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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

 

Words To Live By Series #7 Honor Your Parents


Sunday 1030amThe fifth of these Words to Live By brings us to a fundamental responsibility in human relations. The commandment says: Exodus 20:12 (ESV) “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

Our own common sense tells us that we need some rules for preserving and strengthening family life.

The family is being challenged for its right to endure. Many are choosing to forego marriage. Others are substituting life together without marriage for the traditional marriage relationship.

Those who do choose the traditional arrangement are having problems keeping things together and achieving stability within their marriages.

The family is primary to God as a means for blessing and guiding human lives. With the failure of so many homes in the different ways already identified, the will of God is being thwarted too frequently. One of the rules for right living points to the need for keeping the family strong through proper relationships between children and their parents.

What does it mean to honor our mother and father? To honor means more than demonstrating sentimental feelings. The word “honor” literally means to give weight or heaviness. To honor someone then means that we take them seriously.

Mark 7:9-13 (ESV) 9  And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10  For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11  But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— 12  then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13  thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

Ephesians 6:1-3: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother this is the first commandment with a promise, ‘that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth.'”

There are some things that commend themselves to us as proper and right. Surely one of those things is showing honor to the man and woman responsible for bringing you into the world, feeding you, getting your cavities filled, nursing you when you were sick, and doing the million other things that go with being a parent.

Children can always derive great personal benefit from seeking and heeding the counsel of their parents. A child who has finished high school or a few years of college may already have more education than his parents; what he may not realize is that he is not yet as smart as his parents. There are some things that nobody learns except by living, having experience, failing at some things and bouncing back. The best lessons about life come from the good counsel of godly parents. If you have a relationship with people who have lived long enough to learn those lessons and who will share their wisdom with you, your life will be blessed.

We should honor our parents because the day will come when we cannot show them the honor we would like to give. Some don’t have your parents with you any longer. I hope you don’t have to look back with regret. I once told my parents that I appreciated all they had done for me…my mother promptly said this: “Do you know what you can do? Do it for your own children.”

Respect Is a Two-Way Street

The Bible teaches that children need discipline. “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24). The sort of discipline spoken of here is administered with patience, tenderness, and love.

Severity of punishment in dealing with children violates the teaching of Paul: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Obedience must be learned, and it is the job of parents to teach it to their children. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Children need to cooperate with their parents in creating a good home. Parents should not have to fight their children for control of the family.

In America, several factors tend to undermine honoring parents.

(1.) There is the impact of technology. In previous generations fathers were often craftsmen, who had learned their trade from their fathers. It took a son years to match his own father in skills, and he would only gradually pass him up.

Now, a child in elementary school may be learning things that parents never heard of. Who of us, for example, would want to try to explain some of the math our kids are being taught in school? Thus, each new generation quickly surpasses the preceding generation in the knowledge it possesses. There is much temptation for the younger generation to think of its parents as out of date, antiquated in thinking. In a society where knowledge is prized more than wisdom, the older generation is fortunate to be respected, let alone honored, by the younger generation.

(2) Because of the rapid increase of divorce, children are often called upon to honor one parent and to despise the other. Neither parent can seem to tolerate the thought of the former mate having the respect of their child. If this were not bad enough, Freudian Psychology has provided each generation with an excuse to blame all of its problems on family members from our past. Countless expeditions into the parental past has provided many individuals with an expensive excursion into past history in order to pin the blame for their sins on someone else, often one or both parents.

(3) If it is possible to pin the blame for our problems on someone else, it is also easy to pin the responsibility of caring for aging parents on someone else. Perhaps more than any other time in history, we are looking to the government to carry much of the burden families have borne in providing for the needs of their aging parents. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other government programs are viewed as the means for handling our obligation as children to our parents.

1 Timothy 5:8 (ESV) But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

(4) Honor is due to more than just parents. The New Testament requires the Christian to honor all men (Romans 12:10; 1 Peter 2:17). Learning to honor parents is thus a significant step in the direction of honoring others.

(5) If children must give honor to their parents, then parenting must be an honorable occupation. One should hardly have to make such a statement, but in today’s world it is necessary to do so. The fact that women line up at abortion clinics around the country and in various parts of the world suggests that bearing and raising children is viewed as something far less than a blessing. This rejects the clear teaching of the Bible. Those who would leave the home and seek fulfillment in the working world in order to gain dignity and respect have also turned from the truth of God’s Word. Let those who would seek to avoid parenting be reminded that in God’s Word parenting is a most honorable occupation.

(6) The way in which one relates to parents changes with conversion. When a person comes to Christ through baptism, there are a number of significant changes. When a person becomes a child of God by faith, God becomes a Father to them in a new and previously unknown way. While God was once denied, and His authority rejected (Ephesians 2:1‑3), now He is our Heavenly Father, with final authority, authority which has priority over all others, including fathers and mothers. As we have seen from our Lord’s teaching, faith in Christ may alienate children from their parents.

(7) The way in which one relates to parents changes with marriage. Marriage is usually the first of several dramatic changes in the child’s relationship with his parents. In the Book of Genesis, God revealed that marriage was to bring about a change in the way a child relates to his parents: “For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

  • First, the son leaves the authority structure of his parents home to establish a new home, under his authority. This passage draws the son out from under his parents’ authority, as he had once been. My parents or Terry’s parents no longer had authority/control over us when we married…but of course are available to offer counsel when we asked for it.
  • Second, the son is to leave home so that his devotion and affection will be primarily focused upon his wife. Certainly the son’s affection toward his parents is not terminated, but leaving his home lessens the competition between a man’s father and mother and his wife for his devotion and attention.
  • Third, the instruction in this text suggests to us that the parent‑child relationship is temporary, the husband‑wife relationship is permanent.

(8) We honor our parents most when we obey and honor God in our lives. The highest goal of parents is to raise the child God has entrusted to them in such a way as to encourage and promote trust in God and obedience to His Word. Whenever a child trusts in God and obeys His Word, He honors his parents. Even an unbelieving parent is honored by a believing and obedient child.

(9) Honoring parents does not always mean that the child does what his parents want. Father and Mother are not to be honored because they are perfect, but because they are parents. They, like their children, are plagued with the frailties of mankind. They, like their children, sin. They will therefore make many mistakes in the parenting process. They will command that their children do the wrong things, at times. At times they will also forbid their children to do what is right.

(10) Honoring parents may someday require parenting parents. It is an irony indeed, but those who were once parented by fathers and mothers often find themselves parenting their parents in their final years of life. The parent that once fed and diapered the child may in the last days of their life be fed and diapered by their children. The child who was once parented now becomes his parent’s parent, making decisions for them, sometimes having to make choices against their will, even deciding how long to allow artificial, life preserving devices to maintain some semblance of life. There is no thought less pleasant than this, but for many it has been, is, or will be a reality.

(11) Since we must honor all men, this means that parents must honor their children. Much has been said and written about developing self‑esteem in children. I think I would differ with some of this teaching, based upon the fact that much self‑esteem is simply renamed pride, and the Book of Proverbs has more to say about the need for humility in a child than self-confidence (and certainly than self‑love). We must, however, deal with our children in a way that not only manifests our own dignity (cf. 1 Timothy 3:4), but also reflects the dignity of the child as a creation of God, one for whom Christ died. Thus, we must honor our children, as we must honor all others.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2016 in counsel, Family, Marriage, Sermon

 

Marriage…both serious and humorous


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Eric/Wendy’s December 2015 newsletter from Rwanda

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The jokes are endless. They usually come from one who has learned to laugh at his mistakes, but they also can reveal a lot of pain:

  • Marriage is a gamble. You start with a pair. He shows a diamond. She shows a heart. Her father has a spade. There’s usually a joker around somewhere, but after a while he becomes a king, and she becomes a queen. Then they end up with a full house.Marriage-Crisis
  • One woman said to another, “Aren’t you wearing your wedding ring on the wrong finger?” the other replied, “Yes, I married the wrong guy.”
  • Man is incomplete until he is married. Then he is really finished.
  • Marriage is an institution in which a man loses his bachelor’s degree, and the woman gets her master’s.
    One man said, “I never knew what real happiness was until I got married; and then it was too late.

The failures will continue until God fills our marriages … the two really become one … the one fulfills the other… love is given fully and freely … giving is more important than getting … one considers the other more important than self, and selfishness retreats in defeat … each keeps his/her promises, and vows are not just words repeated after the preacher but are lifelong commitments … kindness rules the days, and helpfulness fills the moments … sex is love … and being together is love … and being apart is love … and arguments are loving … and monotony is love … and routine is love… ’til there is not “you and me,” but only “US.”

“… (man) shall Cleave Unto his Wife: and they Shall be One flesh”Genesis 2:24

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2015 in counsel

 

The Problem of Suffering in the World


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 Gary’s blog: http://www.tjsman.wordpress.com;

Free book from Gary: The Measure of One’s Life book

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Axioms we have heard:

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

“When the world gives you a lemon, make lemonade.”

“If God sends us on stony paths, he provides strong shoes.” — Corrie Ten Boom.

“Great crises produce great men and great deeds of courage” —-John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage

sufferingYou know it’s going to be a bad day when:

* You call suicide prevention and they put you on hold.

* You see a 60 Minutes news team waiting in your office.

* Your birthday cake collapses from the weight of the candles.

* Your twin sister forgets your birthday.

Let’s make it clear: we’re NOT talking about “a bad day” when we hear some of the pleas offered in the midst of pain and suffering. While it is true that a crisis helps to make a person, it is also true that a crisis helps to reveal what a person is made of.

Life is filled with a variety of difficulties (Job 14:1-2)

“”Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. {2} He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure.”….but God’s grace is sufficient (see “manifold” or “poikilos” in 1 Peter 1:6 and 4:10).

All we need to think of is Joseph, David, Daniel, Elijah, and Stephen. Jesus told us they would come:

(John 16:1-3) “”All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. {2} They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. {3} They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me…. (32) “”But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. {33} “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.””

Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:12 : “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

We occasionally sing a song which offers some powerful words for us:

“Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish Come to the Mercyseat, fervently kneel. Here bring your wounded heart, here tell your anguish; Earth has no sorrow that Heav’n cannot heal.”

Paul reminds us in 1 Cor. 10:13 that God will limit their impact upon us. They cannot make our service to God in vain: (1 Cor 15:58) “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

(2 Tim 4:6-8) “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. {7} I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. {8} Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

suffer-for-christ-e1344552240663“Are you going through a hard time? Maybe these words from a song called The Fire will help get us through them: “I’ve been through a fire that has deepened my desire, to know the living God more and more. It hasn’t been much fun, but the work that it has done in my life has been worth the hurt. You see sometimes we need the hard times to bring us to our knees, otherwise we do as we please and never heed him. For he always knows what’s best and it’s when we are distressed that we really come to know God as he is.”

There are things man cannot know…God knows all (chapters 38-41). We MUST avoid the warning of Job 40:8!

(Job 38:2) “”Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?”

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

We know that sin and suffering are not linked; they are not proof of sin or guilt (reminded of Luke 13:1-5). Let those circumstances bring you to repentance. We will suffer (like many other Christians) when it is not deserved.

“The Sequoia trees of California tower as much as 300 feet above the ground. Strangely, these giants have unusually shallow root systems that reach out in all directions to capture the greatest amount of surface moisture. Seldom will you see a redwood standing alone, because high winds would quickly uproot it. That’s why they grow in clusters. Their intertwining roots provide support for one another against the storms.

“Suffering comes to all of us, and no one can suffer for us. Even so, just like those giant Sequoia trees, we can be supported in those difficult times by the prayers and understanding of loved ones and friends. It’s when we are too proud to admit our needs to others that we are in the greatest danger.”

We can benefit from the process.Hard times keep this world from becoming too attractive.

“Our citizenship is in heaven…we’re pilgrims passing through this life and we don’t need to let our roots get too deep.”

Suffering brings out our best and allows to development deep bonds.

Those we count as our closest and dearest friends are those who have gone through hard times in life with us.

Suffering makes us appreciative.

Words of ‘cheerful’ minister despite a hard time in his life: “I make the right use of my eyes. I look up to Heaven and realize that is where I am going. Next, I look down upon the earth and realize how small a place I shall occupy when I am dead and buried. Finally, I look around and see the many who are in some respects much worse than I am. This brings me to three conclusions: First, I learn where true happiness lies; Second, I realize where all our cares end; third, I realize how little reason I have to complain.”

God’s attributes can be displayed: (2 Cor 12:9-10) “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.”

We can develop a valuable attribute: (Phil 4:11-12) “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. {12} I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

What did Jesus learn from his suffering? (Heb 5:8-9) “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”

* Story of the man who helped a crysalis burst through the cocoon…didn’t have the strength needed to fly.

It will provide opportunities to make us sympathetic and to reach out to others: 2 Cor 1:3-6: that ‘comfort circle’ we’ve discussed before.

It will force us to depend upon God and to give thanks in all things. (Prov 3:5-6) “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; {6} in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

(2 Cor 1:8-11) “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. {9} Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. {10} He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, {11} as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”

Teaches us to pray and that prayer works when nothing else will.

Use the events to glorify God (story of man born blind which Jesus used to glorify God…John 9:1-5).

“I asked God for strength that I might achieve, I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health, that I might do greater things, I was given infirmity that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy, I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men, I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life, I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for — but everything I had hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am among all men, most richly blessed.” ¨ From Max Cleland, Strong at the Broken Places.

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2015 in counsel

 
 
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