Tag Archives: grace

life after death

I remember growing up in Sunday School and knowing everything.  Certainty was my drug of choice.  I knew the ten commandments, the 12 apostles, and the fruits of the Spirit.  I also knew the song for each.  I wasn’t ever in Bible Bowl because God showed mercy on those other kids.  I had all the answers (or so I thought).

Even those questions that no one has a firm knowledge of, I thought I knew for sure.  Like heaven.  I knew that I’d fly away (oh glory) to a mansion just over the hilltop, in that bright land where we’ll never grow old.  I knew there’s a big, big house with lots and lots of rooms and a big, big table, with lots and lots of food.  There’d be a big, big yard where we could play football because its a big, big house, and its my Father’s house.  And most of all I knew, that when the roll is called up yonder, I’d be there.

These are all positive things to think about.  It helps cope with loss, and it helps to think hopefully as we deal with worldly stuff.  But I can’t help but wonder: what is it going to be like when we die?

I ponder this a lot.  Will it be here on this planet?  Will we go up into the sky or a cloud?  People have gone up there before, but eventually they were in space, not heaven… So is it like a parallel universe?  Do we go through some crazy sci-fi portal?  Does it look like jumping into hyperspeed looks in Star Wars?  Do we just wake up there after we die?  Is it like King’s Cross from Harry Potter?  HOW DO WE GET THERE!?

This afternoon, I met a guy who told me that in November, he had a heart attack and died 3 times.  I thought that was interesting because he was standing right there in front of me looking really healthy for his age.  So I asked something I had never asked any formerly dead person before, “Did you see anything?”  In retrospect, that was probably a weird question, but I’ve been thinking about the afterlife a lot.  He said that he didn’t see anything…  Bummer!  No best-selling novel coming about some heavenly revelation from him, and no viral blog post coming from me!

So to sum my ramblings up, I don’t know what happens when we physically die, and I’m pretty skeptical of anyone who says otherwise.

Later I got to thinking about death, specifically about being spiritually dead.  I don’t know about you, but some days, hours, or minutes, I can feel spiritually dead.  Often this is a result of sin which separates us from God (To my church family, it appears that even the youth minister isn’t perfect).  And often throughout my life in those moments, I have felt the sting of shame, a product of the fallen world and a tool of the Enemy.  Shame says because I have done something bad, I am bad.  Shame can make anyone and everyone feel unworthy.  Shame and death are both results of the fall from Eden and go hand-in-hand.  Shame and death are the story of the Enemy, but they are not the story of the Almighty God.  

Even though Paul (early church missionary) wrote letters to churches 2,000 years ago, I believe there is still much life for us to reap from his words today.  In his letter to the church in Ephesus, he writes:

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world… BUT God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved! For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.”  Ephesians 2:1-2, 4-6… its in the Bible.

In Christ, we have life after death.  And it’s not because we were in good enough shape that we could be revived.  It is only grace that saves us.  ONLY GRACE!  One more time for the people in the back: ONLY GRACE!!

And this isn’t just a one time thing!  After the Spirit enters into our hearts, we are made alive!  But that doesn’t mean that we’ll never sin again.  It doesn’t mean that we will never choose death over life again, but it does mean that time and time again, we are given life!  The life that we have been gifted can never run out or be used up.  Time and time again we choose death, and time and time again, the Almighty God lavishes his love and grace on us!  

Furthermore, this is not just any old life that we have after death, we are united in Christ in the heavenly realms!  And Paul doesn’t say that we will be united with Christ when we die, but he says we ARE united with Christ Jesus!  Not “will be,” not “were,” but “are” right now!

I realize the amount of exclamation marks (!) I used in this post could be described as excessive or overbearing, but honestly, I just get excited sometimes.  The Almighty has seen us as we are, dead in sin and separated from the fullness of the love of God, and out of immense love and care, God made a way for us.

So who knows what will happen when the hearts we have stop beating and we physically die in this reality?  I certainly don’t!  But I know that every single day of our lives, the unchanging, Almighty God offers us life after death.

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Grace in the Gray

Doesn’t growing up kinda stink sometimes?

Life used to be so easy.  There were no decisions to be made, or not many important ones anyways.  Questions of morality were so black and white.  Back when the words ethics, prejudice, and bias meant nothing to me.  That was a time in which following God was a decision, not a lifestyle.  There was an obviously correct answer to every question as well as an obviously incorrect answer.  Everything made sense.  The choices set before me were easy.  Eat healthily or unhealthily.  Do the homework or suffer the consequences.  Lie or tell the truth.  Every action had a pretty clear consequence.

But now I find myself swimming in a sea of gray.  Almost anything can be justified in my mind.  Any action can be supported by logic.  And the difference between obviously right and obviously wrong has become a lot of maybes.  All of a sudden, making decisions has become an intense debate inside my head.  Nothing is clear.

But as far as I can tell, this is just part of becoming who I am.

When I came to college to study the Bible vocationally, I thought a lot of things would get cleared up.  That more study of the Bible would lead to a more black and white view of the world and what happens in it.  It surely hasn’t.  The more I study, the more I realize how little that I know.  The more I study God’s word, the more I understand the vast spectrum that Christians fall onto.  Often I have heard people talk about the Bible as if it is something that anyone with a brain can agree as to what it says.  More often, I have seen people heatedly disagree about its truths. Truthfully, we cannot know for certain that our ways are correct.

So what can we do?

In the current age, we can live by faith.  We can live boldly in a way that glorifies our Lord.  We can lean on grace.

So often, we extend grace to others for moral stumbles, but do not extend any grace for genuine intellectual/interpretation differences. Is salvation dependent on perfect interpretation? On perfect understanding? On perfect obedience? If that were the case, we would all be lost.

So today, I challenge those reading this to live boldly by faith.

Hebrews 11 speaks directly to this topic covering many who, by faith, were used to accomplish the Lord’s perfect plan.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  This is what the ancients were commended for.  Hebrews 11:1-2.

Boldly following Jesus is something that the Lord will prosper, not punish.

Run after Jesus through the gray. Faithfully trust Him. Count on grace for the missteps.

in the midst of… brokenness

I will be the very first to admit that I am way less than perfect, and anyone who knows me well is aware of that fact.  This is something that I often have struggled with inside of my calling to ministry, specifically youth ministry.  

How can I possibly show teens how to live a life fully devoted to Christ when I struggle to do so myself?

This is a question that has haunted me in the past. Well for a while, at least. Then I watched a little. Then I listened a little. I got to be around people in ministry.  I watched them deal with their imperfections. This was eye-opening for me. For the longest time, I struggled with telling people what field I was studying in, and what type of life I was preparing for. Was this because I was ashamed of my faith? Was I ashamed of Jesus? No. I was ashamed of myself. Being completely aware of my own brokenness and sin, I could not dare to let people know what I felt called to do or who I felt called to be.  Then I found a piece of Scripture from 2 Corinthians that comforted me.

To keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  -II Corinthians 12:7-10

Even Paul, the great missionary of the Gospel, was in need of grace. God has used some really screwed up people to bring about his glory throughout history.  King David, “a man after God’s own heart,” was an adulterer who then covered up his adultery by conspiring to have a man killed.  Rahab was a prostitute, but God used her to help his people.  Paul himself was a killer of Christians, and his letters to churches are now known by many as the “inspired word of God.”

One thing that these people have in common (other than the fact that God used them for great things) was that they did not dwell on their own brokenness, but instead chose to live into a better story. We live in a world filled with stories. Some of these stories are of God, but many are not.  Whatever we do, whether good or bad, will be part of our story, but what do the bigger pictures of our lives look like? Overall, are we choosing to serve God with a few hiccups along the way? Or are we rolling around in the muck of our lives? These are the questions we have to answer for ourselves. Personally, every second of every day, I have a choice to make.  I can spend my time focusing on my brokenness, or I can choose to live unashamed.  Unashamed of myself and fully turning my brokenness over to God, only then is there full life.

While writing this, I thought of a song I grew up singing at Church Camp. Here are some of the lyrics:

I’m trading my sorrows,

I’m trading my shame,

I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord.

Brokenness is something that exists in everyone’s life, but it is not something that we have to hold on to.

in the midst of brokenness, let us hand it over to Jesus. Again, and again, and again…