Category: Death (Page 1 of 9)

Deciding to Die

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” ~Galatians 2:20

We all want to be raised with Christ. We want to claim God’s will for our lives that we be raised with our Lord to walk in newness of life. We want to experience the divine promise that we will be raised with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly realms.

But, first, you have to die.

The apostle Paul goes beyond saying Jesus was crucified in his place. Paul says he’s been crucified with Christ. He died with Jesus.

Of course, resurrection life and power is available to you. It’s available to you right now. But you have to die first. You can’t be raised until you first die – that’s just common sense.

Look at our Lord. Jesus did not resurrect himself. The Father raised him. What part did Jesus play in his raising? He died. He submitted to the will of God and he died.

Resurrection life and resurrection power is what God does in you when you decide to die to yourself and die to the world and die to your sins; when you die with Christ, when you’re buried with Christ, when you die, then God resurrects. It’s your call.

And it’s not really about your feelings. It’s about your will. It’s about what you decide to do.

When a guy gets married, the preacher doesn’t ask him to take out the ring and then talk about how he feels. Before you take this woman, tell us how you feel. “Man, I feel like I’m about to throw up. My hands are shaking, my knees are weak, and I’m sweating like a cow. I feel terrible.”

No, we don’t ask that. The question is: Will you take this woman? “Will I? Yes. I will do this. I will make the decision now to take this woman and commit to her as my wife.”

It’s a choice. It’s a decision of the will.

If you’ve never been baptized…

…will you? Will you die with Christ this Sunday in the waters of baptism in order to share in the resurrection?

I don’t care if you’re twelve-years-old or in your 30s or 50s. I don’t care if you were born and raised in the Church and, for whatever reason, you’ve never been baptized. I don’t care if you’ve never been inside a church building before.

Will you be buried with Jesus and be raised to walk in the life and power of his resurrection? Will you make the choice? Will you decide to die with Christ?

Peace,

Allan

He Did Everything

Palm Sunday begins with so much glory and promise. At last, God’s anointed has come! There’s shouting and singing and celebration and anticipation. Jesus has come to save us! He’s come to defeat the evil oppressors and to destroy the enemy! We’re in those swelling crowds around Jesus, following Jesus, praising Jesus, putting all our hopes for salvation in Jesus. And Jesus rides that donkey right into Jerusalem, through the Eastern gates, into the holy city, right into the heart of the temple precinct, and he does…

…nothing.

Nothing. Jesus doesn’t do anything.

“Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.” ~Mark 11:11

Jesus doesn’t do anything. He doesn’t lead the crowd against the Roman garrison, he doesn’t physically confront the powers and authorities that are oppressing the people, he doesn’t even take the temple steps to make a stirring speech. He looks around for a little bit and then goes back to Bethany for dinner.

What a disappointment. What a letdown. What kind of Messiah is this? What sort of Savior?

I know sometimes it can feel like Jesus is doing nothing. And somebody has to do something! Jesus can’t just look around at everything, he can’t just look at my life and my struggles and my problems and just shrug his shoulders and go back to Bethany. He has to do something!

Jesus did do something. Jesus did something to finally and completely and ultimately destroy the effects of sin and death in your life and throughout the whole world forever. Jesus resolutely set his face toward Golgotha and walked to the cross. He died. On a cross. On purpose.

He allowed himself to be beaten and tortured. He allowed them to nail his hands and feet to the blood-soaked wood of that cross. He died willingly. He sacrificed himself. He could have called ten thousand angels. But he died alone. For you. For me. That’s what Jesus did. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

This is how he saves you. This is how he loves you, to the point of absurdity. He loves you all the way to the cross. Purposefully, willfully, stubbornly even, dying on a cross.

Peace,

Allan

 

The Crown Says It All

Jesus willingly rode into Jerusalem to be crowned with this crown. This crown of suffering and pain and anguish and shame is an undeniable statement about the kingship of Jesus. This crown represents a completely different way to experience the world, a totally different way to view success, a whole different way to understand the realities of history. This crown says it all.

Jesus does not enter Jerusalem on a gleaming white charger or a jet-black war horse; he’s riding a common, lowly beast of burden. He’s not carrying a bunch of war trophies, there’s not a train of prisoners or captives behind him. In fact, by the end of the week, Jesus will be the One led down the streets and dragged outside the city gates to be executed.

Jesus does not share the people’s hopes and dreams for earthly glory and power. He’s not establishing a Kingdom to rival the Roman Empire. He’s come to suffer. And sacrifice. He comes to die. He comes as a King to be crowned. With this crown.

The King who wears this crown loves his enemies. His righteousness far surpasses that of the Pharisees. He was rich and he became poor for the sake of the world. As he’s dying on the cross, suffering and suffocating on that tree, he shows us what love looks like when he stares the evil of this broken world right in the face and says, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.”

This crown is not a hurdle or a barrier or a detour on the way to the Kingdom of God. It’s not something we have to overcome or power through to enter the Kingdom. This crown is not the way to the Kingdom at all.

This crown IS the Kingdom of God. This crown is the Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. This crown says it all. And the One who wears this crown is our almighty and eternal and all-sufficient and only King.

Peace,

Allan

From Death to Life

“I AM the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will never die.” ~John 11:25-26

There’s a scene about a third of the way through the Temple of Doom movie in which Indiana Jones and his little sidekick, Short Round, are trapped in a room inside an evil castle. Short Round accidentally trips a lever and the walls start closing in. The four walls are coming in and the ceiling is coming down and long, pointed, metal spikes are coming up out of the floor and down from the ceiling. Indy and his little buddy are going to be crushed to death! The walls are coming closer and Indiana Jones is freaking out. He’s yelling at Kate Capshaw on the other side of the wall: Pull that lever! Stick your hand in there and pull that lever! But there are bugs and snakes in the wall and she just can’t do it. The spikes are coming down and the desperation builds and they zoom the camera in tight on Indiana Jones’ face. One spike comes up against his face. Another spike comes down and presses his hat against his temple. And he looks directly into the camera and says, “We. Are. Going. To. Die.”

No, you’re not. We know you’re not. Indiana Jones will never die.

He’s lowered into a pit of boiling lava, he’s walking on the outside of an airplane at 30,000 feet, he’s captured by Nazis, he’s strapped to a rotting suspension bridge a mile above a canyon floor, he’s brainwashed by murderous witch doctors – but he never dies. He keeps rescuing the children and saving the village and restoring the sacred stones and he always gets the girl and he never loses his hat.

Indiana Jones can live that way, recklessly doing what few will dare to do, because he knows he’ll never die. Why? Because he has an arrangement with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. They’ve already determined that Indiana Jones will never die.

“Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:10

Jesus Christ is the Lord of Life, the eternal author of life, the giver of all life. He came that we may have life and have it to the full. In his death and resurrection, a new age has dawned for those of us who believe. Death has nothing on you. Neither does sin. We are living right now in the new era of his resurrection. God’s Holy Spirit lives inside us. That exact same Spirit who brought Lazarus out of the grave and rolled the stone away on that third day and sat on it – that same Spirit lives inside you!

You’ve got the resurrection inside you! You’re dangerous! You’re invincible! You can’t be stopped!

And the call is still on. It’s still on.

So we don’t cower, we don’t hesitate, we don’t slow down or back off or ever walk away. Our attitude is: You can kill me, but you can’t hurt me! We know how the story ends and that impacts how we play our part.

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection!” ~ Philippians 3:10

So we love unconditionally and we forgive unflinchingly. We heal the sick and we feed the poor and we stand with the marginalized and the oppressed. We give and we serve uncompromisingly. We protect and provide for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger in the gate. We fight racism no matter the cost. We tear down walls no matter the opposition. And we deny ourselves and take up our crosses and unashamedly follow the one who laid down his life for the whole world!

No matter what chaos and confusion is out there, no matter what uncertainty surrounds you, sin and death do not have the final word. They do not have the final say. Our risen and reigning Lord Jesus is the author of life and he always writes the last line. And it’s good to have an arrangement with the writer.

Peace,

Allan

After Delivery

My Aunt Alice finished her race yesterday. And she ran well. She ran very well. In honor of her, I’m posting the following short story my Uncle Gerald shared with me a couple of weeks ago. This story has come to mean so much to both of them in helping to articulate the hope and the reality of everlasting life after death in the presence of our heavenly Father. Uncle Gerald has asked me to read it at Aunt Alice’s funeral this Friday in Kilgore. I’m honored. And I share it with you today, praying it encourages you, too.

In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?” The other replied, “Well, of course! There has to be life after delivery. I believe we’ve been placed here to prepare ourselves for what will be later.”

“Nonsense,” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”

The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than we have here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat with our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”

The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. Life after delivery is not logical.”

The second insisted, “Well, I think there is something else and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”

The first replied, “Hogwash! Plus, if there is life after delivery, why has no one ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life. After delivery, there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”

The first replied, “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists, where is she?”

The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of her. It is in her that we live. Without her, this world would not and could not exist. And neither could we.”

Said the first, “Well, I don’t see her, so it’s only logical that she doesn’t exist.”

To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and listen, you can perceive her presence and you can hear her loving voice calling down from above.”

God bless Aunt Alice. May he receive her into his faithful arms. And may God bless Uncle Gerald and our whole family with his merciful blessings of comfort and peace and joy.

Peace,

Allan

God Bless Vernon Camp

I needed the right guy. I can’t remember now exactly what the sermon was about, but I was using as an illustration the overwhelming number of choices we have to make every day. You don’t just go to the store to pick up some toothpaste, there’s a whole aisle of 37 brands and 193 varieties of toothpaste! You don’t just buy shampoo, there are six long shelves of shampoos from which to choose, an endless myriad of brands and smells and hair types and colors. Sometimes these choices can paralyze us. And I needed somebody to meet me at the Wal-Mart so I could take┬áhis picture in the bread aisle, holding up two different loaves of bread, and looking very confused. This person had to be a good actor. He had to have a great personality. He had to appreciate a good gag. This needed to be a guy the whole church knew and loved. And it had to be somebody who was never confused about anything, a decisive guy who knew what he wanted and always got it immediately.

That guy was Vernon Camp. I called. He said “Yes.” And he was perfect.

I told the church I was at the grocery store taking pictures of the shampoo and toothpaste choices and I came across Vernon in the bread aisle. Melba had sent him to the store for a loaf of bread the day before yesterday and he was still there trying to decide which one to buy!

This was just four months into my ministry here at Central. I didn’t realize at the time that Vernon Camp was already pretty famous.

On the day he graduated from high school in 1946, Vernon and a buddy hitchhiked to Ardmore, Oklahoma so they could enlist in the Navy, put in their two years, and go to college on the G.I. Bill. He enrolled at the University of Oklahoma in 1948 and was a walk-on for second-year head football coach Bud Wilkinson — the very beginning for OU’s most glorious days. During those four years, Vernon never played in an actual game, but he suited up in the Sooners’ Crimson and Cream uniforms for every practice and stood at the ready on the sidelines for every contest. During those four years, OU went 39-4, won four conference titles, two Sugar Bowls, and one national championship. That explains pretty well his obsession with everything OU. He hated that I always referred to his alma mater as “Zero-U.” He loved rubbing it in my face every second Sunday in October.

While he was at OU, Vernon was a member of the university’s glee club. They were so good they actually performed on the Ed Sullivan Show in New York City. Vernon was practically as famous as The Beatles and Elvis — they shared the same stage!

We buried Vernon on Tuesday. Ladies and Gentlemen, Vernon has left the building.

There’s a lot to like about Vernon Camp and there’s a ton that we’re going to miss. He helped people. He selflessly served others in the name and manner of our Lord. For more than 20 years he faithfully delivered Meals on Wheels here in Amarillo. He loved to serve and visit. He would say, “This isn’t just the only meal some of these people get every day, it’s the only time they get to talk to somebody.” Every Christmas he bought brand new shoes for all the kids at High Plains Children’s Home, totally under the radar. Thirty-five years ago he co-signed a loan for a set of tires for a guy he barely knew. On his 80th birthday he was pouring concrete for one of his sons. At 87 he was clearing brush and digging up trees for another son and his family. He was always helping people, taking care of people, showing people the love of Christ. He led the family prayer at meal times, insisting that everybody hold hands in a circle.

For 57 years he served as a faithful member of this church family at Central. Serving homemade ice cream. Hosting the Family Life Group. Singing in the choirs. Loving and encouraging the preacher. Greeting visitors. Making the B.K. class so much fun. And being such a dear and great friend to so many. He made so many of us better. He made all of us better. Without Vernon by his side, I’m afraid Bobby Sumrow is going to lose a lot of his charm.

He had that stroke two years ago while they were in Oklahoma. Then the bad fall off the ladder in the garage. The blood clot in his brain that had to be removed. (I showed up in his room right after the surgery wearing a Texas Longhorns shirt. I told him I wanted it to be the first thing he saw when he woke up so he might think he had died and this is what everybody wears in heaven.) Then the Alzheimer’s. And it seems like it happened so fast.

But he never complained. He never lost his cheerful demeanor. He knew he was slipping. He knew the clock was ticking. But he never lost his desire to sing. He never lost his eagerness to laugh. He never wavered in his faith and trust in our God. A couple of times over the last few months he told Melba, “When it’s time, I’m ready.”

Vernon Camp finished his race early last Thursday morning at 89 years of age. Loved and cherished by God, forgiven by the blood of Christ, overflowing with the Spirit of the Lord.

The past six months or so Vernon was unable to remember our names. And that’s hard. But it’s OK because God remembers. God remembers Vernon and he is faithful. And we remember. We remember Vernon. We’ll never forget the ways his gentleness and grace reflect the glory of our Lord. And we’ll take care of Melba. And we’ll encourage his family by remembering with them how much Vernon touched our lives.

May God bless Vernon Camp and receive him into his faithful arms. And may God bless all of us with the strength and the faith and the confidence that he is able to keep what we’ve entrusted to him until that great day.

Peace,

Allan

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