Posted in sin, theology

The Last Day of an Unconverted Man

By Elizabeth Prata

On a fine and bright winter’s day, an unconverted man left his fine and comfortable home, and drove toward town. Where he was going…only God knows. Perhaps to the store to pick up a newspaper or milk. Perhaps to the diner to commune with cronies. Perhaps just to take a nice drive along the shore and admire the day. Continue reading “The Last Day of an Unconverted Man”

Posted in theology

On life, death, buses, and trains

By Elizabeth Prata

A man died in his car after a collision with a train last week. His small child was airlifted from the scene to Atlanta and was listed in critical condition.

He was the father of four and 3 of his children attended our county schools.

I have a love-hate relationship with trains. 50 years ago, the town dump was just that, a dumping ground. Old fridges, lawn chairs, lamps, trash and the like were just dumped onto a landfill. My dad took the trash every weekend and always asked if me and my brother wanted to go. We always did. The dump was at the same time scary, spooky, alluring, and fun to pick around at the dump. You never knew what you might find.

The dump was fun but there was terror in going because of the train.

You had to cross the railroad tracks to get there. My father used to stop on the tracks and turn off the car and pretend we were stalled. He’d yell that the train was coming and we were all going to die. We’d scream terrified in the back seat, peering wild-eyed up the tracks to see where the train was. Then he would laugh hysterically at his joke and turn the car on and we’d go.

Yeah, I know.

The church I attend is down a main road that parallels the tracks for a good 7 miles. I get really nervous around train tracks, even to this day. There are a lot of crossings. Most of them have lights and gates. A few don’t. It was at one where there were no gates or lights that the accident happened.

As I approached the scene on my way to church that night, I saw that the train had stopped, and the train guy in reflective jacket had descended the steps and was running alongside the train. His face looked terrified… Anyway, I wondered what he was running toward, because the train doesn’t stop there and the train guy doesn’t usually exit the train, usually. I looked ahead and spotted the vehicle in the ditch. I winced, the car was pretty wrecked. Ambulances hadn’t gotten there yet. I said a prayer as I passed.

I was saddened by this tragedy, pretty deeply. I thought about it all week. I prayed for the family. I wondered of the man was saved.

Then another tragedy struck. Not in our immediate area like the train accident, but in Indiana. A mother/church-goer/children’s minister, had her life turned inside out in a flash. She struck and killed three small children as they crossed the road to their bus. A fourth child was gravely injured. The three children were siblings, twin boys and a girl, from the same family.

“I haven’t seen first responders and troopers cry in a long time” said Indiana State Police Sergeant Tony Slocum. It was a heart-rending scene. It is one I cannot contemplate too long if I am not going to cry.

A mother somewhere in Indiana lost her three children in a flash. The last thing those children saw was a truck grill bearing down on them. It is awful thought. Investigators do not yet know why the wreck happened. The driver had stopped and had his flashing lights on and the arm out. He doesn’t seem to have contributed to the accident. The mother alone has been charged, three counts of reckless homicide and failing to stop at a school bus.

There is a lot to absorb regarding this incident, if one wants to mull it over. I don’t blame you if you don’t. We all know that our lives could be changed in a moment, but we don’t really think about it. When it happens, it often happens fast, like the father who was killed by the train. One moment you’re trundling along and the next you’ve arrived at your eternal destination.

The man’s wife was suddenly widowed, and her children fatherless, all in a moment. The mother who ran over the three kids at the bus stop, will never be the same, she has felonies on her record and never mind the insane grief and guilt she will bear forever.

I got to thinking about all that is done under the sun. What God must think of us, going about our business…lost sheep who have all gone astray

This may seem trite but it is true and applicable to how things are on this earth.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

2a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

And this

For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun? (Ecclesiastes 6:12)

My Lord and My God ordains all. He knows what goes on under the sun. He allows sin to permeate a life, its effects to take a life, innocents to be killed, wives to become widows, mothers to become childless, children to become motherless.

It is a world full of sorrow and pain, heartache and tragedy. This isn’t such a positive essay, and I am sorry if you were looking for that today. But in this world, unexpected events happen which defy our comprehension but still hurt our heart. Trusting God is the only answer.

Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he has made crooked? (Ecclesiastes 7:13)

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible

The work of God – The scheme of Divine Providence, the course of events which God orders and controls (compare Ecclesiastes 3:11). It comprises both events which are “straight,” i. e., in accordance with our expectation, and events which are “crooked,” i. e., which by their seeming inequality baffle our comprehension.

God sent His Son so that even when baffling things happen, we can turn to Him for comfort. We know that He knows. He is working things out to the good for those who love Him. He has reasons and ways and plans that we don’t understand, but we have the Light of understanding that He does, and that’s enough.

Once again, Jesus spoke to the people and said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12).

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Posted in encouragement, theology

A Good Funeral, Part 2

By Elizabeth Prata

A Good Funeral, Part 1

I went to a funeral last weekend.

There’s something different about a Christian funeral.

Backing up some, growing up, our family’s business was Funeral Homes. My great-grandfather, grandfather, and father were funeral directors. They guided the grieving families through the process of giving over the body, preparing the body, planning the funeral, and the burial. They were involved in embalming, casket selection, flowers, music, location, and interment.

They knew all about the process of dying. They were intimately involved in the showpiece theater of the send off. They recognized the gravity of the graveside service. However, it was at that point that all their knowledge stopped. They did not know what happens after the last clump of dirt was thrown on the plot, the last guest departed the cemetery. When all was said and done, they didn’t know what happened after death. That was a terrifying, black, unknowable void of which they could not comprehend.

How can a person give encouragement, hope, or even momentary advice to a grieving family member when the knowledge of Jesus and His plan is absent from their mind and life? They can’t. One can only offer secular quotes, whose impact falls flat as soon as the words are out and fall thudding to the floor. One can only pat the person’s shoulder and mindlessly repeat, without conviction, “They are in a better place now,'” or, “He didn’t suffer.” Eyes skitter away from the grieving person the moment one utters those platitudes, because one knows that the words are are useless.

How can a person salve the vacuum left behind when a person who was in your life a moment ago, has now left it? How can one deal with the fact that their leaving has pulled all ties to you with them and even now, mere days later, those ties are just fading gossamer threads in an ever-dimming memory of what their face actually looked like? They have gone to that place where they are now, wherever that is or whatever that is like. Or even more hopelessly as some believe, their body, once alive with laughter and love, is now simply and only a husk to be buried in the ground and to decompose ignominiously along with grass and leaves and dirt.

Is this all there is?

No.

There is something different about a Christian funeral.

There is grief, yes. There are tears, and sadness and pats on the shoulder. There is standing at attention when the casket is rolled down the aisle, and the body, now devoid of movement and life, is just a shrunken husk with makeup. But the body was only a temporary cloak. The life and laughter of that dead person is ongoing, it is simply happening in a different location. The life and laughter of the people solemnly standing at attention will someday resume with that person, who is not dead, but alive!

O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)

Jesus was in glory and He left glory to live in a fleshly cloak on earth., he did it because His Father God needed a sacrifice. Jesus was to live a perfect life in holiness and righteousness, be accused without cause, die in humiliation on the cross, and absorb all God’s wrath for elect sinners. He was buried and lay in the tomb for three days.

Pleased with His Son, God raised Jesus from the dead! Death is conquered!

Satan Does Not Hold the Keys to Death 

Above all suffering and death stands the crucified and risen Lord. He has defeated the ultimate enemy of life. He has vanquished the power of death. He calls us to die, a call to obedience in the final transition of life. Because of Christ, death is not final. It is a passage from one world to the next. Ligonier Ministry

Grieving friends and family of the departed one do feel sad but ultimately, we have hope, we do not fear, and we enjoy peace. Jesus gave us that hope of seeing them again, because He conquered death and invites us, His children, to participate in eternal life with Him. We need not fear death because we know it has lost its sting.

As the preacher said at the funeral, if a bee stings you it loses its stinger, and you can now put that little bee in the hand of even an infant and it will not harm the babe, only tickle his palm or land sweetly on his nose.*


And which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, (2 Timothy 1:10)

We have peace because we are in Him, never to be forsaken or separated. If our loved one is also in Him we will reunite with them.

There is something different about a Christian funeral.

The difference is the mighty and glorious Jesus.

——————————————————

*Only honeybees die after they sting. Other species continue to live after they use their stinger

Posted in prophecy, Uncategorized

Stephen Hawking, coffins, & other thoughts

Noted theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking died this week. He was brilliant, no doubt about that. His nickname in school was “Einstein”, and he lived up to name by contributing mightily to the areas of cosmology, particularly in Big Bang Theory and Black Holes.

He died of a rare form of Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) in that it progressed very slowly. He was 76.

Mr Hawking applied his mind in attempting to unlock the secrets of the universe, its forms and origins, functions and future. Though he made many discoveries, he never discovered the basic truth: God made it. In fact, the further Hawking went along, the more entrenched he became in denying the Designer and Sustainer of life. He made flatly rejecting statements about God and religion, such as these quoted in The UK Guardian in 2011-

The belief that heaven or an afterlife awaits us is a “fairy story” for people afraid of death, Stephen Hawking has said. In a dismissal that underlines his firm rejection of religious comforts, Britain’s most eminent scientist said there was nothing beyond the moment when the brain flickers for the final time.

“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark,” Source

‘There is no heaven’. This is a true statement- for Mr Hawking- if indeed he maintained his rejection of God to the end.

‘There is no afterlife’. This is an untrue statement for Mr Hawking. He is discovering now that he is indeed alive, and further, has been granted a fresh body, albeit one that will be withstanding the fires and punishments of hell for all eternity (if indeed he did not repent at an unknown time.)

Hawking was the smartest man, as smart as than Einstein…seeking the mysteries of the universe all the days of his life- it was only death that revealed those mysteries to him. Sadly, it is too late.

Hawking went the way of all flesh (with a nod to Samuel Butler). The way of all flesh is death, either to resurrected life in glory with Jesus, or to eternal death & punishment apart from Jesus. Answers In Genesis has a sensitive and thoughtful epitaph on Mr Hawking’s life, here.

It’s times like these, when a famous atheist dies, that one ponders hell all over again. Hell is a monstrous doctrine. Not monstrous as in evil, for God is holy and just and all those who are sent there deserve it. Even those who are forgiven, like me, deserve it. It’s only the imputed righteousness of Jesus that diverts us from our fleshly final fiery resting place.

I mean monstrous as in the definition of “extremely and dauntingly large; as in, “the monstrous tidal wave swamped the surrounding countryside”.

It’s a huge thing to ponder hell, because it is for all eternity. Who can know?

In a similar vein, I saw this photo on Facebook this week.

Some people around here think it’s funny, others amusing, others intrigued. I never knew how much the idol of college football was alive and active until I came to Georgia. The University of Georgia Bulldogs’ arena is the Temple and the ‘Dawgs’ are worshiped by thousands of adoring fans.

I don’t think it’s amusing. I think it’s blasphemous. Sure, people, bring your idol with you to eternity. What could go wrong?

When my husband and I were in Puyo, Ecuador, a town then on the edge of the Amazon Rainforest and very remote, we spent a week. There were few industries in this one-dirt-road town. It truly was a frontier town, with one main road, plank sidewalks, a lonely hotel, and a few stores. One industry was coffin making. The people in that part of the South American country loved their highly decorated coffins. They would be made of heavy wood, and at the corners, one or all four, there would be clear glass. Inside the headlight-like small alcove would be blinking lamps, candles, statues of Mary, jewelry, or just lights. Perhaps they thought the lights could aid Charon as he guided the casket across the river Styx to the abode of the dead.

Do you know what I wish? I wish that all coffins would have two pictures on them, one at either end. One, a picture of glory and the New Jerusalem. The other, a picture of the Lake of Fire. That would give funeral-goers something to contemplate. There is an afterlife, and all flesh is consigned to one of them.

The difference is your position on Jesus. If you believe He is your risen God, having trusted in Him as savior and repented of sins which He forgave, you go to heaven. If you have rejected Him and failed to repent of your sins, you go to the Lake of Fire to be punished for your sins. You have committed cosmic treason, which must be justly punished..

Hell is a big subject. So is heaven. We will all have an eternity to contemplate it. After death it is too late to change your location. Repent now, while it is still day

Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all [people] everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31).

 

Posted in prophecy, Uncategorized

Bible reading Plan thoughts: The First Mourning

Our Bible Reading Plan for today includes a text from Genesis 4.  The first murder- Cain killed his brother Abel. Yesterday we read that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and this has been true of all humans ever born or made, including Adam and Eve, with the sole exception of Jesus. The wages of sin is death.

Shortly after the Fall, we see all the sins begin to rear their head; lying, blame, guilt, jealousy, rebellion, and murder. Cain did not fear God. He argued with God and was irreverent with Him. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Soon after, he killed his brother.

A scene which is not in the Bible but must have happened, was depicted in the painting called The First Mourning (Adam and Eve mourn the death of Abel); oil on canvas 1888 by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Here it is:
800px-Bouguereau-The_First_Mourning-1888
God had said when He told the First Parents not to eat of the fruit that on the day they eat of it they shall surely die. They did die, spiritually. Their physical death took place many years later. Adam lived over 900 years. That is a long time to remember. Eve, the mother of all the living, was now the mother of the first to die.

When they discovered the body of their son lying lifeless on the ground, they must have mourned. They knew what death was, since God had killed an animal and given them its skins to wear for clothing. They must have killed animals in order to eat, since having been thrown out of the Garden. Abel was a keeper of sheep. Their death was graciously staved off, but their son! O, their son! Their original sin comes back to haunt them in a devastating way. I wrote about this scene in 2014:

We know both of them were familiar with death. Their spiritual life died the moment they disobeyed (“surely you won’t die” the serpent lied in Genesis 3:4). They were familiar with death because God killed the first animal to make clothing out of its skin (the first sacrifice to cover them in their sin). We know they must have killed an animal themselves because they had to eat.

And then…the blood of their son. The Bible does not record the discovery of Abel’s body, nor his burial (as far as I know). But perhaps the scene looked like the one above.

Oh, the searing pain of losing a son! A pain that would be replicated again and again through history as sin took its toll on a million mothers in epochs to come! A grief that the Father Himself would know soon enough!!

The first death was of a beloved son.

The last death was of a beloved Son.

Praise our Holy Savior for His death, for through Him we have life! Praise our Resurrected Savior for vanquishing sin!

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

The death of a Christian

And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:60)

Today I want to look at the kind of death Christians are afforded, as opposed to the unsaved. Tomorrow I’ll look at what Stephen cried out, the mater of pleading to the Judge for a reduced charge.

Death is the final frontier for unsaved people. That is the very edge of the precipice of knowledge which the unsaved person can tread. Beyond death, they do not know. And in the not knowing, they fear. What happens after death? Is there life? Do we blink out of existence? Death is the final frontier, and to the unsaved, ti’s one from which no one ever returns. There is no hope.

William Shakespeare’s character Hamlet said,

Thou know’st ’tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.

To grunt and sweat under a weary life;
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will

It surely puzzles the will. The world has spit up millions of poems, stories, essays, and books musing on the undiscovered country, and all are in vain, they’re only wind.

Yet that undiscovered country is one the born-again person knows well, from His word and through prayer, we are familiar with the other side. When, as Hamlet opined, ‘we shuffle off this mortal coil’ we know that we know that we know what lies ahead: glory, peace, perfection, and Light.

Some were blessed with glimpses of it on this side of the mortal coil. Stephen, when in the throes of preaching God’s word to the Pharisees, was seen to have the countenance of an angel, because he saw the Lord standing beside the father. Paul said he had been afforded a glimpse of glory so inexpressible and beautiful he had no words to describe it. Moses, upon having been with God atop Mt. Zion, still permeated with His glory when he descended the mountain, his face shining so brightly the people were afraid.

When the unsaved attempt to gaze into the beyond they only see darkness, question marks, and unwelcoming shadows and gloomy fear, behind which their perception stalls.

The saved person has had their heart regenerated, eyes opened, and mind illuminated to the scriptures, knows what comes after death. Life! The peace one feels now that one is no longer at enmity with the Savior permeates all of a born-again person’s life, even into and through death. Barnes’ Notes says of the Acts scripture above:

how peaceful and calm is a death like that of Stephen, when compared with the alarms and anguish of a sinner! One moment of such peace in that trying time is better than all the pleasures and honors which the world can bestow;and to obtain such peace then, the dying sinner would be willing to give all the wealth of the Indies, and all the crowns of the earth. So may I die and so may all my readers – enabled, like this dying martyr, to commit my departing spirit to the sure keeping of the great Redeemer! When we take a parting view of the world; when our eyes shall be turned for the last time to take a look of friends and relatives; when the darkness of death shall begin to come around us, then may we be enabled to cast the eye of faith to the heavens, and say, “Lord Jesus, receive our spirits.” Thus, may we fall asleep, peaceful in death, in the hope of the resurrection of the just.

What a blessing the Lord has given us, His imparted knowledge of what comes next. Even better, we have the assurance of His presence and love throughout eternity. No cold darkness for us! No gate of hell with sign affixed, as Dante mused,

“Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate”, or “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

Instead we may hear, as the servant in the parable heard,

‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ (Matthew 25:23).

Hamlet soliloquized upon contemplation of his suicide, ‘ to sleep, perchance to dream.’ No, friend, we have the assurance of life beyond life, love, light, activity, and a reality so real this present mortal coil will become the dream instead.

Beyond this mortal coil, we will live where righteousness dwells. Pray to thank the Lord for His many manifold blessings.

new heavens rigteousness dwells verse
EPrata photo

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Why does America love death so much?

Do you ever wonder why American society is fascinated with death? From movies to entertainments to conversation to society in general, it’s a culture of death.

I’m old enough to remember life, culture, and entertainment before our national fascination with death. In the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, Movie posters used brighter colors. Blood and gore were normally absent. Discussion about death or dead people were done in reverent tones. It was a serious subject.

If a character on a highly rated television show died, it was a cause for “a very special episode.” When the 1983 television film “The Day After“, a film depicting a nuclear war on American soil, was broadcast, warnings about the devastating emotional effect accompanied it, along with telephone numbers for people to call counselors.

Back then, people were sensitive to death. It wasn’t sought out. It wasn’t treated lightly. It certainly wasn’t light entertainment.

By now, in 2017, it is.

One of the top rated TV shows (on Netflix) is 13 Reasons Why,a graphic depiction of a teenager’s life which includes bullying, rape and then suicide. Many viewers and critics say that the show, while striving to present the issue of teen suicide in a mature light, actually glamorizes it. Death occurs in action movies and even cartoons as a standard event. Promotion posters are usually dark, using black and gray colors, with graphic sprays of blood and other disturbing images.

Why has the nation taken such a turn for the worse in its entertainment choices and daily images?

Here is the answer.

For whoever finds me finds life
and obtains favor from the LORD,
but he who fails to find me injures himself;
all who hate me love death.
(Proverbs 8:35-36)

Jim Osman of Kootenai Community Church (in Idaho) preached last week a sermon called, The House of Mourning, (Ecclesiastes 7:1-4). He made an observation I’d like to pass along to you.

I think we’d all agree as Pastor Osman stated that America is a Romans 1 nation, meaning that because we have rejected God, He has turned us over to our sins, nationally. He’s abandoned us so to speak. John MacArthur talks about this kind of wrath as the “wrath of abandonment.” You can read about the progression of national and individual rejection in Romans 1:18-32.

Becuase God is life, when we reject Him, we remain dead in our sins. The proverbs verse stated that very clearly. “All who hate Me love death.” It can’t be clearer that that.

Our national entrancement with death is a clear sign of our spiritual state. All who hate God love death. America loves death, from top to bottom, inside out.

There you have it.

Above collage is an excerpt from a larger piece called “Images of our human spirit before salvation,” by EPrata.

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

We all look forward to our wages, but…

I work in a school system. We’re paid monthly, on the last day. It takes discipline to budget a household in a single income where the wages come 28-31 days apart. In December we go on Christmas vacation a few days before the holiday and return in the first week of January. It’s about a two week break, something everyone looks forward to since we began school in early August. We all need one by then!

As a kindness, the payroll system works in feverish activity and closes payroll early so we can get paid before Christmas instead of the week after, as the usual rotation would have been. That’s the plus. The minus is that it’s 50 days in between paychecks. Our wages don’t come for about 6 weeks and it’s a veeeeeeery long stretch between mid December and the last day of January. It takes a lot of patience to wait calmly and in disciplined manner for that paycheck in January.

We all look forward to our wages, whether they come on the day we worked, or the week’s end or the month’s end. When we receive that envelope, or open our bank account to view the Direct Deposit, we feel gratitude, pride in our work, and relief.

For the unsaved world, including the false Christians who think they are saved but aren’t, the spiritual wages they will receive on their last day will come as a shock. The wages for the sinner have a very long delay, but on their last day they will receive a fat envelope containing a list of all their misdeeds and sins. Their wages will be toted up at the bottom and it will say $DEATH$.

Why is this Romans 6:23 verse an encouragement to me? Deep in sin, Jesus lifted me from the muck, cleansed me with His blood, and gave me eternal life. I accumulated an eternal debt of wages upon wages for all the evil work I had performed before I was saved. I deserve death. He gave me life. Hallelujah!

Praise Him to the Highest. The babe has come, the boy will grow in wisdom and stature, the Man will die, the King will reign!

EPrata photo

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:52).

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:25)

Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15)

Posted in prophecy, Uncategorized

The Language of Death: Obituaries

Death, the final frontier. These are the lives of the starbaby Humans. Their 7000-year mission: to explore strange new hearts, to seek out new life and new religion, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

OK, a thousand pardons for re-writing that famous opening line from the original Star Trek television series.

Death IS the final frontier. All humans are eternal, death is just a passing over of the line between this life and the next. However, the life in the next is permanently and eternally fixed. One will either pass over the boundary into the final frontier into hell, or into heaven.

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, (Hebrews 9:27) Continue reading “The Language of Death: Obituaries”