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Posts Tagged ‘Eternal Life’

The year 2020 will forever be defined by the Corona Virus and COVID-19. Widespread disease is not new to us. It seems to be something that regularly visits and threatens us. Take a short history tour of just the last 60 years and one discovers that the world has experienced many widespread disease outbreaks such as the Asian flu (H2N2) – ’57-’58, Hong Kong flu (H3N2) – ’68-’69, Ebola’76-present, Bird or Avian flu (H5N1) – ’04-’06, SARS (Covid) – ’02-’03, Swine flu (H1N1) – ’09-’10, MERS (Covid) – ’12-present, and the Zika virus’15-’16.

However, one has to go back to the “Spanish flu” pandemic of 1918-1920 to find something so devastating. Estimates assert the worldwide death toll was a minimum of 50 million people and could have been as high as 100 million or more. In the United States of America the death toll was estimated over 600,000 persons. Yet it remains a history largely forgotten today in American memory. Few lessons from that time remain to be remembered and applied to today’s pandemic. Once again, world leaders are fumbling in the dark to discover an adequate response.

While the the death toll is rising, national economies are tanking due to “stay at home” and “isolate in place” orders. Unlike 1918, the economies are much more globally tied together. As a result, the world economy suffers. It turns out that not only do “all ships rise together” but all ships can also sink together. National and state governments are not on the same emergency response page from whatever book or manual they are supposed to operate from when there is such a crisis. As a result, the applications of quarantining and isolation are applied unequally in cities, counties and states to businesses. Some stay open while others are required to remain closed. The outcome is that some businesses will close forever.

The driving motivation seems to be a fear of dying. The spectre of death has a long human history. Humans have done everything within their own power to avoid death and dream of defeating it and even living forever in eternal youth. We will kill one another, sacrifice each other and pay any amount of money to avoid entering into the death’s realm.

U.S. country music star Kenny Chesney wrote a song that captures the American sentiment about death and the afterlife. It is titled “Everyone Wants to Go to Heaven“. The catch in the song is that “but nobody wants go now.” Blues musician Albert King echoed the same words in “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” In western culture, the “everyone is a winner” sentimentality also applies to eternal reward.

This alone, however, does not explain the desperate avoidance of death and suffering in the western culture. The rest of the world faces it everyday. Take a trip to the poorest parts of the poorest nations and death is an everyday occurance with cholera, typhoid, meningitis, yellow fever, malaria along with any other number of diseases. The rest of the world does not have the luxury of the choices the western world does when it comes to medical treatment and economic opportunities. And, yet, the western world seems willing to bankrupt both to avoid dying.

If you are a scientific materialist and do not believe any god exists and that this existence is all that there is, then, perhaps there may be reason to strive to grasp after every moment in this life before one’s light is snuffed out. On the other hand, from the same standpoint, to be gone from this world is also the end of suffering and struggle in this life’s meaningless existence. Afterall, shortly after one’s absence through death, this world will hardly remember one’s name. The choice seems to be epicureanism or nihilism.

On the other hand, if you believe in an afterlife then one hopes that it is much better than this existence. To be absent from this place of living means being present in the next better one. While no one would run to death with this view, you would think that one would not avoid embracing it at all costs either. One could waver between a stoicism or a need to embrace a faith that promises an eternal life that provides meaning to this one. Thus humankind’s universal search for meaning in a religion.

This may be where the Christian faith offers the best hope during Corona virus pandemic. The Bible is clear-eyed about the meaningless of life apart from a hope in an eternal life offered by God through his son, Jesus the Messiah. Jesus himself pointed out the futility of life when he illustrated the beautiful but temporary nature of the wild flowers of the field (Matthew 6:28-30).

The Psalmist in the Bible’s Old Testament also observed (Ps. 103:16) “As for man, his days are like grass—he blooms like a flower of the field; when the wind has passed over, it vanishes, and its place remembers it no more.” And the prophet Isaiah, later quoted by the Apostle Peter, proclaimed, “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades…surely the people are grass…but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:6-8; 1 Peter 1:24-25).

The two most pessimistic – if one chooses to view them that way – pieces of literature in the Bible are Job and Ecclesiastes. In the throes of incredible suffering, Job asserts “Mortals, born of woman, are of few days and full of trouble. They spring up like flowers and wither away; like fleeting shadows, they do not endure. A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed” (14:1-5). The Preacher of Ecclesiastes challenges any optimistic view of life apart from a relationship with God: “There is no remembrance of the former generations; neither shall there be any remembrance of the latter generations that are to come, among those that shall come after” (1:11).

Death comes to us all. Until a vaccine is discovered and administered to everyone on earth, the Corona virus remains a threat and death more imminent. Governments attempted to “flatten the curve” and slow down the sickness and death rate so that it is more manageable for our health care systems. But that doesn’t end the threat of death because, without a vaccine, sooner or later you will suffer the effects of it. As such, death is closer than ever – or at least a lengthy quarantine at home or hospital stay.

How does Jesus the Messiah change the human equation that ends in death? He does so in his resurrection. That event changed the world. If that singular historical event is true and factual, then it changes everything. There is no fear of death as the Apostle Paul declared (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). There is only the promise that this life is not the totality of our existence (John 3:16,17). In fact, the greater portion of our life lies beyond this one. Faith in and trust in God’s saving act in the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah undoes the curse and fear of death.

This is what has given Christians the power to run toward the sick and dying rather than away from it. During some of the worst plagues in Europe’s history it was often Christians who stayed to care for the sick and dying when cities and towns were being evacuated and abandoned. This attitude toward death and eternal life even caused some radical Christians, despite church leadership instructing and pleading against it, to act carelessly and even run to a martyr’s death.

The final result should be a Christian community that cares for those around them. It must result in actions that care for the suffering and dying. Never at any time in recent history has the worldwide church been given such an opportunity to show the love, mercy and grace of God that was revealed in Jesus the Messiah. We can risk the reach into a plague infected world to help and to heal because we do not fear death.

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A leading food manufacturing company developed a new cake mix that required only water to be added.  Tests were run, surveys were made, and the cake mix was found to be of superior quality to the other mixes available on the market.  It tasted good, it was easy to use, and it made a moist, tender cake.

The company spent large sums of money on an advertising campaign and then released the cake mix to the general market.  But few people bought the new cake mix.  This surprised the company executives.

So, the company then spent more money on a survey to find out why the cake mix did not sell.  Based on the results of the survey, the company recalled the cake mix, reworked the formula, and released the revised cake mix.

The new cake mix required that one add not only water, but also an egg.  It sold like hot cakes and is now a leading product in the field.  You see, the first cake mix was just too simple to be believable.  People would not accept it.  It was too good to be true or believable it turns out.  Let the consumer add something of their own, however, and suddenly it becomes believable.  Amazing.

White Rose Bud, Bush House Gardens, Salem, Oregon, 2009

White Rose Bud, Bush House Gardens, Salem, Oregon, 2009 ©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2010)

The same is true of salvation by grace.  The Bible teaches us that everyone has sinned.  No one is perfect enough to stand before divine perfection.  In one way or another, we all have deeply offended God with our rebellious independence.  None of us measure up to what he desired us to become as his creation.  We all fall short of the glory he designed for us at creation’s beginning.

However, despite our gross offense to God, salvation from sin and judgment and peace with God are found freely by his grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  To everyone who simply believes in his Son and what he did on the cross to remove our sin and its judgment from us, and what he did in his resurrection to give us the hope of heaven, God grants His righteousness and eternal life.

Unlike the aforementioned cake mix, no other ingredient is needed.  There is nothing that you can add to what Jesus did to make his sacrifice more acceptable or your life more worthy of salvation.  In fact, any attempt to add something to qualify yourself is an insult to God and the gift he offers you.  His salvation is a free gift.  Nothing else is needed.  Too simple to be true?  Amazing.  But true!

©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2010)

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