As always, I hope that this find you well and walking with the King! His ways are the best in every respect – even if-and-when they traverse difficult places. Last month’s newsletter – not the most popular that I ever wrote – reminded us that we are mortal and that that mortality gets in the way of how we think things should be. You probably would not believe some of the conversations that I have had with people with respect to our mortality...
One young lady was telling me – as she stood on one side of a third-party’s sick bed and I on the other (the dear young woman between us had been comatose for weeks and weeks and weeks and was now in miraculous recovery mode!) that she, because she was a Christian, was never going to be ill (I wonder where that put the young Christian lady who was in a sick-bed that separated us?). I mentioned – just in passing – that if we were never ill we would never die (no one dies from good health!); and that the writer of the letter to the Hebrews said that “it is appointed for men (and women!) to die once” (Hebrews 9:27 – that is not the only verse that I might have cited). Her response to this biblical information was simply that she would decide if and when she would step into the presence of God. I gathered that she felt that she would have an Enoch kind of experience where one day – of her choosing – she would simply step painlessly out of her (apparently) semi-mortal body and into the presence of God.
Another more argumentative lady (she was being argumentative; I was just getting irritated...) – this person older and speaking from a wheel chair – made the same kind of assertion as the aforementioned young lady. I did not point out that she was in a wheel chair or that she couldn’t do too many things on her own; but I did point out the same two things that I pointed out to the younger “immortalist” – no one dies from good health, and “it is appointed unto man to die once.” At that point she rebuked me in the name of the Lord (for quoting His Word, I presume?) and, as she told others later, she cast a demon out of me.
Another similar argument that I have fielded more often is this: “Why should this affliction (associated with mortality) come upon me? No one loves Jesus more than I do or serves Him more faithfully – I don’t deserve this!” Besides a significant degree of arrogance, the underlying assumptions in the mind of the person who reasons in that manner are the same as the previous two persons: sickness is only for those who are not saved or for those who profess to know Christ but are out of fellowship with Him. Otherwise, all believers should all be living on Easy Street. Never mind that great saints of all ages have often served faithfully and suffered significantly (cp. Job, or the Apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”) – for some reason the person who argues in this manner feels that their goodness should elevate them above the mortality that others must endure. Hmmm... One last comment that I have heard appeals to the testimony that the Scriptures give concerning Moses: “Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated.” (Deuteronomy 34:7). Such “unabated vigor,” some insist, is the heritage that all faithful persons should enjoy. Make that claim if you wish; but consider several things:
o First of all, do you claim to possess the same degree of “familiarity” with God that Moses had??? It was of Moses that God said – rebuking Moses’ siblings, Aaron and Miriam – “‘[Moses] is faithful in all my house. 8With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?’ 9And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them...” (Numbers 12:7-9). When was the last time your face shone after God spoke with you “mouth to mouth,” or met with you “face-to-face” in the tent of meeting?
o Moses was so exceptional in his “unabated vigor” that that point about him is given to us as something extraordinary. Such physical prowess in advanced years was very notably exceptional and definitely not the norm – that is why it is pointed out!
o Moses’ own testimony of his health as he neared death is indicated in Deuteronomy 31:2 – “[Moses] said to them, ‘I am 120 years old today. I am no longer able to go out and come in.’” This does not contradict the testimony of his “unabated vigor” given after his demise 3 chapters later; but it does indicate that Moses himself noticed the decline of his strength as he drew nearer to death.
o Moses did, by the way, die: “So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD...” (Deuteronomy 34:5).
The point is that physical death – mortality – is as “true and expected” today as was indicated in Genesis 2:17 – “For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Paul affirms the same fact in Romans 5:12 – “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Like it or not, mortality is our lot!
Vacation Time! Ginny and I just returned from our vacation. As we usually do, we vacationed in the Adirondacks, camping in a fairly primitive situation and taking several hikes with our family... Here is some correspondence from that “vacation:”
Thank you so much for joining us on our vacation! We did not specifically invite you to join us, but you slipped in with us uninvited (but not unnoticed). You little stinker!
Perhaps some evidence of your ubiquitous presence was in the several things that we forgot to bring – the acetaminophen, for example. Not that we would need it, of course. Frankly, after our hikes we were so tired and ready to sleep that we scarcely noticed the aches and pains: who needs acetaminophen when complete exhaustion sets in? And by the way, was it you who made the “short hike” up Goodnow Mountain longer than it used to be? You don’t miss a trick – you little stinker!
I also noticed that you are a capitalist: at least you seemed to capitalize on any opportunity to make your presence known. Maybe “showboat” is a better word to describe you. There was, as you apparently observed, a fairly stiff wind against me as I paddled our gear-laden canoe out to our campsite. This gave you opportunity to enliven and flagellate the arthritis (another of your minions who does your bidding) in my shoulder. And we had no acetaminophen, of course. You plan your attacks well...you little stinker!
And then there is the issue of “spoiling plans.” One night my beloved wife and I were going to walk back to visit my brother and my cousin after supper – only a 1⁄4 mile walk from our site to theirs. But I fell asleep sitting in my chair...and when I awakened, my foot was aching so from the afternoon hike (up – and down – Goodnow) that I felt definite guidance from the Lord – or was it oppression from you? – to stifle my intention to pay them a visit. Besides, it was dark and I can’t see nearly so well as I used to in the dark. You little stinker!
Was it you, Mortality, who tripped me those several times that I fell – four times, I think? No, it was not you. Anyone, whatever age, would have fallen if he or she backed up and stumbled on that badly placed rock by our picnic table. And the slip-on-the-mud on the trail during the rain – that was nothing that I might not have done twenty years ago. That was not you – so don’t be so smugly proud. It had nothing to do with sight, balance or reflex. And when I was carrying the pot of spaghetti over to Sam and Mindy’s site and tripped on a root – that was not your doing, Mortality; anyone might have taken a tumble given the circumstances. And Ginny, who saw all of that happen, credited me with a “nice save” with respect to the dinner. If you had had your way in that incident – if it really was you – the meal would have been spilled out as an offering to yourself. Nice try, old friend! And the fourth fall – pshaw! I can’t recollect the circumstances of that one just now; but you had nothing to do with it, so stop your gloating...you little stinker.
By the way – and I don’t mean to rain on your party – your presence on our trip did help in some “positive” way. By that I mean this: when you are around (and others have the same testimony), I get to know myself a bit better. Let me explain... I found that at times I had aches and pains in places that I didn’t even know that I had! Or there might have been a re-acquaintance with some old injury that I had forgotten all about! You help me with the old Greek aphorism, γνῶθι σεαυτόν – “Know thyself.” Thanks, you little stinker...
And, by the way, you did not even spoil our vacation. There was too much blessing from our Father...
Sincerely, Nick and Ginny
And let me tell you one other thing: your pestering presence makes me more and more Homesick for the Place
where mortality will be no more: you, you little stinker, cannot bear the life-exuding presence or the glory of the immortal God. But I – and all who are in Christ Jesus – will be There, blamelessly and with great joy. And you will have no opportunity to slip in uninvited. Besides, you could bear neither that Place nor that Presence. In His Book, God has given me a promissory note: “There will no longer be any death (that would be you, Mortality!); there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) I have been rescued from your merciless bludgeoning by the Lamb who was slain – and Who was raised victorious over your heart-breaking grip! Hallelujah!
Just as my Savior crushed the serpent’s head, I will one Day put my foot in your face as I throw you off and ascend to eternity in the presence of the immortal God! And look on, old “friend,” as I say to you, “Vale aeternum!” – “Good-bye forever!” You little stinker: I will miss you...but it will be a great miss!