The Blog of Pastor Mike Wilkins
"The long run" referred to in the title of this blog is, in the first place, the many years Mike Wilkins served as West London's solo pastor, and then its Senior Pastor, since he and his wife Deb moved to London (and this church) in 1984.
In these past few years (beginning November 2011,) Mike's various health challenges, particularly a serious and ongoing case of cancer, has added another layer to the "long run" metaphor, and lots to blog about. Mike is currently on an extended Sick Leave, but generally worships with the church family on Sunday mornings.
With the publication of a book he wrote in 2016 entitled "Glory in the Face" (now available electronically and in paperback from Amazon.ca, and other online venders), Mike has just launched a new website, which will serve as a sort of scrapbook for readers of the book, with relevant background photos, for example, of That Last Final Solo Canoe Trip in May, 2011, as well as additional information about the book, and--coming soon--a new set of blog posts, mostly about the peace of God and the joy of the Lord and the face of Christ and the strength to face anything. You'll find the new website now at www.gloryintheface.com.
Sep18WedSeptember 18, 2013
Once again, it's the week before surgery. This Friday morning, once again, I'll be wheeled down the surprisingly chilly hallways of the surgical wing of University Hospital and through the metal doors of one of the Operating Rooms, and once again will be the only one in the room not working that day, the only one not standing up, the only one not wearing a mask and then the only one being put to sleep.
"Being put to sleep" is sort of a daunting phrase for me, but that's because of my boyhood interest in becoming a veterinarian. Ever since I was a boy, I have known that "being put to sleep" is what can happen to you if you are an old dog or a horse with a broken leg. Being neither, I am only daunted a little. At the same time, the phrase intrigues me and that's because of the number of times in the New Testament that followers of Christ who have died are described as being "asleep," specifically "asleep in Jesus." [e.g. Acts 7:60]
This brings me back to an idea that I referred to in a previous post. On August 7, I wrote about death losing its sting and that "even the sting of separation from my loved ones is gone." And then I wrote, "Well, sort of. But that's a topic for another day." Today, two days before I am once again being put to sleep, "another day" has arrived and I return to the delicate topic of "separation from my loved ones."
What I am posting here, I owe entirely to the man who taught me to take the Bible seriously. His name was Arthur C. Custance, and in 1970, when I was fifteen years old, he retired, moved to Brockville and began attending the church that my family belonged to. And he wrote. As a recently-retired scientist and as a life-long student of the Bible, he had lots to write about. And what he wrote is yours to read online. At www.custance.org, many of his titles have been reprinted and are available for purchase as books or as PDF files -- and almost all of them are printed online, free for the reading.
In his book Journey Out of Time, Dr. Custance writes, as a scientist, of the mysterious relationship between space and time, leaning heavily on Einstein's theory of relativity. In the same book he writes, as a Bible student, about being "asleep in Jesus" and about being "raised on the last day," as Jesus repeatedly mentions in John 6:39,40,44,54. I strongly recommend that you treat yourself to this book, or at least to reading it for yourself online, but in a nutshell, what Dr. Custance explains is that, when in physical death we exit the three dimensions of space: length, width and depth, we also exit the fourth dimension: time -- and by God's own power, we are transported out of space and out of time to the world's "last day." Then and there, the apostle Paul explains, "the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality." (1 Corinthians 15:52,53 ESV). This explains why those Christians who have died are described as being (from our perspective) "asleep in Jesus." And why the thief on the cross heard Jesus say, "This day you will be with me in Paradise." He heard those words just before he experienced a journey out of time.
According to this view of things, this is what Paul was writing about to the Thessalonians. "But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words." (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ESV)
If Dr. Custance is pointing us in the right direction here, and I for one believe that he is, then the upshot is that, while the loved ones of a person who has "fallen asleep in Jesus" DO experience a separation from the "dearly departed," that separation is NOT experienced by the "dearly departed" himself, for he (or she) has journeyed out of this TIME as well as this PLACE in order to be, physically, "with the Lord." To the people he leaves behind, he is, for the time being, "asleep." But in his own experience, he finds himself, "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," being raised from the dead. But that great event will happen, as Jesus explained, on "the Last Day": that great, great day when all those who have truly entrusted themselves to Jesus Christ are transformed into Christ's `imperishable, glorious, powerful and spiritual' likeness. (1 Corinthians 15:42-44 ESV)
When Paul the apostle calls the Thessalonians to "encourage one another with these words," he has several encouraging truths in mind: that all who believe in Jesus will eventually "always be with the Lord;" that all of us who believe in Christ will, on that day, be reunited with one another; AND that when a follower of Christ dies, although those he leaves behind WILL experience the grief of being separated from him, he himself will not. For all three of these reasons, those who ARE left to grieve ought not to do so in the way that "others do who have no hope."
Lots of reason for hope here! And lots to think (and read) about, but I've been thinking about someday being "asleep in Jesus" and about this "journey out of time" since I was 16 years old. And I will be thinking about it again this Friday morning as I am (just for four or five hours, they say) being put to sleep.
P.S. Deb will be tweeting updates on my post-op progress beginning Friday evening. You'll find them on the homepage of the church website (www.wlachurch.org).