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Before Birth to After Death - By Pastor Thomas Engel

What is your earliest memory? Do you remember blowing out the candles at your birthday when you became two-years old?

Maybe not at two-years old-how about three years old or your fourth birthday when your parents gave you a big party at Chuck E Cheese?

From my little bit of research on earliest memories, I have advice to parents who are planning a trip to a place like Disneyland that will cost big bucks, the best thing is not to do that trip until the child is at least seven-years old.

When we get to adulthood, our earliest memories only go back to about the age of seven. So, if you’re spending a lot of cash on a vacation, you might as well get some memories out of it.

If we remember something before the age of seven, it’s because it caused some negative emotion in us. You might remember that time when you had to touch a hot stove just to see why you were told not to touch a hot stove.

The researchers who studied brain development have found that toddlers don’t have the cells in their brains to remember a lot, which is probably a good thing since little innocent toddlers do what their stage of life is called-they do a lot of toddling that can lead to a lot of falling down as they are learning the basic things to make it in this world of hard knocks.

Growing up is tough, so it’s best that we don’t remember much about it. The term for it is childhood amnesia, and it seems that we all have it in some way.

Often, when we talk about life, we talk about from birth to death. Or, we are talking about what we remember. Or, we are talking just about our present moments.

If someone were to ask you how you are doing, would you answer with something like, “Life is not so perfect right now-there’s a few hard spots.”

To super-analyze that statement, that’s the most honest answer, for when is life ever really so perfect. Usually, life has at least a hard spot or two if not one thing after another.

Let’s say that maybe only a smidgen of of life is hard, or maybe a big slice since we are still in a pandemic, are seeing social unrest, and political turmoil that seems endless with so many unresolved issues.

Not to minimize a hard spot in life, but we do have to ask what are we letting dominate our lives through any kind of time.

If we look at Scripture, we can see that there is so much more to us than what is in directly in front of us.

From Psalm 139, we read, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

And not to bring up the deep argument about abortion, but the usual debate is that for the pro-life side, life begins at conception, and those on the pro-choice side see that life begins at birth.

For us, as we read this psalm and other places in Scripture, we say that life has a start that comes from all of eternity-if that makes sense.

Of course, it doesn’t make sense from a human standpoint, for we, as mere mortals, can only think by beginnings and endings, but we can see more when we look at life through faith.

By faith, we know some things about God like that He is everywhere, knows all things, is all powerful, and has no beginning and no end.

Our God, who is eternal, has had us always in His mind, even before our parents thought of us.

Now that we have talked about life that begins from an eternal start, let’s talk about the end of life, death.

Well, as I have tried to convince you that life does not begin at conception or birth but from all of eternity, I want to do that same and tell you that life does not end for us at death.

Although I don’t think this is the first time that you have heard about life after death.

We know about salvation, for we have been to many Easter services, Sunday worships that are really mini-Easters, and funerals where the death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life is proclaimed for our comfort in our loss-we will see our loved ones again who are standing by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

We have heard at a funeral a verse about Jesus’ resurrection like this verse from the Gospel of St John, “For it is My Father’s will that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life.”

So, if eternity was before us and eternity comes after us, what does this mortal life mean to us that is sandwiched in between eternity?

What I mean is that if we live out an average life span of seventy or eighty years, what kind of significance can it have in consideration in all of eternity?

What can one day of my life mean in the biggest picture that our God is painting on His eternal canvas?

The answer is that I don’t know. For sure, I’m far from the smartest guy in the world. But, does anyone know, including the great scholars and philosophers that have ever lived?

The French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist, Rene’ Descartes, said, “I think, therefore I am.”

Basically, he is saying that you don’t have to pinch yourself to see if you are real. All you have to do is think about pinching yourself to see that you are alive.

I like also what the poet, Sylvia Plath, said, in her novel, The Bell Jar, “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”

In my search for quotes on existence, I found 1,829 quotes on one site.

With all due respect to these writers and poets, if we are going to talk about our existence and the purpose and meaning of our existence, it seems that it’s best to go to the one who has created us, our God the Father.

In Titus, we read, ‘” hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began.”

Again, by faith, we can be convinced that God has had our lives all figured out before birth all the way to after death.

What does these thought of God about each one of us that comes from all of eternity mean to us today in our present circumstances?

Our First Reading for today from Acts answers that question, “So then, let your hearts be changed and be turned to God, so that your sins may be completely taken away, and times of blessing may come from the Lord.”

Here, we see that God has us covered in every way.

First, we see that God forgives all of our sins. Shame and guilt are gone from our hearts and minds that have been weighing us down. We are now freely able to move forward lighter than any feather.

Then, we see how God is blessing us with good things. When we are living in these blessings, life should go quite well for us.

To be sure, life is not ever perfect because we are still living in a troubled world, but we got God’s blessings to get us through it all.

In this verse, we do see that we do have to do something-we have to let go.

Take a look at your knuckles right now. Are they white with holding so tightly on to something like a problem that is causing you so much anxiety and worry?

So often, when we have a problem, we turn in to it, and when we go in to it, we become fixed on it, and it consumes us.

To be sure, in ourselves, we are special and unique, but we only have our minds and physical strength. We have to admit that we don’t know everything, and we do get tired.

And as for the world, we have centuries of accomplishments, but we are still living in a world of many tragedies that give us deep sorrow, and conflicts that never seem to find answers.

Often, in our situations that can cause give so many worries, we get stuck. We think of only where we are at the moment that stops us from seeing what is past the end of our noses.

If you have doubts, if you are feeling anxious, if you have fears, if you are lonely, if you are weary, and if you are wondering if things will ever be okay again, it’s time to let go and turn your heart to God.

As true as it is that we have minds and emotions, and we are to use them, we have to remember that we also have faith.

And it’s this faith that we are to live by.

When we live by faith, and when we do make that turn to God, we are seeing infinite things.

I have heard it put this way-let’s say we put all the knowledge of every human being who ever lived on one side of a scale, and we even put all the love and care of every human who has ever lived on that same side of that scale, that side of the scale would not even be able to budge all the knowledge, power, and love of God.

It may sound strange at first, but in any situation in life, especially those that are causing anxiety and worry, think and feel with things that are eternal.

I say strange at first because how can mere humans think and feel about eternal things, but by faith, we can.

Go beyond your birth, when God was thinking of you in His eternal realm, and go beyond your death, where God has a plan of eternal life for you in heaven.

And keep asking this question-what does my God, who knows all, has an abundant love for me, is everywhere, is all powerful, and who has and is always thinking of me, have for me this moment in my life?

The answer is-every possible blessing for me, His beloved child, who comes from and is going to eternity.

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