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Archive for the ‘death’ Category

Had a birthday yesterday.

I’m growing closer to my white robe birthday in heaven.

Until that graduation day comes, I need to embrace the words of Psalm 48:14.

“He is our God forever and ever, and He will guide us until we die.”

On my own, I’ll never be smart enough or wise enough to do life faithfully.

I’m a sinner and I mess up.

I’m a human and don’t remain laser-focused on Kingdom purposes 100 percent of the time.

As a pastor, I encounter shepherding and strategic decisions that need God’s wisdom that is so much greater than mine.

I need God to guide me until I am in His presence in glory.

I pray the same for you.

As always, I love you
Martin

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There are several views among Christians regarding what happens to the soul when a person dies.

Some believe the soul immediately enters the final, glorious heaven where Jehovah sits on the throne.

Some believe the soul immediately enters a “green room” setting known as Paradise where the Lord’s presence and only perfection and peace abide, yet the final heaven will not be gained until Christ’s second coming.

Some believe the soul enters a spiritual state of suspended animation — almost like a holy hibernation — perhaps even lingering in or near the dust of a decayed body. When the trumpet blast comes from heaven and Jesus rides in on a white stallion, the souls will be raised from hibernation and float off into heaven.

Of course, there are variations within each of these general views.

The Bible doesn’t offer a detailed, step-by-step sequence of the ethereal journey from death to dancing in heaven, although there are a number of passages that give us a plausible path to anticipate.

You can ask your pastor to talk with you about these things.

This morning, I don’t want to pontificate on what I believe the official path is for getting from here to there.

I simply want to celebrate that anybody who gets to heaven is gonna love it and that we should do all we can to make sure that God sees us as Christians.

Why?

Because I want you and I to share in the promise of I Thessalonians 4:17.

Then we will be with the Lord forever.”

Yes, we have some really good moments in this life.

And we have a lot of acceptable moments in this life.

Unfortunately, we also have a number of difficult moments in this life.

The former provide a faint glimpse of why it’s so important to have a relationship with Christ in order to avoid a difficult “forever.”

Read I Thessalonians 4 and you’ll receive part of the information you’ll need to understand what happens to the soul at physical death.

But, more than anything else, cling to the promise of verse 17.

That’s what I want. I pray that you want the same.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Hello again, my friends.

I apologize for not communicating with some of you that I would be taking a brief break from posting the Morning Devotion. I sent an email announcing the mini-sabbatical but my e-mail program had a glitch and I think it didn’t make it to many of you.

In any event, I’m back after a trip north to see family, including my dad George who has been through some major changes/challenges lately.

God is good, though, and he’s doing the best possible under the circumstances, though.

For those of you who knew the situation, I thank you for your prayers.

Dad is in the winter season of his life and I’m sure that he has been thinking a lot about his eventual graduation from this life into the next.

Today’s reading in the One-Year Bible contains a number of verses about the same topic. Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 7 the following words…

“…the day you die is better than the day you are born. Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies—
so the living should take this to heart…. A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time”
(vv. 1-4).

Solomon isn’t advocating that we linger in grief and perpetually pondering our promised passing. Instead, he’s directing our attention to the reality that our existence involves far more than physical life on earth.

In effect, he’s saying that this life is simply a pre-cursor to our next life.

It’s like we’re in dress rehearsal for the real thing and we need to be ready when the curtain is lifted.

I like the idea that the life that comes to us after we die is better than the life we’ve had after we were born.

Let’s commit to being wise.

Let’s think alot about our upcoming death.

Not in a somber, despairing manner but instead in a joyous, anticipatory manner.

For it is such thoughts that can sustain and even encourage us in the winter of our earthly lives when our flesh is feeble, when we are almost entirely dependent on others to feed us, clean us and provide medical care for us.

The day is coming when Dad won’t have his earthly limitations because he’ll be forever in the presence of the Lord!

That truly is going to be a day that is better than the day he was born.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I’m reading a book about the changes a Christian should consider making if he or she learned he or she had month to live.

My objective is to lead our congregation through this study sometime next year so that we’ll all become more clearly focused on the priority list God wants us to have in this life.

I’ve got room to do a better job in this respect. Perhaps you do, too.

That’s why I was intrigued this morning when I came across the following passage during my devotional reading time:

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4:14-15)

There were several people in the Miami area who headed to work in their cars yesterday morning and expected to head back home last night.

But they didn’t.

They died in auto accidents, a total surprise to them and those who loved them.

None of us know for certain when our days on earth are done.

And so, our choices should be based on the distinct possibility that we might not be here tomorrow.

In view of that fact, it’s very important that we conduct a personal inventory of unfinished relationship tasks that need resolved. You see, we don’t want to leave this life with unresolved conflict between ourselves and another person.

And we don’t want to leave this life with an unfavorable spiritual legacy toward our loved ones.

Please don’t leave this life knowing you should have forgiven another, but you didn’t.

And, of course, don’t neglect the opportunities to seek the forgiveness of others if an apology is in order.

Whatever commitments made to others have not been fulfilled, please do so before your post-mortem reputation is stuck with the fact that you didn’t keep your promises.

Though the specific context of the passage above dealt with human desires for investment gains, I think the larger message of the verse involves relationships.

Here’s a priority structure that I use to guide my handling of time, finances and emotions — faith, then family, then friends and then work.

Please make a list of the things that you believe would HAVE to get done if you had one month to live. Pray about the list to make sure God’s Kingdom ranks first and then get at it.

I need to do the same.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I’ve had trips out of town for the past couple of days and without the time to write the Moming Devotions. But while reading from Monday’s installment from the One-Year Bible, there was a detail that latched onto my holy imaginator and would not let go.

“David was now afraid of God, and he asked, “How can I ever bring the Ark of God back into my care?” So David did not move the Ark into the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-edom of Gath. The Ark of God remained there in Obed-edom’s house for three months, and the Lord blessed the household of Obed-edom and everything he owned” (I Chronicles 13:12-14)

OK, so it’s good that God blesses people.

That’s not news, so why would I focus on that fact?

This is why we need to use our brains and not just our eyes.

Just before the Ark of the Covenant was take to Obed-edom’s home, God had struck dead Uzzah, a man walking next to the cart carrying the Ark from Kiriath-jearim. The oxen pulling the cart had stumbled, jostling the cart. Uzzah put his hand on the Ark to keep it from falling off the cart and then God immediately zapped him.

Yes, God had commanded that people carry the ark on poles, not on a cart, so that it wouldn’t be touched by human hands. But Uzzah was just trying to help, wasn’t he?

God was making a point here about reverance for the earthly expression of God’s authority and holiness. A major point.

So Uzzah’s body is still smoldering when David’s procession arrives at Obed-edom’s house. Obed-edom must have had an incredible measure of faith in order to be chosen by David as the host for the Ark.

And that faith was demonstrated when Obed-edom didn’t say, “You aren’t bringing that thing in here! What if I accidently graze against it during my devotional prayer time or my little nephew touches it because it is shiny? I don’t want anybody in my household to die.”

Instead, Obed-edom agreed to host the Ark until God directed David to move it elsewhere.

Remember, David was angry with God after Uzzah was zapped. After all, David had called for a national gathering to form a religious procession for transporting the Ark to Jerusalem and there were many thousands of people who made the trip to Kiriath-jearim. When the fireworks started, their trip turned from celebration into grief and confusion.

It would take time for David’s heart to heal and his mind to absorb the lesson of Uzzah’s death. And that’s why he wanted nothing to do with this “headache” Ark — at least for a while.

While David’s heart healed, Obed-edom’s house was blessed.

Hmmm…….

I don’t want to read too much into this account, but I do see a couple of parallels for our lives.

Sometimes we encounter big problems because we are careless with showing reverence toward God. We treat our congregational involvement too casually or we treat the Bible as if it were a smorgasbord of optional rules.

We might even carelessly, repeatedly use communion time at church as “thinking about my to-do list after church” rather than as a time for appreciating the depth of Christ’s love for my soul and sacrifice for my sins.

When God decides enough is enough and the “wake-up call” arrives, do we grow angry with Him and set aside our faith in scripture for a while? Or do we fall on our faces and plead for forgiveness and restoration to the joy of carefully obedient worship and service?

David did return after his season of reflection and healing. And the eventual carrying of the Ark — on poles as ordained by God — led to unbridled rejoicing and dancing by the king as he led the procession into Jerusalem.

And as the Ark left his house, Obed-edom realized that God had greatly blessed his willingness to take in that which nobody else wanted.

Listen, increasing numbers of congregations are acting like the Bible is too demanding, too restrictive and too judgmental. They act as if the Word is bringing them sorrow to the point of anger rather than bringing them closer to God and to lives of sanctified blessing.

Such congregations are setting aside the Word’s authority because it causes too many headaches.

If only they would see the tragic error they are making.

Don’t fall into the trap. Please.

Receive the Word even when others wearing the label of “Christian” won’t.

You know the Word is holy and will phenomenally bless your life if you honor it.

Just like Obed-edom’s life was phenomenally blessed as he received and honored the Ark.

As always, I love you
Martin

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click What good is a useless faith_

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One of the Bible’s most beautiful pictures of worship is when Mary of Bethany poured anointing perfume on the feet of Jesus and wiped it off with her hair.

It was an absolute picture of devotion by one with a passionate faith in her Messiah.

This same Mary was also the one who chose to hang on every word that Jesus was speaking during an earlier dinner at the house she shared with her sister Martha.

Mary caught grief then for leaving her sister to do all the work in the kitchen, but Jesus defended Mary’s choice, saying she was focused on “the better things” of honoring God.

These pictures of devotion came to mind this morning when John 11 portrayed quite a different picture of Mary.

Actually, Mary was shown as one going through a spiritual crisis and who refused to go to Jesus.

“I trusted Him. I prayed to Him. Repeatedly. And then He let me down,” was the clear impression of her attitude based on her recorded behavior.

As I read the account involving the death of Mary’s brother, Lazarus, I thought of how most every believer at one time or another enters a season of spiritual crisis involving a profound feeling of being let down by God.

Mary had been Jesus’ biggest cheerleader in Bethany, I’m sure. A skilled socialite, Mary knew how to connect with people and to influence them.

It was a very good thing for Christ’s ministry to have Mary on the team.

But then Lazarus became deathly ill.

Mary and Martha and their friends started praying like crazy.

Mary said a message needed to get to Jesus so that He could do another one of Him healing miracles and poof! Lazarus back to good health.

After all, Mary reasoned, Jesus had the power to do so. He had even made blind people able to see again.

This was Lazarus, we’re talkin’ about. He was the brother of Mary and that should grant some special access, shouldn’t it?

No.

Jesus, of course, had a larger plan for this circumstance. One that would resolve Lazarus’ physical woes but which would also become a defining moment for how the Jews looked at Jesus, both those who loved Him and those who hated Him.

She was terribly distraught that Jesus didn’t provide a long-distance healing for Lazarus — or even come right away to pray over him.

“I’m one of His biggest supporters. Doesn’t that count for something?” she might have said to herself.

Jesus, of course, had a different agenda for this event. But Mary couldn’t see that and was simply reacting to her experiences and presumptions.

Mary’s profound disappointment was shown when Jesus finally arrived in Bethany after Lazarus had died.

She refused to meet Him, despite the likely urging of Martha.

Jesus told Martha that Lazarus would live again and then He asked about Mary.

When Mary heard that Jesus had asked for her, she jumped to her feet and left her home where she and friends had been mourning.

Mary found Jesus and fell at His feet, not to thank Him for coming but instead to complain that He didn’t show up earlier to prevent Lazarus’ death.

Fortunately, this story had a happy ending and Christ’s faith in God carried the entire crowd of weak-faith believers through the flood of despair.

For Mary, this was a painful, yet potent lesson about heartache and personal timetables and plans and the need for a mature faith.

It is a lesson that we need to re-learn over and over.

Christ’s delay in answering our prayers does NOT mean Christ doesn’t care. Instead, it often means that circumstances or perhaps our hearts are not ready yet for the display of His interceding power.

“Not now” does not always mean “Not ever!”

The wise believer trusts that God’s answer to his or her prayer will come at the time that it will accomplish the most for God’s Kingdom and for the believer.

Mary had to learn this lesson as recorded in John 11.

Paul had to learn this lesson and wrote about it in Romans 8:28-37.

James had to learn this lesson and wrote about it in James 1:2-8.

Some of us now are gaining spiritual maturity as Christ spends what seems to us as too much time in His intercession workshop. Our lesson from John 11 is to keep trusting through the heartache, knowing that He’s working on something significant and enduring that will be good to us and bring glory to Him.

As always, I love you
Martin

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