Tag Archives: eternity

Getting ready for a loved one to die

I’m not ready.

It’s one the first things I said, sobbing, when I found out that my mom, who’s had dementiaIMG_3688

for about 10 years, had suddenly experienced a debilitating stroke. I was in the process of planning to move her to a lovely facility, just a one-minute drive from my house. I was so excited! I wanted to spend her remaining years giving care, spending time, and enjoying her, even though she is no longer the same mother I have known throughout my lifetime. Her condition had already digressed enough that I wasn’t afraid to move her to a new location, so I set the wheels in motion. While my brother and his family have done an amazing job caring for her, I couldn’t wait for my turn.

But now she’s not moving anywhere, except into heaven’s bliss. That’s a way better move. But it’s still hard to accept. I want more, now.

None of us feel ready for eternity, even though God created us for it. Our earthly lives are a race against time, and time always runs out before we can win the race. At least that’s how it feels. Continue reading

Does the Resurrection Matter?

Does the resurrection really matter?

Trust me, this isn’t a lecture about why you should attend church on Easter Sunday or why you should attend church the other 51 days during the year.

The question is why the resurrection matters in life. Does it make any difference in your every day, drag-yourself-to-work kind of day that involves paying bills, eating, fighting colds, and visiting the in-laws?IMG_2526

This is the question that will change the destiny of your life, in the temporal sense, as well as the eternal. So let’s get the eternal out of the way right now. That’s easy. Easter is coming, and you’ve got eggs to dye and bunny cookies to make.

The discussion of the resurrection begins with the person who marks the end of B.C. (“before Christ”) and the onset of A.D. Anno Domini (“in the year of our Lord”). History itself revolves around Jesus, the only human to cheat death of his own free will and power. This is the resurrection everyone must confront at some point in his life–the historical data that there lived a perfect prophet (i.e.. God’s son) who died and raised himself to life and returned to heaven.

Mohammed, Ghandi, Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul III, Martin Luther, and Martin Luther King Jr. were all spiritual leaders. But they are all dead. They have tombs where their bodies are rotting, and they have remained powerless to stop the process. Jesus’ tomb, however, sits empty. His resurrection power gives resurrection power to everything else in my life–yes, even in my normal non-Easter life.

That resurrection affects all the day-to-day resurrections in our temporal world. Belief in Jesus’ resurrection spearheads all other possible resurrections, and you do believe in those, even if you don’t believe in Him. Let me explain.

The sun comes up every morning, inspiring us to productivity, yet sets every night, under the equally important light of the moon, which ushers rest into our hurried lives. We couldn’t stop the power of our solar system, even if we tried. We count on it.

Seeds die so new life can grow. Each spring, flowers burst forth anew, trees re-bud and bear fruit, year after year. The food cycle continues, the animal kingdom functions, all in tandem, all in natural rejuvenation. Nature renews itself without our help.

In every family, the elderly pass away, and the young bring new babies into the world, all pink and innocent and full of wonder. Incredibly, new life follows on the heels of death.

Tragedy brings tears, yet laughter brings joy; even midst heartache, a laugh or a smile can chase away pain. How does this phenomenon work?

And let’s not forget the resurrection of the human spirit–the daring challenge of starting over when all seems lost:  the battered wife who breaks free, the broken marriage that repairs itself, the addict who accepts accountability, the slave who escapes, the abused who disarms the power of the abuser. These are resurrections, and they are the resurrections that defeat God’s enemy, just as His resurrection defeated his enemy 2,000 years ago.

A lifestyle of resurrection chooses change when the status quo would be easier. It believes in the unexplainable without embarrassment because it has lived the transformation. It gives when it feels empty. It loves when it feels hated. It confesses when it sins. It believes when life seems hopeless.

This is the power of the resurrection, every day, from now till eternity. And then it begins again.

John 11:25 “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?'”

The Great Divorce–Musings About Entering Heaven

I just finished reading my third C. S. Lewis book this year. While I always expect a certain writing style and level of vocabulary when I read Lewis, this book proved that I can never exactly predict how one of his books will hit me. I liked it (I always like Lewis), but I didn’t love it. However, it did make me think. (His ultimate goal, I believe.)IMG_2526

Although Lewis himself called the book a “fantasy” in the preface, its genre surprised me, in a similar way that The Shack struck me when I read it, like an out-of-body allegory sprinkled with real-life characterization and deep theological questions. It made me rethink the correct theology to heaven, hell, and salvation and admit how little I actually can prove–how the whole process of accepting Christ and believing His words is entirely a faith decision.

Sure, we all know that already. But have we considered the faith involved with trusting God with the details of heaven and hell, and the discrimination over who goes where? Therein may lie the greater faith. I know many people who would accept God for themselves, but because they can’t reconcile God’s actions toward other people, they choose to reject Him on virtue of principle.

Principle! As if God needs to adhere to my logic of justice. As if I, in my finite existence, can even understand the complexities of human justice!

Lewis addresses these inconsistencies of spiritual conflict–people are willing to go to heaven–they even deign to expect entrance–yet their limited perceptions prevent them from making the very simple decision to die to self in order to live in eternity. In usual Lewis fashion, his characters (ghosts receiving a second chance at heaven) exit the bus from hell for a glimpse of a better future. Their conversations with former ghosts-turned-angels reveal that what sent these ghosts to hell in the first place will likely keep them from hiking up heaven’s hills.

The opportunist only sees material value in regards to the supernatural; the hardened man sees religious propaganda where faith is required. The intellectual sees beyond literal dominions and explains away the existence of eternity. The artist desires continued status; the nag wants control in the after-life; the bereaved, in her grief, doubts God’s love entirely. The proud resents the presence of others “lower” than himself; the martyr twists pity into a weapon against the truth. Only the man with a fiery lizard atop his shoulder, after procrastinating for some time, admits the presence of evil and rejects it. He alone is saved.

In Mtt. 19, a rich young man asks Jesus if he can become a disciple. Jesus, knowing what the man’s one hindrance to salvation will be, asks him to sell everything he has and give it to the poor. The man leaves, saddened. He apparently doesn’t even consider the sacrifice, one way or the other. Jesus explains the situation to his disciples,

“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished. “Then who can be saved?”

Jesus’ answer should remind us that salvation is not merely a decision of the will. It is supernatural. He responded,

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

The issue in Matthew 19 is the same issue presented in The Great Divorce. No human, in his own strength, can look beyond his own priorities and appreciate God’s priorities more. Without a supernatural surrendering to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, human beings will not be able to accept God’s grace of salvation for the same reason they cannot give grace to the people who live around them. They each carry their own lizards, who speak lies which they believe.

So what is the end result of this quandry?

The selfish always deserve more.

The oppressed can only feel hurt.

The arrogant are always better than everyone else.

The ignorant didn’t understand what was expected of them.

These are the reasons that Heaven came at such a high price and that sanctification–our godly living from day to day–must be lived at high cost. It’s a divorce of monumental proportion.