Ever wonder what God might have to say to YOU today? Here are things to ponder, and things to receive into your heart. If you have a question, put it in the comments. I respond as much as I can.

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Another brief visit with the Grim Reaper

Died. Dead. Buried. Passed. Departed.  All those words signify a removal of someone from the world as we know it. They are gone.
There are two questions that we always ask when someone we love dies:
Will I see them again?
I've discussed these questions with hundreds of people over the span of my own ministry, and I've witnessed the death of both my parents.
I was there at the moment for Mom.  She just quietly went out into eternity. Stopped breathing, and she was gone.
Dad's I missed by about an hour.  When I left the nursing home, he was barely alive, and when I returned (they called me), he was gone.  My Dad, who had been my best friend for many years, was gone.  Nothing left but a body, a shell. The "shell" was just. So. empty.
I had expected him to die for about two weeks, but Dad had the most amazing life-force I've ever seen. He just wouldn't die. It's as if he held on to life with both hands.
It's not that he wasn't a Christian, a genuine believer.  He was.  It's not he didn't expect to spend eternity in the presence of the Lord. He did. He just had that incredibly strong survival instinct.
So with all this strength and all his life-force, why did he die? Why?
The answer is in the first pages of the Bible, where God tells Adam, "Don't eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die;" the literal translation of  "you will surely die" is "Dying, you will die..." In other words, eating the fruit initiated a process that led to death.  Slow. Inexorable. Universal. Adam died, of course, and so have his descendants. in other words, the fruit of that tree was like a slow-acting poison, or a communicable disease that infected our first parents and was transmitted to us, their heirs, or the communication of a permanent genetic defect, so that our genes were infected by the results of the decision Adam and Eve made.
So we all die.  But it's not like the battery dies and then we just stop. It happens by degrees, as everyone who's reading this knows.  If you're a young person, you run, you play, you stay up late, you get up early, you eat what you want when you want, the hormones rage, you look forward to a  partner, a family, you wish you were in love, you fall into love, you fall out of love, and everything just goes so FAST.
But you are already aging.   I couldn't tell for myself at first.  Until I was about 35, I seemed to be just going along fine, but then I couldn't work out like I once had. I couldn't stay up like before, and I couldn't work as many hours in a week.  It was as if my battery was discharging.
And that's just how it is. Death is both an event and a process.  The process begins at or near birth, and continues until we are "departed." It's a terrible evil, frankly.  As we age, fear of death or resignation about its process informs everything in life, and although we all hide from it, we also acknowledge it. Medical insurance. Tests. Hip replacements. Medicare. Prescriptions. More prescriptions. When Dad died, his prescriptions filled up a small garbage bag when I disposed of them. But no matter what the docs did: surgeries, examinations, medications, Dad still died. And that's the point.  Nobody escapes.
The why? Everyone dies, because of the infection we all carry: The infection of death, that says, "You will surely die."
So we know that death is coming. But what then? Will I see Dad again? What about me? When I go, is it the end?

The answers are "Yes," and "No." I will see Dad. So that's yes. It is not the end. So that's no. Every part of the Bible that addresses the issues of eternity makes it very clear that death is not the end of existence.  Every one of us will continue to exist somewhere, forever.

The thing is, we can choose the place, but we have to do it before we die. otherwise there is no hope for us.

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Vacation from Revelation, and a little visit with the Grim Reaper...

I spend quite a bit of time reading health news, health blogs, and medical stuff.  It's an interest, especially since I'm like everyone else--interested in my own health.
What strikes me about all this health information is that there is a hidden message:
"do this, and you won't die."
Fear of death consumes us.
We work so we won't starve.  We go to the doctor, and if there's bad news, we ask the question, "Am I going to die?"

Back when I was a regular (as opposed to internet) minister, I did a lot of funerals.  Seemed like people were always dying.  Even when the dead person was old, even if death was a sort of release for them, even if they had lived a full life, there were always tears.
After these funerals, I often walked the graveyards, looking at the graves of the "departed." I'd go and study the tombstones, stand among them, and remind myself that a grave is where we end.

The statistics on death are pretty dismal, really--100 out of 100 people will die.
I remember one of my first thoughts as a youngster was that I would die.  I was terrified.  I thought the devil was waiting for me at the end (and my family was not particularly religious at the time), to take me down to hell.  I felt I could not get out.  I dreamed this multiple times.

Later, I found myself thinking of life as having an end, and no hope of extension. I'd calculate my probable lifespan, and think things like, "Only 50 more years."
You mustn't think, though, that I thought these things often, just when there was little to occupy my mind. Like when I couldn't sleep.
So I had this interest in life.  More particularly, in when it ended.  When mine would end. I knew it would.  I just didn't want it to do so.  Remember, everyone in my world as a child was young, too. I didn't know any old or infirm people, and the oldest people I knew were some of my teachers, the oldest of whom had to be...well, 50!

When I became a Christian, my fear of death as an event pretty much disappeared.  I "got" the fact that I had eternal life, and that my life would never be over.
However, when I started to do funerals and memorial services, I came to a better understanding of the finality of death for our world here.  Life as we know it (on earth) is over when you die.  It won't come back.  You'll never see the people you know, the people you love, ever again. You'll never smell fresh-cut grass, or revel in the spring sunshine, or go to the beach and see the waves and smell the sea, or laugh with a child, or enjoy a young person's smile.  It's over.
So I began to think again about death and dying, and I came to some conclusions, some based on Scripture, some on experience, some on reading.
Here they are:

  1. A LOT of what we do with ourselves is to mask our fear of death.  We talk about our "health." At its root, the fear of bad health has to do with dying. We "eat right." We get physicals.  We go to the doctor, the dentist, the chiropractor, the (insert health professional here)..., all to keep us from dying. Or to make us enjoy life, since we know that life could be over, and we wouldn't be able to enjoy it any longer.
  2. A LOT of the Bible is about death, set in different frameworks. 
    1. Sometimes life after death is presented as a "pleasant inheritance;"
    2. Other times it's a terrible fate. 
    3. Sometimes the words everlasting life, or eternal life are used to present the life past death.
    4. Other times the words everlasting destruction, or perish, or words like them, are used.
    5. Death is never presented as the end, if the context is observed.
    6. Death is never presented as a "friend."
    7. If the person dying is a believer (in the God of the Bible, in Jesus), death is the major event, but not an event to fear so much as to "get through."
    8. If the person dying is not a believer, then the prospect of death is always presented as a warning, and the present life is an opportunity to believe, to repent, to make amends, to "become rich toward God." If we don't, disaster is at hand.  "Your soul will be required of you."
  3. All of us will die.  Eventually, even death will die (Revelation 20:14, 1 Cor. 15:26), and then "death will be no more." It's written that: Is. 25:7-8 And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, Even the veil which is stretched over all nations. He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken. Therefore, death itself will be destroyed.
We all hate the idea of death and dying (I certainly don't like it) because it is the enemy of the human race, the event that defines us, and the event that came into our collective humanity because of sin.
I am not trapped by death any longer, however.  I have no pleasure in the idea that I will die.  I hate it. I want to live as long as possible--but it's not the end.
It's the beginning of the future.
And that is true for everyone who believes in God, and in Jesus Christ, God's dear Son, because we have been "Translated out of the Kingdom of Darkness, and into the Kingdom of His Dear Son." We are no longer children of darkness and death.  We are the Sons and Daughters of the Light.