After church on Sunday we arrived at the Josie Harper Hospice House about 10 minutes too late to visit Kathy’s mom. Jenney (Jean) Shively passed away around 1:15 Sunday afternoon. When we arrived she was still warm and had been posed in a very peaceful position. Her body had wasted away over the last couple of months by renal failure and we watched her progressively deteriorate. Although we had been preparing for it for some time, it still didn’t seem real when it happened. We were disappointed that we weren’t there when it happened, but that’s something in God’s hands, not ours. We prayed together beside Jean and reminded ourselves and each other about what happens when a believer dies. It is one thing to be in perfect health and read passages like Philippians 1:21, “for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” It’s another thing to stand beside the bed of a loved one who just passed away and reflect on those truths. Whatever that verse means, it means there is something better (gain?) beyond this valley of the shadow of death for those who believe God.

Today, there is more and more interest in the New Age theories of what happens to us when we die. Deepak Chopra (The main popularize of Transcendental Meditation in the Western world) in his bestselling book “Life after death,” said, “Whatever it is that occurs at death, I believe it deserves to be called a miracle. The miracle, ironically, is that we don’t die. The cessation of the body is an illusion, and like a magician sweeping aside a curtain, the soul reveals what lies beyond.” No one standing beside the deathbed of a loved one, or anyone who has suffered the untimely loss of a loved one would ever say “death is an illusion.” Chopra is wrong! Death is real and we will all die. The Scriptures have laid out that truth for us for: “It is appointed to man, once to die.” Everyone dies! It’s an undeniable truth that shocks us every time we see it happen. It’s not a miracle either. It’s the way of all flesh. Our souls have no magic in and of themselves as Chopra suggests. Chopra, instead of giving the dying hope, has destroyed the hope of many in his denial of the biblical hope that is found in Jesus Christ. The miracle is what’s promised by God through our faith in His one and only Son.

There was nothing miraculous about watching Jean’s body perish day by day, defiled by the poisons her organs could no longer process, and seeing her life slowly fading away. We know that those sufferings are over for Jean and we find our comfort, not in ourselves or in the human soul, but our comfort is in the God who formed us from the dust, sent His son to die for us, and gave us His Word. We have the hope we find in Peter’s words. He wrote in 1 Peter 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you…” While I’m studying on heaven for my new sermon series this summer, Jean is there. While I’m trying to learn and grasp and understand what the Bible teaches us about heaven, Jean is experiencing it right now. What happens when a believer dies? Jesus answered that question while he was dying himself on the cross of Calvary. He responded to the expression of faith by the criminal on the cross beside him. He said, “This day you will be with me in paradise.” That’s where Jean is right now!