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Death & the Proof of Your Untimely Demise

Uh oh, maybe titling a post in such a way was a bad idea, maybe not.  The ultimate statistic in life is that 10 out of 10 people will die!  Sadly, it’s one of the most predictable stats, yet for many people one of the least cared about facts of life.grave 1

We don’t know our expiration date.  Sure would be nice, then I could be sure to get all my housework done beforehand.  Or maybe I could be sure to finish off my bucket list in the nick of time.  So, why do we often seem to brush off the idea that we will die and replace it with the notion that we have lots of time left?  Do we think it’s too morbid to consider our own death?  I think it’s quite the opposite.  We need to be aware and we need to be ready.

No matter your spiritual beliefs or thoughts on the afterlife, or lack thereof, something will happen upon our time of death.  From the Christian perspective it’s very clear, but I wonder how many Christian’s are confused about death?  The Bible (God’s word) clearly proclaims that “the wages of sin is death” and “all liars will have their part in the lake of fire” and Jesus told a man “you will be with me in paradise”.  How do we reconcile these thoughts?

First, we must understand sin.  Sin isn’t exclusive to convicts in jail, child molesters and plain old “mean people”.  Sin is a part of everyone’s daily life.  Yes, everyone.  Think of the basic moral laws summed up in the Ten Commandments.  Do you know those laws?  Don’t steal (no matter the value), lie (a lie is a lie), murder (hate), take God’s name in vain (GD), covet (be overly jealous), commit adultery (lust), you know some of these, right?  Well, God is so holy that we cannot be in his presence even if we have broken one commandment one time.  Whoops.

grave 2So, how do we deal with this fact?  Personally, swimming in a lake of fire sounds pretty hot.  I’ve lied too many times in my past.  Now, what’s to be done?  Ah, here’s where your Christian training comes into play.  This Jesus thing, right?  Jesus took our punishment so that we CAN be with God.  We just need to humble ourselves and place our faith and trust in Jesus as the Lord (leader) of our lives.  Once we are baptized into the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are “new” people with “new” desires.  To some this all seems foreign and confusing, but in actuality it’s quite simple.

In the end, we all die.  Do we plan to enter the afterlife standing on our own grave or on the empty tomb of Jesus?  Die hoping our own lives will merit some inclusion in “heaven” or die knowing Jesus has already prepared a place for us in heaven?

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The Life Cycle

I’ll hasten things along and start with insects.

Aphids are eaten by Ladybugs or Praying Mantis.

Leftover dead bugs are eaten by flies, worms and carrion (and yes, bacteria, fungi, etc).

Larger bugs and worms are eaten by birds and other small animals.

Trees and other plants grow from nutrients of decaying matter, like those dead bugs.

Berries and other fruits are eaten by all of the above (including plants – great recycling!) and are eaten by larger animals.

Vegetables and grasses are eaten by various insects and animals, large and small.

Dead animals of all sizes are eaten by all of the above.

Humans refuse to eat fruit, vegetables and other natural foods.  We do tend to get our fill of those animals though!  Antibiotic, steroid fed meat, yummy!  We get cancer.  We get fat.  We die.

Death comes to all of the above.

Ever notice that those animals that are fed “people food” are fat and probably die from cancer?  I love those cute fat chipmunks and pigeons, dogs and cats.

Seems like I may have stumbled across something interesting while writing this column, but I can’t seem to put my finger on it.

I think I’ll sit back and think a bit with a Diet Coke and eat some processed macaroni with Velveeta cheese, some bleached white bread with hydrogenated oil filled peanut butter and maybe some Capri-sun to get my fruit intake for the day.  Oh, yea, I need a veggie.  I just tossed some French fries in the oven.   Now what was I going to do?

If… and the Shadow of Death

This year my goal is to read about a chapter a day bulldozing my way through the New Testament.  Today in Matthew 4 (I started a few days late!) a couple things popped out at me…

1) The word “IF” is used three times with regards to “The temptation of Jesus”, his 40 days in the desert.  Satan uses it these three ways:

If you are…

If you are…

If you will…

How hilarious!  If you are the Son of God?  Satan is trying to push some buttons isn’t he?  He asks this twice!  But then Satan moves on and reveals his true nature.  If you will bow and worship me.  Are you kidding?  Nice try evil one.  All this IF stuff made me immediately remember the best “If you will” type phrases.

2 Chronicles 7:14 says “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

and

James 4:10 reflects, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

And to paraphrase, if you will humble yourself, pray and turn from your wicked ways, you will be forgiven, healed and lifted up.  Have you gone through this process?

2) The valley of the shadow of death…  I can remember this phrase from when I was a kid first memorizing the King James version of the 23rd Psalm.  Guess what, I ran across it in Matt 4:16!  Matthew clarifies that Jesus’ ministry is beginning as predicted in Isaiah 9.  So Matthew quotes from the Old Testament.

Isaiah 9:2 reads, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

As I read this, I had to go and reread Psalm 23…I need to read this more often.  The King James version is quite poetic.

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4Yea, 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.

5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

We are all in the valley of the shadow of death.  If you aren’t then please let me know how you plan to physically never lose the battle of life versus death.  Think about those times in your life where you honestly wondered if God existed, maybe this is another of those moments.  It is no accident for God is pursuing you even if you claim He doesn’t exist.  I was closed to the idea of God for many years, but as soon as I truly opened myself to Him, He revealed himself.  It can happen, it will happen, don’t let pride get in the way.

God did what?

I was attending a religion course at my church last night and was blown away that I had never noticed this small bit of history from Deuteronomy 34:

5And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said. 6 He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. (emphasis added)

God buried Moses.  No, this isn’t a context error, God buried Moses.  I had grave-diggingnever noticed this.  I really do love reading the Bible.  Something new pops out every time!

I’m sure God set the standard for all future grave diggers that day.

Jesus Didn’t Die, right?

I have heard people use the following verses to claim Jesus did not die.

He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matt 12:39-40)

The thinking is that Jesus compares himself to Jonah, who didn’t die and jonahcome back to life.  They argue for a literal reading of the text here, just as I would argue for a literal reading of Genesis 1-3.  Here’s the problem, Genesis 1-3 is never refuted and there is no additional information in the Bible that calls for a different reading.  It is also clearly a historical text based on how it is written.  Now, back to this passage from Matthew.

Here, we have a multitude of additional passages that compliment what Jesus says here.  The clear writing of Jesus’ crucifixion, death, burial, and the clear prophecy foretelling of the resurrection.  The list is long.  So, logically, and easily, we can read the passage above and see Jesus is comparing howjesus-hell he will be changed after three days and nights like Jonah was changed.  This is where the comparison ends.  I would also add that the reference to “the heart of the earth” is hell, and I’m pretty sure everyone would agree that this is a place you don’t go to while you are alive!

If you don’t believe something, it sure is easy to pick and choose and twist anything that you want to twist.  For this reason, as Christians, we must be literate of our own foundational teachings.  We must be ‘prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks ‘us’ to give the reason for the hope that ‘we’ have’.

Why would Adam “Surely Die”?

 Okay, God made a garden, put the “kids” in it, Adam and Eve.  Made it clear in Genesis that:

…the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground-trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Adam and Eve ate from the trees, had a good ole time, were reminded:

“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

And…they just had to try that forbidden fruit…!  So that’s why they ended up dead many, many years later, right?  End of story.  WRONG, or at least not the entire story.  And I mean you DO want to know this, because it’s really interesting and you have NEVER thought about it this way!

Here goes!  They were allowed to eat of all the trees but one.  All the trees included the Tree of Life.  Wonder what that tree did?  Maybe it kept them alive, eternal?  Wow, what insight!  Are you now thinking why you never thought of this, and all you thought about was the fact they ate that “learn about good and evil” fruit?  Of course, the “sin” got them kicked out of the garden, hence they could no longer eat from the Tree of Life, hence they would surely die!!!!!  Wondrous, Astounding, Miraculous!  Please don’t cry over this revelation!   You may smile and share it though, for that is simply what I am doing.  :)

Fun isn’t it?

God bless,

Jeff

The Lost Letter

 I lost a friend last Tuesday.  He died from a heart attack at the age of 60.  It’s been tough for me, but as the days have gone by, I have found hope in the words spoken by friends and family.  There’s so much I would have loved to be able to say to Uncle Kenny before his time in this imperfect world ended.

 Ken, would you really have smoked those Cuban cigars that had molded if I had brought them up to the Lake?  I’m thinking about doing more woodworking and I need some advice.  How many squirrels were there that invaded your lake house (when it was a real cottage)?  How was the newspaper business working out regarding the move to the Internet?  We’ve talked about this a few times, but we hadn’t discussed it recently.  After hearing all your friends talk about how absolutely brilliant you were at your ad director position, at teaching and consulting, I am humbled, COMPLETELY humbled that you asked me for advice regarding the Internet and my ideas and thoughts on reading the news via that media… Thank you for giving me way too much respect!  Thanks for all the years of good wine talk, good cigar talk and letting me watch you do your hobby work in the basement.  Your physical ears never heard me tell you how much you helped me grow in the appreciation of all these fine things.  At least now, I’m sure you know all about what the “best wine” tastes like, and you know that the “fragrant offering” that the Lord was always so pleased with in the Old Testament is an even better aroma than a pipe or a cigar could ever produce!  Hopefully, in time, we will be able to have another toast.  I miss you greatly.

Love, your nephew – Jeff