Famous Last Words

Image representing Steve Jobs as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

Do last words have any special meaning?  Are they the last messages conveyed by a dying person left for instruction, wisdom, or legacy?  Are they just random nerve endings firing in our brain in a last-ditch effort to keep our body from dying which are uttered as words?  I suppose we’ll never know for sure.  However the subject is quite intriguing.  It is often said that a person’s last words can summarize what their life was all about, the essence of their personality represented in one final sentence.  Sometimes last words are viewed as a glimpse into the afterlife when the dying person is somehow able to see the eternal aspect of the soul and supposedly see heaven or hell.  Are any of these true?  We’ll never know until we experience death ourselves.

One instance of famous last words that I believe will become very famous are those of the recently departed Steve Jobs.  Jobs’ last word are very intriguing for a couple reasons.  Jobs’ sister Mona Simpson gave his eulogy at his funeral when she mentioned his last words.  He had his children, his wife, and his sister by his side when he died and gazing at each in turn, he then looked past them and remarked, “Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow”.  Now it is unclear in what tone of voice he uttered these words because it was read at his funeral and then published.  But the tone is what is so interesting.  The fact that he clearly was looking beyond his family and looking at something behind them that was not there leaves me to think that he might have had a revelation of something, or saw something for the first time.  What he saw must have either been beautiful or terrifying.  The tone of his voice would have indicated which emotion he was feeling but we are left to guess.

Was the late Apple CEO gazing at eternity?  What was it like?  Apart from the “Oh wow” we know of, we have no idea what was going on inside of his head at that instant before he fell into a coma.  There have been numerous stories of people glimpsing heaven or hell before death, and even dying and coming back describing what it is like.  The Bible tells us that we die and after that we experience the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).  We’ve all been taught that after we die we go up to heaven where we give an account to God for our entire life.  Every deed we’ve done, thought we’ve thought, everything we’ve not done will questioned and then according to God’s justice we’ll be congratulated or sentenced.  While this is partly true, the way the Bible really teaches it is that God will read to us the deeds of our life from a book as we stand and listen.  It will be more like a court trial when the accused is read the charges against him by the judge.  God judges according to His holiness, which just means His “otherness” from us or His “set apartness” from us.  God’s holiness is so pure and is the embodiment to moral perfection.  He is everything we aren’t but should be.  His holiness incites in our souls a fear because we are so imperfect compared to Him.  Deep down we know that we should not be near to God because He and His holiness is so terrifying that we are afraid.

Could this be what Steve Jobs saw in the final moments of his life?  Did he see with unveiled eyes the holiness of God?  Was then his exclamation of “Oh wow” one of fear and terror as his human unholiness was revealed to him compared to God’s?  As Hebrews 10:31 states, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  Sinners who fall into the hands of God have everything to fear because of the judgment approaching them.  The fire of hell is a stark reality that they will soon experience for eternity.  Constant torment as retribution for a lifetime of wickedness and rebellion against God is what they are about to be condemned to, with no way out I might add.  The sentence is final and the execution swift, the consequences, forever.  It is truly a frightful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

But perhaps there was hope for Steve Jobs.  His biographer, Walter Isaacson, had wrote that Jobs had been thinking a lot more about God when he found out that he was terminal.  He told Isaccson that he wanted to believe in an afterlife and that he was about 50-50 on the concept.  Perhaps he had heard the Gospel and was contemplating it, or maybe even believed it.  Whether he did or not we’ll never know.  But that would have certainly changed how we interpret his last words.  For someone who dies in faith in Jesus, the judgment is not something to be feared, but something to rejoice in because they have been declared righteous and justified before God.  God’s holiness is not seen as a fearful indictment but a beautiful sight leading to praise and worship.  If that was the case with Steve Jobs, his “Oh wow” could have been an exclamation of beauty having finally been able to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.

But the rest of the story of Steve Jobs is unknown to us, at least this side of eternity.  The question is, what will your eternity look like?  Will it be infinite agony and torment in hell for the wickedness of your life?  Or will it be infinite joy with God in heaven for the faith of your life?  The time remains for you to affect the ending of your story.

“Misguided Christian Outrage”

I just stumbled across this article while browsing the Resurgence website a minute ago and thought I’d pass it along to you readers.  I was specifically thinking of the attitude Christians take when dealing with political issues, such as gay marriage, school prayer, or whatever moral or ethical issues we generally get upset over.  This article by Russell Moore is short but thought-provoking.

http://theresurgence.com/2010/03/02/misguided-christian-outrage

Uniting the Church

As the body of Christ, believers are called to stand for righteousness and reach out to the world and spread the Word of God’s truth.  The Church is described by Jesus as a city on a hill and the salt of the world.  We are to be lights to a world in darkness and shine with the light of God’s Word.  Our energies should be devoted to caring for the poor, the widowed, the orphans, and the needy, and addressing the needs of our country and culture through public policy and lawmaking.  Most of the opportunities we get to be a light to the world come to us as individuals on the personal level such as evangelism, community outreach, and volunteer work.  But there are some opportunities that come to the Church as a whole where it gets to shape the way our culture views certain issues and how the culture views God.  The upcoming bill that will try to redefine marriage in the state of Maryland is one of those issues that requires the attention of the united body of Christ.  To effectively address this issue will require believers to reach across denominational lines and pool resources to take a stand for what God has decreed in His Word and for righteousness.

The following is a statement released by the Catholic Archdiocese of Maryland relating to SB 116 to redefine marriage in Maryland:

The introduction of legislation to redefine marriage in our state should be recognized for what it is – a proposal to drastically alter a social institution that derives from our human nature as men and women. Our focus as a society should be on strengthening marriage, not dismantling it altogether, especially when the harmful effects of the erosion of marriage are so apparent. Given the daunting challenge of closing the state’s budget gap, our elected officials should focus instead on the pressing need to help all Marylanders find jobs, keep their homes, and feed their families.

Maryland’s long-standing law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman is not an arbitrary recognition of one relationship among many possibilities. This recognition – bestowed on marriage by societies throughout human history – originates in a simple biological fact. The union of one man and one woman is the only human relationship capable of creating children and nurturing them together as father and mother.

It is that fact of nature that prompts government to grant a special status to marriage between a man and a woman. As the Maryland Court of Appeals stated in its 2007 ruling upholding Maryland’s marriage statute, “In light of the fundamental nature of procreation, … safeguarding an environment most conducive to the stable propagation and continuance of the human race is a legitimate government interest.”

Treating heterosexual and same-sex relationships differently is not unjust discrimination, and upholding the truth of marriage does not ignore the rights or the equal dignity of all human persons. Stripping marriage of its unique connection to parenthood erases from law the right of a child to a mother and father, and ignores an essential question of why government favors marriage between one man and one woman over all other relationships.

If our society is going to dismantle marriage, on what basis do we extend or limit a new definition to determine which relationships should receive special recognition from the government? The argument that we need to redefine marriage so that same-sex couples can receive benefits unravels when we consider the fact that many human relationships are based on the love and commitment of two people for one another, and that many good and generous people are raising children in nurturing environments that are different than the traditional nuclear family.

Redefining marriage is not a question of civil rights. It is clear that there are other avenues for granting certain rights and benefits to couples who are not married. Maryland has already granted many rights to domestic partnerships, such as medical decision-making, hospital visitation rights, and exemptions from real estate transfer and inheritance taxes. There are many ways to protect basic human rights; sacrificing marriage is not one of them.”

Source: Maryland Catholic Conference, http://www.mdcathcon.org/marriage-must-not-be-redefined?a=1&c=1105

“The Archdiocese of Maryland has taken a strong stance against this bill to redefine marriage and they will be a crucial ally in the fight to oppose the bill.  Despite the doctrinal differences between the Catholic and evangelical churches, both churches share the same views concerning the holiness of God and the moral standards He has called us to live by.  If you feel personally led to speak out against SB 116 please contact your local church or denominational leadership and of course your legislative official.

The Church can’t afford to be passive on this issue and we’ve seen what can happen when the Church gets involved.  We saw it happen in California when the gay marriage bill was repealed and earlier this year the Church was a major force in stopping the bill in the House.  Also, pray that God would awaken in our lawmakers a sense of righteousness and pull on their consciences to draw them to do His will.

Does God Care About Gay Marriage?

This weekend Governor Martin O’Malley declared that he would vocally support a second attempt at the bill that would legalize gay marriage in the state during Maryland’s 2012 General Assembly session.  This comes a mere five months after a similar bill was proposed and subsequently squashed this past March.  The proposed bill would allow for homosexual couples in Maryland to be granted the right to marry and all of the same legal rights afforded heterosexual couples.

The bill gained strong support in the Democrat-controlled Senate but failed to pass the House floor after key Democrats withdrew their support before the vote.  While I don’t want to get partisan right now it must be noted that the main support for the bill came from Democrats and liberal Republicans, while the opposition was generated from the Republican and conservative Democrat camp.  As is the case with all politics, this battle is fought not between Republicans and Democrats, but conservatives and liberals.  Whatever the right side is in this case is, to me, irrelevant.  Conservative vs. Liberal is just a façade masking the truth of the battle.  The real battle goes far deeper and is far more deadly than we could ever imagine.

If there is one thing the Bible ever claimed to be it is that its words contain the truth.  The Bible testifies of itself that it is the inspired, infallible, inerrant, and immutable Word of God.  I won’t get too  much into theology and doctrine in this post but I do briefly want to expound on what the Bible has to say on this topic.

In the books of Exodus through Deuteronomy God gave what we call the Law to the Hebrews in the Sinai wilderness.  The Law was God’s self-revelation of His character and the requirements for living a holy life acceptable to God.  Basically, the Law is all of God’s commandments for being made in His image that He expects us to keep them in order to be accepted by God as His child.  There are three different types of Law given by God: ceremonial law, moral law, and civil law.  Civil law consists of commandments as they relate to how we should treat other people such as keeping enough food for your family and the sojourner and the widow and the orphans.  Ceremonial law gives people the most headaches because it is the set of commandments that require us to abstain from eating the meat from a cloven-hoofed animal and wearing clothing made of blended materials.  Moral law is where the issue of gay marriage falls.  Moral law has to do with how we relate to God in our lives.  The number one moral commandment is “You shall have no other gods before me”.  If we keep this law we won’t break the others, plain and simple.  Leviticus 18:22 is another example of moral law, it says “Do not lie with another man as with a woman, it is an abomination.”  If we have no other gods before the LORD we won’t make a god out of sex and we won’t be led down the dark path of sexual immorality.

The bad news is that there is no one who has ever lived who can keep all the commandments of God, except one.  Nobody can live up to God’s perfect standard of righteousness.  Is then God unjust to require this of us?  Certainly not!  God is perfectly just to require us to be like Him since He is the source of all creation and the author of all life.  He is the perfect judge and there is no higher authority.  Through the Law we become aware of our sinfulness and how much we fall short of God’s righteousness.  Because of our sin, God’s wrath is set for a collision course with our soul when we die and we certainly deserve it.  God must punish sin because sin is a direct contradiction to His very nature and it is the most despicable sight to a holy God.  There is not one man or woman who can say that they don’t deserve God’s wrath for their sins, save one.  The one whom I refer to is Jesus Christ.

Jesus, God’s Son, came to earth as a man to live the life we couldn’t live and to die in our place to take the punishment we deserved then rose from death as our champion over sin and death.  Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Law we could not keep and received the punishment for our sins, death.  By living without sin in His life Jesus fulfilled the Law so that we are no longer burdened by it’s commandments and no longer condemned by it.  Jesus is our substitute who takes our place and we take His place.  He gets what we deserved, that which He doesn’t deserve and we get what He deserved, that which we don’t deserve: the forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven with God.

You all probably know that already if you’re reading my blog so there tricky part is that what does all that have to do with passing gay marriage in Maryland?  It has everything to do with passing gay marriage in Maryland!  Christ has fulfilled the Law for us but He has not abolished it!  As Paul says in Romans 3:31, “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.”  Elsewhere Peter exhorts new Christians to be holy like their heavenly Father in 1 Peter 1:14-15, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct“.  Our call to live holy is clear so we cannot banish the Law from our lives, on the contrary, we need it now as our guide on how to live holy.

Finally, we are called as children of God to be witnesses for God in a world full of darkness.  We are to take God’s standards to an unbelieving world that is in open rebellion to the God who created them.  God loves mankind and does not wish that anyone should perish, but have eternal life so He sent His Son to forgive sins and He has commissioned us to carry the message of the Gospel to the whole world.  One way we testify for God is to stand for what He stands for, righteousness.  God in His Word is clearly against homosexuality and makes it clear that marriage is reserved for one man and one woman.  There is no room for compromise on this issue, you’re either on God’s side or not.  The Bible says that anything that doesn’t stand up to God’s truth and perfection will burn away like chaff in the wind.

Let us spread the word of God to our state that so desperately needs to hear it and call them to a biblical standard of lawmaking!  I hope this post has spoken to you and your conscience and stirs you to some kind of action!  I will be posting on this topic regularly for the next couple of months as this is going to be a major issue in the coming year.  Pray that God would open the eyes of our lawmakers and instill in them a longing to see righteousness upheld in our state and our country.  Until next time, grace and peace.

 

P.S. here is a link to the most recent article from the Washington Times that I read.  http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/jul/24/omalley-sees-hope-for-gay-marriage/

If you feel lead to speak out against this bill I strongly urge you to follow it in the media as closely as possible!

 

This is scary

In my research, I came across an article from Newsweek from 2008.  It’s a little old, but the ideas it contains are still fresh.  I was deeply disturbed reading it because it suggests that the Bible actually supports same-sex marriage and that the Biblical literalists have been getting it wrong the whole time!  I would suggest that you read it to get a sense of, if you oppose same-sex marriage because of the claims of the Bible, what you’re up against.

http://www.newsweek.com/2008/12/05/our-mutual-joy.html

So much to say

This is going to be short because it is not possible for me to contain everything I want to say in a blog, or a news article for that matter.  If you’ve been following the news in Maryland the last couple days you’ve no doubt heard that the state Senate has been debating on the “Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Bill”, now called just the “Civil Marriage Protection Bill”.  The bill, if passed, will legalize same sex marriage in the state of Maryland and afford to gay couples the same legal rights as heterosexual couples.  I’m currently doing a little research and will be back with more, much, much more hopefully later on today.  Stay tuned!