Tuesday, June 14, 2011


The past few months have been both deepening and, at the same time, difficult for many of us who have had to process the deaths of both family members and friends. Speaking personally, the death of my own father was further compounded by the deaths of acquaintances and former coworkers in Joplin because of the devastation of a direct hit by an F-5 tornado on that city. Then, the recent death of my neighbor and faithful Christian brother, Tony Barthel, after a valiant four-year battle with cancer. It is just true, there are seasons in our lives when death intrudes.

Death is very real for all of us. There will be one death for each birth until Christ returns. Every one of us will experience it. Ultimately, no one cancels his/her appointment with death…. No Olympic athlete, no rock musician, no influential politician, no one. We might delay its arrival with diet and exercise. But, I say ‘might’ because safe health practices don’t keep a drunk driver from crossing the centerline or running a stop sign and rearranging our personal mortality timetable. Two lessons I have learned about death:

Death and disappointment go together. The grave and grief are linked. Even Jesus experienced the heart pain of death when he was informed that his friend Lazarus had died. John 11:33 says, “He was deeply moved and troubled.” And when they said, “Come see where we have laid him.” Verse 35 became the shortest, yet one of the most profound verses in the Bible, “Jesus wept.” God feels our pain. He has the capacity to enter into our grief. That fact is amazing to me! He cares and is indeed a personal God! And, we are comforted by the knowledge that He will exercise his power over death when, at the end of time we envision with the apostle John, “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second [final] death.” [Revelation 20:14] Although death reigns now, death’s days are numbered because….

Death and hope go together. It sounds strange, but it is true. Without Jesus Christ, death is a hopeless end; but with Jesus Christ death is an endless hope. Hope and superstition are opposites. Superstition anticipates something with no basis in fact. But real hope is based on evidence for what we anticipate. And the evidence for a hope-filled death [and that may sound odd] is the resurrection of Jesus who declared in John 11, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live. Even though he dies. And whoever [white or black, rich or poor, PhD educated or a sixth grade drop out, the CEO and the common laborer, the gang leader and the youth minister, the president and the prisoner] lives and believes in me shall never die!” Death is our permanent transfer to the unparalleled joys of heaven. Death is the bridge for us to cross over into life on the other side. Paul said, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” They go together….death and hope.

Pray with me….. Dear Father in heaven, we praise You for entering into our disappointment and grief because of death, so much so that you could not bear to be attendant to the death of Your Son Jesus on the cross. And we thank You for the fact that death is but birth pangs for those of us who know Jesus as Savior and Lord. We rejoice that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what You have prepared for those who love You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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