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Faithful Feelings: Doing Emotions God’s Way – The Challenge of Disappointment


9780825425424How do Christians deal with disappointment created by other Christians? We live in a society filled with cynicism, ready to criticize anything or anyone. Our society tells us to think the worst and expect it to happen in every situation. A common response: “That is what I expected!” In our democracy, we do not fear finding fault with anyone.

A man or woman assembles with the congregation “every time the door is open.” However, he or she lives a double life–one being quite evil, and one being quite good. The details of the double life become common knowledge. A consequence: we interpret all difficult circumstances in all troubled members’ lives as evidence of double lives.

A Bible teacher yields to temptation. A consequence: we decide all Bible teachers are especially prone to temptation.

A deacon has an affair. A consequence: we think all deacons are looking for opportunities for affairs.

A treasurer financially defrauds a congregation. A consequence: we think a quality of all treasurers is a love for money that is greater than a love for people.

An elder abuses his position for personal benefit. A consequence: we assume all elders are elders for “the wrong reason.”

Thus, many Christians ask, “What is wrong with us? We seem to be like an army who aims its guns on itself. When we have no pressing enemy, we shoot ourselves. We seem well trained to destroy, but have far too little motive to encourage.

Is Christianity by nature destructive? Is it a part of Christianity’s character to find its joy in destroying instead of encouraging?”

There are many reasons for congregations to be internally destructive, not merely one. One of those reasons that cries out for understanding is this: humans are spiritually weak.

Trusting humans commonly will lead to disappointment. Our faith always must be in Jesus Christ (the Savior), not in congregations (the saved).

The New Testament constantly urges people to place their faith in Jesus Christ.

When Peter spoke to the council after his and John’s arrest, he said in Acts 4:8-12 (NIV)
8  Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9  If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10  then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11  He is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone’. 12  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

Only Jesus is:

  • The promised fulfillment of God’s determination to bring salvation to the world.
  • The only one through whom salvation is available.
  • The Son of God.
  • The only one in whom there is no condemnation.
  • The only sacrifice from God for the sins of all.
  • The only one in whom there is no favoritism.
  • The only one who can protect us through the living hope.
  • The only one who can grant us entrance into the eternal kingdom.
  • The real one sent from God to be Savior.
  • The only one who can give us the mercy we must have.
  • The only one who can take us to God.

Humans in Christ never stop being humans in this life.

As humans:

  • We always are able to be tempted.
  • We always have choices we must make.
  • We always are limited in our knowledge.
  • We always are capable of being emotional reactors instead of purposeful decision makers.
  • Humans make mistakes, and being in Christ does not eliminate our ability to make mistakes.

Never give a Christian what belongs to Jesus Christ alone.

  • Never give a human the kind of loyalty that belongs only to Jesus.
  • Never give a human the kind of devotion that belongs only to Jesus.
  • Never give a human the kind of appreciation that belongs only to Jesus.

What Isaiah Saw  — Isaiah 6:1-13

Isaiah did not begin his book with an account of his call to ministry. This he gives in chapter 6, where we’ll look today. Instead, he started with a probing examination of Judah’s present situation and gave a passionate plea for God’s people to return to the Lord.

Crisis and change often bring people to times of disappointment, self-examination and reflection and, hopefully, prayer. It was just such a time for young Isaiah when he went to the temple to pray.

King Uzziah’s reign had begun with such promise; for some 52 years he had been guided by God’s will…but unfortunately, pride overtook Uzziah and he presumed to do, in the temple, what was forbidden. He was struck with leprosy and he died, not in the palace, but the leper ward.

Isaiah was in turmoil: what is going to happen to Judah?

Any crisis, even a small one, can be an opportunity for a fresh vision of God. If we consider what Isaiah saw, it might help our spiritual eyesight. Like Isaiah, we can find new inspiration and renewed commitment.

Isaiah saw his Lord (upward look verses 1-4): It was a time of reverence.

He needed to see God. He had placed so much confidence in a visible king that he had previously felt little need to reach out to the invisible king. He saw God in all His majesty; God was “high and exalted.” He saw God in His power: “The train of his robe filled the temple.”

And notice the angels saw “the while earth is full of his glory.” They knew what Isaiah did not feel.

He was made to realize again that God is on His throne. He saw his circumstances from God’s perspective, not his own.

He also saw God in His holiness. The seraphs, covered in humility, sing “Holy, holy, holy.” The seraphs’ song underscores the fact that we have a holy God. In our desire to stress the love of God, we should never rob Him of His awesomeness.

Isaiah saw his sin (inward look verses 5-6): It was a time of repentance.

It should be a natural occurrence that when we see God, we truly see ourselves. This is a natural reaction after coming to terms with the holiness of God. When we capture a vision of God, we must be willing to see ourselves as we really are, even if it grieves us.

It is a refreshing thing to see that Isaiah mentioned his own sin before he mentioned the sin of the people. Isaiah saw his own sin and said, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.”

Isaiah saw his cleansing (verse 7) It was a time of restoration.

-God did not deny Isaiah’s sinfulness, but he did provide an escape. A seraph took a coal from the altar, where the sacrifice for sin was made, and seared Isaiah’s lips, sterilizing them.  There was no reason for Isaiah to continue to feel unworthy. He had been made pure.

Satan specializes is the game of guilt. He works on our individual desires to move us toward sin…and then points his finger at us and reminds of what we’ve done.

What is offered to us? (Acts 2:38 NIV)  “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

(Heb 10:19-22 NIV)  “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, {20} by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, {21} and since we have a great priest over the house of God, {22} let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

Rabbis called this the “13 Attributes” because it spoke so fully of the character of God: (Exodus 34:6-7 NIV)  “And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, {7} maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.””

Sins of fathers and sons? (Deut. 24:16 NIV)  “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.”

(Ezek 18:20 NIV)  “The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.”

One more important point: one of the great tragedies we can present is to speak of God’s throne without the awareness of the altar. God is interested in our life and He has provided what we need.

Isaiah saw the need….his mission (verses 8:13): It was a time of recognition. Verses 9-10 are references 6 times in the New Testament. It reminds us that some will not “hear” or “see” and “believe” no matter what is said or done. Some are very persistent in their unwillingness to believe and eventually live in obedience to God.

I have to be true to my training to have us at least read from John 12:38-41: “This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” {39} For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: {40} “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn–and I would heal them.” {41} Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.”

When God says, “Go!” we go. There is no debating. We don’t say, “There he is, send him.” We don’t worry about how the people will respond. Isaiah was warned ahead of time that the people would not respond as they should.

It doesn’t matter what the people do, we must be faithful. God sent the people a message not because they wanted it, but because they needed it.

The message Isaiah would bring his people was the message he had received. There is forgiveness and purpose with God, if you will just turn our life over to His care and authority.

There is change and chaos in the world, but I say to you, “God is still on the throne.” If you doubt it, just look around. He might be closer than you think. Maybe you can say, “I saw the Lord, high and exalted, and that has made all the difference.”

Can this make a difference?

The story has been told of two men who were the sole survivors of a shipwreck. They were afloat on a life raft and after several days had given up any hope of rescue. Finally, one said to the other, “Do you think it would do any good to pray?” The other agreed that nothing could be lost by trying. Neither, however, had ever prayed. Finally, one recalled living next door to a church as a child. He had often heard their mid‑week meetings through an open window. Bowing his head he began to pray, repeating his recollection of the words he had heard uttered in that church so many years ago. His fervent prayer began, “I‑26, B‑15, N‑7. …”

We may smile at this but before we begin to feel too smug there are some who know little when it comes to worship.

I found a statement that seeks to apply the principles we’ve seen today….In the book by Reggie McNeal’s A work of Heart: “God’s Sabbath did not mean a cessation of activity, but a different activity…it is not a day off to pursue whatever fancy is attainable and affordable. Rather, it is a day to restore eternity to our souls….a day of communion and reflection. God established Sabbath to accomplish a re-creation of eternity, a reminder of what is really real….and involves the worship of God and reflection on the work of our hands (what is going on in our lives).

 

Faithful Feelings: Doing Emotions God’s Way – Dealing With Emotions


how_do_you_feel_chart-final“So what is your gut reaction? Tell me how you really feel.”

“They are a perfect match—they’re madly in love, and she has nothing but good feelings about him.”

“Let’s go for it! My sense is that we’re doing the right thing.”

These familiar sound bytes indicate that our modern world is deeply sensitive to human emotions. In fact, more often than not, our feelings are our compass, guiding our decision-making process. We call it “following our hearts instead of our heads.”

Of course, we know that emotions are a God-given part of our lives, allowing us to vividly experience the world. But as Christians, we have to ask ourselves if emotional satisfaction should be our primary goal in life.

The answer is clearly no.

The evidence around us suggests that modern emotions are creating subjective standards that aren’t the least bit trustworthy. Broken marriages, abused children, and teenage suicides proclaim out-of-control emotions.

Wants that are falsely identified as needs keep family credit cards maxed out and finances in shambles. And “if it feels good, do it” was a deadly motto for thousands of people now suf­fering from sexually transmitted diseases.

God’s Word provides an objective set of stan­dards for daily living. Naturally, these standards don’t always “feel good” when we first confront them. For example, when God calls upon us to treat others the way we’d like to be treated ourselves, personal sacrifice is nec­essary.

When He requires us to obey His commandments, doing so may conflict with our deepest cravings. Most dis­turbing of all, He firmly challenges us to set all else aside when we submit ourselves to His sovereign will.

Why is dealing with our emotions—facing our feelings—so important?

While positive emotions add luster to life, negative emotions can be very damaging.

If we ignore them, become obsessed with them, or refuse to confront them, they will stunt our spiritual growth. The truth is, we cannot be spiritually mature unless we are emotionally mature.

  1. 1. God made us with emotions and has given us many instructions about them.
  2. 2. We have often neglected emotion in Bible study, thinking, discussion, and practice.
  3. 3. Many of us fall short of pleasing God because we have not properly addressed our emotions. We do not respond fully to God because we are deficient in positive emotions, and we also wreak havoc on ourselves and others because we are unduly influenced by negative emotions.

Nurturing Our Spiritual and Emotional Growth

When God created us in His image, that image included our emotions. God gives us all things to enjoy, and healthy emotions bring color and zest to our lives.

1 Timothy 6:17 (ESV) As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.  

We’re also told in Scripture to enjoy our work, our mates, our children, our good health, our material blessings, and our God. Without emotions, that would be impossible.

We enjoy God. We enjoy our families and our friends. We enjoy the opportunities God gives us to use our abilities to serve others. Life has purpose and fulfillment. Our spiri­tual life matures and deepens as we appreciate God’s blessings.

When everything is working out—when we move into a new home, when our children finish college and find a good job, when they marry the right woman or man, when we have a good report from the doctor, when we actually have money left over at the end of the month—these occur­rences make us happy. Our emotions respond and react to our physical circumstances.

Our emotions also react to our spiritual circumstances. When a person, overwhelmed with guilt, finds forgiveness by trusting in Jesus Christ, he or she feels cleansed and free.

We often see this happen in women who have carried the guilt and pain of abortion for years; they have found emotional and spiritual healing through Christ’s forgiveness, particularly within the context of a support group for abortion recovery.  (news of Emmanuel’s baptism and 10 baptisms in Kigali, Rwanda at Centre Marembo).

After immorality has destroyed their self-worth, women renounce their unhealthy lifestyles and find joy in obedience to the Lord.

But what if our emotions become a runaway train we can’t control? Perhaps you often feel overwhelmed by your emotions and you see yourself in the following descriptions:

  • Have you experienced rejection or been treated unfairly, or are you struggling with emotional devas­tation from the past—were you molested or neglected?
  • Are you in a marriage that has soured and you feel hopeless?
  • Do others say you seem to “have it all together,” but underneath the surface you are seething with anger and bitterness, unable to forgive things that were done to you?
  • Are you overwhelmed with guilt and regret for things you have done and you just can’t forgive yourself?
  • It is clear to me that people with self-love issues have a hard time with confidence issues.

When we face uncertain, painful, or tragic circumstances in life, we feel sorrow, confusion, anger, and pain. These emotions are also God-given; our Father uses these feelings to push us closer to Him.

Just as physical pain tells us some­thing is wrong with our bodies, so emotional pain may be God’s way of telling us all is not well with our spiritual rela­tionship with Him.[1]

When emotions become destructive, they can make us miserable, ruin our relationships with others, and stunt our spiritual growth. They build a solid wall between us and God, and between us and other people.

In our misery, we can’t help but feel that God is somehow to blame for the tragic events of our past or the unhappiness of our present, and it’s hard for us to trust a God who allows such tragedy to happen to His children.

So we keep our distance from Him. We do just enough to keep our membership in His “club,” but there’s no sense of con­nection, no real enjoyment of God’s presence, and not a lot of honest fellowship with other believers.

These untampered, destructive emotions—selfishness, guilt, fear, worry, inability to forgive, anger, envy, rejection, greed, pride, feelings of inferiority, disappointment, discontentment, grief, and lone­liness—can hinder our spiritual growth and keep us from having a close, trusting relationship with our Creator.

Maybe you’re thinking no one could ever understand the misery your emotions have led you to feel right now. Maybe you secretly think your situation is past healing. If so, please remember what the prophet Jeremiah prayed as he watched his world crumble before his eyes: “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you” (Jer. 32:17 emphasis mine).

God’s clearly stated purpose for all of His children is that we grow into spiritual maturity. He can take us around, over, or through any obstacle that has retarded our spiritual growth.

Nothing from our past or in our present is too hard for Him to handle. God created our emotions, and He is able to stop their destructive effect on our lives. He can make our emotions work for us, giving us peace and joy as we learn to respond to our relationship with our Lord rather than react to our circumstances.

The task may seem great, but with God’s help it’s really not all that hard.

Myth#1: Christian love is not a feeling but a duty and action.

Truth: Christian love is a feeling that leads to right actions.

Our heavy emphasis on the actions of love has demoted love. Do we really believe God loves us dutifully but not from his heart?

Deuteronomy 7:7 (ESV) It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,

Jeremiah 31:3 (ESV) …the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

Philippians 1:8 (ESV) For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 2:1-2 (ESV) So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2  complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

Then why would he want us to love that way? Because genuine Christian love will lead to obedience and service.

1 John 3:18 (ESV)  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

1 John 5:3 (ESV) For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

2 John 1:6 (ESV) And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.

Apparently, some people in their day were not expressing love in actions and so needed to hear that emphasis.

Still, God wants us to have his love in our hearts.

John 5:42 (ESV) But I know that you do not have the love of God within you.

Many Scriptures show that there is a difference between love (the emotion) and the actions it leads to

1 Corinthians 13:3 (ESV) If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 16:14 (ESV) Let all that you do be done in love.

Ephesians 4:2 (ESV) … with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love…

1 Thessalonians 2:8 (ESV) So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

Hebrews 10:24 (ESV) And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…

1 John 5:2 (ESV) By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.

This genuine emotion of love will lead us to the right actions

John 14:15 (ESV) 15  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

The greatest commandment is to love God with everything

Mark 12:28-34 (ESV) 28  And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29  Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32  And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33  And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34  And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.

We have rightly emphasized soul, mind, and strength, but we must not neglect the heart.

In the Bible, the heart includes our thoughts, desires, will, and emotions. God wants us to feel love for him.

If you have strong feelings of love for someone, you are much more likely to treat them well. Our commitment to them should lead us to do right by them regardless of what we are feeling at the moment, but a healthy emotion of love is a very powerful motivation for treating them right.

So with God. Heartfelt love for God will lead us not only to obey him but also to extol (praise enthusiastically) him, celebrate with all our might before him, kiss his feet and wash them with our tears, and seek him earnestly

Psalm 34:1-3 (ESV) I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2  My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. 3  Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!

Psalm 63:1 (ESV) O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
How different would your relationship with God be if you had a deep, heartfelt, emotional love for him? What difference would heartfelt, passionate love for God make to our vision of Loving Like Jesus? … to our purpose of being Joined Together in Love?

Myth#2: Follow your heart.

Truth: Our hearts can easily lead us astray Jeremiah 17:9-10 (ESV) The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? 10  “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

If our hearts are pure, they have a valid place in making decisions. Healthy emotion can keep us from making cold, unfeeling, Pharisaical decisions. But the notion of following one’s heart, while paraded as integrity, often means following one’s sinful desires.

If you “have feelings” for someone that you should not be in a love relationship with, do not follow your heart. Instead, put a stop to the thoughts and actions that are generating those feelings.

Will Harley (His Needs/Her Needs) says marital affairs result from creating emotional bonds with someone other than our spouse. Likewise, emotional bonds (love) with money, pleasure, praise, etc. will lead to spiritual affairs against God.

Pathway #1: One pathway to healthier emotions in general and loving God in particular is grasping God’s love more fully. This will help create love in us (1 John 4:19 (ESV) We love because he first loved us…) which will make us healthier emotionally. Having more love will also choke out some of our unhealthy emotions.

Ephesians 3 teaches us that prayer (v. 14), God’s Spirit (v. 16), and other Christians (v. 18) can all help us grasp God’s love more fully. If we can continue to do it mindfully, we should add this to our ongoing prayers

[1] Erwin Lutzer, Managing Your Emotions (Chappaqua, N.Y.: Christian Herald Books, 1981), 17.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2018 in counsel, Encouragement

 

Faithful Feelings: Doing Emotions God’s Way – In Search of a Standard


Every morning the man would pause in front of the watchmaker’s shop, gaze at the large clock in the window, set his watch by it and walk on. Every day at noon, the watchmaker would go to the big clock in his window, and set it precisely by the blowing of the noon whistle at the local factory.

After many years had passed, the watchmaker stopped the man one day and complimented him on his faithful commitment to the correct time. “Oh, I have to be correct,” said the man. “You see, I’m the one responsible for blowing the noon whistle at the local factory. Without knowing it, they had both been using the other as the standard.

Do we use the speech of the people around us as the standard for our communication? That can be risky business!

Malcolm Muggeridge asks us to imagine a collection of 21th century videos discovered in a cave somewhere in the centuries ahead…tapes of our TV shows, tapes of our music, our videos, our radio advertisements….what would they make of us? (Does that question depress you as much as it does me?)

Alvin Toffler has written that we are a society with “value vertigo,” morally out of balance. It’s been said that we have lost the noble quality of moral courage. Where do we look for absolutes – values that enable us to distinguish right from wrong?  If we look to one another as the standard, we’re in big trouble! We will almost always compound one another’s errors. Of course…the answer: God’s Word!

Ephesians 5:1-5: “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children {2} and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. {3} But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. {4} Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. {5} For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. {2} Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The Challenge of Disappointment

How do Christians deal with disappointment created by other Christians? We live in a society filled with cynicism, ready to criticize anything or anyone. Our society tells us to think the worst and expect it to happen in every situation. A common response: “That is what I expected!” In our democracy, we do not fear finding fault with anyone.

A man or woman assembles with the congregation “every time the door is open.” However, he or she lives a double life–one being quite evil, and one being quite good. The details of the double life become common knowledge. A consequence: we interpret all difficult circumstances in all troubled members’ lives as evidence of double lives.

A Bible teacher yields to temptation. A consequence: we decide all Bible teachers are especially prone to temptation.

A deacon has an affair. A consequence: we think all deacons are looking for opportunities for affairs.

A treasurer financially defrauds a congregation. A consequence: we think a quality of all treasurers is a love for money that is greater than a love for people.

An elder abuses his position for personal benefit. A consequence: we assume all elders are elders for “the wrong reason.”

Thus, many Christians ask, “What is wrong with us? We seem to be like an army who aims its guns on itself. When we have no pressing enemy, we shoot ourselves. We seem well trained to destroy, but have far too little motive to encourage.

Is Christianity by nature destructive? Is it a part of Christianity’s character to find its joy in destroying instead of encouraging?”

There are many reasons for congregations to be internally destructive, not merely one. One of those reasons that cries out for understanding is this: humans are spiritually weak.

Trusting humans commonly will lead to disappointment. Our faith always must be in Jesus Christ (the Savior), not in congregations (the saved).

The New Testament constantly urges people to place their faith in Jesus Christ.

The examples are literally too numerous to list.

When Peter spoke to the council after his and John’s arrest, he said in Acts 4:8-12 (NIV)
8  Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9  If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10  then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11  He is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone’. 12  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

This same man wrote this in Romans 7:24-8:1 (NIV)
24  What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25  Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. 1  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:3-5 (NIV)
3  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4  and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, 5  who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

The message of Revelation closes with these words in Revelation 22:16-17 (NIV)
16  “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” 17  The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

Only Jesus is:

  • The promised fulfillment of God’s determination to bring salvation to the world.
  • The only one through whom salvation is available.
  • The Son of God.
  • The only one in whom there is no condemnation.
  • The only sacrifice from God for the sins of all.
  • The only one in whom there is no favoritism.
  • The only one who can protect us through the living hope.
  • The only one who can grant us entrance into the eternal kingdom.
  • The real one sent from God to be Savior.
  • The only one who can give us the mercy we must have.
  • The only one who can take us to God.

We can be examples and encouragers who influence people to develop and cling to faith in Jesus Christ, but we can never be the Savior. 

Humans in Christ never stop being humans in this life.

As humans:

  • We always are able to be tempted.
  • We always have choices we must make.
  • We always are limited in our knowledge.
  • We always are capable of being emotional reactors instead of purposeful decision makers.
  • Humans make mistakes, and being in Christ does not eliminate our ability to make mistakes.

So we must set boundaries on humans, even humans in Christ.

  • We let humans in Christ encourage us, but we follow Jesus.
  • We let humans in Christ provide us examples, but we follow Jesus.
  • We let humans in Christ lift us up, but we follow Jesus.
  • We let humans in Christ warn us, but we follow Jesus.

Never give a Christian what belongs to Jesus Christ alone.

  • Never give a human the kind of loyalty that belongs only to Jesus.
  • Never give a human the kind of devotion that belongs only to Jesus.
  • Never give a human the kind of appreciation that belongs only to Jesus.

We exist as individuals and as congregations to serve Jesus, not to rival Jesus.

Thousands of years ago, God promised to send His Son. (See Genesis 12:3 with Galatians 3:16 and 29.)

  • Abraham’s fear in regard to Sarah did not turn God away.
  • Isaac’s impetuousness as an old man did not turn God away.
  • Jacob’s deceptiveness did not turn God away.
  • The slavery of Israel in Egypt did not prevent God from keeping His promise.
  • The utter faithlessness of the adults who left Egypt did not prevent God from keeping His promise.
  • Israel’s sins in the period of the Judges did not prevent God from keeping His promise.
  • The evil of the Israelite kings did not prevent God from keeping His promise.
  • Israel and Judah’s deaf ears in the period of the prophets did not prevent God from keeping His promise.
  • The rejection of Jesus and the death of Jesus did not prevent God from keeping His promise.

What about us?

  • Will we allow any person to be bigger than Jesus and make God’s efforts of no benefit in your life?
  • Will we let the mistakes of any human be bigger than God?
  • Will we let any human blind you to God’s persistence?
  • Will we let the failures of any human be bigger than the mercy and forgiveness of God?

Don’t let anyone outside of God’s will discourage you from doing God’s will.

No matter how hard we try, we will never be more than the saved. No matter what we know, only Jesus will be the Savior.

We must always let Jesus be our Savior as we seek to encourage the saved. Never let the saved appear to us as the one who saves.

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2018 in counsel, Encouragement

 

Lamentation – An acceptable response to life’s difficulties?


grief-927099_640Dictionary.com defines lament as “an expression of grief or sorrow. A formal expression of sorrow or mourning, especially in verse or song; an elegy or dirge.”

Lament is a Biblical concept often ignored by Christians…and looked upon as a negative in our spiritual walk. I wonder why? 

Is it because some of us are just too comfortable that we run away from cries of anguish. Is it because we have forgotten the Biblical injunction to mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep?

Mostly we avoid it, given a choice. At best we might sometimes pluck out of its context Lamentations 2: 22- 23: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Are we shocked by the way Biblical laments point the finger of blame towards God? Is that why we find the topic of lamenting uncomfortable? 

Jesus: Hebrews 5:7-9 (NIV) During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9  and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him

He quoted from Psalm 22, showing His aloneness from God: Psalm 22:1-2(NIV)  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? 2  O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.

David in Psalm 13:1-6 (NIV) How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2  How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? 3  Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; 4  my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my does will rejoice when I fall. 5  But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 6  I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.

Wess Daniels has a helpful reflection on Psalm 13: “The important thing about Lament is that our suffering, our darkness, and disorientation is “brought to speech” in relationship with God. There is nothing you experience, no pain too deep, no sense of loss so tragic that you ought not to just take it to God but to make it God’s business to transform the situation.”

Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:8 (NIV) Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV) But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong

So even if we think the problem is God’s fault we should take it to God. And if we think the problem is an enemy’s fault we should take it to God. And if we think it’s our corporate or personal fault we should take that too to God and cry for restoration.
Let’s go to the book of JOB and see what we can learn there: What are we told about Job?

Job’s Prosperity: Job 1:1-5 (NIV) 1  In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. 2  He had seven sons and three daughters, 3  and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East. 4  His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5  When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.

The heavenly ‘discussion:’ Job 1:6-12 (NIV) One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. 7  The LORD said thto Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.” 8  Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” 9  “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10  “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11  But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” 12  The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

Job’s first adversity: 1: Job 1:13-19 (NIV) One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 14  a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 15  and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” 16  While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” 17  While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” 18  While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 19  when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

Job’s response: Job 1:20-21 (NIV) 20  At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21  and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

Notice what he did: first, he looked back to his birth. Then he looked ahead to his death.

Finally, Job looked up and uttered a magnificent statement of faith “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.“ (vs. 21).

“In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” (vs. 22).

We see a good explanation of God’s sovereignty: He gives and He takes away. God either causes or allows all events in our life. I believe much of it falls into the category of “allows.” He allows nature to reign. He allows natural law to reign..explaining hurricanes, floods, sickness and disease.

Job’s second adversity: The voice of the accuser: Job 2:1-8 (NIV) On another day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. 2  And the LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.” 3  Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” 4  “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5  But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” 6  The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” 7  So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. 8  Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

The voice of the quitter (2:9).  His wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!”

This was exactly what Satan wanted Job to do, and Job’s wife put the temptation before her husband.

Job 2:10 (NIV) “He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. “

With God’s permission, Satan afflicted Job with a disease we cannot identify. Whatever it was, the symptoms were terrible: severe itching (Job 2:8), insomnia (v. 4), running sores and scabs (v. 5), nightmares (vv. 13-14), bad breath (19:17), weight loss (v. 20), chills and fever (21:6), diarrhea (30:27), and blackened skin (v. 30).

When his three friends first saw Job, they did not recognize him! Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar come to offer comfort and they spend most of their time telling Job that he is a terrible sinner due to this pain he is going through. Elihu, the younger of the four, grows impatient near the end of the book because they do not do a very good Job convicting Job.

In this marvelous book, we see Job in a variety of postures with very specific words being said:

Job 3:1-3 (NIV) After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. 2  He said: 3  “May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, ‘A boy is born!’

 

Job 3:11 (NIV) “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?

Job 3:16 (NIV) Or why was I not hidden in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day?

Job 23:1-5 (NIV)  Then Job replied: 2  “Even today my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning. 3  If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling! 4  I would state my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. 5  I would find out what he would answer me, and consider what he would say.

Job 23:10 (NIV) But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.

God speaks: Job 38:1-3 (NIV) Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: 2  “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? 3  Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.

jobheadingJob 40:1-2 (NIV) The LORD said to Job: 2  “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!”

Job 40:8 (NIV) “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?

Job 42:1-17 (NIV) Then Job replied to the LORD: 2  “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. 3  You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. 4  “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ 5  My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6  Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

 7  After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8  So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves.

My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”

9  So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer. 10  After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11  All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought [allowed] upon him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

12  The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first.

Some closing thoughts: have we in our relative comfort concentrated our worship too much on the language of praise and thanksgiving? Is that because we are influenced by the language of success and the cultural pursuit of happiness?

Therefore, we equate unhappiness with failure or lack of faith? And in individual and corporate prayer, when we happen to feel OK, we avoid the language of sorrow, confusion and anger? 

Laments use pain, anguish, anger and confusion in a passionate search for some answering comfort or sense of hope. We have to learn to lament and to do it in community, whether that is on our own behalf or as a way of speaking for others in much worse situations.

It isn’t about how things ought to be. It’s about how things are. It’s about people shot by terrorists in Paris. It’s about people living in fear. It’s about situations so dreadful that only God can change things and people and bring hope.

Lament yells deep from an anguished heart – a raw wail that in itself is a prayer (story of family that had a stillborn child just weeks before its birth…it hurt…I told them to stop on an empty road as they drove home…yells at God…express whatever emotion they were feeling at the time…and then trust in God to be with them every second of their life from that moment forward as they would deal with the hurt, pain, sorrow the rest of their life.)

If we care at all about the depths of other people’s suffering around the world, what other language can we use except that of lament? Do we really think that it’s not OK to yell out at God with feelings like that? That God somehow isn’t strong enough to cope with our anger?

Let’s allow Lamentations 3: 31-33 to have the last word: “For the Lord will not reject forever. Although he causes [allows] grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.”

 

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2017 in counsel, Encouragement, God

 

Defeating the Goliath in your life  – 1 Samuel 17


Have you met your Goliath? Goliath is that great big giant of an obstacle that seems unbeatable, and impossible to defeat.  It is that one huge problem that you think just might be your undoing — a difficulty so great that it has you entertaining the thought that you are close to throwing in the towel.

Perhaps you have met him in the past.  Or maybe Goliath is troubling you even now.  Most of us have a Goliath or two in our lives. I want to encourage you to confront Goliath today — to deal with this enemy that robs your life of hope and joy.

King Saul of Israel had been fighting tooth and nail for most of his life for every inch of the Promised Land. Even though the land was “Promised,” it did not come easy. (Most promised lands are that way – we have to work and struggle for them.)  Ever since the day Joshua took over the leadership of Israel from Moses, there had been a struggle.  On that very first day when they crossed the Jordan River to head westward to their promised homeland, there was no welcome sign saying, Welcome to the Promised Land!”

Lately, the Philistines had been gaining the upper hand. King Saul was getting older and very weary. Now things had really taken a turn for the worse. The Philistines unveiled their “secret weapon” – a nine foot nine giant named Goliath. This powerful, fearsome creature was out daily taunting the Israelites, issuing a challenge that had King Saul’s army cringing behind their shields. There wasn’t a soldier in the camp who wanted to take on Goliath. Fear and despair took hold in the camp and ate away the courage of every last man. Each day Goliath looked bigger and the soldiers of Saul felt smaller.

You and I probably have times when our Goliaths seem to grow as we seem to shrink. On one particular day, Goliath began shouting insults to the soldiers of Israel and he challenged them to a fight. 

Let’s read 1 Samuel 17:8-11 (NIV) Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9  If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10  Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11  On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

After hearing these threats, an adolescent shepherd boy named David looked around and asked “Who is this person who is insulting the armies of God?” You see, David wasn’t afraid of the Philistine giant. King Saul sent for David and this is the conversation they had: 1 Samuel 17:32-37 (NIV) David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” 33  Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.” 34  But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35  I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36  Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37  The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you.” .

So David, instead of putting on armor and a sword, chose to dress casually…carrying only a sling in his hand…with five smooth stones that he collected from the stream.  He was ready for war.  Listen to what David said when he confronted Goliath: (vs. 45-47). David took out a stone, and slung it and it struck Goliath on the forehead and killed him.  The young, weak boy defeated his Goliath.

WE NEED TO TRUST GOD. When David went to fight Goliath, it was not the standard resources that David was trusting in. It was not the armor of Saul or the strength of the whole Israelite army, but it was GOD…David believed that God would defeat Goliath.  If David had bought into the standard thinking, he would have been killed.  He thought outside the box!  God was his strength and the battle was the Lord’s — not his.

When we come to those times of confrontation with Goliath, our first line of defense is our relationship with God.  We must trust in His strength…no matter what others may consider the best way out of our difficulties. No matter what problem or Goliath we may be facing…God can deliver us. Our problems can be solved by trusting and relying upon God!

Most of us, like the Israelites hear the threats of Goliath and loose heart.  We would really like to have the courage of David and his trust in God, but we don’t quite get around to entering the field of battle.

So I would like to ask you for a verdict today. I would like to encourage you to decide to conquer Goliath.  If you will make that decision, surrender your resources – however small or meager – into the hands of God and trust the Lord to walk with you into the battle…You will make a wonderful discovery — a life changing discovery.

You will discover that Goliath is just a wee little man after all!

———————————-

They say there are not atheists in foxholes. It’s amazing how religious and how spiritual we get under pressure in a moment of bargaining.

It was that great American wit, Mark Twain, who once said, “Man is the only animal that blushes, and the only animal that needs to. We are ashamed, are we not, of things we’ve done in the past. Nobody is free who is unforgiven. Instead of being able to look God in the face or to look one another in the face, we want to run away and hide when our conscience troubles us.”

 

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2017 in counsel, Encouragement

 

Writing this chapter has helped me to grieve by James Jones


(Prior to his death, James Jones provided wise counsel for many years in the Tennessee/North Georgia area)

This chapter has been a painful, but helpful one for me to write. Although I have written it while grieving, writing it has been an effective way for me to grieve. My mother died on October 26, 1980, and the same week I started lecturing on grief and writing this chapter. Since then I have given a number of lectures on grief and today, December 31, 1980, I am finishing the first draft of this chapter. Two years before, on this day, I buried my father.

I feel like I have completed my grief over the loss of a brother who was killed in an automobile accident January 15, 1965. I am just about finished with grieving over my father’s death and am well into processing my grief over mother’s death. The grief experience for me is one experience with which I can say with Solomon, “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.”21 I have resisted sharing the various degrees to which people have been helpful or have hindered my grief process. After much struggle, I share what would be considered negative responses, not to offend anyone, but hopefully to be helpful. What I share not only has come from me, but others with whom I have worked in therapy have shared the same.

Individuals who have helped me the least and sometimes have hurt me through their responses have been persons who:

  1. Have said they were sorry and were sympathizing with me, but their tone of voice, facial expressions, posture and gestures indicated to me that they were just saying words; that really hurt.
  2. Were afraid, at least the way they looked and acted, to say anything about my brother, father or mother to me after a few days. Of course, they did not understand what I really needed was to talk about him/her with them.
  3. Were uncomfortable with my tears and did not want me to cry.
  4. Looked as though they thought something was wrong with me when I cried or was sad at church weeks after the funeral.
  5. Hugged too tightly or did not hug me at all.
  6. Tried to comfort me through being too talkative and not just standing or sitting beside me and listening to whatever I wanted to say.
  7. Tried to reassure and comfort me through quoting Scripture, telling me how fortunate I was, how grateful I ought to be or reminding me of how God takes care of his own and does not make mistakes.

Sometimes this was done through prayers.

  1. Warned me in a subtle way to neither question God nor let this death cause me to lose my faith.
  2. Stated that I should turn to God for all my comfort, never realizing that God comforts the downcast through other Christians.

Individuals who have helped me the most were persons who neither crowded me with their words nor their touch. They seemed to listen to whatever I wanted to say and looked as though they accepted me regardless of whether I laughed or cried. These people often asked about my deceased one, and seemed to have time for me and not be in hurry when my loss was mentioned. They did not tell me to believe but listened as I shared my faith through pain, and waited for me to read the Bible largely from my memory instead of reading it to me without even asking. God has helped me through individuals and His word. I have gotten much comfort through the Scriptures but they have been passages which have emerged in me through the shock of learning that my loved one was dead, my painful loneliness, refreshing tears and loving anger. These passages were comforting because they were where I was and what I needed at that time.

Death certainly has its sting and grief is lonely, painful and time consuming. On the other hand, it can be an ideal teaching-learning experience. Although it has been, and still is at times, very painful and difficult to keep going, I have learned some things about life, relationships and myself that I will always treasure. In one sense, I have lost in three deaths; in another sense, I think I have gained far more than I have lost.

In their deaths, I lost their physical presence, but retained their legacies; therefore, life has become richer, more meaningful and purposeful to me.

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2017 in counsel

 

Counsel for those dealing with a death


Some bereaved people may feel overwhelmed by the decisions required after a death. Others will argue with family members over decisions such as cremation or burial, or an open or closed casket. Your first job may be to help family and friends come to consensus. Remind people that the wishes of the deceased, if known, are not as important after death as the desires of the survivors. If that means canceling a cremation, then encourage family members to do it.

Provide reassurance of hope, heaven, and resurrection, but avoid being glib or superficial. When a loved one dies, the loss is acute, and knowing that the person will be in heaven is not always an immediate comfort to those who are left behind-because they are left behind.

When dealing with a sudden death, identify a family friend or other volunteer who can help with some of the practical tasks that must be done for the funeral. Help the bereaved person prioritize what needs to be done. Aid in identifying a funeral home, writing an obituary, calling other family members and friends, etc.

It should be noted that the process of grief and bereavement will not be resolved by things returning to “normal” as the person understands it. A death always drastically changes the identity, roles, and responsibilities of the person closest to the deceased. Recovery will come as the bereaved person learns to cope with and take on the new dynamics and tasks of daily life.

Basic Needs

Encourage family members to focus on basic needs-food, shelter, and safety. If these needs are not met, the critical emotional issues will be even harder to handle. People who are experiencing shock may neglect hygiene, forget to take necessary medications, or skip meals.

Ways of Coping

Assess the level of emotions present by using some of the suggested questions. Some people process emotions better by being busy, while others need to be alone. Help the former to find something simple to do, and help the latter to find a quiet place to be alone.

 Social Interaction

Urge the grieving person to not withdraw, but to find support in his or her friendships. Some friendships will be different (for example, if a spouse has died), but encourage the person to appreciate friends who still want his/her company, even without the other person.

Helping Children

If children are involved, counsel the family on strategies for helping them. Children often feel responsible for a sudden death, and teens can react in particularly complicated ways if a relationship to the deceased was tense. Children need, first of all, to feel secure. Reassure them that their family will be secure and stable. If a parent is in acute distress, try to ensure that the children are cared for by a familiar person who is calm.

Avoid statements that indicate to a child that God caused the death because He “wanted Mom/Dad/Grandma/Johnny in heaven with Him.’ Demystify death for children. Good funeral directors often answer a child’s curious questions.  Help children begin to process feelings of anger, guilt, and abandonment. They need to know that such feelings are normal

Allowing Time

Help the grieving person to understand that the pain will take time to subside. Encourage him/her to truly grieve. Assure the person that the grieving process is healthy and eventually productive.

Remind the person, when appropriate, of the stages of grief.

But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me. -2 Samuel 12:23

After the death of David and Bathsheba’s first son, David’s only consolation was that eventually he would “go to him:’ While the child was alive, David had begged God to spare his life. When the child died, however, David was confident that the boy was with God and he would see him again.

Christian parents who have faced the devastation of the death of a young child can take hope in David’s faith that God will bring the little ones to Himself.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. -Psalm 116:15

We feel sad when loved ones die, and it is natural to grieve. God says that the death of a believer is “precious in the sight of the LORD.’ For believers, death is a gateway into the home in heaven where they ultimately belong.

But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. -1 Corinthians 15:20-22

Jesus gave us the promise of resurrection from the dead. He accomplished this by becoming human, dying, and then rising again. Someday in God’s new creation, death itself will be destroyed: “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (l Corinthians 15:26). We must always be ready to die, ready to stand before God, and ready to thank Him for all He has done in giving us salvation.

So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.-2 Corinthians 5:6-8

Exactly what happens after someone dies? The Bible doesn’t go into much detail, but it does say that believers who die-that is, are “absent from the body” -will be “present with the Lord.” They will experience joy in the presence of God.

When Christ returns, believers who have died will be raised and the living believers will be changed. All will receive glorified, eternal bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

God has promised that His people will be with Him forever. We can take hope in God’s sure promise.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. -2 Timothy 4:7-8

Believers can face death with confidence, knowing that God is waiting for them. On the day we meet Christ face to face, we want to be able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith:’

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on . . . that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them. -Revelation 14: 13

This chapter in Revelation paints a picture of stark contrasts-eternal life with God or eternal life without God. Where will you be for eternity? We can be certain of forgiveness and eternal life by trusting in Christ to cleanse us, make us children of God, and give us the gift of eternal life with Him.

Resources

Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality, by Gary R. Habermas and J. P. Moreland

Death and the Life After, by Billy Graham

The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, by Thomas Lynch

When Your Father Dies, by Bruce Barton and Dave Veerman

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2017 in counsel

 
 
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