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God-Questions Is there life after death

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God-Questions Is there life after death

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God Questions: Is there life after death? What happens when you die? These questions may seem academic in their tone, but when they are asked, they are always personal. Everyone, if they live long enough, has experienced the death of a loved one. The grief and loss they feel often moves them to ask questions like these…and what they are asking for is not information but reassurance. Am I OK? Is my loved one gone forever or are we to be together again someday? The questions become very personal and touch a deep hurt in people’s souls. So we must be gentle. And we know that the question of life after death really is one for us all. We all are going to die. It is a fact of life that is ignored and glossed over and put aside by all of us…it is always way out there somewhere. Our culture does not deal with death and loss well. We tend to ignore it, to cover over it and to push it aside quickly. In our culture, if a person is openly emotional; angry or sad or shedding tears…we say that this person broke down. Like a car on the side of the road! When a person goes through the grief process stoically, we say that they held up! In western culture it surprises us when we encounter someone who is expressing their grief. I remember a funeral I did for a family from another culture. At the grave side, people wailed and cried and expressed their grief openly. The poor funeral director was about to go out of his mind. He kept coming over to me and saying things like “isn’t this about enough?” or “can’t you get control over them?” I honestly believe that their expressions of grief scared him. We are all going to die. We know it intellectually, but as I said, we put it out of our mind…until. Until we are confronted with mortality. With the death of a friend, or our own human body breaking down. A touch of cancer does a lot to wake you up to the

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realities of life…how precious it is and how much we often take it for granted. So, as we begin, we must openly acknowledge that this is not an academic discussion…these questions are universal and deep and go to the heart and soul of being human. American’s believe in life after death by large numbers. Even more, a lot of people believe in ghosts or spirits of the dead who haunt the living…inhabiting scary houses…I wonder why ghosts always end up in scary, crazy places like the Winchester Mystery house? Why not haunt a nice place on the ocean? Many believe that the spirits are trapped between worlds and need some kind of closure. There is even a fictional TV show about a Ghost Whisperer…and movies about kids who “see dead people”. And from time to time the talk shows cycle through a group of folks who are “physic” who talk to the dead. The 39 percent of the population who believe in Ghosts are most likely single people, Catholics and those who never attend religious services! So, we are safe! Further, Liberals are twice as likely to believe in Ghosts as the politically conservative. But what does the Bible Say about these questions? Quite a bit. First, certainly there is life after death. Absolutely, no question. There was a group in Jesus time who followed the law and kept religious ritual but did not believe in any life after death. They are called the Sadducees…and there is an old line that helps us remember…they are Sad-U-See, because they don’t believe in life after death. On several occasions they asked Jesus about this. Jesus, the Son of God…the visible image of the invisible God…disagreed with them and really dismissed them. He reminds them that God says that he

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is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…not Was the God of the patriarchs. These Fathers in the faith continue to live in God. And again the Sadducees ask Jesus a long question about a widow who marries and is widowed by 7 consecutive brothers. They ask “who’s wife she will be in heaven”. Jesus’ answer is interesting because it comes as one who knows heaven and what it is like. He left heaven to come and be among us. He simply says “For in the resurrection they neither marry or are given in marriage, but are like the angels in heaven.” (Matthew 22:23-32). Jesus says that there is life after death, and that life is different than the life we have here. His answer also makes clear that we are the same people in death as in life. We are, each of us, unique in all the world. There is only one of you…your finger prints, retinal scan, ear print, foot & hand prints, scalp pattern, voice pattern, and DNA are all used as identifiers of you as an unique individual. We are who we are…we are not some soul that is reborn again and again, but a unique child of God. The greatest evidence of life after death is Jesus himself. How many times have you heard someone say that they wanted someone to come back from the dead and tell us all about it. The resurrection of Jesus is THE proof of God’s love and of Eternal Life. He is alive, the first born from among the dead… If Christ is not risen, then our faith is in vain and we are to be pitied most among all people. But Jesus was raised and there were hundreds and hundreds of people who saw him. Read the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians for a list of them! Jesus is the proof of life everlasting.

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But what happens when we die? We go to be with Jesus. It is as simple as that. Jesus said that in our Father’s house there are many rooms…many places for us all. He went further and said that he was going to prepare a place for us and would come again and take us unto himself, so that we might be where he himself is. Fear Not, let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God and Believe in Me he said. (John 14) That where he is, we may be also. That is what the Apostle Paul says in his letter to the Philippians. He writes Philippians while living in a Roman dungeon, chained to the wall. (he dictated the letter!). Paul’s letter is one of courage and joy, and he wants to reassure the brothers and sisters in Philippi. Was he afraid? Hardly! Paul knew that to die was to simply go and be with Jesus. He says “ I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to dies is gain! If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better;” (Philippians 1:2023). Simply, to be apart from the body is to be a home with the lord. To live is Christ, to die is gain. This tells us that when we die we immediately go and be with Jesus, to the place prepared for us in heaven. We don’t know what heaven will be like, and I am not sure anyone does. There are books written by people who say that they died and went to heaven and then came back. Maybe. I tend to not believe these accounts… they differ greatly on the details.

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But I do know that the Bible speaks of heaven as a place where the things that are of great value here …gold for example, are so common and of so little value in heaven that the streets are paved with it. The Revelation of John tells us some about heaven, but the most important thing it says…I think…is this… “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying; Now the dwelling of God is with people, and he will live with them. And they will be his children and God himself will be with them and he will be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away. And the One who was seated on the Throne of heaven said, “behold, I am making everything new.” (Revelation 21). There is eternal life, and it is a life lived with God himself. A life of intimate caring and great love. A life where all things are made new and we are renewed. But what about ghosts. Mostly, I don’t believe they exist. There are a couple of instances in the Bible where people speak to someone who has died, but they are very rare. And no one seems more surprised than the medium that the person actually appears. But we do believe in the communion of the saints. What’s that, you ask? We are told that to run the race of life with endurance, because we have a great crowd of witnesses who cheer us on as we run to the end. The image is of a track meet, with the stands full of cheering fans. But these fans are the saints of God, those who have gone before us and are with God. (Hebrews 12)

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We have a connection to them. They live in God, and God lives in us. And by the Holy Spirit we are connected. For some, I believe, the connection is stronger. Those who we love are not gone; they are in God. And more than that, they are watching over us and cheering us on…encouraging us to run the race with faith and endurance. My parents are there, cheering my girls on as they run through life. Bill and Florence Prouty, my great friends who were like second parents to me…they are encouraging me. Susan’s mom, her sister…they are all there in the stands…shouting our names and encouraging us forward. We are connected in the Holy Spirit now and will see each other face to face. I also believe that God sends spirits…perhaps angels, perhaps those who have gone ahead, at the time of death. Jesus said he would come and take us unto himself, that where he is we may be also. But he did not say how he would take us, just that he would come to bring us home. Countless times I have been at the bedside of someone who was passing and have felt the presence of Christ, and they have called out…seeing him and others whom they know and love. I believe that this is a moment of grace, where God sends comfort and encourage us as we reach the end of the race. Perhaps the person dying is only then able to see those who line the race’s course and cheer them home. That has been my experience, anyway. So, we believe that there is life after death…in fact, we know it. And we know that the place we’re going is one of comfort and

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peace…where God himself lives among us and we will be his children. But we still grieve when we loose someone we love. It is only natural. We are told to grieve, but not as those who have no hope. We know that they have gone to be with Christ and we know our grief to be OURS…our loss of them. Our grief is tempered by our faith in the Risen Christ and by the communion of the saints. We remember them with joy and sadness mixed. All saints day is a day for you to remember. We have a simple ceremony where you are invited to come forward and share the names of those whom you would remember. We know that this is a very hard thing to do for many. It brings back grief and comes with strong emotion. Don’t be afraid. Jesus is here to receive your grief and comfort your spirit. To say the name is to remember in hope and faith those who have gone before. We invite you to come as Joan Tolls the bell.


								
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