Tag Archives: Death

Life and Death

Everybody dies.  So, if death makes life seem pointless (see Vantage Advantage), how does adopting God’s way of seeing reality change the inevitable?  Putting it in blunt terms, how can we “receive life as a gift from a generous God,” if we know He will one day yank it back?  Isn’t that view of life just a crutch for those who can’t face the hard truth about dying?

It would be, except for this.  God made a promise about death in Scripture.

In that day he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth.  He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign LORD will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against his land and people. The LORD has spoken!  (Isaiah 25:7-8)

Death seems certain when life is viewed “under the sun.” But for those who adopt God’s perspective, death will certainly be eliminated.  Oh yeah?  When will that happen, you ask?  It already has!  When Jesus was comforting His friend after the death of her brother,

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”  (John 11:25 -26)

It sounds too good to be true, a get out of death free card.  But, if you are struggling to accept what He said, consider this:

  • Jesus is universally regarded as at least the best man to have ever lived.
  • Would such a man lie to His good friend in her time of grief?  No way.

Another time, as He explained eternal life to His disciples, Jesus said He wasn’t lying:

“… If it were not so, I would have told you.”  (John 14:2b)

Here’s the deal:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.   (John 3:16-17)

Vantage Advantage

You are  going to die, so what’s the point of living?  According to the guy who wrote Ecclesiastes, there is no point. Once you are dead, theres no difference between the wise person and the fool.  They wind up in the same condition and will both, eventually be forgotten.

Then I said to myself, “The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?” I said to myself, “This too is meaningless.” For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered; the days have already come when both have been forgotten. Like the fool, the wise too must die! So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.  (Ecclesiastes 2:15 -17)

But this hopeless outlook changes when we do not limit our perspective to only that which happens “under the sun.”  (See Part 2 for further explanation)  

If you look at a piece of stitchwork from the back side, it doesn’t make much sense – bunch of tangled, knotted yarn hanging down.  But if you look from above, you see a beautiful picture.  That’s the vantage point advantage.  When we look at our circumstances from God’s vantage point, seeing things as He does instead of merely from “under the sun,” life seems less hopeless and pointless.  We begin to see life as a gift from a generous God.  

This principle is stated and restated many times and ways throughout Ecclesiastes.  It’s a recurrent theme in all of scripture.  Without God, everything looks pointless because we die.  But when we are reverently mindful of God, the outlook changes.  So,

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.  (Ecclesiastes 5:18 -19)

Full Knowledge and Consent

Who said, “…neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain…“?  Martin Luther King, Jr. He was quoting an amazing prophecy of Isaiah who had been given a peek at God’s endgame.  He saw the future we yearn for, the Day of no more tears, no disease or death.  The day when humans somehow can live in perfect harmony and peace.  

How, somehow?  Hear it straight from Isaiah as he received it from God:  

They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.  (Isaiah 11:9)

Knowing, in Bible speak, is frequently a term for intercourse, the deepest and most intimate expression of a relationship of love. When we attain full knowledge of God, when we know Him fully, our hearts and actions will effortlessly resonate with His.  It will be the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer, “…Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  ​There will be real peace and joy.

Even though our capacity for knowing God, knowing Jesus, is limited, the day of full knowledge and consent is truly coming.  Isaiah saw a vision of it.  Martin Luther King, Jr. wept for it.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.  (1 Corinthians 13:12)

For Sure

Here’s the truth for Ann Maree, things she knows with certainty in Heaven:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

                                                           (Psalm 23)

What to Do with a Broken Heart

Whoever coined the expression, “brokenhearted,”  got it right. In times of deep sorrow it really does seem that our hearts have been broken beyond repair.  We can feel the broken pieces, like shards of pottery.  Brokenhearted is more than just being temporarily sad. Deeper and more permanent, brokenhearted has lost hope. What is done is done and there is no fixing it. The pieces cannot be mended.  If you can relate, if you are brokenhearted as you read this, my heart goes out to you.  That is another expression for,  “I can identify with how painful it is for you right now” and “I would like to touch your heart with my own, if such a thing was possible.”  Some people come close in a very comforting way.  It’s a special gift.  But they cannot truly fix a broken heart.

Which makes these lines from Isaiah especially meaningful.  By quoting these words at the beginning of His ministry, Jesus identified Himself as the Messiah:  

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,… ”  –   (Isaiah 61:1a)

If you ask, “When God sent Jesus, what was He supposed to do?” I suspect not many people would include fixing broken hearts in the list.  And yet, it was the nearly the first identifying mark of the Messiah – binding up the pieces of broken hearts, restoring hope, healing a pain that could not be wished away.  How could anyone, even the Messiah, accomplish such a seemingly impossible task?  Here is another quote from Isaiah:

“And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death foreverand the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.”  –  (Isaiah 25:7-8)

The One Who can conquer death can certainly mend a broken heart.  Jesus proved  He was able by His resurrection.  If your heart is broken, take the pieces to Jesus.  He will bind them and heal them.  Let Him have your heart.  You will not be sorry.

Necessary Power

Do you know why they yell, “Clear!” when they apply paddles to get someone’s heart going?  It is because the tremendous power needed would be dangerous if you were touching the body.  If that’s the kind of power necessary to restart a heart, how much power would be needed to bring a dead body back to life, one that had been dead for days?  We humans have never harnessed that kind of power.  We know how much power it takes to kill a person, but not to resurrect.  That power belongs to God alone.

And yet, that power is offered to everyone who will trust Jesus.  God applies His power that we might be:

“… raised with him [Jesus] through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12b- with my added explanation)

I pulled out that half-sentence from a lengthy and somewhat confusing description of what happens to those who trust Jesus for salvation, to highlight the power of God, necessary to bring dead people back to life.  Without that power applied, we all are dead.  We feel alive because our hearts are beating, but it takes much more to be fully alive.  We say someone whose heart beats but who has no brain activity is “brain dead.”  God considers us dead if our hearts and brains function but we do not have His Spirit living in our souls.  Without His living Spirit, we are missing the essential ingredient for the full life God intended when He designed and created us.  We humans lost that Spirit, that Eternal Life, when we rejected God and embraced sin.

By His power, God offers to restore us to full life.  This can only happen to those whose sin has been completely paid for and forgiven.  Because sin caused our spiritual death, the just penalty for sin is physical death and separation from God, a price we cannot pay.  But Jesus willingly paid the full price on our behalf, with His life.  God, by His great power raised Him back to life.  If you accept this payment for your sins and trust the One Who paid it, then you, too, are raised to life by God’s power.

“When you were dead in your sins … God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,” (Colossians 2:13 excerpt)

 

 

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Red Pencil

As it came time to bury Ann Maree’s ashes, I began looking through her Bible, to see what passages and verses meant the most to her.  Easy enough to tell; she had a red pencil and carefully underlined her favorites.  Your eye was automatically drawn to the places her heart hung out.  Especially The Psalms; some of those wound up looking like a grammar school theme after Mrs. Owens was done with it.

I was also taken by the lines she did not highlight, contrasting them to those she did.  For example, consider some lines from Psalm 31.  As Stage 4 bladder cancer continued its inexorable siege, you might think she would have underlined this:

“Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.” – (Psalm 31:2)

But she did not.  No frantic plea for healing.  No desperation.  Instead, she settled herself with this:

Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.”  –  (Psalm 31:3) 

Through her red pencil, she said, “I know I can trust you, even in the midst of this final struggle, so please, God, show me what I should do.” 

I was gripped with awe.  Ann Maree never made a big public deal about how much she trusted God, but in her quietness and peace, the straps of her faith were cinched tight.

You can see it for yourself, in the rest of what she emphasized with that red pencil:

“But I trust in you, LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands…” –  (Psalm 31:14-15a)

“How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you.”  –  (Psalm 31:19a)

“Praise be to the Lord, for He showed His wonderful love to me…”  –  (Psalm 31:21a)

“Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth.” –  (Psalm 31:5)