We, humans, are fascinated by death and life beyond the grave. Before becoming a Christian, I frequently pondered these things and was riveted by discussions about reincarnation and communicating with the dead. One of the things that attracted me to the Christian faith was the assurance that this life is not all there is to life. So, let’s dive into some questions about heaven, resurrection, and immortality.

Do we go Straight to Heaven When we Die?

Christians differ on the answer to this question. Some believe as I do, that we go straight to heaven when we die. Others believe the Bible teaches Soul Sleep, that the righteous sleep until judgement day.

By heaven, I’m referring to the third heaven, which is God’s home and where Jesus is now. It is this third heaven that Paul said he visited either bodily or in a vision.

Jesus taught about the Kingdom of heaven, which is the impact of God’s nature on the earth. This is the emphasis of the New Testament and teachings of Jesus and is to be the focus of all followers of Jesus. In other words, our attention is on the here and now rather than the hereafter.

Searching the Scriptures

What does the Bible teach about going to heaven? Paul had much to say about this, particularly to the Corinthian church:

2 Cor 5:1, “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” Notice that he refers to the body as a tent. A tent is a temporary dwelling place rather than a permanent home. It’s a beautiful comparison.

2 Cor 5:6-8, “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” You can also read Philippians 1:23 and 2 Tim 4:18 to gain more of Paul’s insights.

Peter wrote about heaven as our imperishable inheritance (1 Peter 1:4). The author of Hebrews spoke of the Old Testament saints longing for a better, heavenly country (11:16) in which to dwell.

Jesus spoke of a time when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. It appears that upon death, the soul of the faithful person goes to be with the Lord in his presence.

Soul Sleep

Some Christians believe that a person’s soul sleeps from death to the resurrection. Martin Luther believed this, as does Nicky Gumbel of Alpha Course fame. Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4 are used in defence: “we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of humanity, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” (13-14).

I believe the sleep here is metaphorical, like Jesus spoke about Lazarus when he died, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

Proponents of soul sleep believe people’s souls are awoken for the resurrection at Christ’s return. But resurrection ALWAYS refers to the body, not the soul.

Consider Jesus’ interactions with the thief on the cross, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Supporters of soul sleep move a comma, “Truly I tell you today, you will be with me in paradise.” There is no punctuation in the original manuscripts, so it is a matter of opinion.

I believe our spirit/soul goes straight to heaven when we die, but I understand why some Christians believe the soul sleeps until judgement day. Whatever the case, one thing is sure, “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39).

When Does our Spirit Become Immortal?

Is the human spirit immortal, or is it made immortal when we’re born again or when we are resurrected? Once again, there are numerous views on this within the Christian church. In recent years I have come to lean more towards what is known as Christian mortalism, that the human soul is not inherently mortal and that one of the outcomes of Jesus’ death and resurrection is the gift of eternal life. In other words, people do not possess immortality. It is a gift from God.

Scripture says that [God] alone has immortality (1 Timothy 6:16; Cf. John 5:26). If he is the only immortal being that counts people out.

Consider God’s words in Genesis 3:22-23 after the man and woman had “become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and also take from the tree of life and eat and live forever.” So, the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden.” God acted kindly so that people would not live forever in poor conditions.

People do not live forever. The human soul is not immortal apart from an act of God by granting the gift of eternal life because “Our Saviour, Christ Jesus…has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:10; Cf. Romans 6:23; 2 Tim 1:10; 1 Peter 1:3-4; Romans 2:7; Matthew 10:28).

We are given the gift of eternal life when we are born again. I am still determining whether our spirit becomes immortal at that point or when we are resurrected.

Next week, I’ll examine what the Bible says about the resurrection body.

I have always believed and taught that people can only “get saved” during this lifetime. After all, “People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). But is it that simple? Well, not really.

Over the past few years, several questions have bugged me:

  • What happens to the souls of people who die before they can attempt to make it right with Jesus?
  • Do they have an opportunity to respond to Jesus Christ after they die but before the day of judgment?
  • What about people who die without ever hearing about Jesus?
  • What about those who had terrible experiences with Christians or the church and dismissed faith, God, and Jesus? Like the victims of child abuse, for example.
  • What about someone who would have got saved but died before they responded? For example, they died at age 18 but would come to Jesus if they’d lived to 22.
  • What about those who cannot understand and embrace the gospel through lack of maturity (kids) or mental capacity?
  • Does anyone have a second chance?
  • Can people respond to Jesus and be forgiven after they die?

The standard answer is NO. But, for those of us who are not satisfied with simple black and white answers, let’s dig deeper. Please note that I am discussing this because we need to talk about it. I’m not saying that there is categorically a second chance concerning salvation after death.

My Story

When I was 19, I was hitchhiking around Australia. I accepted a lift with a truckie in Northern NSW. A couple of hours into the trip, we were involved in a head-on collision with another truck. The two guys in the other truck died. I survived, as did the driver of the truck I was in. I was an atheist. Six weeks later, I accepted Jesus as my saviour. That was the start of my Christian Journey. You can watch the whole story here.

What if I had died in that accident. Many Christians would have suggested I’d have gone to hell. Forever! Was I just “lucky?” What about the guys who died? Unlucky?

The Alternative

As I dug deeper on this topic, I realised that my questions had a name ~ Post-mortem salvation. Believers in this doctrine credit Scripture as teaching that each person’s destiny is NOT fixed at death.

Consider section 847 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.”

Does God give second chances?

What does the Bible say?

Micah 7:18 says, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.”

Matthew 12:32, “Whoever says a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

Can certain sins be forgiven in the age to come? Jesus certainly infers that there are.

Paul’s Perception

Ephesians 2:7, “in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 2:10–11, “[In] the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

People in the ancient world believed the earth was a flat disc and the atmosphere was a dome. It certainly looks that way to the naked eye and, without the benefit of science, one could quickly come to that conclusion. The heavens were above, and the grave, the place of the departed, was “under the earth.” Paul teaches that IN the name of Jesus, every knee should bow ~ EVERY knee, on earth, above and below it. That is the reconciliation of ALL things (Col. 1:20).

Peter’s Perspective

1 Peter 3:18-20, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey.”

“Proclaimed” is almost always used as ‘preaching the good news.’ In the days between his death and resurrection, Jesus declared the gospel to ALL people. His descent into hell (as per the Apostles’ Creed) accounts for the problem of God’s justice by providing an opportunity for everyone to hear the message of redemption from Jesus Himself. In other words, people received a second chance.

In the following chapter, Peter states, “For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does” (1 Peter 4:6). About this verse, Martin Luther wrote, “This is a strange text and certainly a more obscure passage than any other passage in the New Testament. I still do not know for sure what the apostle meant.” The inference is that Jesus, while dead, offered salvation to all who had died before his time.

Since the Resurrection?

  1. What about people today that have NEVER heard the gospel? Do THEY get a chance to listen to and respond?

In 1522, Martin Luther wrote a letter to Hans von Reichenberg about the possibility that people could turn to God after death: “It would be a completely different question to ask whether God could grant faith to a few at the moment of their death or after death and thereby save them through faith. Who would doubt that he could do this? But no one can prove that he does do this.”

Some final questions

Is God’s forgiveness limited? When Peter asked Jesus how much he should forgive someone who offended him, he suggested seven times would be a good number. Jesus disagreed and advocated for seventy times seven, a hyperbolic way of teaching unlimited forgiveness. Does Jesus practice what he teaches? How about “love your enemies?” Does Jesus do that too? Does God’s love fail even though “God is love” and “love never fails” (1 John 4:8; 1 Cor. 13:8).

What Revelation reveals

In Revelation 22, we discover a city whose gates never close, and the wicked are outside the gates. The following verse is a marvellous invitation: “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the gift of the water of life.” The redeemed don’t need this invitation. They already “have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” Is not the invitation for the unredeemed, those outside the city gates, as a constant offer of forgiveness and life?

Theologian Bradley Jersak puts it this way, “It’s simply that he’ll always love you, with a love that even outlasts and overcomes death (Song of Solomon 8). The Bible at least hints (Rev. 21-22) that the prodigal Father will wait for you, invite you and keep the doors open for you until you’re ready to come home. He’ll wait for you forever.”


On Friday evening, Christie received a text letting us know that a Bayside Church member had just collapsed and was being rushed to the hospital. It was Craig weir, husband of Onida Weir (Bayside Church’s children’s ministry leader). By Sunday afternoon Craig had passed away. He was 47.

Over my 35 years in pastoral ministry, I have been with many people when they’ve died. I’ve conducted dozens of funerals, I’ve walked the journey of grief with lots of people. Death is always sad, although the death of a person ripe in years or someone who’s suffered pain from a terminal illness is often merciful. But the passing of one so young seems unfathomable.

I’m writing this blog as my tribute to Craig Lyndon Weir ((13/06/1973 – 14/02/2021). He and I used to joke about our yearly breakfast catch-up. “Hey, Rob,” he’d say in his South African accent. “It must be nearly time for our annual breaky.” Our last one was early March last year, just before the first lockdown. It crossed my mind a week or two ago that we were about due for another catch-up. Sadly, that is not to be.

Craig was a gentle man with a great sense of humour renowned for his dad jokes, much like my own! He loved his wife and kids, his family and friends. And it’s that which I’d like to focus on here. Even in death, he gave the gift of life to others.

In discussion with Christie, Onida and the kids decided on the weekend to donate Craig’s organs. Amid their grief, they decided that Craig would want to be as generous in death as he was in life.

Having said their goodbyes, they left Craig in the caring hands of skilled surgeons and DonateLife Victoria. Over the next couple of days, Craig’s body gave life to a man who would have died if it were not for Craig’s healthy heart being made available to him. I am told that this man and his family are rejoicing.

Two people received his corneas and the gift of improved eyesight and the resulting quality of life. One of his kidneys, as well as his liver, was also donated. His pancreas was given for diabetes research, as were his lungs, some bone marrow, and blood.

Bayside Church’s Vision includes the words, “To courageously love.” To me, the act of generosity displayed by Onida and her family powerfully typify courageous love. Onida shared with me yesterday how she had powerfully experienced the presence of God. And that in grief, she had discovered the truth of these words: “For I will turn their mourning into joy and will comfort them and give them joy for their sorrow” (Jeremiah 31:13).

I’ve been pondering how in life joy and sadness; happiness and grief are often so intertwined. At most funerals, there are things said in a eulogy that make people laugh and cry. A few days ago, a grieving family made decisions that brought great joy to others. And isn’t that a stunning picture of the Christian gospel? The life and death of the man Jesus has brought so much life and joy to millions over two millennia.

A decade ago, I made the decision to become an organ donor. It was around this time of year in the season of Lent. Lent is about giving up something, so others don’t have to. In the past, I’d gone without coffee for 40 days and donated that money to our Forever Home for boys in South Africa. Organ donation is the gift you decide in life so that your death reflects the generosity by which you’ve lived.

In this Lenten season, why not register to become an organ donor? It’s so simple Donate Life today.

Organ donation gives another chance at life to those people who would otherwise die. Jesus taught the Golden Rule, “in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12). If I – or Christie or our kids – was dying and an organ transplant could save a life, I would be so grateful if a donor was available. If I would want others to do that for me, why wouldn’t I reciprocate? Organ donation is one of the few acts for which people will remember you. We will certainly remember Craig Weir for this and a whole lot more!

A person I admire much is C.S. Lewis. I never got to meet him. He passed away when I was five, and I didn’t learn about him until I converted to Christianity in the late 70s. C.S. Lewis’ book, Mere Christianity, is one of the first Christian books I read. It’s still one of the books I recommend to people who want to learn more about their faith.

After reading Mere Christianity, I was hooked. Over the next few years, I ploughed through many of his other books: The Screwtape Letters, The Four Loves, The Great Divorce, The Problem of Pain, and, of course, the Chronicles of Narnia series.

Recently, I stumbled across a quote (from 1948) by C.S. Lewis addressing the fear that gripped the world in the wake of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan that effectively ended WW2. There is much of what he wrote that is still applicable over seven decades later as the world is gripped by another catastrophe:

In one way, we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anaesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world that already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that), but they need not dominate our minds. — “On Living in an Atomic Age.”


What a way Lewis had with words. There’s so much in this extract from one of his Journalistic Essays that we can meditate on today. Death is inevitable, and there are so many ways in which a person can die. But that thought should not stop us from making the very most of every moment in the meantime.

During 2020, I’ve watched people deal with the global pandemic in all sorts of ways. Some have gone down the rabbit hole of conspiracies (as if the world has never faced a pandemic before). Others have been gripped by fear or denied there even is a virus! But most of us have taken it in our stride, trusted our leaders, listened to wise advice, and made the most of life as it became. My introverted friends even told me they enjoyed the lockdown.

Jesus taught his followers to make the most of every season of life they found themselves in. In the Parable of Ten Minas (Luke 19:11-27), Jesus used a word that is found only once in the New Testament. He told them, “Occupy till I come” (13). The word pragmateuomai is an ancient mercantile term for trading. It means “to be fruitful, to be occupied in anything; to carry on a business.”

Pragmateuomai is where our English word “pragmatic” is derived. It means, be practical, sensible, & reasonable – excellent qualities for any person, especially followers of Jesus. Sadly, this year I’ve seen some of God’s people (even pastors and church leaders) spread lies and conspiracies that are anything but sensible and reasonable. Time will show their teachings, scaremongering, and (so-called) prophecies to be what they are – entirely false!

Let God’s people be known for their common-sense, their wisdom, and their fruitfulness. And let’s enjoy our lives and help others to do the same. Let’s remember the words of C.S. Lewis when the end comes, let it “find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs.” Or pandemics!

This week’s blog is by my dear friend, Graham Crossan. Graham, and his wife Gaynor, are much-loved members of Bayside Church. A decade ago, Graham was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and given 27 months to live. While he’s outlived all expectations, the malicious processes of MND are relentless. In his newest blog, Graham depicts this process, and its inevitable conclusion, with stunning symbolism. Most people don’t like talking about death, but we’ll all face it sooner or later. And, for the follower of Jesus, death is not the end but a beautiful new beginning. I hope you’re inspired by Graham’s latest offering…


Like A Leaf 

By Graham Crossan


I’ve arrived at a time when I feel like a leaf on a lawn. 

I’m in late autumn now, having long ago dropped off my perch in the high branches of that big tree.

No longer do I project the generous green of good health I once did. 

I’m a different picture now. A wrinkled russet red, with arteries and inner workings exposed for all to see.

What they think from what they see is not the way I see myself. 

I’m still performing a role. A new role, demanding a different approach. A new outlook.

Around me, surrounding me, is a botanical bounty of life in different stages.

Cycles rotating, some rising and others falling. And this leaf on the lawn is cycling too.

Nothing is as it was. Nothing will be as it is. 

It is, as the saying goes, what it is. It was also what it was, and will be what it, one day, will be. Nothing changes, yet everything does.

We all make of things what we will. Even fallen leaves.

Down here the view is dramatically different now. Reduced. Shrinking day by day. But it is still a view.

If I keep looking up to where I’ve been, my outlook seems desperately diminished and dreary. So, I allow myself only the occasional glance. Nothing is resolved by doing that, because it’s all already decided.

I have not enough time to indulge in misery. I want to move forward, not back. But I’m only a leaf on a lawn.

So, I wait. And when the wind blows, as it eventually will, the world around me will take on an element of drama.

It, and my life along with it, becomes more dynamic. Not longer, no, but infinitely more interesting. And that’s with me still trapped in a body almost devoid of strength and any way of moving of its own accord.

So, the ‘leaf’ that speaks is just a wind gust away from that other option of being a hope-less, help-less, lost leaf. A leaf that only sees what was before, and is now gone for good – or bad.

In my place out here, I’m well aware that the gardener will come some time to rake up all the fallen leaves and commit us to the compost heap. And that will be the end of life as a leaf, but not the end of everything.

As loam, what’s left of me will find its way back into the soil. Fuel for the next cycle. The next season.

And if the story I have read is true, that will be the best season.



On 29 November 2017, Victoria became the first Australian state to pass legislation allowing voluntary assisted dying. The law gives anyone suffering a terminal illness, with less than six months to live, the right to end their life. “From 19 June 2019, Victorians at the end of life who are suffering and who meet strict eligibility criteria will be able to request access to voluntary assisted dying. The law allows for an 18-month implementation period to give health services time to plan and prepare for voluntary assisted dying.” For more information, check out the Victorian State Government website.

I concede that this is a highly emotional and divisive topic and I acknowledge every person’s right to their opinion for their reasons.

Christie and I spoke a while ago with an MP who was part of the cross-party committee and ministerial advisory panel. This group visited countries and states that have already introduced similar legislation; they talked to numerous people who hold varying views for various reasons. The exhaustive report, which contains 66 recommendations, is considered to be among the most conservative legislation of its type in the world. [1] The committee said any request to die must come from a terminally ill, mentally competent patient over the age of 18 in the final weeks or months of their life, and must be approved by a primary doctor/ specialist and an independent secondary doctor.

The Bill (and hence this blog) has to do with voluntary assisted dying (VAD) rather than euthanasia or assisted suicide. VAD refers to people who are already dying and where the patient takes the medication prescribed. Euthanasia is usually where the doctor administers the medicine, whilst assisted suicide includes people who are not terminally ill, but who are being helped to commit suicide. It’s vital that these definitions are understood.

I take my calling as a pastor very seriously, and my pastoral gift causes me to see and engage with people and not just issues. I am not a blogger who is removed from people and their pain; I am a pastor who happens to write a weekly blog as part of my ministry. I often receive criticism from those who think I should be black and white about specific issues, but what individuals deal with in daily life concerns me more than statistics, disputes, questions and cherry-picked Bible verses. And so, when it comes to VAD, I believe it’s important to consider the following pastoral concerns that affect precious people and their loved ones in the final weeks or months of life with a terminal illness:

  • While palliative care in Australia is amongst the best in the world, it is not available to everyone. A while ago I listened to a radio interview with an oncologist and she said the resources of finance, people and equipment for palliative care are insufficient and not always available within the timeframe they’re needed. In other words, just because palliative care is requested doesn’t mean the patient will receive it when they need it. Obviously more resources need to be made available, and this is a significant recommendation of the VAD report.
  • Not every condition responds to palliative care, and so some terminally ill people opt for suicide to spare themselves and their families the pain (or non-pain symptoms) that will surround their death. The Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that three Australians over the age of 75 take their lives each week, usually because of terminal illness.[2]  Of course, there are also people younger than 75 who suicide because of a terminal condition.
  • Voluntary assisted dying can be a viewed by the terminally ill as a safety net in case it’s needed. In 2014 Christie and I had the privilege of interviewing Peter Short on The Exchange TV program.[3]  Peter was terminally ill with oesophageal cancer and used his final months to advocate for VAD. A couple of years ago, we attended the launch of the documentary Fade to Black that details Peter’s last months.[4]  Peter was given a dose of Nembutal in case his symptoms became too much to bear but, in the end, he found palliative care sufficient and he passed away peacefully during December 2014. I’ve heard many people talk about VAD as a safety net that gives them peace just knowing they have a way to end intolerable suffering should it occur. Very few end up taking it. As Andrew Denton says, “it’s not about someone choosing to end their life because they want to end their life, it’s about someone who is already dying choosing to end their suffering.”
  • It’s crucial that we become better at having deep and meaningful conversations about death and dying, something I find many people are uncomfortable with, but appreciate when they happen. Some months ago, I interviewed Graham Crossan[5], a member of Bayside Church, who has Motor Neurone Disease. We chatted about lots of things including living with a terminal illness, death and dying. Many people in our church told me how grateful they were for the honest discussion.

Whatever your opinion is of voluntary assisted dying, it’s important to think carefully about it as it affects real people at what for many will be the most challenging time for them, their friends and family.




[3] http://www.theexchangetv.com.au/right-die/

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Pv0zqWowto

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxasDElBbMs



Last week, I listened to an interesting discussion on euthanasia on a Melbourne radio station. The host interviewed a Christian minister who, of course, was anti-euthanasia. And so I decided to make this subject a discussion point on social media. Here’s what I wrote:

“Once again the Church speaks out against. While I acknowledge that this is a complex and emotive issue, I’m wondering when the church will learn to engage on ethical issues in a way that expresses God’s love and care for people. Right now in Victoria one person a week, on average, takes their life rather than face an agonising death. The Church’s “against” stand on this and other ethical issues does not engage people with where they find themselves and what they face. Christians need to express God’s compassion for people rather than make black and white statements from a distance. Have you sat with someone as they’ve died in agony? Have you walked with a person with a terminal illness? Have you comforted family and friends who are devastated from helplessly watching their loved one suffer? We need to leave our ivory towers and do life with people who God loves and for whom Jesus gave His life. That sort of Christianity attracts people. The other sort repels.”

As always I invited discussion and what followed was a generally respectful dialogue. But one person wrote, “I am suprised [sic] to hear this from u Rob, I have had many of my family and friends that I had to sit by and watch [sic] them suffer, and thankful for any comfort they could get, but i also know the God numbered our days and its not up to us to end them when we feel like it!” I responded, “It’s a discussion. Nothing to be surprised about. These things need to be talked about in a respectful and compassionate way.”

Christian people should not shy away from the tough debates and neither should we automatically be “against” everything – although that sadly seems to be the expectation from many in the church these days. I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t hold strong views but we need to learn to engage with others and listen to why their opinion differs from ours. Along the way maybe we’ll learn something rather than being self-righteously opinionated.

The euthanasia debate has surfaced again recently because of a 350 page report handed down to the Victorian State Parliament. The report recommends that euthanasia only be made legal for terminally ill patients over the age of 18, enduring pain and suffering in the last weeks or months of their natural life.  A number of other safeguards would also be put in place if legislation were eventually passed. This process is likely to take about two years and there’s no guarantee that current laws will be changed.

Last year Christie and I filmed an episode of our TV program The Exchange on the euthanasia debate called The Right to Die.  Originally we were to have two guests both of whom had terminal illnesses: Peter Short and Nicholas Tonti-Filippini. Unfortunately Nicholas had to withdraw from the program at the last minute, as he was too ill. He passed away a few days later. In his place Margaret Tighe, the president of the Right to Life Australia, agreed to take part in the discussion.

Nicholas Tonti-Filippini had battled a chronic autoimmune disease from the age of 20. He lived until the age of 56. Professor Tonti-Filippini was staunch in his opposition to voluntary euthanasia. He said, “Euthanasia would be a disaster for people like me. I’m dependent on dialysis … I’m well advanced with a terminal condition. If euthanasia was allowed it would put pressure on people in my situation to take that option. So anybody who was terminally ill – anybody who was suffering – they would be under a kind of pressure because the doctors would have to tell them that this was an option, so it would undermine the whole relationship between them and their doctor.  At the moment, the doctors and nurses I see encourage me to keep going with the dialysis.  But if they happen to turn around and say that at this stage of your life you could opt for euthanasia, it would completely undermine the relationship.” (The Age)

Peter Short was an amazing man and we enjoyed good conversation both on and off set. Peter had successfully battled oesophageal cancer in his early 50s but, on 28 January 2014, his 57th birthday, he was told it had returned – terminally. Peter campaigned for euthanasia but in the end he opted for palliative care. He died on 29 December, 2014.


There are many “fors” and “againsts” in the euthanasia debate and I encourage you to read widely on the subject if you’re interested in knowing more. I guess a great question for all of us to ask is whether ethics are issues or people? If ethics are just issues then we are free to make black and white statements such as, “I’m against euthanasia.” But if ethics go way beyond issues and actually affect people – which they do – then we need to engage with the people who are affected, get to know them and listen to their stories. When we do this we will find that there are many shades of grey and, more importantly, our hearts will be filled with empathy, compassion and love for those who are suffering – and that sounds very much like Jesus to me.

I’m sitting in my sister’s lounge room in Perth having received word yesterday (Tuesday 3rd June) that my mum is in her final days of life.  For the last several years she has been steadily going downhill because of vascular dementia.  We went to see mum this morning.  It was good to have a chat with her – although it was brief and she’s really not sure who I am.  I played an old song to her on my iPhone and she enjoyed singing along to it but then she drifted off to sleep again.  I’m not sure how long she has left but I pray she doesn’t linger long like this.

Seeing my dear mum like this reminded me of an article I read a while ago by Bronnie Ware who worked for many years in palliative care. Her patients were those who had gone home to die and Bronnie had some incredibly special times as she was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.

Bronnie observes, “People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.”

In their final weeks Bronnie questioned her patients about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five as reported by Bronnie Ware in her blog “Regrets of the Dying” http://bronnieware.com/regrets-of-the-dying/

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

  1. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

This came from every male patient that Bronnie nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men she nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

  1. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

  1. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to themselves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.  When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

Based on her blog, Bronnie has now released a full-length book titled The Top Five Regrets of the Dying – A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing. It is a memoir of her own life and how it was transformed through the regrets of the dying people she cared for. You may like to read the book or at least spend some time thinking about the top five regrets of the dying and then make a choice to live the rest of your life so that these things don’t become regrets for you when your life is nearly over.

I love the perspective that children have on things.  Check out these comments from some kids when they were asked what happened on Good Friday?  And why did Jesus have to die?

“Jesus had to die because the Prime Minister didn’t like him. He didn’t like him because everybody liked Jesus and nobody liked the Prime Minister. At Easter, we have eggs because chickens are born at Easter time” (Bella, 7).

“We have chocolate eggs to celebrate Easter because the tomb was empty and most eggs are hollow, except when they have chocolate buttons in them” (Piers, 8).

“Jesus died because of God’s love and at Easter time we have eggs because they are a sign of new life. They’re made of chocolate because chocolate is really nice and Jesus was a really kind person” (Molly, 8).

What did happen on Good Friday?  And why did Jesus have to die? If Jesus died on this day then why is it called GOOD?

It’s important to know that it was, in fact, religion that killed Jesus.  The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were jealous of the support and following that Jesus had and so they plotted a way to get rid of him – and they succeeded (for three days!)  Not much has changed; religion is still trying to kill Jesus today.  In fact, some religious institutions kill Jesus every week – some kill him every year.

This is highlighted in a response to a blog I wrote over a year ago.  Speaking of Good Friday the person wrote:“This is the day of the year that I wish would end quickly for it is a day of mourning and grief. Every minute of this day I am constantly thinking about His suffering. We call this day good only because of ourselves. We are to die with Him on this day … on this day of remembrance, mourning, and grief, are we not going to remember, mourn, and grieve? Sadly, for most people they will not remember, they will not mourn, and they will not grieve … on this day of sadness, I hope the Lord keeps me a little more subdued and a little more humble. For Christ died on this day of darkness and I am grieving a bit now…”

But what does the Bible say about Jesus sacrifice?
Hebrews 7:27, “Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.”

Hebrews 9:26, “Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.”

Hebrews 9:28, “so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

Hebrews 10:10, “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

Get the message?

Jesus doesn’t need to die again every week or every year.  His death on the cross two thousand years ago was enough.  On the cross, Jesus took the punishment that belonged to us.  We are the ones who have broken God’s Law.  We deserved to be punished.  But in his love and mercy, Jesus bore our punishment for us. The sacrifice he made was enough and to prove that is was, three days later God raised Jesus from the dead – and he didn’t die again.  That’s why Good Friday is GOOD!

My prayer for you this Easter is that you will come to know, appreciate and experience the power and value of the sacrifice Jesus has made for you on the cross.

Some years ago, a 14-foot bronze crucifix was stolen from Calvary Cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas. It had stood at the entrance to that cemetery for more than 50 years. The cross was put there in 1930 by a Catholic bishop and had been valued at the time at $10,000. The thieves apparently cut it off at its base and hauled it off in a pick-up. Police speculate that they cut it into small pieces and sold it for scrap for about $450.  They obviously didn’t realize the value of that cross.  May we not be so blind!