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Saturday, 5 August 2017

The Final Frontier!

I suppose that I was, in its early days, a bit of a "Trekkie" - a fan of the TV series Star Trek. Some will recall the opening words: "Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its 5 year mission: to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life, and new civilisations: to boldly go, where no man has gone before."

"Space. The final frontier"! Yet, is it? Many years ago, I regularly purchased copies of the Readers' Digest Condensed Books. They looked good on my bookshelves, but I never got around to reading them - until now. Over recent months I have read about a dozen - with three/four (condensed!) books in each volume. Today, I completed a true story, written by a medical doctor. The story is entitled "A Parting Gift" and recounts the short life of a boy named David who died, at eight years of age, from leukemia. Having had, myself, a cousin (who was, in effect, the sister I never had) who died from that same cancer of the blood cells, I was especially interested.

However, it was what Dr Sharkey learned, herself, that touched me most. The prologue reads: "During ... five years Dr Sharkey battled with every weapon at her command to save his life and, through helping David and his family cope with tragic illness, she finally confronted her own deep fears about death."

So, is space the "final frontier"? In one sense, it may well be. But, of course, few - if any- of us will have the opportunity to explore it. Death, on the other hand, comes to each one of us - at least until the Rapture (you may read more about that in my first book: Great Words of the Faith - details at the top of the blog!). So, might it be more relevant - and of greater importance, to consider death to be the true "final frontier"?

Of course, it is a subject about which people, in general, tend to avoid talking. When we do, we use euphemisms: "So-and-so has 'passed away'"; " I 'lost' my grandfather (etc)"; "Did you hear that Jimmy has 'kicked the bucket'?" So why should this be? It certainly was not the case in an earlier generation. Dr Sharkey writes: "I've stood before century-old (this was in the early 1980s) paintings showing deathbed scenes and thought how different those scenes were from what usually happens now when someone dies. In those days, no one kept family and friends away or asked them to step outside as the moment of death approached. In the old pictures, instead of the anonymity of a hospital room, there are always people grouped around the dying person. Death was important and something one's whole life moved toward, something one prepared for. People thought and talked about it openly. It was accepted; it was not a sign of anyone's failure."

I suspect that the problem for most of us, concerning death, is the "unknown" factor - and there is always an element of fear in the unknown! Yet for the disciple of Jesus, the Christ, there is no such fear. He is the only One Who has suffered death - even death on a cross - and risen from the grave (okay, the tomb, before some purist takes me up on my terminology!), never to die again (Rev.1:18). However, in John chapters 13-17, which is sometimes called the "Upper Room Discourse", Jesus gives comfort to His disciples by telling them two things. First, He told them that His death was to be the means by which they would dwell with Him forever. Second, He told them that during the time of His physical absence He would be even more present with them through the sending of His Holy Spirit, to dwell not only among them, but within them (see John 14:16-31; 16:7-15).

Paul wrote: "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labour for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.(Phil.1:21-23; emphasis added).

On my Study bookshelves is a slim booklet by the late Rev. Tom Swanston, entitled "Death with a Steady Eye". At the end of the booklet, he writes: "The illustration on the front cover of this booklet suggests men facing a firing squad. Three are blindfolded, perhaps by choice. The other faces death with a steady eye. He out of the four is not afraid. Who is this man? ... he is the man in Christ; the man who has hope for his future (Jer.31:17). ... ... because he has learned what so many fail to learn, that Jesus teaches us to die well because He teaches us to die safely. His own death was a safe death, since He died without sin of His own. That death becomes our safe death exactly because the sin with which He died was ours. ... For those who apprehend this and make it their own there is nothing to fear."

We will either face our own death with fear or with faith. It all depends on our response to the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus told His disciples that He is the way, not just a way to heaven. Our response to the death of the Lord Jesus, the Christ determines our response to death, especially our own. Those words of the Lord Jesus, recorded by John, are the solution to the fear of death. I pray that you will trust in Him, in His death for your sin and in His resurrection that ensures eternal life for His own. Death will no longer be your enemy, because the death of the Saviour overcame death and its terror, to all who believe in Him.

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