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Archive for the ‘grief’ Category

Our entire lives we are always going “though it.” You are going “through it” right now, just like you were going “through it” yesterday, and as sure as you will go “through it” tomorrow, whatever your “through it” might be. It is impossible to escape “going through it.”

Before one “through it” ends one or more “through its” have already started, like just when childhood ends puberty is already beginning. Many, many “though its” come our way without ever asking for permission to enter our lives, others are the results of our own choices, both wise and foolish.

Some “through its” we don’t mind, the comfortable ones, those without worries, where you laugh lot, feel good, and things are going great. We would like for those “through its” to last, to be the normal. We do so because we all too familiar with the other kind of “through its”, the kind we loathe, dread, hate, that keep us from what we really would love to go “through.” Those “through its” bend life with pain, grief, fear, suffering, burdens, worry, sins and evils of all kinds. Those “through its” love to show up far more often and stick around much longer than we want them to. In fact, they are good in making us wonder if are ever going to make it “through them,” and at times whether or not we are going to make it “through them” at all, like the Apostle Paul, We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it” 2 Corinthians 1:8 (NLT).

Since we can’t avoid “going through it,” it makes a big difference how we go through the highs and the lows, the joys and sorrows, the good and the bad, the mundane and the thrilling, the unbearable and the delights life has us “go through.” It makes a big difference if faith in the one true and living God marks our life or not. It makes a big difference whether or not we take our cues from Jesus whatever we “go through.” It makes a big difference we see no purpose behind that which we’d rather not “go through.”

Followers of Christ, Christians, are not exempt from the “go-throughs” of life. In fact being committed to Jesus will have you go through things you would not naturally chose to go through and top of the regular “go-throughs.” In all of that “going through,” the goal of the believer is never just to get “through it,” but live out the will of God to the glory of God and to the exaltation of Christ in all that God allows us, prompts, and calls us to “go through.” The Christian is never devoid of purpose in the “going through” of life, nor are God’s children ever alone in whatever we are going “through.”

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.  For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Romans 8:28-31 (NLT)

Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:23-26 (ESV)

There’s no getting away from “going through it,” but we do get to chose how and with whom we go through it.

 

To God be all glory. Love you, fellow “goer-througher, Pastor Hans

 

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Give thanks in everything (in all circumstances), for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (HCSB, parenthesis mine)

Don’t worry (be anxious) about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.
Philippians 4:6-8 (HCSB, parentheses, mine)

Some things are easy to be glad about, be grateful for. For instance:

  • I am grateful for, and indebted to, American Veterans, who liberated Germany from Hitler and his version of hell on earth, who safeguarded West Germany from the scourge of communism, who have valued and stood for liberty with more than just words.
  • I got to vote because I am privileged to live in a democratic country, where religious liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, and democratic principles have struggled and survived for over 200 years.
  • Every time I open our refrigerator I am greeted by an abundance many can only dream about.
  • This morning like most every morning I sat down and opened my Bible, my very own copy of God’s written revelation, the living word of God that is able to instruct me, grow me, impart truth, wisdom, strength, and discernment to me.
  • I woke up, and there next to me was this beautiful face, my gift from God, my love, my wife, my best friend and companion.

When it comes to things that are easy to be grateful for I could on for pages and I suspect you could to. But the “give thanks in everything,” the being worried, being anxious, being so desperate you reaching and crying out to God and do it “with thanksgiving” is quite another thing. How difficult is it to be grateful:

  • When your political candidate and party lost the election.
  • When you are in constant pain.
  • When you lost your job.
  • When your children (regardless of their age) or parents make lousy decisions.
  • When tragedy strikes.
  • When you or someone you love has an addiction.
  • When you are mourning and grieving.
  • When you are broke and can’t make ends meet.
  • When you are being taken advantage of.
  • When you are treated unfairly, unjustly.
  • When the work-stress is overwhelming.

I am sure we could continue for pages in that vein as well.

Is it as puzzling to you as it is to me that “giving thanks in everything” is “God’s will for you and me? That God expects me/us to learn to give thanks in the midst of worry and stress? That gratefulness and thanksgiving is meant to be a way of life, of dealing with life, of staying anchored in life, to the point that not practicing it puts us squarely outside of God’s will?

The good news is that regardless of our temperament, personality, background, wounds, and fears, this can be learned. Everyone of us can learn to “give thanks in everything,” to live a lifestyle of gratefulness, to not abandon thanksgivings in worry and stress, to stay focused on the right things in the midst of the grind of life. The amazing thing is that when we do so we end up being better people, with a peace we can’t explain, looking and sounding more like Jesus, which is always a really, really good thing.

To God be all glory. Love You, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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Hope Your Horses

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12 (NASB)

Everyone of us knows something about hope and disappointment. The more our hopes come true the more hopeful we become, the less our hopes are realized the more negativity, cynicism, and other sicknesses of the heart gain a grip on us.

It is good to be hopeful, to be a person of hope. Hope is beautiful like the blossoms of spring, it is full of life like green grass or leaves on a tree, it has a freshness to it like the air after a rain. One of the things that will endure forever is hope, “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love …”  1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT). Heaven will be a place filled with unending hope, but we do not have to wait until we get there to live out of the hope that is part of what makes heaven glorious. There is hope for today and tomorrow; there is hope in grief and sorrow; there is hope in loss and pain; there is hope amidst confusion and questions; there always is hope for those who love and know Jesus Christ and who know how to dwell in the presence of the Almighty, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! … The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.  Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you” Psalm 33:6-8, 13-22 (ESV).

It does make a difference what we hope for and who or what we look to anchor that hope in, what “horse” you’re betting on. The truth is, when it comes to hope there is just one “horse” that is able to carry our hopes today, tomorrow, and for all of eternity. Hope needs someone who is strong, someone who can, who is able, who is merciful, gracious, and compassionate, and there is no one who has all of these in greater abundance than the one who can even raise the dead, Jesus Christ.

I challenge you to go check on your hopes today, on the horses in the in your “hope corral”. Who or what are the horses you hope in? Can any of them carry your hopes better than Christ, God can? Who are you waiting on to carry your hopes?

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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I don’t know how the small cardboard box ended up at the youth yard sale raising money for camp, but it did. Cristy brought it to the office; it was leaking ashes, someone’s ashes. No urn, no burial, not even a deliberate sprinkling of the ashes at some meaningful or beautiful spot. They just got picked up in the standard box, were stashed somewhere, and finally where scooped up with a bunch of other no longer wanted stuff and taken to the yard sale at the church. No takers though, some stranger’s ashes are not what people are looking for.

What a contrast it was to Lodgie’s memorial service held in our church’s sanctuary while the yard sale wrapped up in the parking lot. People came from far and wide, wept, gave glowing eulogies, played beautiful music, sang their hearts out, gave praise and glory to God for her life, her influence, her contribution, and her love. Brought together by her death they lingered long afterwards to reminisce, to remember, to comfort each other. There was no obscurity here, no carelessness, to Lodgie’s family and to us our church family that would have been unthinkable, she was too precious, too valuable, too much of a blessing.

I knew Lodgie. I have nothing but speculation about the individual in the cardboard box. However, I think the chances of your remains ending up in a dusty, uncared for, standard box at a yard sale are greatly diminished if you live a life that pleases and honors God. We reap what we sow, Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith” Galatians 6:7-10 (NLT).

Death, our mortality, should cause us to think, should cause us to make better, wiser, and eternally significant choices, “A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume. And the day you die is better than the day you are born. Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies— so the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time” Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 (NLT). I don’t think the family of the person in the cardboard box heeded the advice Solomon, it might have been because of what s/he did or did not sow, but we really don’t know. What we do know is that you and I have limited time to do good, to love, to bless, to please and honor God, and then we face the reality of Hebrews 9:2728, “Just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him” (NLT). Where and how we end up depends on our choices, whose wisdom we follow, and whose power we trust. Lodgie left no doubt, the person whose ashes were in the cardboard box at the youth yard sale, who knows. I know where and how I want to end up, that’s why I trust and follow Jesus Christ.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Peace Beyond Understanding

We like for things to make sense, to fit, to work out. But things don’t always make sense no matter how hard we try, no matter how much we strain our minds. Even if we find some logic our hearts might not buy it, because in order for something to make sense it is not only the mind which has to be convinced.

It is because things don’t seem to make sense that we worry, get anxious, and fret. If bad things only happen to bad people and good things to good people it would be a lot easier to make things fit. If the innocent were protected and the evil were apprehended it would be easier. If we would only reap what we sow it would be easier. But disaster, tragedy, evil, injustice, hardship, disease, suffering, pain, and even death are not evenly distributed, strike with unpredictability, mangle our understanding. So we try hard to make life as safe and predictable as we can, we try hard to protect ourselves against pain, especially if it has already injured us. It doesn’t work. Even if our worrying, our anxiety, our fretting has some success they in themselves afflict us, twist us, pain us.

Senselessness, not being able to understand, hurts, carries no peace, continually assaults the mind. Its casualties are too numerous to count. “What should I have done?” What did I do to deserve this?” “Why didn’t I recognize …?” “Why me/us?” “Why would God do this to me/us?” “If only I …!” “How come …?” “Why?” Endless questions, endless second guessing, real and imagined regrets, the absence of soothing answers, an inner bleeding spins and dizzies us like clothes wrung out and stuck in the spin cycle of a washing machine.

We try to cope the best we can, life does go on. Some drink, medicate. Some cling to tighter control, ever greater carefulness. Some surrender to senselessness cynicism, or some other ism. Some remain shattered and broken. But what we really need is peace. We can’t conjure up peace no matter how hard we try, we know immediately when it is fake. No, for some things we need peace that “surpasses all understanding,” peace that exceeds the capacities of our minds, peace that it is able to wrap its comforting arms around our emotions, peace that returns strength, courage, hope, and joy.

Where is that kind of peace found? With God alone, with him who is infinitely wise, infinitely good, whose purposes are not upset by the evil and arbitrariness of our existence, who knows how to hold and fully comfort a child – you and me. We are invited to come to him, broken, confused, hurting, angry, despairing, afraid, exhausted,  torn and worn. We are invited to cry, to wail, to sob, to shout, to scream, to pour it all out. We are invited to ask, to request, to address the fullness of our needs, of our pain, of our fears, and of our sorrow. We are invited to come without any confidence of our own and yet be confident that in God, through Christ we can find real peace for our hearts and minds. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV).

May the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way                   2 Thessalonians 3:16 (HCSB).

Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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My Little Big Brother

I have two older brothers. One is my big big brother, Michael, and the other is my little big brother, Andreas Paul. Andi, is the little big one, little because size-wise he was the smallest of us five, big because other than his size there really wasn’t anything little about him. He was big in his influence, certainly on me. He was big in faith, big in heart, big in generosity, big in smarts, skill, energy, people skills, and huge in will power and tenacity. He was big enough for someone to model their life after him, big in true friendship, big as Dad, big as a husband, big as doctor. Like I said, he is my little big brother.

 

In my opinion everyone should have a little big brother like that because you if you have one your life is so much better, so much richer. A LBB (Little Big Brother) is great to have if you want someone to ditch Kindergarten with for the very first time. A LBB is an excellent companion to sneak out of the house with in the middle of the night to do stuff you shouldn’t do. But an LBB is not just good for doing stupid stuff when you’re young, you learn of his real value as you go through life you can talk with him, pray with him, worship with him, and lean on him. A LBB gives you all kinds of reasons to be proud of him, you can brag on him and it is not really bragging because it is true (mostly, except when you get carried away – but no one will blame you).

My LBB is down to his last few breaths, too soon, much too soon. Soon he will be buried; fortunately he began digging a long time ago and buried things in my heart, in my mind, in my memory. It is treasures he buried there, it’s what LBB’s do, they make you rich, they leave inspiration, they leave life, they never leave things empty. But have to warn you, it’s hard, very hard, to say goodbye to your LBB. I think it is because they are so precious, so irreplaceable, so darn easy to love, but that too is typical of my LBB.

Faith, faith in Christ changed him, challenged him, keeps him. You would have a completely false picture of my Little Big Brother without his faith. When he surrendered his skepticism he also surrendered himself. When he drank from the cup of God’s grace he didn’t just sip and so he anchored it all in Jesus, his soul, his marriage, his family, his giftedness, his work, his passions, his days. When towering flood waves overran the shoreline of his life and swept out to sea his health, his career, his speech, and so much more, that faith remained. In the struggle to reclaim, to rebuild, and in the relentless pounding surf of “Why? Why? Why?” that faith remained. And so my LBB is not just leaving behind precious memories but real hope, the hope that comes when you can call Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the one who lived, and died, and rose again, your brother, “So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters” Hebrews 2:11 (NLT).

My Little Big Bother’s last words to me were, “Liebe dich sehr” (love you so).

To God be the glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4 (NIV)

Michael Brown is dead, shot by a police officer. James Foley is dead, beheaded by a jihadist. Dr. Ameyo Adedavoh died after she contracted Ebola when she had to physically restrain an infected patient, American-Liberian Patrick Sawyer, who wanted to leave the hospital. We only know about them because they made the news but along with them scores have died whose names we will never know, precious only to those who loved and knew them or maybe to no one at all.

There is no shortage of opinions on the death of Michael Brown, on James Foley, on the Ebola epidemic. There is no shortage of outrage, anger, propaganda, political agendas, and rhetoric. There is no shortage of onlookers, head-shakers, and “what is the world coming to”-ers. There is no shortage of anger, hatred, and violence. What is missing are the mourners, those who weep, those whose hearts are moved, those who feel the brokenness, the senseless, the loss.

If I am not careful my observation about the lack of mourning is just my clever tack to have a novel non-involved opinion. Am I mourning? Is the death of Michael Brown causing me to mourn? Am I grieved that there is still a big gap between the treatment of people with different colors of skin? Do I weep over the fact that our police chiefs see a need to assemble military like forces to keep the peace? Do I open my heart to feel the loss of countless Muslims who, like James Foley, have suffered through senseless violence, war, corruption, sectarianism, and religion run amuck? Does my heart hurt so much I dream of better for black teenagers, radical Islamists, and disease stricken, impoverished Africans? Am I willing to plead their cases on my knees before God? Am I willing to get out my check book? Am I willing to turn my back on meaningless talk and opinionating and instead mourn openly, publicly?

“Blessed are those who mourn.” There is no blessedness in anger, in violence, in injustice, in poverty, in oppression. There is no blessedness in apathy, on-looking, commentating, disengaging.

“Blessed are those who mourn.” We don’t mourn over things we do not care about, we don’t feel their loss. The Prophet Jonah was rebuked by God because didn’t care if 120,000 little kids along with their families got wiped out, but cried and grieved over the loss of his air conditioner (Jonah 4).

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Mourners know how to help. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV). The Greek word for comfort paints the picture of coming alongside, the very word Jesus used to describe the Spirit of God (John 14:16-17). No wonder calls us blessed when we are willing to mourn, we act like him when we do.

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

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