SUDDEN DEATH

I wrote the following post in 2007 under a different title. I wrote the poem in 2016.

Another Sunday and another Sunday service at the nursing home. I was blessed, edified, and saddened all at the same time. What a blessing to be part of the residents’ lives. To be able to encourage the saints and to be encouraged by them. They just continue to shine in their hour of trial! Then there’s the joy of sharing the good news of the Gospel with those who have not been born again. But there’s also sadness for those who don’t know the Lord. I wonder, will they ever come to know Him?

Much was said yesterday, even before the service began, about the brevity of life and, at times, the suddenness of death. Life itself can be an illustrated bible study…

An elderly woman walked into the lounge where my father was eating lunch. She had come to visit one of the residents. We began to talk, as often happens when visitors gather in the lounge. She told me that many years ago she bought a house and moved in on a Saturday. Her mother was so excited and was telling everyone that her daughter had just bought a new house. Plans were made for her mother to come and spend a whole month in the new house with her. But by Monday morning her mother was dead. She died in her sleep. Her mother was only 58 years old at the time. As she spoke she looked as if she would cry. She said we should thank God every morning when we wake up, that He has given us another day to live. She said that on the Saturday that she moved into her new house she felt inexplicably sad. So much so that someone commented on the sadness of her countenance. She told them she was sad because she felt as if she was about to be separated from someone.

Then she told of the man who sang the Lord’s prayer at her 50th wedding anniversary. She said he traveled with a group, and sang at many different places. She was planning to host a barbeque at her home after he returned from one of his trips. She and his wife made plans. But the man never made it home to enjoy the fellowship. While he was away, after singing a solo, he sat down and had a massive heart attack in his seat and died.

I’m sure many have similar tales to tell. A friend of our family went on vacation with his wife and young daughter. He went into the ocean for a swim and when he came out suffered a fatal massive heart attack, right on the beach. He was only in his mid 40’s.

And, many years ago my husband’s father, who was only in his 60’s, collapsed on the living room floor after coming home from his youngest daughter’s grammar school graduation dinner.  His daughter, my sister-in-law, was suppposed to go to Great Adventure the next day for her 8th grade class trip.  In her own words she tells what happened …

“I had gone up to bed shortly after arriving home from the dinner, and I heard my mom yelling for help. We were the only ones home at the time. I ran down the stairs expecting to find something wrong with my mother, but saw my father lying there instead. His face was black in color, and my dog was sniffing at him because he sensed something was wrong.

The ambulance arrived quickly and my mom accompanied my father as I followed in a neighbor’s car. I remember my neighbor, Peggy, telling me “Your dad is a strong man” as I gazed out the car window. Several days later, as my mom and I were standing in our kitchen, the phone rang. It was the hospital.

After hanging up the phone, my mother turned to me and said, the doctor said your father ‘expired at such-and-such a time.’ I hugged my mom and told her that everything was going to be alright. I must say, I will never forget those words ‘expired’. How cold and insensitive those words were to me.”

My husband was working close to home at the time. The night his father collapsed, he noticed an ambulance as it urgently sped by, so he prayed for the person inside. He later learned that it was his own father that was inside that ambulance. An aneurysm was the cause of his father’s sudden death.

DEATH

The crimson stain of sin.
Death, again and again.
This world, our lives, our all,
Touched and marred, by the fall.

We see it all around.
We hear the heartbreak sound.
And those who weep anew,
Remind us of this truth.

Cathy White 2016

Proverbs 27:1 Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.

Ecclesiastes 7:2 It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

SPIRITS OF JUST MEN MADE PERFECT

In 2016 we lost a family member, a sister, to Cancer. She was only in her 40’s.

And now, a sister in Christ who we’ve known for a very long time, recently became suddenly ill.

Suddenly.

Cancer. 

It made me think about heaven, where the redeemed dwell.

Heaven.

This very real place called heaven.

The following phrase of Scripture came to mind as I meditated …

“the spirits of just men made perfect”

Here’s some interesting commentary on that verse…

Hebrews 12:23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

MacLaren Bible Commentary:

Faith carries us while living to the society of the living dead.

Immediately on the thought of God arising in the writer’s mind, there rises also the blessed thought of the blessed company in the centre of whom He lives and reigns.

We can say little about that subject, and perhaps the less we say the more we shall understand, and the more deeply we shall feel.

We get glimpses but no clear vision, as when a flock of birds turn in their rapid flight, and for a moment the sun glances on their white wings; and then, with another turn, they drift away, spots of blackness in the blue.

So we see but for a moment as the light falls, and then lose the momentary glory, but we may at least reverently note the exalted words here.

‘the spirits of… men made perfect’

That is to say, they dwell freed from the incubus and limitations, and absolved from the activities, of a bodily organization.

We cannot understand such a condition.

To us it may seem to mean passivity or almost unconsciousness, but we know, as another New Testament writer has told us, that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord; and that in some deep, and to us now undiscoverable, fashion, that which the corporeal frame does for men here, immersed in the material world, there the encircling Christ in whom they rest does for them.

We know little more, but we have a glimpse of a land of deep peace in which repose is not passivity nor unconsciousness; any more than service is weariness. And there we have to leave it, knowing only this, that it is possible for a man to exist and to be, in a relative sense, perfected without a body.

Here … we pass within the palace gates, and the writer tells us what we find there.

This interweaving of the presence of God with that of the creatures that live in His love witnesses to the great truth that our God dwells in no isolated supremacy, but in the midst of a blessed society; …

and that the solitary souls who find their way into His presence have a welcome, not only from Him, but from all their brethren of His great family.

… it suggests to us the close and indissoluble connection between God Himself and all those who, in every place, whether the place above or the place beneath, call upon the name of Him who is both their God and ours.

Oh, if we could rend the veil as death will rend it, and see the things which are, as faith will help us to see them – for it thins, if it does not tear, the envious curtain between – would it be possible that we should live the low, mean, selfish, earthly, sinful lives, devoured by anxieties, defaced by stains, depressed by trivial sorrows, which, alas! so many of us do live?

And so the souls beneath the altar, clothed in white, and rapt in felicity, do yet wait ‘for the adoption, even the redemption of the body.’

men who have been redeemed, who being unjust, have been made just, and have had experience of restoration and of the misery of departure,

But the more important consideration is the real unity between poor souls here who are knit to Jesus Christ, and the spirits of the just made perfect who stand so close to the judgment seat.

Ah, brethren! we have to alter the meaning of the words ‘present’ and ‘absent’ when we come to speak of spiritual realities. The gross localized conceptions that are appropriate to material space, and to transitory time, have nothing to do with that higher religion. It is no mere piece of rhetoric or sentiment to say that where our treasure is, there are our hearts, and where our hearts are there are we.

Love has no localities. It knits together two between whom oceans wide roll; it knits together saints on earth and saints in heaven.

To talk of place is irrelevant in reference to such a union; for if our love, our aims, our hopes be the same, we are together.

And if they on the upper side, and we on the lower, grasp each the outstretched hand of the same God, then we are one in Him, and the same life will tingle through our earthly frames and through their perfected spirits.

He is the centre of the great wheel whose spokes are light and blessedness; and all who stand around Him are brought into unity by their common relation to the centre.

Our sorrows would be less sorrowful, our loss less utter, if we truly believed that while apart we are still together.

Our courage and our hope would rise if we came closer in loving contemplation and believing thought to the present blessedness of those once our fellow-travelers, who, weak as we, have entered into rest.

Heaven itself would gain some touch of true attractiveness if we more clearly saw, and more thankfully felt, that there is ‘the Judge of all,’ and there also ‘the spirit of just men made perfect.’

But howsoever great may be the encouragement, the consolation, the quieting that come from them, let us turn away our eyes from the surrounding and lower seats to fix them on the central throne.

Let us ever realise that we are ever in our great Judge’s eye.

Let us spread out our hearts for His scrutiny and decision, for His discipline if need be.

Let us commit to Him our cause, and, in the peace that comes therefrom, we may understand why it was that psalmists of old called upon earth to rejoice and the hills to be glad because He ‘cometh to judge the earth, to judge the world with righteousness, and the people with His truth.’

JFB:

And church of the first-born – these all, from the beginning to the end of the world, forming one Church to which every believer is already come.

Which are written in heaven – they were not, as the church at Sinai, of an earthly enrollment, registered here to know their families and descent, whether right Jews and priests or no, whose genealogy was preserved to that end, … but had their register in heaven, were written in the Lamb’s book of life, to be of heavenly descent, born of God, partakers of the Divine nature, and who had a right and title by faith in Christ to the heavenly inheritance, and were free denizens of it, and have all heavenly privileges derived to them. How obliging, influencing, and promoting are these privileges of every Christian’s pursuit of holiness!

Revelation 21:4 -5 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.

What must I do to be… saved ?