Death and Sleep

She is not Dead, but Sleepeth

Once, a ruler of a synagogue named Jairus (Luke 8:41) came wanting Jesus to heal his twelve-year-old daughter because she was sick to the point of death. Along the way, people surrounded Jesus, including a woman who touched His garment to be healed of an issue of blood. While Jesus was talking with her, a messenger came and told Jairus that his daughter had died and that there was no reason to bother Jesus any further (Mark 5:35). Jesus, knowing what was taking place, encouraged the man’s faith and went to his house with Peter, James and John. Minstrels playing and people making much noise filled the house (Matt. 9:23). Then, Jesus said, “Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth” (Luke 8:52). When the crowd ridiculed Him with laughter, He put them out, went into the room where the girl was lying (Mark 5:40), and said in the Palestinian language, “Maid, arise” (Luke 8:54). Through inspiration, Luke records that “her spirit came again, and she arose straightway” (Luke 8:55).

death or sleeping

She is not Dead, but sleepeth.

As much as we do not like to think about it, we are all going to die (unless Jesus returns first). Solomon said, “There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death” (Eccles. 8:8). Death is passed to all (Rom. 5:12), and each of us has an appointment with it (Heb. 9:27).

What is death? James lets us know: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (2:26). When the body dies, the spirit goes back to God (Eccles. 12:7). Therefore, Jairus’ daughter was dead.

Jesus returned her spirit to her, so she came back to life. Yet, He said that she was not dead, but sleeping. In other words, Jesus was saying she was not to be regarded as dead, but as if she was sleeping. He said the same thing about Lazarus (John 11:11-14), trying to explain death to His disciples.

Many passages call death a sleep. The Lord said to Moses, “Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers” (Deut. 31:16). Job said, “…for now shall I sleep in the dust; and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be” (Job 7:21). Paul said to the Corinthian brethren that “some are fallen asleep” who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection (1 Cor. 15:6). He even comforted the Thessalonians by writing,

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. (1 Thess. 4:13)

What the household of Jairus and others could not understand is that death is as sleep since Jesus is the conqueror of death. Prophets foretold it (Isa. 25:8; Ps. 16:10). He submitted to death for our sakes (1 Cor. 15:4), yet conquered it through His resurrection (Rom. 1:4). He possesses the keys of death (Rev. 1:18), and will destroy it in the end (1 Cor. 15:25-26).

Because of these things, the righteous especially has no need to fear of death (Ps. 23:4), being as sleep. The death of the righteous is precious (Ps. 116:15). “[The] righteous hath hope in his death” (Prov. 14:32). Through inspiration, Balaam said to Balak, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like this!” (Num. 23:10). It is one of triumph (Luke 16:22), great gain (Phil. 1:21), and a blessing (Rev. 14:13) brightened by faith (Heb. 11:13). Death is as sleep, but comes soundly to the souls of the Lord’s righteous ones.

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Gold Rush

Is Your Treasure Gold?

Matthew 13:44“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.”

gold

Is Gold your Treasure?

Gold!  Treasure!  History records a great number of “gold rushes” throughout the world.  Americans experienced gold rushes in no less than Nevada, Alaska, Colorado, Washington, South Dakota, Wyoming, North Carolina, Georgia, Idaho, and California.  A number of people consider the gold rush to be something of the past.  However, a recent report on the Madre de Dios region of Peru shows gold rushes are modern too (1).  Whether in past or present, gold rushes not only exist as fascinating phenomena to study, but also good parallels to the life of a Christian.

All gold rushes begin with the same catalyst:  “Discovery!”  Multi-millions of individuals have dug holes in the dirt, a great number even hoping to find buried treasure.  For the great majority of these seekers, nothing is found.  When seeking uncovers a substance of value, discovery sparks joy as seen in Matthew 13:44.  It also sparks action.  Treasure found compels the seeker to engage in actions that assure he can claim it as his own.  Spiritually speaking, discovery occurs every time without fail for those who seek heavenly treasure (Matthew 7:7).  The value found in the treasure of salvation cannot be measured; what value can be put upon knowing one’s soul no longer carries the burden of sin (Matthew 16:26).

As a man acts to secure his treasure, others will take notice.  Observation declares an existing difference.  Why is this man selling all his possessions for a field?  Men become curious, even suspicious over the changes that occur.  One way or another, the truth frequently comes out.  “Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!” Sam Brannon helped fuel the California Gold Rush as he proclaimed discovery on the streets of San Francisco in 1848.  At first men may not consider the truth they have heard or seen to be a reality:  “The Gold must be brotite (fool’s gold)” or “that guy could never make such a discovery”.  Yet, when the truth takes root, the rush takes hold.  The message may shoot around the world.  With the California Gold Rush, not only did Americans sell everything to get to California, but citizens of England, China, Germany, Canada, France, South America, Italy, and other countries did so as well.  They wanted to experience the California Dream.  “As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” (Proverbs 25:25).  With the arrival of good news of the Gospel, Jesus found no place to rest his head (Matthew 8:20).  Continually, multitudes sought Him out desiring to acquire the treasure freely given in Christ (Romans 3:21-24).

A number of treasure seekers enjoy success.  I myself panned for gold and my eyes watched mercury swallow up flecks of gold in a pan to later release them into a little vial for safe keeping.  Using a sluice box in a river to search for gold also produced minor flecks.  As a young boy, joy encompassed me fully when I found a stream full of shiny “fool’s gold”.  Success, to a degree, depends on expectation.  A little boy seeking to find neat rocks in a stream has great success.  An individual seeking only a few flakes of gold instead of a fortune he can retire on also experiences occasional success.  .  Yet, remember, spiritual success always accompanies those seeking heavenly treasure (Matthew 6:33).

Hard work most frequently characterizes the search for treasure.  Gold miners certainly experienced their share of this.  Perhaps their initial success meant only picking up gold off of the ground.  Yet, later on, hours of continual panning, digging, washing, or rock busting followed each day.  Mining results in happy, frustrating, sad, exciting, and depressing moments.  It’s filthy, dirty, muddy, dusty work which dries, tears, and toughens the skin.  Gold miners do not sit in the shade waiting for gold to fall from trees.  If they didn’t engage in working, they likely would find themselves lacking the necessities to provide food to live on.  Paul expressed the need for work in the lives of the Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12).   He told them if they did not work, were not to be provided food.  Individuals cannot continually enjoy success unless they work.  Jesus and His apostles not only instructed Christians to engage in physical work, but goodness, benevolence, evangelism, visitation, and other actions which demonstrated their obedience to Him. Such work identifies those who love Christ (John 14:15); it also ensures reward (success) and not punishment (failure) (Matthew 25:14-30).

The proverb “The poor man is hated even by his own neighbor, but the rich has many friends” (Proverbs 14:20) comes to life for the gold miner.  Truthfully, some folks may be honest faithful friends.  However, a great number of friends drawn by riches disappear with a changing of fortune.  Gold miners found themselves in the predicament of wondering who they should trust.  Would the shopkeeper cheat them?  Would someone rob their camp while they worked?  What about claim jumpers or robbers?  “Amen!” fuels the preacher, water attracts the thirsty, and gold draws corruption.  The treasure seeker finds persecution by the elements, strangers, enemies, or even his trusted friend (Psalm 41:9).  When Jesus walked the earth teaching and proclaiming the eternal kingdom of God, He knew anyone professing His teaching and the treasure by them would be persecuted (John 15:20). They might even need to separate themselves from their families due to the treasure (Matthew 10:34-36).

The final parallel exhibited in Christian lives seen in that of the Gold Rush is abandonment.  Most treasure seekers rushing off to find the joy of success abandon the cause after a period of time.  Perhaps, they would not do the work necessary or despite their work they quit for finding little to no success.  Again, they may quit the search for treasure due to abuses and persecution that arise from others.  “No treasure is worth such difficulty, there are better things!” might be reasoned in their minds.  Whatever the decision to walk away, the prize they desired fails to come to fruition.  Even a greater loss, some abandon hope of something better all together, their lives only characterized by futility.

Spiritually, abandonment is demonstrated well in the parable of the sowers (Matthew 13:3-23).  Abandonment from seeking God occurs by those not interested in seeking, ones who cannot handle the persecution, and still more who become distracted with other worldly dreams.  Common sense dictates that if you can do your best to find treasure and still fail, abandonment should be considered.  However, when one desires to serve God, truly seek, and endure in their service of him until their end, not abandoning their efforts, nor giving up hope, they always receive the treasure they searched to find.  Abandonment in this case should not be considered!  A spiritual gold rush should always be encouraged.  For all who choose to seek the treasure of heaven neither lack nor limit of success exists.  There is no next best alternative (Proverbs 15:6).

Gold Rush!  Discovery, joy, action, spreading of good news, success, hard work, persecution, and even abandonment can be expected in the search for treasure.  However, man should not abandon the heavenly for the earthly (Colossians 3:2, Luke 12:16-21, Proverbs 8:10).  The effort put forth toward seeking God despite enduring much trials proves more valuable than gold (I Peter 1:7).  Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)  As when Mary sat listening to Jesus, despite the activities of Martha, let treasure seekers choose the “good part” which is everlasting (Luke 10:38-42) and that which moth and rust will not decay (Mark 6:19-20).

Footnote:

(1)   Steve Sapienza; “In Peru, Gold Rush Leads to Mercury Contamination Concerns”; PBS.ORG; December 27, 2011

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Only God is Good

The Scariest Verse in the Bible

Humanism can be defined as a system of thought that rejects religious beliefs and centers on humans, their values, capacities, and worth. It is a belief system that places humans at the top. In a “politically correct” era when people demand a “separation of church and state,” humanism has become the backbone for most modern-day textbooks. History is not taught in terms of God being the founder of the world, but rather, our children learning about the Big Bang and Neanderthal man. The complexity and purposeful design of nature is ignored—as it would demand a designer. Instead our children are indoctrinated by evolutionary theory and naturalism.

god is good

God is Good, but man continually seeks himself.

But these theories in-and-of-themselves are not the whole problem. For you see, a steady diet of humanism causes individuals to think more highly of themselves—after all, humanism teaches we are at the top. This has resulted in a generation of “self” oriented young people who believe they and their opinions are extremely important (e.g., sharing their every move on Facebook, Twitter). It has also resulted in an overabundance of narcissists.

This humanistic attitude has even crept into the church. We throw labels around like “righteous” and “godly” on individuals without really considering what we are saying. We use the label “sinners” with such ease that we don’t really even feel any discomfort. After all, we’re not that bad, right?

Here’s what I intend to teach my children about the scariest verse in the Bible.

The Bible is filled with all kinds of fighting action and gruesome deaths. But I want to take a moment to share with you what I hope you will remember as the scariest verse in the Bible. In Mark 10:18 we read, “So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” Not exactly what you were expecting was it? But look at that passage again. God is good! And still you say, “Yeah, what’s the problem?”

The problem is you are not good. In Isaiah 64:6 we read, “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Paul put it this way in his letter to the church at Rome: “As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; (Romans 3:10). In 1 John the Bible says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

Let me point it out again: God is good. But we are not. So the question you should be asking yourself is: What does a good God do with us? This is where the term “good news” comes into play. This is the essence of the Gospel message. Sadly, because of our affection for humanism and “self” the good news isn’t viewed as all that good anymore. After all, we really aren’t that bad…right?

In Exodus 34:6-7 God gives us a picture of Himself. (Anytime you want to know more about God it is always a good thing to go to Scripture rather than man!) The Bible says, “And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.’” Those words are tremendous and comforting!

We learn God is merciful and gracious. But the passage does not stop there. It continues by saying: “by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7). How can that be? How can He be merciful and forgiving, but then not clear the guilty?

I want you to think about this dilemma for just a moment. We expect judges to be fair and to deliver penalties according to the crime. And yet, we don’t want God to hold us responsible for all of the sin we have committed. How can a good God overlook our sin? Paul explains this in Romans 3. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, (Romans 3:23-25).

Paul then goes on to use a very special phrase to describe God, continuing this passage by saying, “to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (v. 26). Look at that phrase just a moment: just and justifier. If God was only just, then every human would be punished in eternity for all the sins they have committed—as He is holy and cannot have anything to do with sin. But the text says He was also the justifier. That was Jesus Christ—and that is GREAT news!

The next time you think highly of yourself take a moment to ask yourself who are you comparing yourself too? Are you comparing yourself with an ungodly world, or with a holy God? Never ever forget that without the blood of Jesus Christ—the spotless sacrifice—you are nothing. Only God is good …

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