"Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him."
1 Thessalonians 4:14
Let us not imagine that the soul sleeps in insensibility. "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise," is the whisper of Christ to every dying saint. They "sleep in Jesus," but their souls are before the throne of God, praising him day and night in his temple, singing hallelujahs to him who washed them from their sins in his blood. The body sleeps in its lonely bed of earth, beneath the coverlet of grass. But what is this sleep? The idea connected with sleep is "rest," and that is the thought which the Spirit of God would convey to us. Sleep makes each night a Sabbath for the day. Sleep shuts fast the door of the soul, and bids all intruders tarry for a while, that the life within may enter its summer garden of ease. The toil-worn believer quietly sleeps, as does the weary child when it slumbers on its mother's breast. Oh! happy they who die in the Lord; they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them. Their quiet repose shall never be broken until God shall rouse them to give them their full reward. Guarded by angel watchers, curtained by eternal mysteries, they sleep on, the inheritors of glory, till the fulness of time shall bring the fulness of redemption. What an awaking shall be theirs! They were laid in their last resting place, weary and worn, but such they shall not rise. They went to their rest with the furrowed brow, and the wasted features, but they wake up in beauty and glory. The shrivelled seed, so destitute of form and comeliness, rises from the dust a beauteous flower. The winter of the grave gives way to the spring of redemption and the summer of glory. Blessed is death, since it, through the divine power, disrobes us of this work-day garment, to clothe us with the wedding garment of incorruption. Blessed are those who "sleep in Jesus."
"Howbeit, in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart."
2 Chronicles 32:31
Hezekiah was growing so inwardly great, and priding himself so much upon the favour of God, that self-righteousness crept in, and through his carnal security, the grace of God was for a time, in its more active operations, withdrawn. Here is quite enough to account with the Babylonians; for if the grace of God should leave the best Christian, there is enough of sin in his heart to make him the worst of transgressors. If left to yourselves, you who are warmest for Christ would cool down like Laodicea into sickening lukewarmness: you who are sound in the faith would be white with the leprosy of false doctrine; you who now walk before the Lord in excellency and integrity would reel to and fro, and stagger with a drunkenness of evil passion. Like the moon, we borrow our light; bright as we are when grace shines on us, we are darkness itself when the Sun of Righteousness withdraws himself. Therefore let us cry to God never to leave us. "Lord, take not thy Holy Spirit from us! Withdraw not from us thine indwelling grace! Hast thou not said, I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day'? Lord, keep us everywhere. Keep us when in the valley, that we murmur not against thy humbling hand; keep us when on the mountain, that we wax not giddy through being lifted up; keep us in youth, when our passions are strong; keep us in old age, when becoming conceited of our wisdom, we may therefore prove greater fools than the young and giddy; keep us when we come to die, lest, at the very last, we should deny thee! Keep us living, keep us dying, keep us labouring, keep us suffering, keep us fighting, keep us resting, keep us everywhere, for everywhere we need thee, O our God!"
[Ahī'lud] - a brother of one born.
Today's reading: Job 14-16, Acts 9:22-43 (NIV)View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Today's Old Testament reading: Job 14-161 "Mortals, born of woman,
are of few days and full of trouble.
2 They spring up like flowers and wither away;
like fleeting shadows, they do not endure.
3 Do you fix your eye on them?
Will you bring them before you for judgment?
4 Who can bring what is pure from the impure?
5 A person's days are determined;
you have decreed the number of his months
and have set limits he cannot exceed.
6 So look away from him and let him alone,
till he has put in his time like a hired laborer.
Today's New Testament reading: Acts 9:22-4322 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
23 After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, 24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall....
PUTTING THE PIECES BACK TOGETHER
All the kings horses and all the kings men, couldn't put Humpty together again. -Nursery Rhyme
Life would be easier, wouldn't it, if all its pieces held together. If they always made sense. If nothing ever broke off. If no part were ever lost, or twisted, or detached.
Imagine life if you could glide smoothly through the day from one of your roles to the next: mother to wife to co-manager to next-door-neighbor to aunt to friend; or brother to supervisor to dad to son to church leader. Is there one person in there somewhere? Is it possible to live as the same person at home as at work, instead of civil Jekyll in public and monster Hyde when you're alone?
Imagine life if no one ever left, if illness never caused loved ones to drop from our lives, if the people we care about never died or deserted us.
Imagine life in Paradise. Eden was the wonderful opening chord of life, complete harmony with nothing in excess, nothing missing, nothing broken. But when that break did happen (and what an awful shattering sound it made), when human beings said, "we think we can do this on our own," all creation shuddered and cracks spread throughout.
Our only hope from then on was that someone, somewhere would help us put the pieces back together.
When the Bible says that "in him [that is, Christ], all things hold together," it is describing the fundamental structure of all reality. "All things" means all things. Go down to the level of the molecule, then the individual atom, and science will tell you that it is a mystery how atoms and their particles hold together. But they do. How is it that you put into your mouth meat and potatoes and vegetables, and they are broken apart, but you yourself don't break apart? Your body keeps reorganizing itself, growing, healing. The biological pieces keep coming together, with some interruptions for illness, until that last breath moves out across your lips and the spirit departs. Only then does your body return to dust.
The divine Christ puts the pieces back together because he put it all together the first time. "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:15-17).
Our only hope of surviving in a broken, disconnected, fractured world is the fact that God created everything according to a grand pattern. The very meaning of the word "creation" is taking pieces and making a whole. Heaven and earth do fit together, even though it oftentimes seems as if they are two different universes. God created the visible and the invisible as one reality, though now we so often choose to live merely as bodies without souls. Why, at creation, did it all hold together? Why are there patterns to the pieces? It is because "all things were created by him and for him."
Excerpt from Putting the Pieces Back Together: How Real Life and Real Faith Connect. Free DVD available now.