Monthly Archives: February 2018

IT’S WAY BEYOND SAD.

Some in our world are in for a tough life. They entered it as gentle children and are growing as gentle young adults and a harsh world, brutal in speech and hard, way too hard, is going to be sheer hell for them.
Countless among us feel deep anguish when they’re insulted or forced to “make the first move” toward a possible friendship when they simply don’t have it in them to do it. For these people it’s more than pain it’s absolute agony. They’re so built that the faintest breath of criticism or a hint of rejection slices them to the bone. We can dismiss them as people who simply won’t grow up or want to be pampered but that completely misunderstands them and it would grieve them all the more. It isn’t that they’re hypersensitive in that spoiled and self-centered way that we’re sometimes sure we see in people; those aren’t the ones I’m talking about—these came into our world with a greater capacity for feeling than the vast majority of us possess. They’re needy it’s true and I get it that we have many responsibilities in life that means we can’t help everyone—I think I do understand that. I just fear that we can do a bit better in making ourselves accessible, in gentling our speech or learning the look of honorable and warm glances and we’re too afraid of it costing too much. Yes, I think that has its own legitimacy and should be acknowledged. Some of us have plenty on our plates and find it beyond us (currently) to take more on.
But they’re shy and lonely and timid and will remain that way if they aren’t given some warmth in someone’s smile as they look for welcome and shelter and belonging.
But Tony Newley has taught us something we must earnestly and wisely and honorably consider.
“If she should come to you be gentle
For she’s so very very shy
Don’t ever act unsentimental
She won’t want to stay then
She’ll run far away then
If she should come to you remember
That she’ll believe your every word
And if she trust you she will give you her heart
So remember if she should come to you.”
If they come to us these needy and very shy people and are welcomed they will believe our offer of warmth and shelter and enrichment and when they trust us they will give us their hearts. They don’t know how to keep something in reserve; that capacity isn’t in them, and to people like that, if we break our promises, we break their hearts. To become impatient with them and curtly demand that they quickly gain a “get over it!” attitude is to add torture to torment. If we do that we don’t give them grief for just a few months—grief that will heal by and by; some tender and believing souls will never recover and they’ll carry the pain all their days and nights.
They’ll function but it will be a deeply sad pilgrimage; they will be robbed and so will countless others who could be blessed by the gifts of these who, stifled behind a curtain of fear, are marvelously skilled. The pain won’t always be excruciating but though it hides it’ll never be far away and without warning it will steal the sun from their sky and there’ll be very few really carefree days for them. Shy to begin with, they’ll ll be driven far within themselves; they’ll run far away from the possibility of rich life, too afraid and too deeply hurt to come out into the light again. So if one like that comes to you, and she trusts you, make no grand promises that you’re not going to move heaven and earth to keep. If someone like that comes to you and he opens his or her heart to you, don’t go in if you don’t mean to stay because people like these are ill-equipped for a harsh world. They die long before they die.
And it’s way beyond sad!
Look out for them, won’t you? You can’t help them all; don’t expect that of yourself. But one, a few, some—some who may one day when we’re all gathered around Him in a better world one, a few, some, might walk right up to Him and thank Him for bringing you into their lives.

PUNISHMENT (1)

There are those who dismiss the very concept of punishment as barbaric and should be outlawed. Perhaps they are right but it isn’t a topic I’m interested in at this moment.
I’d like also, for now, to bracket out discussion about “who has the right?” to punish. The question merits sustained discussion, of course, but it would take us to places beyond where I wish to go at present.
I wish to reflect a little on punishment. The subject soon goes beyond my competence but I wish to express what seems straightforward to most of us who have given the matter some thought. The reader will soon know when the debate should begin. I’ll start this little piece by saying some of the things we should mean when we use the word “punishment” and then make some comments on the points listed.

1) Punishment is something meant to hurt or generate some sense of loss. It can’t be meant to be reward.

2) Punishment is something purposed. It can’t be an accident.

3) It is inflicted on someone thought to be guilty of some wrongdoing. It cannot be inflicted on someone known to be innocent.

4) It is carried out in response to wrong actually done. It cannot be a deterrent meant to keep an innocent someone from doing something wrong in the future.

5) The one who punishes must not only purpose to inflict some form of hurt or loss he/she must mean it to be punishment or it isn’t punishment. This is a point distinct from point 2 above.

Further comment:

Supposing a child knowingly does something wrong and the parents see fit to punish him; it cannot be something that rewards him for his wrongdoing. That is, the parents must not intend the boy to understand it as reward. The boy might not experience it as loss, he might even be happy he has been sent to his room but he mustn’t think that’s what the parents had in mind. However the boy in fact experiences it, the parents must mean it to be an expression of their opposition to the deed. Parental intent is central here.

We hear complaints all the time about how punishment is carried out in the judicial system. The protesters think that those who are imprisoned are being rewarded rather than punished. This makes the point that punishment is supposed to generate some form of loss. Whether prisoners in fact experience incarceration as “a hurt” inflicted that is what it is supposed to be.
Punishment cannot be an accident. A man steals a car, while driving off with it he hits an ice patch, goes off the road, wrecks the car and suffers a leg fracture and a dislocated shoulder. The police arrest him, he finally goes to court and his lawyer claims he has already been punished in that he was physically hurt.

Some people believe he was punished (say, by God) but that won’t do for our situation; it isn’t known that God punished him and it isn’t known that God punished him for that crime. Society can only function on this basis: the man committed the crime and society must deal with him and “dealing” with him will have to take some penal form. Punishment is not the same as suffering!!!!!
Punishment can only be inflicted on someone thought to be guilty of some wrongdoing. It may be the case that the one punished is in fact innocent but he is not thought to be innocent otherwise punishment isn’t punishment, it is some form of injustice. Punishment can only be carried out on the guilty if the word is to retain its rightful meaning.
We do not punish a paramedic for inflicting pain and suffering on the victim of an accident. The victim will no doubt scream when the medic carries out some extreme life-saving act but we don’t think of him as doing wrong when it’s clear he does what he does to save their life. It’s true there may be occasions when the medic is thought to have done wrong but putting the best face on the analogy we know that there’s a difference between inflicting pain for a good cause and doing wrong.
Punishment can only be inflicted on someone guilty of an actual wrong. Punishment is only just in the presence of actual guilt therefore it cannot be used as a deterrent. It may be used to deter the wrongdoer from further wrongdoing but he must have already committed a wrong for which he is being  punished. We may wish his punishment to act as a deterrent on others but punishment can only be justly inflicted for a crime actually committed. If we decide to subject someone to suffering that he might not do something wrong at a future date whatever else we are doing we cannot call it punishment. Trainee soldiers may be put through severe trials of numerous kinds to toughen them but where that is the case punishment is not what is happening.
We must not lay hold of a law-abiding citizen walking down the street and put him in jail or levy a fine as punishment to keep him from doing something wrong sometime in the future. We can’t deprive a young girl of her freedom by confining her to the house for a week (grounding) if she has done nothing to warrant such confinement. “What have I done?” she asks. The parents say, “You’ve done nothing wrong. We’re punishing you to keep you from doing wrong in the future.” Call the confinement what we will but if we call it punishment we are speaking in ignorance.
The one inflicting punishment must intend it to be punishment. This is not the same point as point 2. The above can hardly be controversial but I suppose this claim warrants more prolonged reflection and debate.
Suppose a young man who is mentally ill takes to hitting people with whatever comes to hand. He has already quite seriously injured some of his friends. Those who work in this area will confer on the matter and let us imagine that they finally think it necessary to isolate the young man—at least to place him in care where he will not be a threat to other innocents.
Suppose further than this young man is anguished by his loss of freedom and doesn’t understand why he is so deprived. He thinks he is being treated unjustly, he’s being punished; he may not have the capacity to use the words or understand the concepts but he has the capacity to suffer and his experience of suffering has been laid on him by the authorities.
Those who put him in this place of confinement and special care know that punishment is not the appropriate word. But more than that, they feel no desire to punish—not only do they reject the word, in this case they reject the concept. They feel only sadness for the young man and a commitment to those he has hurt and could hurt and if possible they hope to help “cure” the offender.
Though the young man experiences inflicted pain and loss it isn’t placed on him as punishment; there is no sense that he deserves it. I wish to make the point that to punish someone must in some sense be carried out with the intention to punish and because the one punished knowingly did the wrong.
It’s clear that one can punish another without vindictiveness or in a vengeful spirit but there’s more than that to be said. The word punish will always have its place in human society where there are standards and where those standards are knowingly broken and where for the protection of others the wrongdoer must be punished.

Nevertheless, it’s common knowledge that we forgive and forgive and forgive wrongs without punishing them, without feeling the need to punish or without wishing to punish. On these occasions we wish the wrong hadn’t been committed, we don’t approve of it but we don’t think in terms of punishing the transgressor. People in their millions practice this daily. They forgive.

 

 

 

NOBODY’S A ‘NOBODY’

George MacDonald’s character, Curdie, came to the king’s house because the princess had told him to report to her there. At the door he met the officious housekeeper (who seemed to swell and fill the door) who rebuked him for his comings and goings and the fact that he (as she saw it) made a mess of things while he was there. “Don’t you know this is my house?” she barked. Curdie politely replied that he didn’t know that because he thought it was the king’s house. She responded, he responded, she called him insolent and oozing pride she asked the poor ignoramus, “Don’t you see by my dress that I am in the king’s service?” Curdie, a young mine worker, wanted to know, “And am I not one of his miners?”

“Ah, that goes for nothing,” she snapped. “I am one of his household. You are an out-of-doors laborer. You are a nobody. You carry a pickaxe. I carry the keys at my waist. See!”
But Curdie checkmated her with, “But you must not call one ‘a nobody’ to whom the king has spoken.”
This is a hard lesson for us to learn. You understand that it isn’t that we’re all to function in the same place of authority with the same responsibilities. There are those that have been given authority over us and though often we don’t like that, there’s no community living without accepting the truth of it. Still, it’s a hard lesson to learn because we tend to be prideful (do we not?) and if we’ve haven’t been given the most sought after job, the one that attracts the attention and gets the big money, we’re inclined to whimper (and other things) a lot. Well, why not? We should be treated with respect and when we are stuck in a lower level position our “personhood” is scorned and many of us won’t stand for that, will we.  (Is that not true—or am I mistaken?)
The sad thing is that some of us get the place we think we deserve and it doesn’t make us better. Like the officious housekeeper we balloon up and fill the doorways of life and are only content when we think we’ve surpassed the other “peasants” way below us. In that spirit it doesn’t matter to us, for example, that others would be better as rich people than we would be if we were made rich. It only matters that we are or get to be wealthy or prominent or acclaimed.
Apparently Curdie had no trouble with any of that. He had a pure heart and was perfectly content to be the king’s miner. He didn’t need to have the keys to buildings hanging at his belt, didn’t need to minister to vast congregations, nor did he need to drive a big fancy car or be the belle of anyone’s ball. He was more than at peace within himself. He rejoiced in the dignity of being one that the king had spoken to and needed nothing more.
(Sigh. What a lovely way that is. It makes me want to be a better man and while I can’t confess that I’m troubled much with jealousy, perhaps there’s more of it in me than I occasionally think there is. Of course I’m well aware that I’m greatly troubled with other things.)
You see the confrontation between Curdie and the housekeeper illustrated in reverse in Number 16 where the rebels weren’t as wise or as pure in heart as Curdie.

Korah, Dathan and Abiram attacked Moses and Aaron because those two exercised authority over the assembly at large and restricted the priesthood to Aaron’s family. The rebels said that these two took too much on themselves because all the people of God are holy and they wanted to exercise the priesthood (16:1-4, 10). Moses reminded them that this was God’s restriction but he goes on to remind these Levites that God had spoken to them and given them their own ministry (16:10). And that was where the problem was rooted. The leading rebels didn’t think their ministry was glorious enough—they wanted more. They thought they were being cheated, you see. They thought that having the priesthood keys at their belt would give them the dignity and recognition they deserved. Had they believed what Curdie knew, that no one to whom the King has spoken is “a nobody;” they would not have despised the privileged place God had already given to them. Though Curdie was a miner with a pickaxe in his hand he knew full well and with joyful contentment that he was one of the king’s servants and in this knowledge he glorified his ministry.

You understand it wasn’t simply that Korah and company were despising their position, they were exalting themselves (compare Romans 12:3-8) and thought they were being robbed. And they weren’t opposing Moses alone; they were opposing God (Numbers 16:11)!
It wasn’t a question about what God wanted. It was all about what these Levites wanted! It wasn’t an information problem; it was a heart problem. “I deserve and want more!”
Poor souls. They talked as though they were suffering like the colonies in their most awful moments suffered when France and Spain and Portugal and Britain were at their plundering worst. They talked as though they were African-Americans that were humiliated and robbed all those years under the worst face of White dominance in the USA or they were Irish during the centuries when England plundered and bullied them. Doesn’t it make you want to throw up sometimes when people (ourselves included?) blessed to the skies whine on and on about wanting more? Those, like Korah, Dathan and Abiram who take the lead in furthering a heart problem among the people of God have something to answer for as the entire Numbers 16 chapter shows.
I can easily imagine someone saying: “It occurs to me that this is a great chapter to use to defend the status quo. It’s a good chapter to use to keep people ‘in their place’.” Hmmm. That’d be another heart problem, wouldn’t it?].

TWO SEEKERS ON A GAZA ROAD

The story’s about a man sitting in a chariot and reading the Bible as he made his way back home to the Sudan area. If God had caught up with the chariot and asked the man, “You searching for something?” the man could easily and truthfully have said, “Yes, I’m searching for God.” God might well have said to him in that pleased way of his: “Yes, and I’ve come looking for you.”
From Meröe (in Sudan) to Jerusalem is a long way but the black gentleman made the trip. Overland it’s something more than 1,800 miles via Cairo. He would have begun his journey in the highlands of central Africa and sailed down the Nile, the longest river on earth, for more than 1,300 miles to Cairo. Then he would have got off the boat and traveled overland more than four hundred additional miles to Jerusalem. The story’s told in Acts 8:26-40.
What a journey! And why does he make it? We’re told he wanted to worship! But, bless me, he could have worshiped just about anywhere; he could have done that at Meröe, without leaving home! And on both banks of the Nile there were green strips of fertile land made possible by the life-giving river, but immediately beyond them in the wilderness areas with their intimidating cliff formations dwelled the gods of Egypt. He could have worshiped at Luxor or Karnack or Thebes; he could have worshiped at shrines in numerous places; there were plenty of priests and temple servants around but he wanted none of it—he sailed by them because his heart was set on the one true God whose central place of public worship was Jerusalem! The truth is, it wasn’t a place he sought—it was a Person! He wanted to be where that Person had made his presence and truth known for centuries.
He knew what he was seeking but what he hadn’t known until that day when God met him on a road not much used, a barren road—what he hadn’t truly known was this: the Holy One was looking for him.
No one seeing him would have pitied him because he was the Finance Minister to one of the famed queens of Nubia—the Kandake. Look at him, an educated, accomplished, esteemed and God-hungry man who didn’t mind confessing he needed help to glorify God. “I need help to understand what I’m reading,” he said at a critical moment in his life. When the man asked him if he understood what he was reading he didn’t sneer or take offense; he didn’t let his education and grand status go to his head. “I need help,” he said!
He’s never named but he’s called the “eunuch” five times.1 In some sense a eunuch, along with foreigners, was excluded from membership in the People of Israel. The idea that God despised eunuchs (or anyone else) is simply nonsense but eunuchs were not permitted to live and function as a part of Israel. 2
Whatever happened at Jerusalem, however exclusion showed itself, it might well have been that among all the thousands of God-worshipers there the purest heart present was the heart of that eunuch who despite his devotion to God was to stay on the outer fringe. One of the beauties of this man is that despite his knowing that he was in some sense not permitted into the “inner circle” his devotion to the God who knew about Deuteronomy 23:1 was profound and pure and God must have been pleased.
It would help us to understand what is going on here in this story if we keep all this in mind. The man’s social or intellectual status is not in question; his religious convictions are not disputed and certainly his religious sincerity and practice is an example we all would be pleased to follow.
So what’s the central message of the event? He’s an “outsider,” he’s been excluded! For all his accomplishments society would see him as “damaged goods”; for all his sincere religious devotion he was excluded from fellowship in the People of Israel. 3

As Isaiah tells the story (52:13—53:12) Israel itself was misunderstood. It too was abused by nations more powerful than them and they would have been despised but the abusive kings would be startled when they learned that Israel’s sufferings were the way to world blessing. Apostate Israel as a whole would come to understand that the faithful remnant within them was sharing their suffering in order to bring them blessings (Isaiah 49:1-9 and Acts 13:46-47, note the “us”). And the faithful would come to know that Jesus shared the suffering of his own nation that salvation might come to all the nations of the world, that all the “outsiders” could experience the full salvation and fellowship of God.
That’s what the eunuch heard! He found himself spoken of in the Bible and couldn’t wait to get “in”.
One of the central themes of Luke’s writings as he tells the Story of God as it climaxes in Jesus Christ is this: God has come to embrace all those who are clearly “outsiders”; he has come to offer them fellowship in the person of Jesus Christ. Jews. Gentiles, women, the truly poor, the despised rich, those who wander the earth on the moral outer fringes, Samaritans and all those who in one way or another and for one reason or another are imprisoned and enslaved, the abused and the despised. (See Luke 4:15-21 where Jesus lays out his Spirit-given program for life and note the stress on the Holy Spirit throughout the book of Acts and in this story—8:29, 39.)

Once more, the man in Acts 8 would not be pitied and Luke shows no interest in making him appear pitiful. Just the same, this without a name, especially in light of his devotion to God and his reading OT Scripture would have been aware of the “distance” between God and him, would have been aware of the “distance” between society (even religious society) and him.
Now from the very Bible that spoke of that “distance,” he hears about Jesus who is central in the very section he is reading (Isaiah 53). He hears of Jesus, who is the revelation of God—the God who has come to obliterate “distance” and to give childless people like him a name that is better than children (Isaiah 56:3-4). In hearing about Jesus he knows he is being offered more than a grudging “tolerance”.

No wonder he wants to know, “Well, then, that means I can be baptized too, doesn’t it?” He’s claiming the privilege! He isn’t asking if he must be baptized! That question never occurs in the entire NT and it certainly isn’t being asked here. This is an excited man who wants fully “in”! In various ways and from various perspectives, despite his moral decency, his religious sincerity and loving grasp of truth he has been classed as an “outsider”. Now he knows that in Jesus he can find all that God offers and so he claims the right to be baptized.
But what had baptism to do with it?
Please,
if you want to know what baptism has to do with life in and acceptance with the Savior, read what the NT says about baptism. God came looking for this lovely man and he, an eager believer, ended up being baptized and going home rejoicing. Write me at holywoodjk@aol.com if you’d like to talk about it.

[Holy Father, so many for one reason or another are required to live on the outer fringe of society and religious life though they love you with all their hearts. There are people behind bars who can only vainly beg, “Let me out” and there are those who live in isolation and are dying as they ask, “Let me in.” Come near to them to bless them and convince them that you keep them near to your heart and that you seek them as you sought out the noble heart of the nameless man on Gaza’s road. Holy Father help us to come to believe that you run after us down the desert roads we often take, even as you did when you came to meet us on the dusty roads from Bethlehem to Golgotha. And in the light of that truth, wherever they are—in prison for just reasons, in terminal wards, in jobs that crush their spirits, in poverty that kills hope, as people without physical grace or beauty and so are forced to live in loneliness, childless and with ceaseless tears, or warring against moral weakness that leads them to believe they aren’t wanted, or in being uneducated they are insolently sent to the back of some line—in light of that truth assure them by someone and in some way of your love for them, with a smile, a word that brings hope, a look that speaks not of scorn but of sincere respect, an offer of a job, an opportunity to become equipped for something better. And bless them Loving Father with courage, even gallantry and without blinding resentment, as they search for you because by abuse and loss and being unforgiven by people around them multitudes are led to doubt you, though you are looking for them even as you went looking for this outsider. Help them Father to embrace with faith and joy the privilege of baptism into the Lord Jesus and the complete freedom when it comes to them from your loving hand through your ministers who often appear on strange and deserted roads. In Jesus this prayer, Amen]
1. There’s good reason to believe that the biblical words behind “eunuch” should all be understood as someone who’s been castrated. It seems clear that lexical work can’t settle the issue.
2. “Exclusion” in such situations has nothing to do with “discrimination” in a hostile sense. Note that God takes responsibility for the existence of the dumb, the blind and the deaf as well as the gift of speech, hearing and seeing in Exodus 4.11.
Deuteronomy 23:1 does not say, “He that has been castrated is not loved by God!” It’s the case that we’re all “excluded” from certain functions. It’s a part of daily living and we all live happily with that unless it’s clear that the “exclusion” is unjust or due to spite, cruelty, arrogance or some such thing. In the OT the exclusion of the deformed or the mutilated is not without a loving purpose. I mean to develop this matter (God enabling) but this isn’t the place. This we need to note: had you asked the eunuch in Acts 8 about his exclusion, whatever he might have said he would not have thought it evil for he knew GOD and was pleased to worship him even in his exclusion. God’s critics, who sneer at him and aren’t prepared to give him a patient listening to, might think they’re doing the eunuch a service but he wouldn’t take their view. Among the other things the eunuch might say to the critics is this: “It wasn’t GOD that castrated me! His enemies did! When I’m excluded it’s one of God’s ways of marking out the self-serving evil that His enemies perpetrate on people. You call my ‘excluded’ status an outrage; I call it my opportunity to serve him as a living protest against all that’s evil—yours included.”
3.
You’ll remember in Alice Walker’s marvelous book Color Purple that Celie who through no fault of her own has been badly abused by her wicked father is called “damaged goods” and for years she believes she is. Sigh.

“ARE YOU NANETTE? COME HERE…”

Proverbs 11:1 has this to say “Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord. But a just weight is His delight.”

To ask, “What do those words mean?” is no crime at all. To ask, “What do you see when you read those words?” is a richer and better question.

“What do you see when you read those words?” encourages us to be more than readers or listeners; it urges us to become spectators, seers.

The first question is a good one but because of how we are shaped to respond, it more immediately links us to a moral question. The second question doesn’t draw us away from the moral question—it brings us more deeply into it by vision; we become present when the words are being portrayed as an event.
What happens in the text is this. God one day visited a market in Dothan and watched the thriving businesses and the struggling ones. He looked pleasant enough and seemed to be enjoying the visit—enjoying it, that is, until He saw one merchant carefully choosing another set of stones to put on the scales when he was about to sell some goods to a little woman and her husband. The business man was using different weights. He was cheating them. God was more than angry with the crook, He was infuriated! He saw it as a crooked act but He saw it as an abomination—so says the text!
Here’s what Rabbi Heschel said: “To us a single act of injustice—cheating in business, exploitation of the poor—is slight; to the prophets, a disaster. To us injustice is injurious to the welfare of the people; to the prophets it is a deathblow to existence: to us, an episode; to them, a catastrophe, a threat to the world.”  [The Prophets, page 4]
It’s difficult for us to get this. Why is that? Is it because people-trafficking is so much uglier, more brutal, more obviously heartless? Is it because warmongering is so damnably hideous and child abuse and porn is so disgusting? In comparison with those what’s so bad about conning the naïve and vulnerable and poor out of some money. I half-understand that but then conning the poor, fleecing the easily intimidated, slyly talking the timid and inexperienced out of as much as we can—exulting in the ease with which we can do it—that is disgusting. And then there’s this, Proverbs 14:31 trenchantly barks out: “He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker.”
There’s a day coming when the impenitent, exulting thief will face the Creator of the people these wasters have been fleecing. Let them try their oily, sly and cruel speech then. Let the robbers who found (they said) dangerous electrical, plumbing and structural defects in an older lady’s little home, tore it apart and robbed her of thousands of dollars, all she had, to fix it and never returned—let them approach her Creator with the exulting con-man spirit.
Oh God!!!!!!!!!
But the text has, so to speak, God going farther into the market daily to see the little stalls where men and women have only one set of weights, only one scale, an honest scale. Not only do they not own dishonest scales (there is a law against owning those much less using them since you could use them for only one thing) they have no desire to own them. They want to honest all the time and not just now and then. And God knows that anyone that comes to that stall, liked or disliked, would get fair treatment. God does more than nod approval to the man or woman there—He’s thrilled by it! Closes His eyes and smiles! Goes over to the stall and hugs them both and tells them that they have made His day! He delights in what they do; it’s more than sober approval! They make Him happy!
Oh God!!!!!!!!
And He’s doing that to this day! Yesterday or last week or last year or a century ago He did it! Maybe yesterday He walked into a modest lawyer’s office, asked to see the lawyer. “You Nanette?” He asks? “I am!” she says, “Come here,” God says and takes her in His arms and waltzes around the office to the soft music that’s been playing while He tells her how her honesty and integrity makes Him happy! He’s doing it all over the world, every day, and we need to be enabling such people, in the name of His Holy Son, to know and remember that!

(Holy One, Holy Father, we your children know that we can make you sad—we know that! Help us please to believe and remember that we can make you happy!)

[I’m borrowed some of the above from my little thing called Celebrating the Wrath of God. It’s a Random House book. It wouldn’t make me unhappy if you bought one. My books don’t sell. I hate that but with most of them I understand why.]

DEATH VERSUS RESURRECTION

Death affects not only the body—it affects the entire person. It’s a well-intentioned remark when we say of someone, “She isn’t dead; that’s only her body,” but it isn’t true. “I” die when I die—not just a part of me! Death affects me!
Nevertheless, there is something that is identifiable as the person that continues to be after the person has experienced biological death. We call it “the soul” or “the spirit”. (The words are used in various ways in the Holy Scriptures and context is what determines how they are being used in the various texts. I’m not interested in pursuing that truth right now though it is certainly worthy of development.)
I don’t think that that “something” that is identifiable as us, that survives biological death, is a physical “substance”—even a very refined substance (as if it were a “mist” or a “cloud” as the movies sometimes show us).
I’m currently content to believe what I’ve said is true. However we should speak of it I’m certain that those who die continue to be and I believe that because I take Philippians 1:23 at face value (though it needs developed). Furthermore, I take at face value what Jesus said to the crucified thief, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, this day you will be with Me in paradise.” Luke 23:43. (There are some people who wish to move the comma and have Jesus say, “Verily I say to you this day, you will be…” This is desperation. Conditional immortality may be true but this is no way to make it look creditable.) And with Paul, I’m one of countless that believes that those who die in the Lord Jesus have not “perished”. 1 Corinthians 15:18, where he will not tolerate such a view.
Taking the above to be true (pursue me at holywoodjk@aol.com or holywoodjk@gmail.com if you wish), I take the view that the body of our current fallen state falls apart (the body of our humiliation or “lowly body,”—Philippians 3:21) and we continue in a disembodied state and not non-existent. (In the coming resurrection we are not replaced—I am I and you are you—not substitutes for the having utterly perished.)
Death leads to the corruption and destruction of the physical body but it also robs us of embodiment and God did not create us for such a state. In the death experience we are robbed of embodiment which is an essential element of fullness of life as God has purposed us to experience as humans.
Jesus during His experience of death experienced what every other human experiences in dying—disembodiment. While disembodiment continues fullness of life—the fullness of life that God eternally purposed for humans—isn’t possible. Death is an enemy and the one thing that scares it witless is the word resurrection.
But not simply the word (which is used in regard to Lazarus who was raised—John 12:1 and who would die again); the word when it is used about the man Jesus!  It is in and through and as Him that life and immortality was/is brought to light (2 Timothy 1:9-10 Acts 26:23; Ephesians 1:19-21, passim). The OT has no developed doctrine of resurrection (that is disputed) but it repeatedly speaks of a coming One in whom human glorification would take place (Luke 24:25-27, 44-46; Acts 17:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “according to the Scriptures”; Romans 1:4).
I think it important to accept that while those who are embraced in God’s saving work, carried out in and through and as Jesus Christ, are safe and blessed they are yet dead! Death is to be viewed from numerous angles but one of them is this: Death is disembodiment! Disembodiment is robbery and is the wages of Sin (Romans 6:23). And as long as we are disembodied Death is lord over us (see Romans 8:17-25 & 1 Corinthians 15:24-26). Those who are blessed, being reconciled to God by His Son’s death, will be saved by His life (His resurrection)—Romans 5:10.
In light of Jesus and His resurrection beyond the limitations of current creaturely weakness (though without jettisoning His humanity!) we need not fear Death though it might well be that we do when it approaches.
Sin reigns through Death and Death through Sin (Romans 5:12-21) over the entire human family. Even the innocent (babies and other innocent ones) are hurt by our having chosen alienation from God and life. The consequences of that choice of Sin/alienation affects all of us.
Humanity’s history and current experience is in Adam (“the old man”)—our experience in relation to him is one under Sin & Death. In being baptized into the Lord Jesus the history and experience of people is/are altered. The “old man” dies (Romans 6:6)—that is, our relationship to Adam dies and a new relationship comes into being (Romans 7:1-6), and there’s a beginning of a new history that culminates in the utter death of Death and the glorification of God when the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:24-26, 45) surrenders the dominion to God in contrast to the old Adam who seized a dominion that because it was alienation from the source of life was actually Sin and Death.
Death is not to be seen as merely a biological  experience. It is that, of course; it is sadness, pain, disruption and more but it is bigger than all those; for those who believe in Jesus Christ and have something of an understanding of the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Death is to be seen as Sin’s reign that affects the creation. Only by gaining a further understanding of the gospel realities about GOD and His Holy Son that come to an unending climax in His resurrection to glory and fullness of life do we see Death & Sin for the vile life-sucking but losing predators they really are!