits of many who have breathed their last. Don’t go another day without seeking out that friend, that neighbor, or even that family member who might be lost. Seek them with all your heart.
And remember, for, by the Grace of God, we go.
We are all but a heartbeat away from eternity.
Live each day as if it were the most precious gift. You never know when it will be your last.
Thanks be to God.
 1 Peter 4:12-13 KJV
 Hebrews 4:12 KJV
 Jeremiah 29:11 KJV
 2 Corinthians 5:15-20 KJV
 James 1:5 KJV