How to Die Well

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
   I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
   your rod and your staff,
 they comfort me.”

Psalm 23:4, ESV

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”

Psalm 116:15, ESV

 

“Death is like my car. It takes me where I want to go.” 

Pastor John Piper

Our generation simply doesn’t know how to die well.  There are so many conflicting messages and attitudes which have steered us away from the reality of dying.  Much of it is the natural development of unbelief.  Our pop culture develops this and gives it momentum.  We are trying to convince ourselves that “death is impossible, my life will not end.’  But we’re escaping into a delusion.  We are running from what is real.

There is a Latin phrase,  Ars moriendi  (“The Art of Dying”) which the Church practiced in past generations.  In past time, Christians would be buried as close as possible to the Church building.  Many would be interred within the very walls of the Church.  The understanding was that the dead were part of the congregation.  That there was only a thin veil that stood between the living and the dead.  The dead didn’t just vanish.  They are with us.

My generation is confused.  We have forced death to wear a mask.  We insist on a significant camouflage to hide the reality of sickness and death.  No one really ever talks about it, and so no instructions are given on how to die well. So we don’t, we die poorly–in ICUs and LTCs, completely sedated, separated and unable to process it or help our families process it.  There can be no solid connection between the living and the dying. And to be very honest, this is not working.

For many, the fear of dying is intense and paralyzing.  Death brings us a terror that twists us; we don’t know how to respond to it.  Additionally there seems that there is no one available to direct us.  Death is a spooky taboo that no one really explains.  The implication is that we are simply to avoid death, ‘it may not come for you’.  But that is not what is real.

“Death avoidance” pretends to lift us above the issue, where we can imagine that we will stay separated somehow from its obscenity and ugliness.  Funerals are nothing more then an aberration.  We have become ‘teflonized’, these things just slide on and off.  We just refuse to calculate, or accept what is happening.  We have ‘molded’ our fear into a more desirable shape.  We simply cannot function in the steady gaze of what is real.  We just shut down and refuse to function. We simply pretend.

Its time for the Church to step up and guide us to our next step.  Our pastors and elders have got to prepare us to die well.  It is a part of being a disciple.  It is discipleship, and dying is inclusive.  We need somebody to prepare us for the inevitable and the certainty that is approaching us.  I need someone that will help me face my own death.

You know what?  No one escapes.  And the reality of that drives some of us mad, or addicted, or psychotic.  The idea of filling a casket up for forever is incomprehensible.  We cannot live with this sick idea of dying.  It disturbs us on the deepest level possible.  It is completely evil.

Psalm 23 has been pure comfort and healing for generations.  And it is an excellent starting point for us.  Verse 4 develops the idea of traversing death.  The writer has incredible insight of passing through death.  This verse alone is worth “billions of dollars in gold”.  Psalm 23 has made me a very wealthy man.  His Word has become my rich treasure.

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ybic, Bryan

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Comparing Our Differences

“Do not insult the deaf or cause the blind to stumble. You must fear your God; I am the Lord.”

Leviticus 19:14, NLT

“I served as eyes for the blind and feet for the lame.”

Job 29:15, NLT

Our disabilities can give us a rough time of it. Being mentally ill– whether with depression, schizophrenia, bipolar, autism spectrum, etc can create many challenges. In some sense, those of us with physical or mental issues are all in the same boat. Many of us are physically, mentally, or developmentally disabled.

Or are we? I suspect that there are a million permutations (or more) of disability. One is in a wheelchair and suffers from migraines and depression. Another has severe anxiety. Others have little or no self-control and is becoming a drunkard, and yet another is just a child but diagnosed as autistic.

The fact of  labeling people often diminishes them into categories. A young child with Downs Syndrome is often labeled, and they seldom have the opportunities that ‘normal’ children receive. This is usually an unconscious reaction to their handicap.

In Nazi Germany, those with a mental or physical illness were rounded up and sterilized or euthanized (murdered) to achieve an ‘Aryan superiority.’ Systematically, untold thousands of disabled people were executed. We call this “eugenics” and it still is alive and well in the 21st century. It is rampant in a world that embraces “social darwinism” as its ideology.

We must remember these things. We also need to understand that we shouldn’t compare people with people. And we dare not pass judgement on anyone who is different. Disabled people should not wear labels, especially when ‘normal’ people slap it on us. A person’s perceived value should never, ever be part of a Christian believer’s agenda.

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ybic, Bryan

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Chutzpah!

chutz·pah

  http://sp.dictionary.com/dictstatic/d/g/speaker.swf

A word from the Hebrew

1. unmitigated effrontery or impudence; gall. 2. audacity; nerve.  3. shameless audacity; impudence.

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The essence of “chutzpah” has been described as the man who murders his parents, and then throws himself on the court because he is now an orphan. (At least that is what I have heard.) Chutzpah is most often found when things seem unattainable. It is an intelligent response to things that are ugly and desperate, and yet somehow making them available. And it is typically and completely “out-of-hand.” It seems to step-up when things are bleak, and you make certain things negotiable again.

It’s like healing and deliverance are stored on the top-shelf.  Chutzpah goes and comes back with a ladder.  It simply will not be dissuaded or denied.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Hebrews 4:16, ESV

There is the special need for a definite form of chutzpah here. We “get close.” And then we push closer. And we are totally beyond our place and status. But all we can see, is the “mercy and grace.” So because we see such wonders, we audaciously step into His presence.

“So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body. So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word.”

Heb. 10:19-21, MSG

I must admit, my preference is this– I just don’t like people with chutzpah. They seem arrogant, and I distrust arrogance. I don’t like it, and it is hard for me to see it as a virtue. But as I read the Word, I discover that the people of true faith seem very conceited. They swagger in, and will receive all (and more) of what they request (or demand.)

All of there behavior seems smug and superior to a sceptical heart. And yet I must reflect on all those in the Word who were outrageous, who stepped totally out-of-line. Jacob who wrestled. Moses who negotiated. Esther who persuaded. The adulterous woman who anointed. The leper who begged. There are quite a few others, we can find. They all were “cheeky” and dauntless.

What role does “chutzpah” have in our personal walk? Should we step out into this faith that is inherently susceptible to our incredible demands?  It is outrageous that we should demand an entrance into the presence of the Most High. And then when we finally stand in this place, we insist on complete and total forgiveness. Now that, dear friends, is a chutzpah kind of  arrogance!

If we should be “chutzpah-believers” we need to know the promises in the Bible. That alone will be the only place we can stand. Our faith must exclusively be based on what God has proclaimed in the Word. To come forward without a promise is very foolish.

In the Gospels we will find a blind man whose name was Bartimaeus. He steps up and clearly insists on a healing. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Jesus turns at this act of chutzpah. “What would you have Me do for you?” There is a profound audaciousness in his reply. “Heal me!”

As believers, sometimes we simply take the “humble route.” But if you want God, then you must step up, be bold and take what you need from Him. It seems that our Father insists we enter His presence quite “boldly.”

Over and over, we read of Bible characters who pronounced that boldness was an incredible virtue. But faith at its essence simply will not conform to any other definition. Faith insists that we be audacious and bold, way beyond any logic or reasoning. They might think we are quite outrageous, but we know that we are only being faithful.