Staring Down Death

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“In the long run, we are all dead.”  —John Maynard Keynes

“Are you afraid to die? Remember that for a child of God, death is only a passing through to a wonderful new world…”  —Corrie Ten Boom

The idea of death is unpopular, unsettling and perhaps a little rude.  It is a great way of putting a good conversation into flight-stopping stall.  No one likes it (except maybe ‘Goths‘ and the perennial AC/DC fan).  It is perhaps ‘too true’ and the reality keeps us from dwelling on it.  But it is going to happen, you will die.

 “We live for seventy years or so (with luck we might make it to eighty), And what do we have to show for it? Trouble. Toil and trouble and a marker in the graveyard. Oh!  Teach us to live well!  Teach us to live wisely and well!”

Ps. 90:10, 12, MSG

Our modern society has made considerable effort to avoid the subject of death.  Thinking through this strikes me as unhealthy and confusing.  Through the past centuries, our present day attitude would be regarded as strange by them.

The Bible teaches us how to prepare to die well. 

We have been given several decades of life on this planet, but not much more than that.  The psalmist recognizes this.  He prepares for his/her personal appointment for death.  He prays that he will use wisely all the time he has left.  Psalm 90 has been part of that preparation for millions of Christians, for many centuries.

One way to help you purify a faith that is strong enough to look death straight in the eyes, is to have a few older Christian friends.  For me there is Pastor Ray.  He is in his 80s now.  I see myself marching behind him, and watching his back as he moves to heaven.  It helps me follow in some small way.  It gives me peace.  Maybe that is how it is supposed to work.

The Bible is a book that is to prepare us for death, and then eternity.  It is our compass as we look for ‘true north’.  It has instructions and guidance, if we listen to the voice, it will bring us through the ‘door of death’. Fear not, little flock.  It is God’s pleasure to give you the kingdom”.

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 “Lord, please get me ready to see you.  Teach me how to live wisely, and not as a foolish person.  Teach me to be a model of faith and strength to everyone who is watching me move toward death.  Give me courage and faith.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.” 

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Depictions of an Empty Tomb

It’s Easter Sunday, and so I’m foregoing the usual routine and directing my attention to photos/artwork depicting the empty tomb of Jesus Christ. Take a look, pause and even pray–if that is something you want to do.

“That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Romans 10:9

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John and Peter Run to the Empty Tomb
John and Peter Run to the Empty Tomb

 

Line-drawing, but I like the depiction of raw power

 

Actually, the flowers make this

 

I really like this one

 

I like the light/darkness idea

 

He is gone!

 

This catches the power and majesty

 

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The tomb site according to ecclesiastical tradition

Mark 16

“1When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
4But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ “
8Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”

 

For info on the traditional ecclesiastical site, go to:

http://www.israeljerusalem.com/tomb-of-jesus-jerusalem.htm

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It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming!

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 “he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”

Philippians 2:8

Dr. Tony Campolo tells the story of a little preaching competition that he had with his pastor during services at the church where he attends. Dr. Campolo tells how he preached the “perfect” sermon, perfect in every way. He had taken the congregation to the heights of glory. And as he sat down beside his pastor, Dr. Campolo patted him on the knee and simply said, “Top that.” The older black pastor looked at him and said, “Boy, watch the master.”

It was a simple sermon, starting softly, building in volume and intensity until the entire congregation was completely involved, repeating the phrases in unison. The sermon went something like this.

It’s Friday. Jesus is arrested in the garden where He was praying. But Sunday’s coming.
It’s Friday. The disciples are hiding and Peter’s denying that he knows the Lord. But Sunday’s coming.
It’s Friday. Jesus is standing before the high priest of Israel, silent as a lamb before the slaughter. But Sunday’s coming.
It’s Friday. Jesus is beaten, mocked, and spit upon. But Sunday’s coming.
It’s Friday. Those Roman soldiers are flogging our Lord with a leather scourge that has bits of bones and glass and metal, tearing at his flesh. But Sunday’s coming.
It’s Friday. The Son of man stands firm as they press the crown of thorns down into his brow. But Sunday’s coming.
It’s Friday. See Him walking to Calvary, the blood dripping from His body. See the cross crashing down on His back as He stumbles beneath the load. It’s Friday; but Sunday’s a coming.
It’s Friday. See those Roman soldiers driving the nails into the feet and hands of my Lord. Hear my Jesus cry, “Father, forgive them.” It’s Friday; but Sunday’s coming.
It’s Friday. Jesus is hanging on the cross, bloody and dying. But Sunday’s coming.
It’s Friday. The sky grows dark, the earth begins to tremble, and He who knew no sin became sin for us. Holy God who will not abide with sin pours out His wrath on that perfect sacrificial lamb who cries out, “My God, My God. Why hast thou forsaken me?” What a horrible cry. But Sunday’s coming.
It’s Friday. And at the moment of Jesus’ death, the veil of the Temple that separates sinful man from Holy God was torn from the top to the bottom because Sunday’s coming.
It’s Friday. Jesus is hanging on the cross, heaven is weeping and hell is partying. But that’s because it’s Friday, and they don’t know it, but Sunday’s a coming…”

 

Dr. Tony Campolo

Campolo’s web site: http://www.tonycampolo.org/

(This sermon is in an audio format as well: http://tonycampolo.org/its-friday-but-sundays-coming/)

 

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First, You Die

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. 25 Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.” 

John 12:24-25, NLT

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We kick it off with a basic knowledge of farming.  Not every farmer knows this, but all his seed sown in the ground will die.  Now it is possible this fact may discourage some, but the wise farmer accepts the dead seed, knowing that green growth will sprout from this death into a harvest of 1000x times or more for every dead seed.

“He that loves his life will lose it”.  This is one of the first ‘laws of the spirit’ we must learn.  It is the basis of so much that we have to know.  For years I have preached this message just before Easter Sunday.  “There can be no resurrection without a crucifixionThere is simply no resurrection power without crucifixion weakness”.

Alas, we must die before we can live.  There is no way around this, and no waiver can be given to avoid this truth.  You have to die, it is a profound necessity.  But often we become adept at ‘life support’ systems.  Doing what we can do to keep the ‘old man’ alive.  So much of what we find in religion is nothing more than a way to put the ‘old man’ on life support.

Unless we die, we will never, ever live.  If we try to save our life, we will die.  Choosing then to die is really your best option.  But what does that entail?  Every Christian is to submit to carrying his/her cross daily.  That cross is intended, not for a showy display, but to die upon.  Our self-life must choose to die, when we are ‘crossed’ by someone else.  Someone insinuates that something is wrong with us, and we die when we just humbly accept it without rancor or anger.

Resurrection life is what happens when we finally decide to die.  Doing so, we become incredibly fruitful for one.  We start to live the life Jesus had intended for us.  You will start to make the connections that were not possible before, you become spiritually diversified, reaching a very broad spectrum of people.

But most of all, the most of everything, you will connect with others on this fresh level.  Your spirituality will not become a hindrance to others.  In a very real way you’ll become like Jesus.  And that can’t be at all bad.

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