The Old Rugged Cross

NOTE: I wrote this four months after finding my 19 year old son after he’d taken his own life…


There have been moments these past months that I’ve wanted to give up on God.

I’m simply being honest.

As one who grew up in a violent, alcoholic home, I witnessed more violence as a child than I care to remember.

As a full-time pastor now for 30+ years, I’ve had, on occasion, the unfortunate opportunity to see the very ugly side of what some have otherwise called “Christianity.”

But those pale in comparison to the events of May 13th, 2013, when my world caved in around me.

In light of the pain we suffer on planet earth, what proof is there that there is a God? More than that, what proof is there that that God really loves me?

From their outstanding work, “Name Above All Names,” Alistair Begg & Sinclair Ferguson write,

It is the cross alone that ultimately proves the love of God to us – not the circumstances of our lives.

We must not allow ourselves to be tricked into thinking that if things are going well with us, Then we can be sure of God’s love. For life can often seem dark and painful. Things do not always go well for us.

Rather, we look to the sacrifice of the cross and the proof God gave there of His love. ‘God [demonstrated proof of] His love toward us, in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8)

This is the proof I need. This is the truth I need to hear. This dispels the lies of the enemy.”

This is the unstoppable, indefensible, indisputable love of God in Christ Jesus.

I love you, Nick

What Happens When We Die?

I once saw an interview with actor, Anthony Hopkins.  Asked about life & death, he, like many others, said  he believed, in essence: we live, we die, and then – that’s it.  Nothing else.

Of course, no one can, with authority, satisfy the question, “What happens when we die?”

Studying for a talk I gave recently, I stumbled across a Time Magazine article I’d kept in a file since 2008.  The title of the article is simply, “What Happens When We Die?”

The article begins…

A fellow at New York City’s Weill Cornell Medical Center, Dr. Sam Parnia is one of the world’s leading experts on the scientific study of death. Last week Parnia and his colleagues at the Human Consciousness Project announced their first major undertaking: a 3-year exploration of the biology behind “out-of-body” experiences. The study, known as AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation), involves the collaboration of 25 major medical centers through Europe, Canada and the U.S. and will examine some 1,500 survivors of cardiac arrest.

What intrigues me about this article is how much the scientific research supports what the Bible has taught for millennia.  I’ll come back to that in a moment.  Back to the article.  When asked, “What was your first interview like with someone who had reported an out-of-body experience?”, Dr. Parnia replied:

Eye-opening and very humbling. Because what you see is that, first of all, they are completely genuine people who are not looking for any kind of fame or attention. In many cases they haven’t even told anybody else about it because they’re afraid of what people will think of them. I have about 500 or so cases of people that I’ve interviewed since I first started out more than 10 years ago. It’s the consistency of the experiences, the reality of what they were describing. I managed to speak to doctors and nurses who had been present who said these patients had told them exactly what had happened, and they couldn’t explain it. I actually documented a few of those in my book What Happens When We Die because I wanted people to get both angles —not just the patients’ side but also the doctors’ side — and see how it feels for the doctors to have a patient come back and tell them what was going on. There was a cardiologist that I spoke with who said he hasn’t told anyone else about it because he has no explanation for how this patient could have been able to describe in detail what he had said and done. He was so freaked out by it that he just decided not to think about it anymore.

So, does the Bible have anything to say about what happens when we die?  Plenty.  I once heard someone wisely state, “If we want to know about ‘life after death’ it would be wise to consult someone who’s been to the other side – and back.”  In the book of Revelation, John recorded Jesus Christ saying, I am the first and the last,  and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore,…”

According to Jesus, physical death is not the end – far from it.  “I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus said. “The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”

In Luke 16, Jesus told a most disturbing parable of two men.  Each died, one man going to heaven, the other to hell.  The point I’m making here is that, after death, both men were very much alive.

Finally, moments away from, himself, dying, Jesus, from the cross, looked at the crucified thief next to him and assured him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be [alive] with me in paradise.”

Perhaps, you’re reading this and you are one who dismisses the idea of “life after life.”  I completely respect your position.  But, please consider this:  what if the Bible is true?

I read a story once of a son (a Christian) asking his father (not a Christian) if he ever worried about what happens after we die.  “The next life?” the father said. “I’ll worry about that when I get there!”

But, what if “when I get there” is too late?

The author of Hebrews pointedly warned, And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment.”

We all, regardless of what we believe, have an appointment with death.  Are you prepared for that appointment?

In 1997, Edwin Lutzer wrote his classic, One Minute After You Die. Lutzer writes, [According to the Bible], “one minute after you slip behind the parted curtain you will either be enjoying a personal welcome from Christ or catching your first glimpse of gloom as you have never known it. Either way, your future will be irrevocably fixed and eternally unchangeable.”

John – a disciple and eye-witness of Jesus – wrote, “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:11-12)

Christ calls out to you, “Come to Me. Trust Me. I died for you. And then I rose again. I love you.”

Tomorrow is guaranteed for no one.  Will you trust Him today?

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

For Further Study:  Never placed your faith in Christ but interested in investigating His claims?  Check out the evidence put forth in these two resources written by former atheists:  “More Than a Carpenter” by Josh McDowell; “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel

Pascal’s Wager

When we die, what do you think is on the other side?  (good question)

Recently, I read a story of a son (a Christian) asking his father (not a Christian) if he ever worried about what happens after we die.  “The next life?” the father said. “I’ll worry about that when I get there!”

But, what if “when I get there” is too late?

Blaise Pascal was a 17th century French philosopher, mathematician, scientist and inventor.  He was also a Christian who is famous for what is commonly known as Pascal’s Wager:

If Christianity is false, both non-Christians and Christians have nothing to gain and nothing to lose.  But what if Christianity is true?  For, if Christianity is true, the Christian has everything to gain (heaven) while the non-Christian has everything to lose (hell).

Does one really want to wager that Christianity is false and risk spending eternity in what the Bible calls hell?

Pascal’s Wager is not without its opponents.  Writing for Christianity Today, Michael Rota cites atheist, Richard Dawkins, who asked whether God might not respect a courageous skeptic “far more than he would respect Pascal for his cowardly bet-hedging.”

Fair enough.

Make no mistake though.  Christianity is not an unreasonable option when one is considering whether or not it is true.  Taking together the order of the cosmos, the intelligent design of the human body, the historical reliability of the gospels, and the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth, the cumulative evidence for Christianity is, to say the least, compelling.

Contrary to how Dawkins may respond, Pascal was not a coward but rather quite courageous, himself, in posing such a pointed question to whomever will pause long enough to consider the gravity of what he is asking: What if the Bible is true after all?

Certainly, Christianity requires faith.  But, make no mistake: so does atheism. 

In his article, Rota concludes, “If I find myself thinking that Christianity might be false, I remember that it [also] might be true.  Do I want to take a real risk of turning my back on Jesus?  Never.”

Nor do I.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick