Life and Death

copyright_aarts_2015_king_of_the_rockSpring is such a joyous time for me. The sunshine, the warmth, the freedom to be outdoors without bulky winter gear . . . Oh, and did I say sunshine? I crave the long hours of daylight that spring and summer bring.

Activity at the bird feeder changes from an occasional visit by an overwintering feathered friend to a busy local diner visited by sparrows, brown-headed cowbirds, European starlings, cardinals, rock doves (pigeons), a pileated and red-bellied woodpecker (maybe there is more than one of each), ducks and even rabbits. I have only seen one squirrel in our decade of living here, and he was not able to get up to the prize that awaited him at the bird feeder. Although when I did see him the first time, he was standing upright with his right fore paw having a firm grip on the feeder pole like he was an explorer who staked a claim to the mother lode.

My wife and I like sitting on the porch with Sally (our dog), watching the birds, a family of ducks and just about every rabbit on the block eat at the bird feeder. No, the ducks, pigeons and rabbits do not eat from the feeder itself. Little birds are picky and toss out a lot of seed trying to get to their favorites. What falls on the ground is gobbled up by  the ground feeders. It holds 11 pounds of seed, and they can empty it in a single busy day. Two suet cakes are gone within a few hours. Living requires eating, and they are good at both.

All of the simple joys of spring and summer that my wife and I cherish have a lot to do with being outdoors. Whether it is a walk or bicycle ride around the neighborhood, sitting on the porch reading a book, or even writing one of these newsletters on my phone while the birds sing in the background, we appreciate and thank God for it all.

The long hours of daylight of Pennsylvania summers have helped prepare me to endure five decades of winters. As the tiger lilies bloom, there comes the thought to mind that summer will soon wane into fall, rapidly to proceed into the dead of winter.

The abundant life of spring and summer is not, however, without its reminders that death still corrupts creation. The little bird on the rock in the picture looking as if he is king of the hill was likely too soon out of the nest. I snapped his picture with my cell phone while out on a walk with my wife. The little bird was not much bigger than my thumb and looked up at me chirping as I took his, or her, picture. Momma bird was nearby, squawking at me from an elevated position. On our walk I also saw two baby birds that did not make it. Hopefully the little one in the picture has a long and happy life. Unfortunately, predators abound even in otherwise peaceful neighborhoods.

During the best of times for every Christian there exists the enemy of our souls quite active in seeking to steal from us, kill us and utterly destroy us in hell. Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy . . .” Fortunately, for us, Jesus said in the second half of that verse, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

Sin is the bringer of death. Paul said in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” He showed us in Romans 5 that the fall in the Garden brought death to all mankind. Consequently, physical death fell on all creation due to the sin of mankind who was to be the good stewards of what God made.

Remember, God said that what he made was “good,” (Genesis 1:4, Genesis 1:10, Genesis 1:12, Genesis 1:18, Genesis 1:21, Genesis 1:25, Genesis 1:31). On the sixth day he made man and declared that the whole of his creation was “very good” (Genesis  1:31). Choice was given to man to stay obedient, never dying and always provided for without the need for seeking food and shelter through the sweat of his brow, or to be disobedient and fall to death that would swoop in and reign.

When choice was given to obey God or disobey God (Genesis 3), the only two humans alive chose to disobey. The bible declares that death due to sin has reigned since Adam (Romans 5:12-14). Then, the Law of God came through Moses clearly showing all human beings to be under sin (Romans 3:9, Galatians 3:22).

Now, it is not right to be too hard on Adam, saying it was all his fault or to blame Eve for listening to the subtle serpent in the first place. This falls under the he-who-is-without-sin-let-him-cast-the-first-stone concept. Even if Adam, Eve and everyone else who had ever lived never sinned, what about you? Have you ever committed any sin, any offense to God? I know I have, and the bible plainly declares that all have sinned (Romans 3:23), so you are guilty too.

This is the beauty and simplicity of grace, the gift of God, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. He paid the price—death—beat it by rising again, and extends the gift of eternal life to anyone and everyone who will choose to believe in him. Paul, an apostle, remarked that this preaching of the Gospel, this message of what Jesus as the Christ/Messiah did on the cross, is foolishness (absurdity) to them who do not believe, but for those who do, it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:17-21)!

Your enemy, the Devil, goes around like a roaring lion, looking to gulp you down in one big bite (1 Peter 5:8). Do not complicate the simple beauty of the Gospel. You cannot be saved by works (Ephesians 2:8-9), so trying to clean up your act before coming to Jesus is futile. Let him clean the inside and then the outside act will clean up itself as you yield to the Spirit of God living in you after you ask for the gift of God’s Grace to save you through what Jesus did for you (Romans 10:9-10).

This is the reality of life and death that is a daily undercurrent in the life of every human being, including you. The bible tells us that it is “appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment . . .” (Hebrews 9:27). The way to avoid the Second Death (eternal separation from God in a place of punishment) is to put your faith for Salvation in Christ Jesus. I like how the New International Version renders Hebrews 9:27-28. “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

Are you waiting for Jesus? Is he your Lord? If he is, are you doing what he says to do (Luke 6:46)? It is not only life or death, it is your eternal life or death!