When we die?

Today’s Reading Joshua 18-21, Psalm 15, Luke 23 

 

This week as we remember, recognize, reflect, and celebrate the Lord and everything that happened this Holy Week, a portion of today’s readings focused on death. This led me to think about what happens when we die. I know this sounds pretty scary, morbid, or even a bit weird, but because of Adam and Eve and the choice to sin, every person ever since will eventually sin and die.  But wait…

Psalm 39:11 says Surely every man is a vapor.   So as the gray hair comes in, the wrinkles become more prominent, and the body can hurt from almost anything to nothing.  I’m reminded how our time passes with lightning speed. Unfortunately, this truth sadly includes the unforeseen events we have experienced with friends and family who have gone before us.  We are on this earth briefly, so we must diligently live wisely and well. 

The beginning of Romans says, “For the wages of sin is death….” 

What happens to people after death depends on the choices we make while we are alive. Those who don’t need God or those who decide they do.  The end of Romans gives us all hope from eternal death in hell.  Romans 6:23 says, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus came over 2,000 years ago to die for the forgiveness of our sins. All we have to do to receive life in Heaven forever is believe that Jesus chose this Holy Week to die for us and that we choose to follow Him.  Even the criminal that was crucified next to Jesus was granted this gift in the last hours of his life.  

Luke 23 ends with the death of Jesus and being buried.  I’m thankful for this week. We get to celebrate what happens next.  We all will one day die.  I pray for many things to happen for myself and my family before this, but if I were to pray for one thing, it would be for us each to know our Lord so that in the day, whenever it may be, we will live eternally with Him in paradise.  

Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise. Luke 23:43 

 

I Will Follow – Jon Guerra

Resurrection and Life

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall live,…”

John 11:25

Today’s words to describe Jesus are the resurrection and life from John 11:25. Here it is actually Jesus himself calling himself this as He comforts Martha from the death of her brother Lazarus who He ultimately brings back to life later in the chapter after being dead for four days.

It’s not too often that we don’t attend church (now virtually) on Sunday morning during the planned service time, but this week because of some family circumstances we did not. I also typically write my Biblejournal.net posting on Saturday or Sunday, but here I am writing it Tuesday morning after watching the sermon Monday morning. As I watched the sermon Monday, God yet again left me in amazement as the central focus of Pastor Mike Baker’s sermon was the resurrection of Jesus. Yes, all sermons are about Jesus and typically come back to the hope we have in Him because of the resurrection, but this was the central theme of his entire message. I believe there are no coincidences, and apparently God wanted a few more people who may read this but who not attend Eastview Christian Church to hear some of Pastor Mike’s nuggets.

The central verses for Pastor Mike’s sermon were 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 where Paul discusses the resurrection. Pastor Mike said, “What’s weird is not someone dying for a cause which has been done for years, what’s weird is someone rising from the dead.” Paul adderesses in these verses that Jesus was undoubtedly alive after His crucifixion as He appeared to Cephas (Peter), the twelve (all the disciples), five hundred at one time (Paul does not give the exact event but many believe this to be the ascension in Luke 24:50-53), His brother James, the apostles, and to Paul himself even though Paul states he was not worthy because he himself persecuted and killed Christians. We know in Luke 24 Jesus was with the disciples and asked for something to eat in Luke 24:41-43. Pastor Mike brought to light the fact that five hundred people don’t hallucinate and a dead person or a ghost does not eat. As I’ve written about before, what is most convicting to me about the resurrection is the fact that the disciples went from running away and hiding in the room Jesus ultimately appeared to them in as they feared for their own lives to spreading the Gospel at all costs knowing they would likely be killed for doing so as nearly all of them were. Would they have done this if they had stolen the body themselves or if they didn’t actually see and talk to Jesus? Not a chance. Well, maybe Jesus wasn’t actually dead? Much has been written on this topic to debunk this which not only speaks to how the description of crucifixion event in the Bible prove He was dead, but also the fact that the Romans were killing machines. This is what they did. They didn’t make mistakes when it came to killing someone. If this topic is something you are interested in exploring further beyond the greatest source in the Bible itself, I recommend reading the book Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. Lee was in investigative reporter and atheist who was out to disprove the Gospel. He now has written many books and travels the world spreading the Gospel.

So why does the resurrection matter to each one of us? Pastor Mike says there are two central questions we must all answer and move beyond. First, how do I get past my wrongdoings and sin? Second, what happens to me when I die? Jesus is the resurrection and also the life because He is the answer to both these questions. Believing in Him and that He was without sin yet was sacrificed for us and our sins and that He was raised so we who believe will also be raised (John 11:25) means that we can all answer both these questions and ultimately have life.

Last week I was meeting virtually with a client and as a part of our initial chit chat we were talking about all the craziness going on in the world today on many levels and especially with him being in healthcare. Although He was satisfied from our financial review, I didn’t really know how to wrap up the call to say goodbye as I knew there was still some discontentment with the world today in general. The only thing I could think of to say was that we know who’s really in control and that He has a plan. He responded by saying honestly that is only way he is getting through all of this. The only thing we have to fear is death, but as 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 says, “’O death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through the Lord Jesus Christ.” We have nothing to fear because we are ALL undefeated through Him. He is life…eternal life.

As the song “Great Are You Lord” says…

 

You give life, You are love

You bring light to the darkness

You give hope, You restore

Every heart that is broken

Great are you Lord

 

It’s Your breath in our lungs

So we pour out our praise

We pour out our praise

It’s your breath in our lungs

So we pour out our praise to You only….

https://youtu.be/ZZqV6i98SkA

Die to Self (again)

The primary reason for a fitness run yesterday morning was more emotional and spiritual than physical. I was seeking peace and calm, and wanted to be away from various distractions in order to focus on writing this post.

During this 45 minute exercise event, the following were observed:

  • The remnants of a likely stolen purse dumped in the woods.
  • A pile of litter from an apparent party in the woods.
  • A motorcyclist speeding (illegal), passing a bus on the right (illegal), in a no passing zone in a heavily populated/tourist area (illegal, selfish, and just plain stupid). The craziest thing is the motorcyclist was angry with the driver of the bus and was sounding his horn shaking his fist at the bus driver!
  • A young woman without hair who was likely undergoing treatment for cancer.

While returning from the run with a different mindset, it wasn’t what was expected. Angry over the observed crimes and sorrow over the woman with cancer, the realization was that we live in a world full of sin and brokenness. Sin that harms ourselves and others and separates us from our creator. Brokenness from disease that brings death to the body.

In truth, I was and am no different than the criminals. I am a sinner in need of a savior. There was some hate that came into my heart, and I confess… something inside me was hoping the motorcyclist would crash. Lord, forgive me.

Today’s reading in 1 Corinthians 15 mentions the various forms of “death” (die, death, dead) twenty-four times. Death is imminent and no one can argue this, and that is why we need Jesus. He defeated death and through this we can have life eternal.

One theme that has helped guide my journey is “dying to self”. For me this means making the choice to resist temptation and “die” to the sinful desires that put “me” as priority verses God’s will.

I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! (1 Corinthians 15:31)

Like Jesus died for us, we must die every day to our selfish desires. Such as:

  • One more serving of food at the party when I’m already full. Die to self.
  • One more drink of alcohol when I’ve already had enough. Die to self.
  • Judging others when I too am a sinner. Die to self.
  • Wanting something new when what I have seems old. Die to self.
  • Trying to hold on to the things of this world while knowing our real treasure is in Heaven. Die to self.

Imperfect but forgiven, grateful today for the many who have pointed me to (and keep pointing me to) Jesus including my mom, dad, my sisters (Katie and Marne), Amy, BJ, Rick, Heather, Mike, Duane, Robbie as well as our entire Bible Journal team, past and present.

Postmortem

Today’s Reading : I Kings 17

It has happened again, God has intentionally brought this message and passage of Scriptures to me this week.  Over the last year, God has been reintroducing the same concepts at different venues or times.   Last week, our children had this verse presented to them with the main idea of “Give to God” and then as I am preparing for this writing my theme is “Postmortem”.  These themes are completely different, but their main composition is the same: Give to God in all circumstances and He will provide everything.

In this story, we are introduced to one of the most prolific and influential individuals in Judaism and Christianity outside of Jesus and Moses, Elijah.  In the beginning of the chapter, Elijah tells Ahab that because of the heinous ways that the king has been toward God and his people that there will be a famine and drought throughout the land.  Once Elijah makes this proclamation, God speaks to Elijah and he retreats to the wilderness for safety.    The wilderness that he is sent to is North of Jerusalem and close to his hometown.   While in the wilderness, God sends him food by ravens and he drinks water from the brook. After the brook runs dry, Elijah retreats farther North to Zarephath, which a seaside town.  In this town, he greets a widow who is preparing for her last meal with her son.  This is truly her last meal of life because the famine has been so brutal that there is no more wheat or grain that survived to make any additional flour.  This widow has a small amount of flour to make one last cake of bread.  Elijah asks her to make him a cake of bread before she makes herself a cake.  The widow agrees and then is blessed with oil and flour to outlast the famine.  During some time later, the widow’s son is ill and then dies.  The widow is furious at the lack of respect and audacity that the prophet would allow her son to die.  Elijah then takes the son and prays over him and he is returned to life.

In these 24 verses, there is so much packed in that address our everyday life.   First, we must know who we are and whom we are.  Elijah knew that he was God’s prophet and was not afraid of speaking truth into the situation.  Second, when God directs us, we must go (without question).  God told Elijah to go and Elijah went.  He was directed to go home, but not the place he knew. Elijah was directed to go to a sanctuary close to where he was familiar.  He was then provided with food from some unlikely sources: Ravens. These birds are not known to be kind and cuddly, but viscous and tricky.   Third, find the people that God provides for us and ask boldly.  Elijah asked the widow boldly for her last piece of bread [and water].  Fourth, Give to God first and then he will provide unimaginable things.  The widow (who was not Jewish, believed in a great God and obeyed) submitted to the request of Elijah and was blessed. Finally, don’t limit God’s blessings. The widow saw the miracle that God preformed with the flour and was still not fully convince that he would take care of her son.

The word Postmortem has many definitions: 1.) the examination of the body after death. 2.) The reexamination of the details after a particular event. The postmortem of this story can be seen three-fold: Mental, Emotional/Spiritual, Physical. There is one resurrection in the story, but three distinct deaths that happen throughout the story.

  • Mental:The widow was suffering from mental death.  When she is introduced we can see that she is depressed and full of anxiety.  She has lost her husband.  She has not been able to provide for her family, and now she and her son are preparing to die due to lack of food.  This famine is one of the most trying times that the region has been through.  There are other stories of this time that people has resorted to cannibalism to survive. She has resigned completely to her situation.  How many times have we been in situations that have completely left us destitute and we have lost all hope?   This is the space that this woman is full entrenched.
  • Emotional/ Spiritual: This widow has probably tried all the gods of Ahab and the other kings of the time and they have not given her any relief. Elijah turns up at the scene and she immediately recognized that he is a man of God.  She has been spiritually dead for quite some time and is now having a revival of the spirit after she has loss so much.  How many times have we continually lost special things or people in our lives and we have become despondent to everything? We become numb and apathetic?
  • Physical death:This is when the son of the widow dies while the prophet of God is in their house.  The widow is completely upset, frustrated, and mad that this has happened to her son.  She expected not to worry about anything while Elijah was there.  This physical death completely shuts down everything else.  She could survive these other deaths that have afflicted her, but this was the last piece that she finally submitted everything.

The story of the widow is our story: we will undergo so many deaths in our lives that we continue to push through.  We face mental deaths daily, spiritual deaths often, and physical deaths ultimately and we try to do this on our own.  God has shown us that through his son, Jesus, we are not alone and we do not have to face these things alone because he has already overcome death.  Let us remember that we have the victory after death because Jesus has conquered death

A Change in Paradigm

When you think of a funeral and what Bible passages are read most commonly, which ones come to mind? Today’s reading of Psalm 23 most certainly is in the top few. When I hear this verse, I picture a person walking down a dark path lonely with a light up ahead. I’m not sure this would be the mental vision God would want me to have about death. As I read this verse more closely, what stuck out to me is that it is “the valley of the shadow of death” in Psalm 23:4. We, who are still living, are in the “shadow of death.” This is where we have fears, anxieties, and worries that cause us stress. This is when we need his “rod and staff” to “comfort me.” This is when I need to “fear no evil” and my soul needs restoring by laying in “green pastures” and by going “beside still waters.”

Revelation 21:4 tells us, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be morning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” When I die, I want my funeral to be a celebration that I’m living in Heaven in perfect peace worshiping the only King forever. I want a band playing songs of praise with everyone standing and worshiping Him reminding all there of the joy they can have in eternal life through confessing their sins and belief in Him and His resurrection! They don’t need to be sad for me…I’m not in a dark valley standing there by myself lonely. I’m experiencing a joy we can’t even imagine on this Earth worshiping Him in a similar way to how I hope they are at that moment.

The first part of Psalm 23:8 says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” telling us maybe Psalm 23 is more appropriate for a baby dedication, a first communion, a baptism, or even a wedding. We can live in perfect peace throughout our life because the second part of Psalm 23:8 says, “and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” When we fix our eyes on that which is eternal (the only thing that matters), we will have comfort and respite from the challenges in this life.

Here is the song 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman which was sung at my wife’s great uncle Lee Dexheimer’s funeral. It reminded me we will experience a peace that passes all human understanding just like Lee did that day and still is today, forever and ever. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXDGE_lRI0E

Dead Weight

stretcher gurney for patient in hospital (blur background and wooden table for displaying your product)

Leviticus 22, Psalms 28-29, Ecclesiastes 5, 2 Timothy 1

I was really looking forward to sharing this new book of the Bible I found called Ecclesiastes. Well, it was new to me anyway. I’ve been working for a few days in a row at the hospital. Now that I’m sitting down to write and catching up on my reading I see that this short book has been the subject of a few reflections this week. I’ve been drawing out a little “blueprint” of Ecclesiastes all week. Of course, we already know that it was written by King David’s son, Solomon almost 3,000 years ago. It seems to me that nearly nothing could be the same then as it is now. But, with a closer look, there are 5 key themes that are very relatable.

  • Searching
    • Without God there will be no true pleasure or happiness, searching for wisdom, knowledge or joy is futile outside of Him.
  • Emptiness
    • Fill your life with God. The cure for emptiness is Him.
  • Work
    • God gives you the ability and opportunity to work so that you can use your time to glorify Him.
  • Death
    • God gives us hope that goes beyond death
  • Wisdom
    • We must get to know God and honor him in order to have wisdom

See NIV, ESV and HCSB study bibles for more on these themes, I did NOT come up with them myself

When you place Solomon’s words in those 5 categories, it brings us back to what I think is the most important theme: without God life is empty. I spent the weekend thinking that the lessons presented to us in Ecclesiastes are darker and more serious than Proverbs. Tonight as I sit and reflect on how to really bring them alive in my life, I realized that God had given me an example through death.

My Saturday started in the basement of the hospital. I’m a physical therapist there and I cover a weekend or two a month. I had my clipboard in hand with a long list of patients to be seen for the day. As I punched the up button on the elevator, a security guard rolled up with a metal gurney. A few years of experience told me that she was on a transport mission. A patient had died, the family had come and gone and now it was time for the body to be moved. We rode up together with few words passing between us. We exited on the same floor and I went about my business checking charts. Next to me the security guard was focused on her task, checking boxes on a list and packing personal items into a box. It’s important to take care of sensitive matters at the hospital before visiting hours begin. I asked the guard which room she was going to, so that I could avoid bringing patients into that hallway. Before she could answer, a nurse turned and said, “We could really use some help lifting the patient, it’s kinda like dead weight.”

A life. Transformed in an instant from a vibrant presence to dead weight. For the record, this nurse is a patient, compassionate and kind person. This ill-timed pun wasn’t meant to diminish the life lost. It did get me thinking though about my own dead weight on this earth. The HCSB Study Bible opens the book of Ecclesiastes with this introduction:

“The Bible is never shy about confronting painful truths or hard questions. The book of Ecclesiastes faces the issue of how we can find meaning on life in light of the seemingly futile nature of everything. It will not allow the reader to retreat into superficial answers. It does not answer the problem by comforting us with hollow slogans. To the contrary, its motto is “Everything Is Futile.” But by forcing us to face the futility of human existence, it guides us to a life free of empty purpose and deceitful vindication.”

I got to thinking about the patient that I didn’t know. He or she did not take wealth or poverty with them. The struggles he or she faced in illness and death are now gone. I wonder, was it a life well lived? What truly held weight at the end and what simply didn’t matter anymore? My favorite verse in today’s scripture is this:

“For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.” Ecclesiastes 5:7

 Am I so full of words, and dreams and aspirations that there is no room left for obedience to God? The foundation of this teaching is our eventual mortality. We can try and try to impress God with our gifts and promises but in the end we cannot deceive Him. He calls us to be humble and obedient. He is asking us to depend on him and his grace. Without Him, life is meaningless. Back in the hospital room as the clean white sheet was drawn up and the wheels began to turn toward the door, I saw an end as well as a beginning. I asked God to lead me into fulfillment in Him. I asked for more reminders to broaden my vision from the context of today into his plan of eternity. As I heard the elevator ding and the heavy doors slide open, I realized that there is no timeline. There is no promise of tomorrow, only the promise of right now. Lord, help us to seize this moment, this Monday, this week. Help us to delight in you here until we are there…