PART 11 THE FACETS OF DEATH

Wed, 11/10/2021 - 10:45am

PART 11 THE FACETS OF DEATH

11

CAN THE OCCURRENCE OF AN UNEXPECTED DEATH BE ATTRIBUTED TO THE PERCEPTION THAT THE PERSON DESERVED IT BECAUSE OF THE SINFUL LIFE THEY LIVED?

This story is close to my heart. Following my conversion to Christ, God directed me to a non-denominational church in my hometown. Just thinking about it now brings fond memories. The church of 15-20 believers would meet on the third floor of a fellow believer’s house for worship service. The pastor, a young man in his mid to late twenties, would open in prayer and proceed to play the guitar and sing. The words of the songs were such that they inspired all to worship the Lord. God’s presence (joy and peace) would permeate our hearts (our souls) and cause us to be singular in mind and purpose.

And when the music was over, the pastor would preach. I had never heard anything like it. Verses of Scripture would come off his tongue like a machine gun spewing out tennis balls. The message was unlike anything I had ever listened to in the faith of my younger years. I was hearing about what God thought about me and how I didn’t have to continue on in the thoughts, words, and actions that plagued me on a day-to-day basis. Answers were provided that allowed me to understand how to walk in the newness of life that God had given me at salvation.

After a year had gone by, the churches’ attendance grew, and the pastor thought it would be a good idea to try to purchase a facility where we could meet on a regular basis instead of at someone’s house. There was one property in particular that he was looking at that was being used to provide housing for Catholic nuns. The pastor approached me and said that he made an offer on the property and that if the purchase went through, would I consider leaving my secular job and work for the church as an outreach coordinator? To which I replied, yes? Surprisingly, the facility was purchased, I quit my job and went on staff.    

The days were long but fruitful. I would visit those who were new to the church, those who needed prayer, and those who had physical medical ailments. I was allowed to conduct a Bible study and coordinate different events for the church members to participate in (i.e., street witnessing, men’s breakfast, musical venues, etc.). The morning of each day would start early at 5:00 am for prayer.   

Eventually, I began dating a young lady from the church, and we were married in the forthcoming month of December. Soon after, the warmer weather of spring began to appear, and I realized that I needed to get into some type of exercise program. I spoke to my wife about this, and she suggested why not go running after early morning prayer was over, as she was aware that I used to run cross country track for the college I had attended just a few years earlier. So, that is what I did. Over time, I was running about 5 miles each morning. I felt refreshed and rejuvenated for the rest of the day.   

Word got out to the members of the church that if anyone was interested, they were more than welcome to join me on my early morning run. To my surprise, one of the new young male Christian attendees responded. And so, each morning, we would meet at 6:00 am and go for a run.    

Unexpectedly, someone in the church told me about an upcoming weekly retreat that would take place in August on the campus of the churches’ headquarters. This would consist of pastors from affiliate branch ministries speaking on various biblical topics throughout each day along with varied planned activities. So, my wife and I decided to sign up for this. The next thing we knew was that we were on our way with great anticipation of participating in this spiritual encounter. And how nourishing it was. Each day was filled with prayer, teaching, preaching, fellowship, good food, and saturation of God’s presence.    

When we returned home, we were welcomed by all in the local church. However, the pastor, with a somber look, said he needed to talk to me right away. I wasn’t sure what this was all about, but I knew by his facial expression and tone of voice that something was terribly wrong. He proceeded to tell me that our fellow Christian brother, who had accompanied me on my morning runs, had died. I thought to myself, this can’t be true. I responded by saying something like, what happened?    

Apparently, he was with a couple of friends, and they decided to go swimming in a nearby pond, which both he and I had run past on several occasions. He, unfortunately, wandered out too far from shore and got stomach cramps. By the time someone reached him, he had drowned. All I can say is that I was devastated. I said something to God like, how could you have allowed this to happen? He loved You; he attended church services faithfully, he was actively involved in outreach; and he loved the Word of God.   

This caused me to reexamine my thoughts about death. I had believed that if you followed the Lord, you would live a long full life. I assumed this would be one aspect of a believer’s many blessings from God. I believed that God would see to it that we were protected from harm in the sense that He would at least communicate with us by means of the ministry of the Holy Spirit if we were about to make an ill-fated decision. But this certainly was not the case in this instance.    

In the next story, just like this one, we will be brought to a better understanding of the reality that the death of a friend, relative, spouse, son/daughter, etc., is, in most cases, uncertain. Please, if you have a Bible handy, turn to the book of Luke.

 

Suggested Reading: Luke 13:1-5

1 There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

2 And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?

Jesus was in a certain place where people were gathered together. Some of them were there to tempt Him by asking certain questions; some were there observing His table side manners before eating, and others were there asking Him about what advice He would give them concerning a family inheritance. In this setting, there were also some that presented to Him a situation in which certain Galileans had come to the temple at Jerusalem to offer animal sacrifices when they were unexpectedly and ruthlessly attacked (killed) by Roman soldiers in allegiance to Pilate that resulted in the mixing together of their blood with the blood of the slain animals.

3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, asked them this question. Could this unforeseen occurrence have happened to them because they were sinners beyond all other Galileans? Jesus answered His own question and said to them, no, this was not the case. And then he made this remarkable statement, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. I don’t know if they really understood what He was conveying to them.

4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?

After which, He brought up another incident, one involving the tower at Siloam that all of a sudden fell down and killed 18 people. Jesus questioned them again. Do you think this happened because the eighteen people were sinners above all of them in Jerusalem? In other words, was it their sin that caused the tower to fall on them? Likewise, He proceeded to answer His own question by saying, no, and reiterated the words except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. This must-have seemed to them like a contradictory answer. On the one hand, He was saying that these two different occurrences happened not because of their sin, and on the other hand, He was essentially asking them to repent of their sins.

What did Jesus mean when he said, you must repent? I would like to answer this at the close of this study. But what I would like to say about what we just discussed is that someone being killed [whomever, whenever, or however] is no measure of a person's unrighteousness or righteousness.36 This doesn’t mean that someone might not receive retribution from others for what they have done. But there are times when people are just going about doing their daily business, and things unexpectedly happen, causing their physical demise. Are we to attribute this to some egregious sinful behavior in their life that God has decided to punish them for?

People die for many different reasons: war, murder, illness, accidents, etc. We are all going to die for one reason or another. Death is uncertain as to when it will occur but certain to occur. However, where we spend eternity is a choice. Jesus provided for us the answer as to make sure we wind up in the correct place when we die, and that is to repent.

As I said earlier, I was very troubled and angry with the Lord when I heard the news that my Christian brother had drowned to death. I took this very personally. Could God have saved him somehow? Why didn’t He? You might be thinking, well, it might be understandable that God didn’t intervene to save an unbeliever or a new believer, but He would never allow something unforeseen like this to happen to a Christian who had a worldwide ministry. Really?

I have an article for you to read about a Christian, who I was aware of in the late ‘70s that had an influence in my life and I’m sure in many other believer’s lives because of the words of the music that he would compose and sing, the lyrics of which when heard on the radio would uplift the soul. Do you know who he is?

 

TRAGEDY FAILS TO DERAIL MELODY GREEN'S MINISTRY

Inspirational speaker and songwriter Melody Green knows what it takes to persevere through personal tragedy.                                                                                                                                     

She will deliver that message on Thursday as the keynote speaker for Cornerstone Youth Center’s benefit banquet at 6 p.m. at Mount Calvary Christian School's Family Life Center, 629 Holly St., Elizabethtown.

Green is the widow of singer Keith Green and president of Last Days Ministries, the prison ministry they founded in 1977. She has ministered in more than 30 nations at conferences, churches, [festivals,] and in prisons. She is working on a new book and on a feature film about the life of Keith Green.                                                                                                                               

A gifted songwriter, she wrote the classics "There Is a Redeemer" and "Make My Life a Prayer.”

Cornerstone's associate director, Laurie Shepler, said the theme of the banquet is Melody's song "Make My Life a Prayer."                                                                                                                        

"She will be telling the story of how that song came to be written," Shepler said. "Her message will be inspiring to the whole community."                                                                                              

Green, who was in Lancaster County for a fundraiser last year, is looking forward to returning to the area.                                                                                                                                                   

"I'm very excited to come back and excited to share and be able to do something for Cornerstone Youth Center," she said.                                                                                                  

Green suffered a terrible blow in her life when her late husband, Keith Green, died at the age of 28 in July 1982 when the plane he was riding in crashed after takeoff in east Texas.                              

Two of their children, 3-year-old Josiah and 2-year-old Bethany, also died in the accident, along with nine other people. Green was at home with 1-year-old Rebekah and six weeks pregnant with their fourth child, Rachel, who was born in March 1983.                                          

Despite suffering a devastating loss, she bravely continued to operate Last Days Ministries from Texas until 1996, when she moved to various places in the United States. Now living in Southern California, she has launched Last Days Ministries online at lastdaysministries.org.

Green said she will talk about some of her life's journeys and how the Lord has helped her to endure and to reach people.                                                                                                          

"I'm going to talk from the heart and encourage people there about how God loves them and how they can reach out and share that love with others," she said.                                                    

Green also will talk about what it was like growing up as a "latchkey" child because her mother worked and no one was home after school.

"I want to talk about the fact that so many kids don't have a safe place to go," she said. "I think it's wonderful that Cornerstone provides so many programs for youth."

Aside from providing afterschool programs for youth in grades 6-12, Cornerstone offers transportation, college tutors, a space to [play,] and adult mentorship in a safe and fun environment.37

 

I don’t know about you, but the conclusion we can reach about death is that there will be times when a tragedy occurs, whether this involves someone famous, a friend, an acquaintance, or someone in our family, where we will have a difficult time making sense of it all. For some of us, we might blame God for not providing the assistance needed at the appropriate time to prevent such an occurrence from happening. But don’t despair, remember we have learned that there are times when God will intervene and prevent someone’s death from happening at that moment. And don’t forget there is another decision that if we, our children, our friends, our family, respond to its’ invitation then our and their eternal destiny will be secure. Again, what is that decision? That decision is to repent.

Well, we have finished this study. I have some closing thoughts to leave you with.

Endnotes

36Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament, 2000, 10 March 2018   ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.

37Lynn Commero. “Tragedy fails to derail Melody Green's ministry”. 2015.

<https://lancasteronline.com/features/faith_values/tragedy-fails-to-derail-melody-green-s-ministry/article_8b8c10be-ce3c-11e4-840d-6f4e105cc650.html>.

 

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