Saturday, July 2, 2016

THE DAY AFTER YOU DIE

When it comes to how the world views the end of life, I would like to highlight four main views. Most people  will hold one of these views or variations on it. Excuse my broad strokes and obvious bias for the fourth view if you believe otherwise.



The first we might call the materialist view. They would hold that all of life exists in the tangible, physical reality. Life is defined by all that is experienced in the heartbeat and the brain wave. When these things cease, the body dies and the person ceases to exist. When your body goes in the ground, that’s it. In that view we have memories of our loved one that can be passed on to the living, but our memories end when we do.

The second group of belief originates from Hinduism and Buddhism. It views the end of life as a time of reincarnation (or rebirth). The transmigration of souls teaches that your life force is reanimated in another form. Depending on your karma (how you are judged) you will come back to life in a higher or lower form of life. If your karma was not so good, you may come back as a mosquito. Good karma means that you may come back as someone better.

Life continues on and the essence of who you are must continually move toward Nirvana where you no longer exist as an individual but are absorbed into the nothingness of the Universe. In this view, a person is judged by their karma and life consists of learning to empty oneself of individuality and self.

The third view I would call ‘the Good Person Checklist’. In the likelihood of God’s existence, we need to be good people. If we are good enough God will accept us into Paradise and if we were terrible people, God will punish us in the afterlife. On the good/bad scale most people would say George was a great guy and earned his way to Heaven. Sometimes this ‘earn your way’ view will have certain rules and entry requirements and you won’t really know what’s coming until you stand before God.

In the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Islam & Christianity) it is believed that humanity was created by God from the elements of the earth and that God breathed life into us. We were embedded with the capacity to know God and be a reflection of God’s character. All these religions believe in a state of being beyond the grave and that God will evaluate us for reward or punishment.

The fourth view is the ‘path of Jesus’. The life/death continuum of humanity is disrupted and reframed when Jesus is put to death and three days later rises from the dead. This is not a normal occurrence, but the start of something that deepens the understanding of what the future existence is.  The early followers of Jesus understood that he had demonstrated God’s power over death and was a real life example of how God wants to restore Creation and move us from mortal to immortal—finite to infinite.

When Jesus was being crucified on a cross, there were others being crucified at the same time. One of them was a thief who in his suffering called out to Jesus saying, “When you enter your kingdom Lord, remember me.” Jesus replies to this man who had no way to save himself, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” The man had not religious training, no baptism or chance to prove his goodness. He was a common criminal being executed, but Jesus recognized his true worth before God and Jesus’ death became a gateway for others to enter Paradise and also to face a future resurrection.

Each of us has a view and opinion about whether there is anything or nothing after we die. It is not trivial, because we all will one day breathe our last breath on this earth and want to live a life now that makes sense.


Jesus said,

John 14:
“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.”


None of us can answer every question about what another person believed in his or her life, but we can certainly open our hearts and minds to understand the need for hope. I find my hope in the resurrection of Jesus and the possibility of something more beyond the limits of my comprehension.



Tuesday, June 28, 2016

WHEN GOD WANTS A DIVORCE

If you have experienced a family member, spouse or partner that ignores and humiliates you for a prolonged period of time, you may reach the point of saying that you will not stay with the one who continually hurts you.


Do you think that people with low self-esteem or those with higher self-esteem are more likely to disconnect from those who mistreat them?

Dr. Sally Singer Horwatt said,

People low in self-esteem are more likely to ostracize, but they appear to use it as a manipulative tactic rather than true disengagement. 
High self-esteem individuals are more likely to ostracize to terminate an unwanted relationship. Ironically, people with high self-esteem are more likely than those with low self-esteem to terminate a relationship with partners who ostracize them. [1]


Why do we think that God has no right to distance from those who reject Him? In describing His People as a bride, the God who hates divorce uses language to say that He will divorce them if they continue to deny Him.

God does not abandon his care for the loved ones. He acts on their behalf to remove enemies from their path. He carries through on all that He has promised, but cannot go with them in their present state of disconnect. In loving response, God distances himself from those who stir up his anger.

The strong, shocking words of God through the prophets and through Jesus are meant to stop us in our tracks. Have we taken God’s goodness for granted? Do we think that we can get by with a stiff neck and never do anything about it?

As we move forward through Exodus 33, we will find out that God will not go with us until we change our heart toward Him.

As a child fighting in the back seat, my loving parents would sometimes reach the point of stopping the car and saying, “Do you kids want to walk?” The thought that we would be alone, lost and abandoned was enough to get our attention and we learned to get along.

We should not be surprised that God sometimes stops the car and asks if we want to walk alone from this point or remain with Him. Our greatest fulfillment comes in knowing that we belong to God and are learning to live openly and before Him.


Exodus 33:
When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments. For the Lord had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.’”So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments at Mount Horeb.


In all the ways that we put on bling to impress ourselves, God says stop! We need to see the way we are and stop ignoring the kindness of His Love.  Let us return to a posture of humility and honesty.

The truth is that you matter to God. You are invited to belong and nothing can separate you from the love of Jesus. But, do not let your heart grow cold toward God. You may continue in living a blessed life, but God won’t go with you anywhere that you have chosen to shun him. Take off your ornate mask and all the costumes you wear to look good. In the vulnerable place we find mercy and direction for life.



Saturday, June 25, 2016

STIFF-NECKED AND SELF-ABSORBED

There is a troubling story where God tells his family off. He has been ignored and ostracized for a very long time and needs to communicate how the people have been toward His Kindness.




Exodus 33:
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”


Look at what the Lord had done for them. God had led his people to their freedom and taking them to a new land to call their own. They experienced God’s kind provision of water and food, deliverance from slavery and their enemies and were given the hope of a new life. God was doing everything He promised.

For the emancipated nation of Israel, the journey that began as indescribably miraculous had become monotonous and common. The initial idealism of seeing God’s Power had not settled into the quiet trust and humble heart walk that God was looking for. Instead, they were stiff-necked.

Occasionally, I will get a stiff neck. It comes from bad posture, incorrect lifting and insufficient rest. When my neck locks up, I cannot lift my head to look up and cannot turn it very much to the left or right.

Have you ever noticed when some people get angry, they stiffen up? Their shoulders, neck and facial muscles all tense up and you can see that they are not feeling at ease.

The stiff-necked people could not lift their head to Heaven or see much of what was happening around them. Instead, they were angry, restless and tense.



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