Tag Archives: death

A Theology from Cut Hair

Barber pole in front of a barber shop in Mexico

My hair turned gray quite a few years ago. Genetics has blessed me with a full head of it. I’ve heard it said that God only created so many perfect heads among men, and the rest He covered with hair. This idea is nowhere to be found in the Bible; some hair-impaired guy probably made this up!

I get about half of my hair cuts in Mexico, where we live part of the time to be near our daughter and her family. My cut hair, gray as it is, stands in stark contrast to the majority of black hair on the Mexican barber’s floor.

Over the past months I’ve washed, combed, and sprayed that hair numerous times, the hair that ended up on the barber’s floor. Previously, the cut hair was a growing part of my appearance for months, but I unceremoniously walk out of the barber shop, leaving that hairy part of me behind for good and move on with my day.

Eventually our entire bodies go the way of the hair on our heads. Nothing of our bodies lasts forever. As a pastor I’ve led hundreds of graveside services where tearful goodbyes are said to a loved one as we commit the person’s body to the earth.

I don’t want to get morbid here, just the opposite. I believe God wants us to keep a hopeful perspective on these fleshly bodies we temporarily inhabit while here on earth.

One of the points I’ve made at all the funeral and memorial services I’ve conducted is that God’s plan for our existence isn’t to be limited to the years we spend on earth in these physical bodies. His Good News, the Gospel, is that we can live forever with Him. For the person who wishes to spend forever with God and accepts God’s free offer to do so, the death of the physical body isn’t the end.

Here’s how I look at it. When I finish my haircut I walk out of the barber shop, leave the clippings behind and go on to what’s next for me. When I die I’ll leave behind this body and go on to what’s next for me!

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”  2 Corinthians 5:1

Of Caterpillars & Tadpoles

Actual tadpoles & caterpillar photographed on the table in our screened patio.

We’ve had both tadpoles and caterpillars living in our screened-in patio. No more. Now there are frogs in my small decorative pond by our patio and butterflies in the sky above our house. What an amazing transformation for us and our grandchildren to have watched, the process called metamorphosis, tadpoles turning into frogs and caterpillars into butterflies!

Imagine if you could find a person who was city born and raised, had never had a science class, and was clueless about anything in nature. Imagine showing them a tadpole and explaining how it turns into a frog or showing them a caterpillar and explaining how it turns into a butterfly. They’d look at you incredulously, say you were crazy, that you were making things up, that what you described was pure science fiction.

Of course we all know this is how frogs and butterflies come into the world, through the amazing process of metamorphosis, from tadpoles and caterpillars. We’re still amazed, but we know this is what happens.

A clear message from God that’s peppered throughout the New Testament of the Bible is that a similar process, though far more amazing, is the eternal life-cycle God has planned for His people. Physical death is clearly described as not the intended end of human life. The life-cycle God has designed for people is to eventually have a new body, in His heaven, forever, a body that’s not susceptible to pain, illness, or death.

Hard to understand, grasp, and believe? Yes, but the nearly unbelievable metamorphosis process of the lowly tadpole and caterpillar should bolster our belief that for God’s most cherished creatures He’s ever created, people, He has something in store that takes metamorphosis to a whole new level!

The one clear differentiation between the transformation process for tadpoles, caterpillars, and us is that tadpoles and caterpillars don’t have any say in the matter; metamorphosis is just what happens to them. We people, on the other hand, are in a different category altogether. We’ve been given a choice as to whether we want this transformation that will make us suitable for life with God in His heaven. This is because He wants it to be a love relationship, and love has to be a choice, not compelled. It’s our choice, while we’re in the tadpole/caterpillar stage of our lives.

I, for one, have decided to give myself over to Him, asking Him to help the metamorphosis begin to happen in the here and now on earth. It gives me great hope that when my time on earth is done He’ll complete the metamorphosis then and there in Heaven!

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Philippians 3:20-21

The Dash of Life

DashOfLifeSmallI debated about using the accompanying photo for a photovotional. I know, it’s rather morbid. It represents the grief of a specific family in 1895 when they lost their child in the same year the child was born, perhaps even at birth. I promise a positive application, so hang in there with me!

I was attracted to photographing this tombstone because it reminded me of the brevity of life. Yes, this is an extreme example but even the longest of human lives is short by comparison to the passing of the ages, and even more so when you contemplate eternity. I can’t tell you the number of older folks who tell me how quickly life has gone by for them. Part of what prompts us to pause and gaze at a beautiful cut flower or a magnificent sunset is the brevity of what we’re viewing. We know it will soon pass, so we take advantage of the opportunity while we have it.

Linda Ellis wrote a poem called “The Dash” in which she describes the importance of the dash that separates our birth date from our death date. It’s a copyrighted poem and so I can’t quote it, but you can go to Linda’s web site and read it there. What I can say is that she raises the issue of how we spend our dash.

As a follower of Jesus I know I have forever to carry out His eternal purposes, but I also know that I’m given a unique and limited time during my journey here on earth to do what can only be done here and now. I don’t have all the time in the world because my time in this world is limited. Considering God’s grand plan and sovereign will I take comfort in the fact that there’s enough time, though not unlimited time, to do His will on earth as it is done in heaven.

“The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him…” (Psalm 103:15-17a)

“As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” (Jesus in John 9:4)

Steve Jobs, Apple, and Us

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, died recently. It’s hard to think of anyone who has had a greater technological impact on the world. News of his death spread on one of his own creations: the iPhone. People held up their iPads, another of his creations, with the image of a burning candle in his memory. He was mourned worldwide.

Jobs was a very private man, so we know little about his faith. He was raised a Lutheran; he and his wife were married by a Buddhist monk. In a 2005 Stanford University graduation speech, when he was already terminally ill, he spoke about death. He had several insightful comments — for instance, how the inevitability of death should prompt us to live well while we’re alive. Still, he said nothing about God or life with God after death.

At the end of the day, at the end of his last day, he was surrounded by a few close family members. All the technological gadgets and the billions of dollars that he was worth faded to the background. In fairness to him, he apparently never took those things too seriously. If he passed like most people pass even those gathered around him faded into the background when death was imminent. At the very end the size of our universe shrinks to our soul and God.

Jesus asks the question, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36)

Jesus’ Obituary

Someone e-mailed me the following obituary. I thought it very appropriate for Holy Week. Of course, it will have to be retracted on Sunday!