The Second Death

Revelation 2:11 (WEB)

We have an amazing future in store for us! We do not have to be afraid of judgment because Jesus Himself promises that those who overcome will not be hurt by the second death. When I think of this promise, I think of the verse in 1 Corinthians 15:55 that says… “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (NIV)

Praise God that death no longer has a sting over us! We don’t have to live in fear of death because our Elder Brother Jesus has conquered death and sin and the grave once and for all. Another Bible verse that comes to mind is from Hebrews 2:14-15…

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (ESV)

Jesus has destroyed the one who once held the power of death so that we can experience true life and freedom of the fear of death! To echo again the words of 1 Corinthians 15:55… “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (NIV)

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Seeking To Understand The Mind Of God

Seeking To Understand The Mind Of God
I woke up this morning to news that a bus carrying fourteen senior adults from First Baptist Church of New Braunfels collided with a pickup yesterday afternoon. Thirteen bus passengers were killed. One passenger was hospitalized in critical condition; the pickup driver was hospitalized in stable condition.

The senior adults were returning from a three-day retreat at a Baptist encampment.

So far this morning, authorities have not determined the cause of the crash. No matter who or what caused the crash, the passengers were not at fault. Yet all but one were killed.

Tragedies like this bring us to the most difficult challenge Christians face theologically. We believe that God is all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful. No other religion affirms these tenets about a personal God as fully as we do.

Since God is omniscient and not bound by time, he knew that the crash would happen before it did (Psalm 139:4; 1 John 3:20). Since he is love (1 John 4:8), he would seemingly not want such a tragedy to come to his children. Since he is omnipotent (Matthew 19:26), he could have prevented the crash from occurring. The Lord who stilled the storms and raised the dead could have stopped a bus and a pickup truck from colliding.

Yet he did not.

Today there are families grieving the sudden loss of their parents and grandparents. A pastor is trying to help his congregation come to terms with a tragedy their church will obviously never forget. The rest of us will watch with sorrow for those who are suffering.

Many wonder why the God these senior adults worshiped didn’t prevent their deaths. So do I.

I often note that God redeems all he forgives. I’m confident that our Father will redeem for greater good even this terrible tragedy (Romans 8:18). But future hope doesn’t explain present suffering. We grieve, and we should. We ask hard questions, and we should.

But here’s what we should not do.

We need not wonder if the Christians who died yesterday share our grief or our questions. We need not wonder if God was able to redeem their suffering. One moment after they died, they stepped into heaven. When they took their last breath here, they took their first breath there. They moved instantly from our fallen world into God’s perfect paradise. Now they are more alive than we are in a world where “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

In the face of tragedy, we have two options.

We can decide that God is not who he says he is. We can let our questions keep us from experiencing his transforming love and sustaining grace. We can trust our doubts more than we trust our Creator.

Or we can decide to have faith in our Father even when we don’t understand him. The harder it is to trust God, the more we need to trust God.

Which option do you choose today?

From Dust To Glory

From Dust To Glory

For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. — Ecclesiastes 12:7 (NLT)

Most of us would agree with the statement that we won’t live forever. But that isn’t entirely true. The issue is not if we live forever or not, but who “we” refers to.

If we think of ourselves as our body, then it’s true; we do not live forever, and knowing that should inspire us to make the most of the time we have. However, if we know the truth about who we are – that we are essentially a soul and not the body we have been given for a number of years – then it is true that we live forever, only not in physical form or on this planet, but in our spiritual form in our real home in Heaven.

As it says in the book of Ecclesiastes: “For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” This perspective should also affect the way we live as well.

If you were going on a short trip for a week or two, you would never go on a vacation that would spoil your life after the trip. You wouldn’t squander all your money on this vacation and have nothing when you returned to your house. You wouldn’t quit your job or sever important relationships. At the same time, you also wouldn’t want to waste a minute of your vacation, and you would hope that the relaxation you experience while away would follow you into your daily routine.

The sages teach that we are each a soul, given the “clothing” of a physical body so that we can be here for a limited amount of time. Knowing this is a temporary state of being, like being on a trip, we wouldn’t want to do anything that would take away our reward in the afterlife. We wouldn’t want to forget that we have a job to do – to make ourselves and the world a better place. We wouldn’t want to waste a minute of our lives and would use every moment as a chance to develop our souls.

Knowing that we do live forever makes us pause and consider what we are doing today to ensure that our “forever” is the best that it possibly can be. How can we be more generous? How can we become more loving? In what ways can we overcome our shortcomings and develop our God-given talents?

One day, our bodies will be part of the earth. But our souls never die. We simply return to where we came from and live the rest and best part of our lives. On that day, all we will take with us are our good deeds.

How might that influence the decisions we make today?

djs

The End Is More Important Than The Beginning

The End is More Important Than The Beginning

A good name is better than fine perfume,
and the day of death better than the day of birth.

— Ecclesiastes 7:1

I recently attended a funeral for a woman who had lived a very long life. Yet, as anyone who has lost a loved one knows, the pain of losing a close relative comes no matter how long that person might have lived. The group that assembled for the funeral was solemn and tearful. Yet, when one of the speakers began to eulogize the deceased, he began with the following verse from Ecclesiastes: “A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.”

I have no doubt that the day that the departed had been born was a joyful one. And as I looked around at the faces of the mourners, it was clear that the present day was a sad one. So what did King Solomon mean when he said that the day of death is better than the day of birth?

The sages relate a parable to illustrate the idea.

A brand new ship was being set off to sea for the very first time. A group of people gathered to send the ship off with great joy. At the same time, an older ship was returning from its final journey. That ship was old and worn, ready to be retired upon its return. While everyone else was cheering on the new ship, only one man happily greeted the old ship.

The others asked the man why he was more excited about the old ship that would soon be a heap of junk than the new one on its maiden voyage. The man explained that when a ship begins its journey at sea, its future is unknown. It might be overtaken by pirates or it could sink in the middle of the sea. Whether or not the vessel would complete its mission was beyond anyone’s guess. However, when an old ship arrives from sea having successfully completed its mission, then all doubts are removed. The ship was successful and that is reason to be joyful.

So, too, when a person is born, we do not know how the person will turn out. But if they have lived a good life, remaining faithful to the Lord, then when their life is complete we can rejoice and be comforted in their successful mission even in the midst of our sorrow and grief.

Let us remember that as long as we live we are like a ship at sea. It’s up to us to keep the ship on course and to fulfill our respective missions. We determine the success of our life. If we remain focused and resolute, then our final day can be even better than our first.

djs

 

Passing Into Eternal Glory

Passing Into Eternal Glory
Psalm 116:15 (WEB)

Precious in the sight of Yahweh
is the death of his saints.