808) “If You Hear I’m Dead, Don’t Believe It”

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“Some day you will read in the newspaper that D. L. Moody of East Northfield, Massachusetts is dead.  Don’t you believe a word of it.  At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now.  I will have gone up higher, that’s all; out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal, eternal in the heavens; a body that death cannot touch; that sin cannot taint.  I was born  of the flesh in 1837.  I was born of the spirit in 1856.  That which is born of the flesh may die.  That which is born of the spirit will live forever.”

–Dwight L. Moody, the greatest evangelist of the 19th century  (1837-1899)

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A young Benjamin Franklin wrote this little verse in 1728 to serve as his epitaph.  Franklin made copies of this verse for friends at various times in his life.  This plaque appears on a wall near Franklin’s grave.

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     “Good morning, and how is John Quincy Adams today?” asked an old friend as he shook the former president’s trembling hand.

     The retired chief executive looked at him for a moment and then replied, “John Quincy Adams is quite well, sir, quite well.  But the house in which he lives at the present is becoming dilapidated.  It is tottering upon its foundation.  Time and the seasons have almost destroyed it.  Its roof is pretty well worn out.  Its walls are much shattered and it crumbles a little bit with every wind.  The old tenement is becoming almost uninhabitable, and I think John Quincy will have to move out of it soon.  But he himself is quite well, sir, quite well.”

     It was not long after that he suffered his second and fatal stroke.

John Quincy Adams (1767 – 1848)

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John 11:25-26  —  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.  Do you believe this?”

John 14:18-19  —  (Jesus said), “I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you.  Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also.”

2 Corinthians 5:1-9 (Contemporary English Version)  —  Our bodies are like tents that we live in here on earth.  But when these tents are destroyed, we know that God will give each of us a place to live.  These homes will not be buildings that someone has made, but they are in heaven and will last forever.  While we are here on earth, we sigh because we want to live in that heavenly home.  We want to put it on like clothes and not be naked.  These tents we now live in are like a heavy burden, and we groan.  But we don’t do this just because we want to leave these bodies that will die.  It is because we want to change them for bodies that will never die.  God is the one who makes all of this possible.  He has given us his Spirit to make us certain that he will do it.  So always be cheerful!  As long as we are in these bodies, we are away from the Lord.  But we live by faith, not by what we see.  We should be cheerful, because we would rather leave these bodies and be at home with the Lord.  But whether we are at home with the Lord or away from him, we still try our best to please him.

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Father in heaven, draw our hearts to you, that our hearts may be where our true treasure is found, and that our minds and thoughts may look to your kingdom, whose citizens we are.  Thus, when you shall call us hence, our departure may not be a painful separation from this world, but a joyous meeting with you.  

Perhaps a long road still lies before us.  Sometimes our strength is gone, and a faintness overcomes us, and we are in darkness; we become restless and impatient and our heart groans in anxiety about what is to come.  O Lord our God, do then teach us, and strengthen in our hearts the conviction that in life, as well as in death, we belong to you.  Amen.

–Soren Kierkegaard  (1813-1855)  Danish philosopher and theologian

796) Eternity Set in Our Hearts

By Randy Alcorn, http://www.epm.org, June 8, 2015 blog.

     Thornton Wilder, the late great American playwright and novelist, wrote the play Our Town in 1937, which won a 1938 Pulitzer Prize.  In the play, a character says, “I don’t care what they say with their mouths– everybody knows that something is eternal.  And it ain’t houses, and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even stars… everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings…  There’s something way down deep that’s eternal in every human being.”

     This corresponds with what Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us:  that God “has also set eternity in the human heart.”  Look around you at all those people walking the streets, working in offices, standing in lines, sitting in restaurants.  Their eyes are filled with needs, hopes, longings.  The world tells them they’re just molecules and DNA, time plus chance.  But their hearts cry out for eternal realities, for what will last, what really matters.

     They search for something, anything, to fill the raging emptiness within.  Satan offers them anesthetics that temporarily dull the pain, but they wear off.  The promise of fulfillment is always broken.  So they go right on searching in all the wrong places.  They turn to drugs, sex, money, and power for the same reason they turn to religion and self-help seminars.  Their instincts tell them “something’s missing, there has to be more.”

     And they’re absolutely right.  Something is missing.

     The first thing missing is the person we were made for– Jesus.  Haggai 2:7 refers to Messiah as “the desired of all nations,” the Person that all people of all cultures long for.

     But there’s something else missing.  Every human heart yearns not only for a person, but a place.  The place we were made for.  The place made for us.

     In Revelation 7:12, Jesus makes a great promise to those who obey him:  “I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the New Jerusalem which is coming down out of heaven from God, and I will also write on him my new name.”  Jesus says he will put on us the name of the person and the name of the place (heaven) for which we were made.

     We spend our lives longing for this person and this place.  Just as people restlessly move from relationship to relationship seeking the person they were made for, they move from location to location seeking the place they were made for.  Somewhere new and better.  A bigger house.  A different city.  The suburbs.  A new neighborhood– safer, nicer, with better schools.  That dream house in the country.  That idyllic mountain chalet.  That perfect beach cottage.

     People are made for the eternal and therefore cannot be ultimately satisfied by the temporal.  We long for a future world of justice, purity and joy– and a King who will bring all of those.  We therefore cannot be happy with the present world of injustice, impurity and suffering.

     True joy comes in anticipating, and living now in light of, the world yet to come and that world’s King, who made us for Himself.

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Ecclesiastes 3:11  —  He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

John 14:2-3  —  (Jesus said), My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

John 6:68-69  —  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Revelation 21:3-5  —  I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look!  God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”  Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

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725) Surprise!

By Randy Alcorn, March 27, 2015 Blog:  www.epm.org

     Imagine someone takes you to a party.  You see a few friends there, enjoy a couple of good conversations, a little laughter, and some decent appetizers.  The party’s all right, but you keep hoping it will get better.  Give it another hour, and maybe it will.  Suddenly, your friend says, “I need to take you home.”

    Now?

     You’re disappointed– nobody wants to leave a party early– but you leave, and your friend drops you off at your house.  As you approach the door, you’re feeling all alone and sorry for yourself.  As you open the door and reach for the light switch, you sense someone’s there.  Your heart’s in your throat.  You flip on the light.

     “Surprise!”  Your house is full of smiling people, familiar faces.

     It’s a party– for you.  You smell your favorites– barbecued ribs and pecan pie right out of the oven.  The tables are full.  It’s a feast.  You recognize the guests, people you haven’t seen for a long time.  Then, one by one, the people you most enjoyed at the other party show up at your house, grinning.  This turns out to be the real party.  You realize that if you’d stayed longer at the other party, as you’d wanted, you wouldn’t be at the real party– you’d be away from it.

     Christians faced with terminal illness or imminent death often feel they’re leaving the party before it’s over.  They have to go home early.  They’re disappointed, thinking of all they’ll miss when they leave.  But the truth is, the real party is underway at home– precisely where they’re going.  They’re not the ones missing the party; those of us left behind are.  (Fortunately, if we know Jesus, we’ll get there eventually.)

     One by one, occasionally a few of us at a time, we’ll disappear from this world.  Those we leave behind will grieve that their loved ones have left home.  In reality, however, their believing loved ones aren’t leaving home, they’re going home.  They’ll be home before us.  We’ll be arriving at the party a little later.

     Remember, Jesus said, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh” (Luke 6:21).  He said, “There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).  Laughter and rejoicing– a party awaits us.  Don’t you want to join it?…

     To be in resurrected bodies in resurrected friendships, enjoying a resurrected culture with the resurrected Jesus– now that will be the ultimate party!  Everybody will be who God made them to be– and none of us will ever suffer or die again.  As a Christian, the day I die will be the best day I’ve ever lived…

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     A friend told me about the last conversation he had with his mother.  She knew she was quite ill, and she told her son she did not want to die yet because she just purchased some new blue carpet for her brand new apartment.  She had the same beige carpet in the same old apartment for twenty years, and she was sick of it.  But now she had something new– new carpet in a new apartment.  And her new apartment had a beautiful view of a wooded area with a creek.  What a time to get sick!  She said, “I don’t want to die.  I really like the new carpet.  I have a nice apartment now, and I was so looking forward to enjoying the view.”  But then she did die.  Her son said, “Though she believed in Jesus, she did not really know what was ahead for her.  None of us do.  But God’s Word tells us that it will be far better than anything we could ever imagine.  I know that my mother was surprised to wake up on the other side of death to things far more wonderful than new blue carpet.”

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1 Corinthians 2:9-10  —  As it is written:  “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”– the things God has prepared for those who love him; these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.”

Matthew 22:2  —  (Jesus said), “ “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.”

Revelation 21:3-4  —  I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look!  God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Matthew 13:44-46  —  (Jesus said), “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.  When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.  When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

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PRAYER OF OLD SIMEON in Luke 2:29-32, when he held in his arms the baby Jesus:

 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:

For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people.

A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

709) You Don’t Need a ‘Bucket List’

From Randy Alcorn’s March 4, 2015 blog at:  http://www.epm.org

     The term “bucket list” was popularized by the 2007 movie of that name.  It’s an inventory of things people want to do before they “kick the bucket.”  The idea is, since our time on earth is limited, if something is important for us to do, we have to do it now, because this is our only chance to do it.

     This makes sense from a naturalistic worldview, one which doesn’t recognize any afterlife.  It also makes sense from various religious worldviews that maintain there may be existence after death, but without resurrection and physical properties, and with no continuity between this life and the next.  The one worldview in which the bucket list makes no sense is biblical Christianity.

     Don’t misunderstand. My wife and I enjoy life—going new places and doing new things.  I don’t believe this is wrong, nor is it wrong to list things you’d like to do if God gives you the resources and strength.  But the “bucket list” mentality, that this life is our only chance to ever enjoy adventure and fun, is profoundly unbiblical.  It disregards the teaching of the resurrection:

  • But your dead will live; their bodies will rise.  You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy… The earth will give birth to her dead. (Isaiah 26:19)
  • Many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting disgrace.  (Daniel 12:2)
  • We will be changed.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:52-53)
  • The Lord Jesus Christ… will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.  (Philippians 3:20-21)

     Despite the centrality of the resurrection in Scripture and church history, many Christians have never been clearly taught its meaning, so they imagine they will live forever in a disembodied state.  A sincere believer once told me, “I hate to admit this, but I don’t look forward to Heaven.  I wish I could live with Jesus on this earth.  I want all sin and suffering and death to be gone, but I still want to enjoy the beauty of God’s earth.”

     This man loved Jesus, but did not want leave this world and become a ghost or an angel.

     As much as he loved Jesus, the Heaven he’d heard about seemed terribly boring and tedious.  He’d heard that he should live now in light of eternity, but he thought eternity would mean the end of his opportunity to enjoy music and literature and adventure and travel and learning and discovery.  So God would understand, he hoped, if he spent his time and money on his bucket list.  After all, now was his only chance to experience happiness.

     Ironically, what he wished for is exactly what the Bible promises!  We will live with Jesus in these bodies made new, and in a creation made new, without sin and suffering.  Once he knew the true biblical story, the unfolding drama of redemption culminating in the resurrection of our bodies and our universe, he could at last realize there was no need for the bucket list.

     For the Christian, death is not the end of adventure, but our exit from a world where dreams and adventures shrink, and entrance into a world where dreams and adventures forever expand.

     That’s why my wife and I like to talk about our post-bucket lists, consisting of all the things we look forward to doing after we die, and in particular, after the resurrection.  We’re told there will be not only a New Earth, but a New Heavens (Revelation 21:1), the celestial heavens made new, presumably with new galaxies and stars and planets scattered across the New Universe.  Remembering the Andromeda Galaxy I first marveled at through my telescope before coming to faith in Christ, I would love to journey there, to the New Andromeda Galaxy, to the praise and glory of King Jesus.

     My wife’s post-bucket list includes her dream to spend a lot of time by a lake, playing with dogs.  Joni Eareckson Tada, once freed from her wheelchair, says she wants to run through flowered meadows.  Since we’re told we will have physical resurrection bodies and we’ll be living on a physical earth, why not?

     The Bible doesn’t specifically tell us about dogs on the New Earth, but it tells us about other animals (Isaiah 65:17, 25) so why shouldn’t we expect dogs?  It tells us we will eat and drink (requiring food and liquid), and walk and talk, so why not run through meadows?  Or are you expecting an earth without grass and flowers?

     Perhaps an alarm is going off—“but that’s unspiritual—we should only want to be with Jesus.”  Well, Jesus is right at the top of both of our post-bucket lists!  Would the same God who says we should eat and drink to His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31) be offended if we want to play with His animals for His glory and travel to the stars for His glory?

     Of course, some of what’s on our post-bucket list may not be exactly as we envision it, but we know this for sure:  God has revealed that we will be real people with real bodies living on a real earth with other real people and the real King of Kings— so anything there will be far more than we imagine, not less.

     I think God is honored when we let the imaginations He gave us soar as we move our eyes beyond this present fallen world, to anticipate the risen one— holy and happy beyond all comprehension— that the Carpenter from Nazareth has gone ahead to build for us (John 14:1-2).

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Lord Jesus, you told your disciples that you are preparing a place for us in your Father’s home for all who believe in you.  Prepare us also, so that we may be with you in that wonderful place.  Amen.

702) “May the Angels Lead You Far, Far From Here”

 

Father Rick Frechette (1953- )

     Father Rick Frechette is a Roman Catholic priest who has given his life to serving among the poorest of the poor in Haiti.  He has been there for over 30 years, and has loved his ministry with the Haitian people.  They have such miserable lives, he says, but are always so cheerful, so filled with gratitude, and many of them have a strong faith despite their desperate circumstances.  He describes it as a wonderful blessing to serve among them.

     In 2010 there was an earthquake in Haiti that killed somewhere between 150-250,000 people, destroying much of the capital city of Port-au-Prince.  Bodies were piled high in the streets, the smell of death was everywhere, everything was in ruins, and there were few places for the injured and homeless to go for refuge.  For a long time after that, it was not so wonderful for Father Rick to be there.  For months, it was just day to day misery.  It was Father Rick’s duty to stay, and he stayed.  He loved those people, he knew how to help them, and he worked through that tragedy with them.  But the days were filled with grief, mental distress, physical exhaustion, and spiritual agony.

     You may remember the truckloads of bodies that were carried out of the city to the mass graves.  For days, Father Rick made it a point to be at many such burials, seeing to it that those dead, so hastily buried, could at least have the dignity of God’s Word read over them as they were laid to rest.  Sometimes there were family members present.  Other times, dozens of unknown bodies were being buried even as loved ones in other parts of the city were looking all over, hoping to find alive the very ones who were being buried there anonymously.  It was a tragedy beyond comprehension.

     One of the places Father Rick often went in the days after the earthquake was the city morgue where many of the bodies were collected.  From there Father Rick would ride along out to the country for burials, or, if unable to go, would just offer a quick blessing at the morgue.  This is how he described those blessings:

In this barbaric cave for the dead, my trembling hand blesses them, and I say, “May the angels lead you far, far from here, and do so in all haste, you and this throng of dead that surround you.”

     This is a simple blessing, said in haste, but filled with the truth of the Christian hope.  It is a hopeful, even pleasant word, spoken in the very pit of that hell-on-earth.  May the angels lead you far, far from here, he said, speaking to those corpses as though there was something left, someone there yet.  And he would tell them that there was someone coming for them.  He would tell them that they were going somewhere else, far away from that hell-hole.  And he was able to speak like that only because Jesus had spoken of that other place, Jesus who rose from the dead to show us it can be done.  And then Jesus said that we too may live again.  Without Jesus, all that was left of those lives was a warehouse full of rotting flesh.  But because of Jesus, Father Rick could make that outrageous claim that all who believed in him were on their way to somewhere else.  Only because of Jesus’ death and resurrection is such a blessing possible.  

     The resurrection of Jesus answers the larger question of death itself that underlies not only disasters like the Haiti earthquake, but all of life.  You see, the tragedy in Haiti was that so many died all at once.  But in the long run, all of those people would have died anyway, as will each of us, and then we will be no more or less dead, no more or less without hope, than any one of those hundreds of thousands buried in mass graves by the truckload.  Two hundred thousand all at once, or, one at a time, either way, the same fate still awaits us all.  And then our only hope, like theirs, is that, as Father Rick said in the blessing, there will be someplace else to go; someplace far, far from here.  It is that certainty, that blessing, that eternal hope and promise, that is the central message, meaning, and purpose of the Gospel.  Christ died so that we might be forgiven, and Christ rose from the dead, so that we too might rise.  Anything else we might pray for or hope for from God is only a far distant second best by comparison.  In the meantime, there will be many things that we too must suffer, and we may not see any purpose in such suffering.  But our vision is limited.  God is a big God, and his creation is a big creation, and eternity is a long time, and we see such a small part of any of it.

Father Rick presiding at a mass burial of unclaimed bodies after the 2010 earthquake

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John 14:1-6  —  (Jesus said), “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.”  Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 3:16  —  (Jesus said), “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.”

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May the eternal God bless us and keep us, guard our bodies, save our souls, direct our thoughts, and bring us safe to the heavenly country, our eternal home, where Father, Son, and Holy Spirit ever reign, one God for ever and ever.  Amen.

–Sarum Missal

561) Will There Be Coffee in Heaven?

Randy Alcorn has written several books on heaven.  The following piece is adapted from his blog at  http://www.epm.org

     “Will there be coffee in Heaven?”  Someone may say, “I sure hope so.”  But it’s a statement that few would attempt to defend biblically.

     But consider the facts.  God made coffee.  Coffee grows on earth, which God made for mankind, put under our management, and filled with resources for our use.  When God evaluated his creation, he deemed coffee trees, along with all else, to be “very good.”  Many people throughout history have enjoyed coffee.

     God tells us that he “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17).  Does “everything” include coffee?  Paul also says, “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5).  Again, does “everything” include coffee?

     Given these biblical perspectives—and realizing that caffeine addiction or anything else that’s unhealthy simply won’t exist in Heaven—can you think of any persuasive reason why coffee trees and coffee drinking would not be in Heaven?

     Will heaven have fewer resources for human enjoyment than Eden did or than this fallen world offers?

     In Heaven, we will “drink . . . from the spring of the water of life” (Revelation 21:6).  God will prepare for us “a banquet of aged wine . . . the finest of wines” (Isaiah 25:6).  Not only will we drink water and wine, we’ll eat from fruit trees (Revelation 22:2), and there’s every reason to believe we’ll drink juice made from the twelve fruits from the tree of life.  So, along with drinking water, wine, and fruit juice, is there any reason to suppose we wouldn’t drink coffee or tea?  Can you imagine having a cup of coffee with Jesus in Heaven?  If you can’t, why not?

     If for health reasons you shouldn’t drink coffee now, then don’t.  But aside from personal preference, the only compelling reason for not having coffee in Heaven would be if coffee were sinful or harmful.  But it won’t be.  If drinking coffee would be unspiritual in Heaven, then it must be unspiritual now.   And unless someone’s a caffeine addict, under bondage to coffee and not to Christ, or if a person’s health is at stake, there’s simply no biblical basis for believing drinking coffee is sinful.  Those who shouldn’t consume caffeine now will be freed from addiction in Heaven.  Adverse health effects simply won’t exist.

     Those who for reasons of allergies, weight problems, or addictions can’t regularly consume peanuts, chocolate, coffee, and wine—and countless other foods and drinks—may look forward to enjoying them in Heaven.  To be free from sin, death, and bondage in Heaven will mean that we’ll enjoy more pleasures, not fewer.

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Genesis 1:31a  —  God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

1 Timothy 6:17  —  Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

1 Timothy 4:4  —  For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.

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A PRAYER BEFORE YOUR MORNING COFFEE:

Dear Lord, so far today I am doing all right.

I have not lost my temper, been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or self-indulgent.  I have not whined, complained, cursed, or eaten any chocolate.  I have not charged anything to my credit card.

I will be getting out of bed in a minute, and I think that I will really need your help then.  

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516) Through Heaven’s Doorway

By Randy Alcorn, July 21, 2014 blog, see:  www.epm.org

     When five-year-old Emily Kimball was hospitalized and heard she was going to die, she started to cry.  Even though she loved Jesus and wanted to be with him, she didn’t want to leave her family behind.  Then her mother had an inspired idea.  She asked Emily to step through a doorway into another room, and she closed the door behind her.  One at a time, the entire family started coming through the door to join her.  Her mother explained that this was how it would be.  Emily would go ahead to Heaven and then the rest of the family would follow.  Emily understood.  She would be the first to go through death’s door.  Eventually, the rest of the family would follow, probably one by one, joining her on the other side.

     The analogy would have been even more complete if the room that Emily entered had had someone representing Jesus to greet her—along with departed loved ones and angels.  Also, it would’ve helped if the room she walked into was breathtakingly beautiful, and contained pictures of a New Earth, vast and unexplored, where Emily and her family and friends would one day go to live with Jesus forever.

     Every person reading this blog is dying.  Perhaps you have reason to believe that death will come very soon.  You may be troubled, feeling uncertain, or unready to leave.  Make sure of your relationship with Jesus Christ.  Be certain that you’re trusting him alone to save you—not anyone or anything else, and certainly not any good works you’ve done.  And then allow yourself to get excited about what’s on the other side of death’s door.

     I’ve often read at memorial services this depiction of a believer’s death:

I’m standing on the seashore.  A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.  She’s an object of beauty and strength and I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and the sky come down to mingle with each other.  And then I hear someone at my side saying, “There, she’s gone.”

Gone where?  Gone from my sight, that is all.  She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side.  And just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination.  Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone at my side says, “There, she’s gone,” there are other eyes watching her coming, and there are other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!” 

And that is dying.  –source uncertain

     Five months before he died, C. S. Lewis wrote to a woman who feared that her own death was imminent.  Lewis said, “Can you not see death as a friend and deliverer? . . . What is there to be afraid of? . . .Your sins are confessed. . . . Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret?  There are better things ahead than any we leave behind. . . . Our Lord says to you, ‘Peace, child, peace.  Relax.  Let go.  I will catch you.  Do you trust me so little?’ . . . Of course, this may not be the end.  Then make it a good rehearsal.”  Lewis signed the letter, “Yours (and like you, a tired traveler, near the journey’s end).” (Letters to An American Lady, page 117)

     We see life differently when we realize that death isn’t a wall but a turnstile; a small obstacle that marks a great beginning.  Calvin Miller put it beautifully (The Divine Symphony, Bethany Publishers, 2000. page 139):

I once scorned ev’ry fearful thought of death,
When it was but the end of pulse and breath,
But now my eyes have seen that past the pain
There is a world that’s waiting to be claimed.
Earthmaker, Holy, let me now depart,
For living’s such a temporary art.
And dying is but getting dressed for God,
Our graves are merely doorways cut in sod.

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Matthew 4:17  —  From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Luke 10:20b  —  (Jesus said), …”Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Acts 7:56  —  “Look,” he (Stephen) said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

1 Peter 1:3-5  —  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.  This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

2 Peter 3:13  —  But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

Revelation 3:20  —  (Jesus said), “Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

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Heavenly Father, your Son has promised that he is preparing a place for us.  Prepare us also for that place in your home.  In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

503) Streets of Gold

The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl.  The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.  –Revelation 21:21 

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     There was a rich man who wanted to take his money with him beyond the grave.  When he was nearing death, he prayed fervently about the matter.  An angel appeared to him and said, “Sorry, you can’t take all your wealth with you after death, but the Lord will allow you to take one suitcase.  Fill it with whatever you wish.”  Overjoyed, the man got the largest suitcase he could find and filled it with pure gold bars.  Soon afterward he died and showed up at the gates of heaven.  St. Peter, seeing the suitcase, said, “Hold on, you can’t bring that in here with you.”  The man explained how God had given him special permission.

      “OK,” said St. Peter.  “You can bring the suitcase in with you, but first I must check its contents.”  He opened the suitcase to see what worldly items this man had considered too precious to leave behind.  “I don’t believe it!” exclaimed St. Peter.  “You brought pavement?!”
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I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder.  The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps.  –Revelation 14:2  
     There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of ‘Heaven’ ridiculous by saying they do not want to “spend eternity playing harps.”  The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them.  All the scriptural imagery (harps, crowns, gold, etc.) is, of course, a merely symbolical attempt to express the inexpressible.  Musical instruments are mentioned because for many people (not all) music is the thing known in the present life which most strongly suggests ecstasy and infinity.  Crowns are mentioned to suggest the fact that those who are united with God in eternity share His splendor and power and joy.  Gold is mentioned to suggest the timelessness of Heaven (gold does not rust) and the preciousness of it.  People who take these symbols literally might as well think that when Christ told us to be like doves, He meant that we were to lay eggs.     –C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity
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Revelation 21:1-5  —  Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
1 Corinthians 2:9  —  As the scripture says, “What no one ever saw or heard, what no one ever thought could happen, is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.”
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O Lord, support us all the day long of this troubled life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes and the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work is done.  Then, Lord, in your mercy, grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last.  Amen.
Book of Common Prayer

422) Happy to Go Home

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III;  a letter to Mary Willis Shelburne, June 7, 1959

     I am sorry to hear that so many troubles crowd upon you but glad to hear that, by God’s grace, you are so untroubled.  So often, whether for good or ill, one’s inner state seems to have so little connection with the circumstances.  I can now hardly bear to look back on the summer before last when Joy was apparently dying and I was often screaming with the pain of osteoporosis: yet at the time we were in reality far from unhappy.  May the peace of God continue to enfold you…

     What a state we have got into when we can’t say  “I’ll be happy when God calls me home” without being afraid one will be thought ‘morbid’.  After all, St. Paul said just the same in Philippians 1:21.  If we really believe what we say we believe—if we really think that home is elsewhere and that this life is a ‘wandering to find home’, why should we not look forward to the arrival?  There are, aren’t there, only three things we can do about death:  to desire it, to fear it, or to ignore it.  The third alternative, which is the one the modern world calls ‘healthy,’ is surely the most uneasy and precarious of all.  

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     “I received good news from my hospice nurse today,” said the elderly lady I was visiting.  Helen was had been battling cancer for a year, but was now about to lose that battle. 

     “What did she tell you,” I asked, wondering if perhaps there had been a change in her diagnosis.

     Helen replied, “She said I have, at the most, only a week to live.”  

     Helen died six days later, ready for God’s call, and happy to go home.

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     William Augustus Muhlenberg (1796-1877) was the great-grandson of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, the “patriarch of the Lutheran church in America.”  William, like his famous great-grandfather, was also a pastor.  Near the end of his life he was hospitalized, and was visited by the hospital chaplain who began praying for his recovery.  Old Pastor Muhlenberg interrupted the prayer.  “Let us have an understanding about this,” said the dying man.  “You are asking God to restore me and I am asking God to take me home.  There must not be a contradiction in our prayers, for it is evident that God cannot answer them both.”   —The Story of Christian Hymnody, by E. E. Ryden, 1959, page 485.

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     I am reminded of a little cartoon I saw one time in a magazine.  The cartoon shows two men, in the clouds of heaven, with their angel wings attached.  They are sitting in lounge chairs, obviously taking it easy and enjoying themselves immensely.  And one says to the other, “Just think, Ralph, if it wasn’t for all that darn health food, we could have been up here years ago.”

     We fear the change that will come when we die, but we must keep in mind Romans 8:18 where Paul, who suffered a great deal for the Gospel, says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”  It will be an incredible and wonderful change.

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Philippians 1:21-24  —  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.

Hebrews 11:13-16  —  All these people were still living by faith when they died.  They did not receive the things promised;they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.  People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.  If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.  Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Psalm 23:6  —  Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Revelation 22:20  —  He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.

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O my most blessed and glorious Creator, who has fed me all my life, and redeemed me from all evil; seeing it is your merciful pleasure to take me out of this frail body, and to wipe away all tears from my eyes, and all sorrows from my heart, I do with all humility and willingness consent and submit myself to your sacred will.  Into your saving and everlasting arms I commend my spirit.  I am ready, my dear Lord, and earnestly expect and long for your good pleasure.  Come quickly, and receive the soul of your servant who trusts in you.  Amen.  

–Dying prayer of Henry Vaughan

397) Will We Recognize Each Other in Heaven?

By Randy Alcorn, in his January 27, 2014 Blog at:  

http://www.epm.org

        When asked if we would recognize friends in Heaven, George MacDonald responded, “Shall we be greater fools in Paradise than we are here?”

     Yet many people wonder whether we’ll know each other in Heaven.  What lies behind that question is the false assumption that in Heaven we’ll be disembodied spirits who lose our identities and memories.  How does someone recognize a spirit?

     However, these assumptions are unbiblical.  Christ’s disciples recognized him countless times after his resurrection.  They recognized him on the shore as he cooked breakfast for them (John 21:1-14).  They recognized him when he appeared to a skeptical Thomas (John 20:24-29).  They recognized him when he appeared to five hundred people at once (1 Corinthians 15:6).

     But what about Mary at the garden tomb or the two men on the road to Emmaus?  They didn’t recognize Jesus.  Some people have argued from this that Jesus was unrecognizable.  But a closer look shows otherwise.

     Jesus said to Mary in the garden, “‘Woman . . . why are you crying?  Who is it you are looking for?’  Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him’ ” (John 20:15).

     Distressed, teary-eyed Mary, knowing Jesus was dead, and not making eye contact with a stranger, naturally assumed he was the gardener.  But as soon as Jesus said her name, she recognized him:  “She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher)” (John 20:16).

     Some commentators emphasize that the disciples on the Emmaus road didn’t recognize Jesus.  But notice what the text says:  “As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him” (Luke 24:15-16).  God miraculously intervened to keep them from recognizing him.  The implication is that apart from supernatural intervention, the men would have recognized Jesus, as they did later:  “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight” (Luke 24:31).

     Another indication that we’ll recognize people in Heaven is Christ’s transfiguration.  Christ’s disciples recognized the bodies of Moses and Elijah, even though the disciples couldn’t have known what the two men looked like (Luke 9:29-33).  This may suggest that personality will emanate through a person’s body, so we’ll instantly recognize people we know of but haven’t previously met.  If we can recognize those we’ve never seen, how much more will we recognize our family and friends?

     Scripture gives no indication of a memory wipe causing us not to recognize family and friends.  Paul anticipated being with the Thessalonians in Heaven, and it never occurred to him he wouldn’t know them.  In fact, if we wouldn’t know our loved ones, the “comfort” of an afterlife reunion, taught in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18, would be no comfort at all.  J. C. Ryle said of this passage, “There would be no point in these words of consolation if they did not imply the mutual recognition of saints.  The hope with which he cheers wearied Christians is the hope of meeting their beloved friends again.”

     The continuity of our resurrection minds and bodies argues that we’ll have no trouble recognizing each other.  Missionary Amy Carmichael had strong convictions on this question:

Shall we know one another in Heaven? Shall we love and remember?
I do not think anyone need wonder about this or doubt for a single moment.  We are never told we shall, because, I expect, it was not necessary to say anything about this which our own hearts tell us.  We do not need words.  For if we think for a minute, we know.  Would you be yourself if you did not love and remember?…  We are told that we shall be like our Lord Jesus.  Surely this does not mean in holiness only, but in everything; and does not He know and love and remember?  He would not be Himself if He did not, and we should not be ourselves if we did not.

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1 Corinthians 15:42-44  —  So will it be with the resurrection of the dead.  The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.  If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.  (NOTE:  We will not be unrecognizable disembodied spirits– we believe in the resurrection of the body.)

 

1 Thessalonians 4:14-18  —  Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.  For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.  According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage one another with these words.

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GOD BE WITH YOU TILL WE MEET AGAIN (1880) by Jeremiah Rankin  (1828-1903)

God be with you till we meet again!
When life’s perils thick confound you,
Put His arms unfailing round you;
God be with you till we meet again!  (verse three)

REFRAIN:  Till we meet, till we meet,
Till we meet at Jesus’ feet;
Till we meet, till we meet,
  God be with you till we meet again.

Source:

 http://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/861#ixzz31Xw4rHlG