Psalm 116–What Stands Out?

I’ve been reading through the Psalms during my morning devotional time, and the other day, this is the verse that stood out for me:

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Psalm 116:15

Maybe it captured my attention because of the theme this month — death and dying. However, it made me think, “why?” Why would our death be precious to God? I think there are a couple of reasons.

First, God cares for us. Another Psalm, number 139, reminds us that God know us before we were born:

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written every one of them, the days that were formed for me …” Psalm 139:16

He knows everything about us, and everything that will happen to us from the day we are born to the day we die. More than any earthly parent, He is always interested in us, and compassionate toward us. In fact, He is remains with us, in joy, in grief, in all the experiences of life. We may not feel His presence, but He feels ours.

Which brings me to the second reason our death is precious to God. Death is a kind of home coming. Once we walk through that door, we will never again feel separated from God. We will experience His presence continually; our union with Him will be restored for all time. Like the Father in the parable, He will be eager to welcome us back. How precious is that?

“For now, we see in a mirror dimly, but then face-to-face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”1 Corinthians 13:12

For more posts about the Psalms see:

Psalm 50–What Stands Out?

Martin Luther Quote on the Psalms #2

More on Psalm 51

John Ortberg on Death

“Here’s the thing about death. We’re not going to stay dead. Jesus promises those of us who trust Jesus with our lives that death will not be the end. When it comes, he will say, ‘Get up’, and he will take us by the hand and help us to our feet. And then we will see the tears. Not tears of sorrow. Tears of joy. The joyful tears of God.”

John Ortberg, “I’d Like You More if You Were More Like Me”

For more about death see these posts:

United with Christ in Death and Resurrection

Martin Luther on Death and a New Beginning

death is but a dream by Christopher Kerr, MD—Book review

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Death

“Death is only dreadful for those who live in dread and fear of it. Death is not wild and terrible if only we can be still and hold fast to God’s Word. Death is not bitter if we have not become bitter ourselves. Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in him. Death is mild, death is sweet and gentle; it beckons to us with heavenly power, if only we realize that it is the gateway to our homeland, the tabernacle of joy, the everlasting kingdom of peace.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

For more Dietrich Bonhoeffer quotes see:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer– Facing Life’s Challenges Like Christ

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Hope

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Times of Uncertainty

What Matters Most?

The true proficiency of the soul consists not so much in deep thinking, or eloquent speaking, or beautiful writing; as in much and warm loving. Now if you as me in what way this much and warm love may be acquired, I answer, — By resolving to do the will of God, and by watching to do His will as often as occasion offers. Those who truly love God love all good wherever they find it. They seek all good, they always acknowledge and defend all good. They have no quarrels. They bear no envy. O lord, give me more and more of this blessed love! It will be a magnificent comfort in the hour of death to know that we are on our way to be judged by Him whom we have loved above all things. We are not going to a strange country, since it is His country whom we love and who loves us.

St. Teresa

For more about love see:

Hesed–God’s Love in Action

Charity = Love

Learning to Love

The End of All Things

I’ve been reading through the book of 1 Peter slowly, pausing to contemplate the verse or phrase that jumps out at me in each section. I’m up to Chapter 4, and what strikes home with me is this:

:”The end of all things is at hand...” 1 Peter 4:7

At the time this was written, many Christians thought that Jesus could return very soon, maybe even during their life time. Of course, this didn’t happen. Most Lutherans believe that we are in the end times now, a period which began when Christ ascended. We don’t know when the final end of things will come — it could be any minute, or it could be a thousand years from now. Our time is not God’s time.

For me personally, this phrase has a different meaning — I’m over 70 now and according to Psalm 90:

“The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” Psalm 90:10

Realistically, the end of all thing things for me is near. Modern medicine has pushed our life expectancy up a bit, but not that much. Both my husband and I lost younger brothers this year — our generation is now the one that is dying off.

Now, I could find this depressing, but I don’t. I look back on my life with satisfaction and gratitude for the things I’ve accomplished, and the friends and family I’ve known. I am looking forward to seeing people who have gone before me again; I certainly yearn for that time when aches and pains, anxiety and grief, all the “toil and trouble” of life are removed. Suffering hold fear for me, but not death. It will lead to a new and better way of life.

Peter has some advice for those of us nearing the end (and really that’s everyone because life could end any minute, not matter what our age). Here’s what you and I should be doing:

*Be self-controlled and sober-minded — life is serious business

*Love one another– so much quarreling and tension will be removed this way

*Show hospitality without grumbling — everyone needs some help and understanding now and then

*Serve each other, using our gifts for the good of mankind –leave the world a little better than you found it

It’s simple, really, but important. Your time is precious. Don’t waste it — the end is near.

For more about death see:

Martin Luther on God’s Victory Over Death

death is but a dream by Christopher Kerr, MD—Book review

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Death

A Time to Die

I’m up to the third chapter of Ecclesiastes in my lectio divina study and the phrase that catches my attention is that we all have “a time to die.”  Ecclesiastes 3:2.  Death is all over the news these days — what celebrity has contracted the virus and died;  what the death toll is throughout the United States and the world;  what are the biggest “risk factors” that increase your odds of dying from this scary disease.  People are worried about what to do.  Should we wear masks all of the time?  Only inside?  Only in crowds?  Should we refrain from as much social contact as possible?  And now, a new question — is it safe to get the vaccine?

According to the Bible we all have a time to die, and God is the one who is in charge.  Here are some verses that support this conclusion:

“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”  Matthew 6:27

 

“Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass….”  Job: 14:5

 

“My times are in your hand …”  Psalm 31:15

Now I am not saying we should take crazy risks, or pay no attention to doing things that are healthy and increase your ability to stay well.  Caring for our body is part of good stewardship — it is one of the things God has given to us.  I am saying it’s wrong to get obsessed or fearful about the many things that can end our lives.  This is simply another way of turning in upon ourselves and it has a name:  SIN.

There is also an outer limit to the normal human life span:

“The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty ….” Psalm 90:10

Guess what, I am already there, so any days I have left are indeed a gift from God!  At this stage of my life I can easily say along with Paul, “to live is Christ, to die is gain.”  Philippians 1:21.  I’ve accomplished the major tasks of life, and when I die, I’ll be free of all my aches, pains, and worries as I enjoy the presence of God.

There is one piece of advice that God gives about extending our life:

“The fear of the Lord prolongs life …”  Prov. 10:27

 

“And if you walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments… then I will lengthen your days.”  1 Kings 3:14

So, wear your masks;  avoid large gatherings, but don’t worry. Don’t give up attending church and studying the Bible;  don’t give up serving others. The best way to stay healthy is to fear God and follow His teachings.

For more on the book of Ecclesiastes see:

Hoping for Something New?

Ecclesiastes Chapter 2 — What Stands Out

Ecclesiastes 3:3

 

 

 

 

The Hope of Heaven

The Thessalonian believers were troubled.  They wondered what would happen to those who died before Christ came again. Here are Paul’s words of comfort to them and to us:

“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.  We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”  1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Notice, he does not say do not grieve;  of course, we will mourn the loss of a loved one.  What he does say is this:  in spite of our sorrow, we can have hope.  Our brothers and sisters in Christ are not lost to us forever.  We can be assured that the God who resurrected Jesus is keeping them safe until He comes again.  At that time:

“…. the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

We don’t have many details, but we know that heaven will be a lovely place.  The City of God, the new Jerusalem will be:

“… prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”  Revelation 21:2

God will live with us.

” They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night.  They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.”  Revelation 22:4-5

Best of all:

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

So, whatever your situation, be encouraged.  If you are in Christ, you have something to hope for.

 

For more about heaven see these posts:

Living in Heaven

Martin Luther on Heavenly Blessings

The Beginning of Heaven

 

 

 

The Darkness of Death

This quote is from my devotional reading this morning. It was particularly moving because a dear friend and prayer partner Loving Prayer Partners recently lost her spouse, and his memorial service is today.  It’s taken from the book Joy and Strength by Mary Wilder Tileston.  In her preface she says,

“This little book… is a selection from writers of many countries and centuries, of thoughts of courage, faith, hope and love, to cheer and inspirit the pilgrim in his daily journey ….”

I love quotes, so I love this book.  Have you ever thought of death this way?  The anonymous author sees it as passing from darkness into light.  May the thought comfort and inspire.  Remember This Darkness Will Not Last.

 

“Death to a good man is but passing through a dark entry out of one little dusky room of his father’s house into another that is fair and large, lightsome and glorious.”

Anonymous

 

A Good Ending

“And thus this man died, leaving his death for an example of a noble courage, and a memorial of virtue, not only unto young men, but unto all his nation.”  2 Maccabees 6:31

This verse was part of my devotional reading last week.  If you’re Lutheran, you won’t find the book of 2 Maccabees in your Bible and it will never appear in the weekly lectionary.  That’s because it’s part of the Apocrypha.  These writings were regarded by Martin Luther as helpful for study, but not part of the accepted canon of Scripture. If you’re interested you can find the apocryphal books in the Jerusalem Bible, used by Catholics.  The books of 1st and 2nd Maccabees contain a history of some Jewish warriors who rebelled against the Seluecid Empire (a Hellenistic state) when these rulers were persecuting the Jews by forcing them to transgress Jewish religious laws. The idea was to make the Jews become more “Greek” and blend in with the rest of the population. End of history lesson.

The title of the section this verse concludes is “The Martyrdom of Eleazar.”  Eleazar was a teacher of the law and he refused to even pretend to eat pork because he said this pretense would be a bad influence on others, especially younger people.  He chose to be martyred for his disobedience to the authorities saying,

“Therefore if  I am man enough to quit this life here and now, I will prove myself worthy of my old age, and I shall have left the young a noble example of how to make a good death, eagerly and generously, for the venerable and holy laws.”  2 Maccabees 6:27-28

My good friend, Rob, died recently after a brief bout with cancer and he also made a good death.  No, he was not a martyr, but he left us an example of personal generosity and devotion to his faith.  The last time my husband spoke to him, his concern was not for himself (he knew where he was going), but for his family, friends and church.  When my end comes, I hope I meet it with the same confidence and trust Rob had;  and I hope I leave behind an example for others as inspiring as his.  Thank you Rob!

Below is Rob’s picture with the Lutheran Ladies and our Little Free Library.

 

“Even unto death”

Revelation 2:10

Holman Christian Standard Bible
“Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the Devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will have affliction for 10 days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

We go to church, read our bible, go to Sunday school, we pray, and go about our lives with our human knowledge and human sight; and seemingly unfortunate lack of ability to see into the future. Psychologists talk about children and teenagers not being able to “see around corners.” What they mean (I think) is that kids don’t know how to think ahead far enough to foresee the end result of their current actions. When we ask why they would jump off of  the couch onto their little brother, expecting them to know, we as the adults are actually doing so in folly. They really don’t know, and couldn’t predict harm. Their brains aren’t done growing, and they didn’t (previously) have the context to realize what could happen. But we adults have experience that allows us to see ahead, and logically predict results. That’s a benefit right?

Well that depends. Children who can’t see possible harm, also trust that it will work out. And really it usually does, even when flawed parents drop the ball. (And that I do.) They believe that things will be okay. Children believe it even unto to death. Christian parents know this well, however if for some reason we have to live through the ‘even unto death’ part . . . we find it almost impossible to see around the corner and believe it will be okay. Our adult minds, with our adult experiences have given us reason to think it might not be. And its much easier to accept ‘even unto death’ if it’s our own.

But when we’re faced with the death of a loved one, it’s so much harder. We can’t see them, nor can we logically predict our lives without them. The thing is we don’t have to be logical when it comes to trusting God. We don’t have to know everything, we don’t have to do anything. We can mess up everyday, be happy, be sad, maybe be on our game; just hold out hope in Christ. Let go and be faithful until death, and God will give us the crown of life.