Well, the day has finally arrived. I'm ready to get back to blogging. I enjoyed my time off even if it did take me a few days to get used to having extra free time on my hands. This series came out of a personal quest to determine what I believe happens when a person dies. I'm not trying to say this is the only way things happen or that my way is right and everyone else's way is wrong. I'm just saying this is where I'm at spiritually on the subject at this particular time in my life. What I believe today may not at all be what I will believe a year from now. Our walk with our heavenly Father is a very fluid thing. We are constantly learning new things from Him by the power of the Holy Spirit that lives within each of us. And I'm convinced that sometimes we have to believe a certain way before we can come around later and believe in another way. It's like a process for some of us in that we grow in stages just like babies do. And sometimes we must learn to crawl before we can begin to walk. Once we start walking, we won't go back to crawling but we had to crawl before we could walk. This is a personal trip in search of the answers to questions that have remained elusive for a few years and I thought if I took out the time to write what I think I believe, eventually I would get around to knowing what I believe and knowing why I believe what I believe. Because that's really important: knowing why we believe what we believe. If you want to comment on what I write, feel free to do so. Just please, don't take off my head if you disagree with me. Simply tell me in plain English what you believe and why you believe what you believe. I know we are most often passionate in what we believe but let's not become cruel. No one learns anything from that. One of the things I will struggle with is when and where to break it up into daily portions. It may take me a little while to get to the point where I know when to break so some days may be longer than other days. And most of the time I will use the first few words in the text as the title for that day's blog. Okay ... here goes ...
When we die or have been told that we are dying (that lump wasn't benign after all) we will probably go through a wide range of emotions. Some healthy; some detrimental. But we can draw solace from the process as well. If we believe that there is no loss of consciousness there is little to fear. We may regret that our loved ones are approaching a time of grief while we are approaching the door into eternity. But we won't be beside ourselves in grief. The unknown can always be scary but we can keep fear to an absolute minimum by learning as much about the dying process as possible. Paul classified death as one of the possessions of a believer. Death doesn't have control of our destiny. But death, and only death, can give us the gift of eternity. We simply cannot get to where we're going without going through death's door. Think of how powerless death actually is! Rather than rid us of our wealth, it introduces us to eternal riches. In exchange for poor health, death gives us access to the Tree of Life ... Jesus Christ ... for "the healing of the nations" (Rev 22:2). Death might temporarily take our friends from us, or us from our friends, but it's only to introduce us to the place where there are no goodbyes ... forever! That is why Christ could say, "do not fear those who [can] kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul" (Matt 10:28).
Death and the process of dying might temporarily be the possession of cancer or heart disease, or accident, but these enemies cannot prevent our souls from going to God. When death has dealt it's worst blow to us, God will be shown to have done His best work in us. Remember that Jesus has the key of David and Revelation 3:7 says, "He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens ..." Jesus determines the ending for every single person who lives on this earth. The devil uses the fear of death to keep Christians in bondage and unable to approach that curtain with a sense of ease and tranquility borne from a strong faith solidly backed up by Scripture. He does not have the control of death, determining at what hour you die but he does use the human trait of the fear of death to keep us in bondage unable to slip peacefully beyond the veil.
Jesus spoke of His own impending death as an exodus. In Luke 9:31 at the Mount of Transfiguration Elijah appeared with Christ and spoke of the "departure" Jesus was soon to make. The Greek word used is exodus, from which we get our English word "exit." Exodus, the second book in the Old Testament (OT), is given that name because it's about God's people exiting Egypt to get to Canaan, the Promised Land. Jesus speaks of His own exodus to encourage us through our own. If we have a qualified leader, we can enjoy the journey a lot more. Jesus told Peter, "Where I go, you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow later" (John 13:36). What gives us comfort and courage is the fact that Jesus doesn't ask us to go where He Himself has not already gone. Christ went first, paying the debt we owed and His resurrection was the "proof of purchase." And exodus, or departure, need never be feared if it is championed by a better leader taking us to a better place.
Christ often spoke of death as a sleep ... the ruler of the synagogue's daughter (Luke 8:52); and Lazarus (John 11:11). Paul also used this word at 1 Corinthians 15:51. Death, then, can be spoken of as restful sleep. But we must never confuse that with the teachings of "soul sleep" for the believer put forth by Jehovah's Witnesses and others. As believers, our souls do not sleep. When we die we are instantly in the presence of God without any interruption of thought. Moses certainly was not "soul sleeping" when he appeared with Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration spoken of earlier. And Paul did not hope for a "soul sleep" when he was debating about where he wanted to be when he said, "to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better" (Php. 1:23), and "to be absent from the body [is] to be home with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:8) was surely a strong conviction of his belief in his consciousness after death. Yes, Paul knew he would remain conscious and he eagerly anticipated dying and being instantly in the presence of his Lord. Believers find their deaths to be the joyful rest of fulfillment. Blessed are the dead who died in the Lord! "As for me, I shall behold Thy face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Thy likeness when I awake" (Ps 17:5).
"For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Cor 5:1). Our present body is like a tent, a temporary dwelling place and when our tent becomes old and tattered it is a sign that will soon be moving. Death takes us from the tent to the palace; it is changing our address from earth to heaven. Our "tent" reminds us that we are only pilgrims here on earth, enroute to our final home.
(to be continued tomorrow)
Hopefully I broke this at a good breaking point. I won't know until I actually post it. I'm hoping for a daily segment to be just a little longer than what I used to write every day. One thing you can do is comment and let me know how long you prefer a day's message to be.
We had our small group again yesterday. We are really enjoying getting together once a week in a small home gathering like that. And I succeeded in one more lesson. I am midway through the book of 2 Peter and will be relieved when I'm finished with it. Let it be someone else's turn to teach! I love to teach but I just need so much prep time. I'm so slow about getting the points to sink into my brain that I spend hours preparing what I'm sure anyone else would just put together in a matter of no more than half an hour. I'm just not as sharp as I used to be.
A low fog has taken Hogback Mountain this morning and we're supposed to have a little rain move through later this afternoon and tonight and maybe a little tomorrow too. Then we're supposed to dry up until next week when "the storm door" will open and we'll have rain every day of the week. At least that's what they said last night on the news. (Of course their forecasts change almost hourly!)
Well I'm going to let this be it for my first day back. I really enjoyed my time off and hope I don't have to do that too often but I will take breaks when I need them. Hopefully I've given you just enough for a day's reading and you will remember tomorrow where we left off. Oh yes, I wanted to remind you that my spell checker stopped working for some reason so you may find any number of errors. I apologize for your inconvenience. So, until tomorrow ...