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Archive for the ‘Mourning’ 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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Human history a tale of conflict, strife, enmity, violence, and war. The Bible reflects this reality from the 3rd chapter of Genesis to the 20th chapter of Revelation. All the advancements of science, all the modern advancements of technology, all the study of history, all of the religious practices and rejections of the one true God by mankind have not changed that reality. In fact, we just have gotten better at it. At the battle of Cannae it took Hannibal and his army a day to slaughter 80,000 Romans, today we can level a city of millions in a flash. We can’t even imagine peace without strong armies standing guard and willing to fight.

The threats are not only external, nations and peoples pitted against each other, but also internal. Try to name a nation that is without strife, without conflict, without violence, without corruption, without various groups pitted against each other and willing to fight, clashing over ideologies, policies, liberties, rights, wealth, and … Just think about how much blood has been spilled between the East and West coasts of the United States from long before the Europeans settled here down to the present day.

Even the history of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, incarnate for 30 odd years is marked at its very beginning by Herod’s regional infanticide, serval attempt on his life, and eventually his crucifixion.  The words of Isaiah the prophet are as true today as when he first wrote them and when Jesus walked the earth, “The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks in them will know peace.  So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows” Isaiah 59:8-9 (NIV. Take a few minutes, get out a copy of the Bible or find one online, and read Isaiah 58-59 and let it sink in).

Both presently and ultimately it takes the intervention of the prince of peace, a Savior, the one who can change both the human heart and history to interrupt the cycles of depravity we cannot escape on our own, to regenerate what sin has killed, to redeem what has been lost, to reconcile us to God and his will, and to make us merciful as he is merciful (Luke 6:36).

Things are so much cleaner on paper, neater on a page filled with words. The hard part is translating what is right, what is good, what is just, and what pleases God into our lives, our private life, community life, political life, national life, our “neighbor’s” life, our enemy’s life. How do you that?

  • You have to care “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” Galatians 6:2 (NIV).Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” Philippians 2:4 (NIV).
  • You have dream of something better Jesus cried out, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings …!” Luke 13:34 (NIV). ‘‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” Matthew 5:6 (NIV).  “(Abraham) was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” Hebrews 11:10 (NIV).
  • You have to be willing to weep for others and over the brokenness you see –“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” Matthew 5:4&9 (NIV). “…, weep with those who weep” Romans 12:15 (NASB).
  • You have to orient yourself on God and his Son Jesus Christ –“(Father God) Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:10 (NIV, parenthesis mine).  “…, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” 1 Corinthians 1:24 (NIV).  “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” James 3:17-18 (ESV).
  • You have engage and don’t quit – “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you, …” Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV).  “Be doers of the word (of God, the Bible) …” James 1:22 (ESV, parenthesis mine). I want each of you to extend that same intensity toward a full-bodied hope, and keep at it till the finish. Don’t drag your feet. Be like those who stay the course with committed faith and then get everything promised to them” Hebrews 6:11-12 (MSG).

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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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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