Friday, December 9, 2011

Is it safe for you to die?

By Bill Ellis
Special to ASSIST News Service

SCOTT DEPOT, WV (ANS) -- It was the first Sunday in Advent. I expected the normal “introduction to Christmas” sermon. That, however, is not exactly the preaching style of Dr. Melissa Pratt, in my opinion, one of America’s finest young preachers and pastors. Her exposition of the Word of God is filled with new and invigorating approaches to truth.

The sermon began with a summary of Ecclesiastes 7:1-3 that was concluded with this statement: “A wise person thinks a lot about death. Happy Advent. Merry Christmas.”

But what about the wise men, shepherds, camels and angelic choirs? What about Christmas trees and Santa Claus? Where is the church’s annual Christmas drama and cantata?

The sermon continued, “The truth is, the Christmas season has everything to do with death because it not only has what we experience in this life and how we live it, but what happens after we die that Jesus came to deal with.”

God, being rich in mercy, sent Jesus to die on the cross to pay the price for all our sins. Were it not for His birth, life, death, and resurrection, we would all be doomed to an eternal destiny of unbearable suffering and separation from the presence of God.

The question has been running through my mind each day, “How safe is it for me to die?” Death is not a possible “if”, but a definite “when” and an issue we will all deal with very soon. Even at my relative young age, it seems that every year and age of my life has come and gone so quickly. Everything is on a rapid speed except eternity. John Newton helped us understand its duration with these words: “When we’ve been there ten thousand years . . . we’ve no less days . . . than when we’d first begun.” Eternity never subtracts from itself.

There are two eternal profiles carefully described in Luke 16:19-31 in the frightening and yet blessed story of the rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. This story is filled with warning and its graphic depiction of a great chasm that takes away all hope of transferring from Hell to Heaven -- once there always there. It is the story of eternal separation, punishment, judgment, fire and regret.

Jesus is the answer to all the fears about death and judgment and the problems and suffering created by sin. Read about His coming in chapters one of Matthew, Luke and John. Mark starts in chapter one with “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Mark 1:1). 

When I read in Mark’s account, I often think about the night at The White House, when a select group of invited guests heard Alec McCowen, famous English actor, quote this exciting book in its entirety with his dramatic memory in the historic East Room. The delicious dinner with President and Mrs. Carter did not overshadow the book of Mark.

American leader, Benjamin Franklin spoke of his day and ours: “How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, his precepts. O! Tis easier to keep holidays than commandments.”
E. B. White, iconic teacher of those who attempt to write said, “To perceive Christmas through its wrapping becomes more difficult with every year.”

“An angel of the Lord appeared to Him (Joseph) . . . saying, . . . ‘And she shall bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins’ ” (Matthew 1:20-21). That was the beginning of Christmas . . . the birth of the Savior, born to save all who will believe in Him.

Do not throw Him out with all the trimmings, trappings, purchases, debt, gifts and papers of our modern Christmas celebrations. Merry Christmas to you and your family from me and my family.

Bill Ellis is a syndicated columnist, and convention and conference speaker on every continent. He is the writer of more than 2,000 newspaper and magazine columns, articles and contributions to books. He is also a widely known motivational speaker and pulpit guest who utilizes enjoyment of life and just plain fun and laughter while speaking to high school, university and professional sports teams as well as to business and professional groups of all kinds. His keen understanding of human problems makes him a favorite speaker for youth, parent, and senior adult meetings. He is accompanied by Kitty, his wife, favorite singer, editor and publisher.

For information on becoming a subscriber to the Ellis Column for your newspaper or magazine, you may contact him at: BILL ELLIS, P.O.Box 345, Scott Depot, WV 25560 or by calling: 304-757-6089.

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