Death

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#Lent#27

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

I have said in the past, “I was saved by grace; I am being saved by grace; and in the end I will be saved by grace.” Paul put it this way: “This grace by which I stand.” (Rom.5:2)

You see, the whole idea of salvation relates to the past, the present, and the future. Using what I said earlier, I could say, “I have been saved; I am being saved; I will be saved.”

Take the death of Jesus. His death saved; His death saves; His death will save. He paid for all sins of the past. He paid for all sins today so I can know I am saved and secure in His grace. He paid for me to know my future home is waiting, kept in heaven for me. 

I’m rejoicing this Easter season that even though there is a quarantine (2020) that will keep us from meeting publicly as a body, nothing can damper the promise of forgiveness of sin-past, present, and future. His shed blood is a stamp guaranteeing eternity for me. And it can be for you as well.

#Lent#24

Friday, March 27th, 2020

In yesterday’s devotion, I focused on Jesus conquering death, hell and the grave. Let’s focus a bit more on the latter one today. I absolutely loved John Piper’s statement:

The keys of death were hung on the inside of Christ’s tomb. (p.100)

WOW! I love the picture that gives. As I walk into my house, on the wall to my left is a hook. It is where I put my keys as soon as I walk in the door.  That way I know where they are when/if I need them. When I leave in the morning the last thing I get before I walk out the door is my keys. If I need to run to my truck to get something I know where my keys are. My imagination can do a great picture of this. Just before or as the stone was rolled away, I can picture Jesus reaching over the grabbing the key called “Resurrection” and take it off the hook and walk out.

I simply cannot say it better than Piper did.

The resurrection of Jesus is God’s gift and proof that His death was completely successful in blotting out the sins of His people and removing the wrath of God. (p.100)

It was like God’s stamp on the whole deal. It’s like getting loan papers in the mail with a big stamp of PAID on it. PAID. IN. FULL. The Law was satisfied. The debt was paid.  Eternal life promised.

Oh yeah! He rose!  Signed. Sealed. Delivered. Love that key!!

#Lent#12

Thursday, March 12th, 2020

In yesterday’s post (#Lent#11)  I gave some thoughts about what survivors need after a loved one has died.  I encourage you to read that before reading this post (if you haven’t already done so).  In this post, I’d like to carry on with how to treat a survivor with some thoughts on Things Not to Say and Things to Say.

THINGS NOT TO SAY:

  1. “He/she is in a better place now.”  The question which begs to be asked is, “How do you know for sure?” Unless the victim was a follower of Christ,  you are better off not giving false hope.
  2. “I know how you feel.” No, no you don’t. You know how you feel, not how they feel.
  3. “All things work together for good” or “Everything happens for a reason.” Honestly, not only do I want to gag when someone says this (even though it may be half true), but it sounds more like an empty platitude.
  4. “God never gives you more than you can handle.” Not biblical.
  5. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  Catchy Kelly Clarkson song, but this comes from Nietzche, who was an atheistic philosopher. He publicized the “God is Dead” movement.
  6. “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.” This may sound good coming from your lips but it is virtually a worthless use of words. Why not offer something tangible like “I’m going to bring you a meal” or “Let’s go out for a run or coffee.”
  7. Any joking about people killing themselves is out of bounds. “Oh, if I fail this test, I’m going to kill myself.” (Roll eyes)

THINGS TO SAY:

  • Nothing. (But be present).  Being there and letting them talk or cry or just holding them or just sitting with them is much better than endlessly spoken, weary words. 
  • “I’m so sorry.”  (And mean it when you say it. Yeah you would be surprised).
  • “I don’t know what to do or say. ”  (See the first one of this section).
  • “Do you want to go out for coffee?”  (See #6 above).
  • “Tell me what you remember about him/her.”  (I do this for the funeral experience. It helps them remember the good times).
  • “Tell me your story.”  If they have been married a long time this helps heal.

Some added thoughts: 

  1. Be careful of using “committed suicide.” This implies criminality.
  2. Be careful of saying “completed suicide.” This sounds like a laudatory accomplishment, like completing a project or a grade.
  3. It is much better  to say, “Took his/her own life” or “He or she died.”

I know it is hard to know what to say. It is made worse by “tongue-tied disease.”  People want to give comfort but don’t know how.  Granted, much of what I have written is concerning suicide, but in many cases the advice can apply to any death and survivor.

Some of what I have shared comes from a book by Albert Y. Hsu entitled Grieving a Suicide. I simply cannot recommend this book enough.  The thoughts are a mash up of his and mine (mostly his). 🙂

#Lent#11

Wednesday, March 11th, 2020

I’m going to take a break from my regularly scheduled Lent posts for a commercial.  Actually, the break is real; the commercial is not.  Lent’s focus is to prepare us for Good Friday and, ultimately, Resurrection Sunday.  Its design is to bring our minds to the importance of the crucifixion.  I’ll be honest: I’m not doing the normal Lenten thing of giving up something. I don’t observe Lent, as such, but I do want to portion a time of my morning Quiet Time to focus on what it is all about.  Hence, the Lent posts over the past 10 days or so.  I am calling this #11 even though it is not a typical Lent post. But I have something on my mind that won’t let go.

DEATH

The natural focus is the death of Jesus which will be observed in a few weeks. Sermons will be preached on “stand out” passages like Isaiah 53, the 7 last sayings of Jesus, and others. But my mind and heart are elsewhere this morning. Last Monday, the 2nd, our community suffered the loss of one of its members by suicide.  I was asked to do the funeral (on the 9th) even though he or the family did not come to OVCF.  I did not know the man; I know his wife; and I know his children from sports.  I refuse to judge the man or his destiny based on the act, but I was “charged” with saying something at the funeral.  I focused on his relationship with kids in sports and then spoke to the family about the faithfulness of God using Psalm 23. 

But the preceding Sunday (the 8th) I took some time out of our morning worship to speak to the church about how to respond; what to say; what not to say, if they should see the family or go to the visitation that afternoon.  I’m going to split what I said into two posts: this one and then one tomorrow.

I’m taking as my model Jesus’ concern for those He loved as He hung on the cross, particularly His mother and John. His love for His mother never stopped, nor did His love for John. He gave them each a charge: “Here is your son. Take care of my mother.” (paraphrased)

Part one of two posts is basically centered around what can friends of survivors do? Keep in mind this is for more than just suicide.  This can be applied to the survivor of any death.

  • Pray for them. Listen to them.  Send cards.  Provide company. Help with practical details, funeral arrangements, food, phone call, and so on.  Do what you can to help ease the immediate pain.
  • Survivors need presence, not platitudes. They don’t need pat answers to incomprehensible questions. They need the loving presence of friends to keep going. They need companions on the journey, not empty words and answers.  They don’t need their pain minimized; they want others to be willing to be with them in their pain and grief.

When Jesus was looking down at His mother and John, compassion and love rolled up within Him for both.  He wanted to make sure His mother was taken care of and He was giving His friend a high honor.

This post is long enough for today. Tomorrow I want to share with you what to say and what not to say. I hope you will join me. But more than that, I hope you can learn and use (unfortunately) what I am learning.

#Lent#7

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

Grace. That is the theme of two very important events: the birth of Jesus and the death of Jesus.

The birth of Jesus is a picture of grace. More specifically, His lineage. I’m sure you have heard the analysis of the women in His lineage. If not, here it is:

  • Tamar- played the prostitute with Judah to have a child.
  • Rahab- was a prostitute who saved the spies.  She became the mother of Boaz.
  • Ruth- a Gentile who married Boaz and became the great grandmother of David.
  • Bathsheba- an adulteress the mother of Solomon.
  • Mary- the mother of Jesus. A virgin, yes, but not sinless. One of us.

PURE GRACE.

The death of Jesus is also a picture of grace.  Maybe it would be more accurate to say it was grace in action.  Grace is defined as “unmerited favor.”  Who of us can say we deserved that kind of love?  None of us. But that kind of love is grace in action. The King dying on a cross He didn’t deserve, for someone like me, who didn’t deserve that display of love. As the old hymn says, “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene/And wonder how he could love me a sinner condemned unclean/ O how marvelous, O how wonderful and my song shall ever be/ O how marvelous, O how wonderful is my Savior’s love for me.”

GRACE. PURE GRACE.

#Lent#3

Saturday, February 29th, 2020

The way the story of the Bible, the way the truth weaves its way through the whole Biblical narrative has never ceased to impress me.  It starts in Genesis 3 with the Fall and God’s judgment on the serpent-the animal and the force behind it.

  • “On your belly you will go and eat dirt”
  • “And I will put enmity between you and woman and between your seed and her seed.”
  • “You will bruise His heel; He will bruise your head.”

And then this!  “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” (I John 3:8)

Satan would only bruise Jesus’ heel (cause Him to suffer), but Jesus would bruise Satan’s head (destroy him). Unless you are Achilles, a blow to the heel won’t kill you.  A blow to the head can and, if it lands just right, will.

The cross was that place.  Jesus suffered (His heel was bruised) but Satan was defeated by suffering a fatal blow (head slammed).  Thank God for the cross and the resurrection!

#Hangover#GoodOne

Sunday, February 23rd, 2020

Every Sunday I go through it. I call it a hangover. I’ve never had the other kind.  Kind of hard to do that when you don’t take a drink to start with. 🙂

I had one yesterday. I went to the Y early (8:00) to work out and when I was done I had the hangover. It was the good kind. You know…the adrenaline is pumping and you feel like something good happened.  I even joked with someone who was just getting there about feeling good I was done. I had reached my limit physically for that workout and there was a settled feeling that came over me. Shower. Eat. Study. Nap. Oops where did that come in? 🙂

I’ve have one when my bike ride is finished. An a-a-a-a-a-h feeling.  A sense of accomplishment. An adrenaline rush from having spent myself. Shower. Eat. Work. Nap. Again, where did that come from?  🙂

I get one every Sunday. I expend myself emotionally. Physically. Mentally. Spiritually. Eat. (No shower needed). Study. Nap. Well, sometimes but not today.

I’m a bit melancholy right now. I’m not sad from any event. I’m not down from life. I expended a lot of spiritual energy this morning after preaching twice and I think I know what it is.

The subject matter. Heaven is fine to preach on. I’m not a fan of preaching on Hell. It isn’t because I pound the pulpit and scream and froth at the mouth. I don’t. But I’m melancholy because I have this sneaking suspicion there were some there today who needed to come to Christ but will keep putting it off.  It’s days like today that I wish I was like the Hulk when he grabbed Loki,  slammed him back and forth a few times, and then said, “Puny god.” Loki just whimpered. That was after Loki tried to tell the Hulk he was a god.

There are people I just want to grab and say, “What are you waiting for? Don’t you realize you are playing with your life, taking a risk that you really don’t want to gamble on?”

When I feel like this I can only imagine what God must be feeling after waiting and waiting.  The Bible says that God desires all men to repent and to come to a knowledge of the truth. His heart must break when time after time people reject Him.

I’m not concerned about my eternity. I know where I will be. I do get melancholy over others. May I never lose that fire for the lost. May I never lose that desire to see people come to Jesus. May I never lose that hunger to feel God’s pain.

I closed the sermon with this song. Hope you enjoy it.

#WorthItAll#Waiting

Friday, February 21st, 2020

In 1970 a young woman, a teenager, named Joni dove into shallow water and came out a quadriplegic. This past October 15th she celebrated her 70th birthday. She is also a two-time breast cancer survivor.  I once read a book she wrote where she was asked and answered a question: “Would you do anything to change your life if you had to do it all over again?”  Her answer astounded me. “No,” she said, “I wouldn’t change a thing.” 

I have to admit I am amazed by her attitude because, frankly, I’m not sure I could or would say the same thing.  Getting hit by a hit-n-run driver in November of ’17 and then doing an endo coming down a hill in February of ’18 convinced me of the sanctity of life and how much I valued my ability to get around.

But one thing I do know is this: if either of those accidents had ended my life, I KNOW EXACTLY WHERE I WOULD BE SPENDING ETERNITY. There are only two places possible: Heaven or Hell. One good; one bad. No in between place. And despite popular opinion of some very liberal “churches” not all people will be in heaven. The Bible says, “It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment.” I know what Universalism teaches-that all will be saved. But that is a lie from the pit of Hell and smells like smoke.  (Rob Bell take note).

I conclude this version of a “Truth” series this week before I start a new one on the book of Colossians next week. I could think of no better way to do that than to talk about our eternal destiny.  I look at this sermon two ways: One, like D.L.Moody once said, “No preacher should ever preach about hell without tears in his eyes.” And two, talking about the joy of heaven.

I’d appreciate your prayers this Sunday. The last thing I want is to come off as though I’m glad people are lost and going to Hell.  On the contrary, I want to show how Heaven is such a great place why would you not want to go there? Thanks for praying.

#ChristmasChallenge#Post4

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

Christmas vs Easter.

Celebratory vs Solemn.

That’s often the way we look at Christmas and Easter. Christmas Eve vs Good Friday. The tree vs the Cross. Not until Easter morning-Resurrection Sunday-does the 40 days leading up to it become a celebration.

In my mind it is not a case of either/or.  It is a case of both/and. In God’s grand scheme Christmas is not more celebratory than Easter. Sure Christmas is a time of celebration-nowadays dating back to the day after Thanksgiving (and now creeping closer to Halloween). And Easter tends to be more of a one day of celebration.

But if you really think about it, without Christmas Easter makes no sense. And without Easter Christmas is only an introduction but has no conclusion. Taken separately Christmas speaks of a birth; Easter speaks of a death & resurrection. Seen together we see Someone born; we see Someone die; we see Someone born to die.

We often hear during this time of the year the slogan “Wise men still seek Him.” True. But not just Christmas. Wise men worship the child who was born and the man who would die.

“Father, I thank you for the story of Christmas. I thank you for the story of Easter. And I thank you they make more sense and have more meaning when seen together.”

Don’t forget to check out Ed at http://inpulsearts.com

Don’t forget to check out Diane at http://adoredheart.blogspot.com

#Dead#Zombies

Friday, October 11th, 2019

First, let me put you at ease. This is not a post about zombies. Not only do I think it is silly, but I have never watched even a moment of the TV show when it was on, nor will I while it is in reruns. As for New Death Experiences (NDEs) I have my own opinion which shall remain mine at this point. I have never been a horror movie fan so to talk about the macabre and living among the dead has never “yanked my chain.” I have enough trouble with reality. I don’t need people confusing the issue with other junk.

I have been a pastor long enough; I have been alive long enough, to know when death is either imminent or soon to take place. There are certain characteristics which manifest themselves. I suspect if we took the time to compare we would see some of the characteristics of death could be seen in some churches as well. There are all kinds of churches in various stages of “aliveness.” Some are vibrant; some are lukewarm; some are barely hanging on; and some are dead (but may not even know it).

This week’s postcard is written to the church at Sardis, the church I am calling the Dead Church. Revelation 3:1-6 gives us that letter and Jesus minces no words of judgment on them.  It is never easy hearing that you or your church may be dead.  I don’t want to sound harsh or judgmental but only kind and loving as I present the possibility that it could happen to us if we aren’t open to Christ’s leading. Please pray for me this weekend.