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Archive for February, 2013

That was the title of a Los Angeles Times article announcing the release of Kris Kristofferson’s new CD, “Feeling Mortal,” in which the 76-year-old actor/singer/songwriter looks unflinchingly in the face of death and is comfortable with what he sees.

Kris Kristofferson

Kris Kristofferson

For instance, in Kristofferson’s opening track from which he pulls his album title, he writes:

Here today and gone tomorrow
That’s the way it’s got to be
With an empty blue horizon
For as far as I can see

In the same track Kristofferson wonders if he is where he ought to be (presumably in his relationship with God), thanks God for making him the kind of man he turned out to be (faults and all), and then ends the song with an expression of satisfaction:

Soon or later I’ll be leaving
I’m a winner either way
For the laughter and the loving
That I’m living with today

Randy Lewis, the writer of the article, states that despite Kristofferson’s outstanding legacy in country-western music and rock and roll, mainstream radio programmers most likely would not give much airplay to “Feeling Mortal,” the implication being that listeners do not want to be reminded of their own mortality.

But what is likely true for radio listeners and society at large should not be true for those of us who follow Jesus Christ. We should not be afraid of where we are going.

And where are we going when we die? We’re going immediately into the presence of Jesus Christ, fully aware of our savior and ourselves.

The apostle Paul expresses it this way:

So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. That is why we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.
–2 Corinthians 5:6-8 (New Living Translation, NLT)

Or, as the New King James Version (NKJV) translates verse 8:

We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

And in his letter to the Philippian Church, Paul expresses his conflicting desires between living and dying:

For to me, living is for Christ, and dying is even better. Yet, if I live, that means fruitful service for Christ. I really don’t know which is better. I am torn between two desires: Sometimes I want to live, and sometimes I long to go and be with Christ. That would be far better for me, but it is better for you that I live. – Philippians 1:21-24 (NLT)

Paul longs for death because it is the gateway into the glorious presence and eternal life of Christ himself.

Paul understands that life and death, the present and the future, are gifts from God to us who follow Jesus Christ. The gift of death is only the beginning of eternal life with God. (1 Corinthians 3:21-23)

Like Paul, we are also torn between this life and going home to be with the Lord. We want to live long, healthy, and happy lives, enjoying our families and loved ones, and accomplishing our goals and dreams. And although we know that death is inevitable, we are reluctant to leave loved ones behind, and we fear that someday no one will remember us.

While some of us are enjoying financial success, fulfilling careers, beautiful homes, and happy families, and are in no hurry to go home to be with the Lord, there are others of us who are struggling with pain, illnesses, financial hardships, and a host of problems that so suck the vitality out of living that death might indeed seem like a welcome gift that leads us into a new life free from sorrow and pain.

Jesus experienced both grief and joy at his own impending death. He agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane, telling his disciples, “my soul is crushed with grief to the point of death . . .” for he was about to take upon himself the sins of the entire human race (Matthew 26:38).

Yet Jesus ultimately faced his death joyfully, for he knew that his upcoming death was the doorway that would take him back to God and the glory they shared before all creation (John 17:5), so he submitted to God’s will (Matthew 26:42) and endured his crucifixion “because of the joy he knew would be his afterward” (Hebrews 12:2, NLT).

His death and resurrection make it possible for us to pass from death to life, from our temporary home on earth to our real and eternal home that our Father has prepared for us in heaven (John 14:2-3).

That is why we, who have committed our lives to following Christ, must evaluate our lives and live each day from the perspective of eternity. Wherever we are in life—whether we are young in age or young in our faith, whether we’re going through our mid-life journey or facing our senior years—we are called to live joyfully each day because we are not afraid of where we’re going!

Hear, then, the words and sentiment of another country and western singer, Tim McGraw, as he encourages us to “Live like you were dying.”

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