Living at Peace with Loss

This semester I am leading a GriefShare group at King’s Grant. It’s a thirteen week small group that will have an effect on the rest of one’s life, but it is possible to Live at Peace with Loss.

A Description of Grief:

June Hunt writes that grief is a heart response to hurt, a painful emotion of sorrow caused by the loss or impending loss of someone or something that has deep meaning to us.

Grief can dig a “ditch of dependency” with deep ruts of anguish, depression, and isolation—strong emotions very difficult to pull yourself out of. God understands our anguish; even the Lord Jesus is described in the Bible as a:

“”Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3)

We can also be assured that our pain is always purposeful, and when grief accomplishes its work, a deep well has been carved within us that God, in His time, will fill with joy, peace, and contentment. Bible says:

“‘Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.” Lamentations 3:32-33

The journey of grief may be painful, but there is joy in that we don’t travel on this journey alone.

Living with Grief:

“Grief is the recognition you’ve lost someone you love; if there were no love, there would be no grief.” (Zig Ziglar)

Grief is normal, it is not a sign of weakness. Many people will pretend that everything is okay, but this response is not helpful. We must give ourselves permission to grieve, and men, we often don’t do that. We feel we need to be the strong ones and pull ourselves up by determination. People need to honestly express their emotions and realize that the pain of grief will come and go from day to day, perhaps hour by hour.

We are often unprepared for grief when it shows up and you will be surprised at how long it may last. In GriefShare we discovered that we should “lean into our grief” which is like standing in the ocean being tossed by the surf. Don’t run from it, you can’t stop it, but you can stand strong by leaning into it.

We also learned that we should not make big decisions while experiencing grief. Don’t rush into selling the house; remember that you had 30 years of memories there and after you have dealt with grief, you will cherish those memories while still living there. Don’t rush into remarriage, big mistake, and don’t allow people to rush you on your journey.

Weekly Encouragement:

The topics for each week are wonderful, and the first three are appropriate for those in grief who may not have lost a loved one to death. Perhaps there is a loss of life as we have known it.

  1. Living with grief
  2. The journey of grief
  3. The effects of grief
  4. When your spouse dies
  5. Your family and grief
  6. Why?
  7. The uniqueness of grief – two sessions
  8. The prescription for grief
  9. Stuck in grief
  10. Top twenty lessons of grief – two sessions
  11. Heaven

Are People Married for Eternity?

What is this life all about? Is it preparation for the age to come? Where does the soul go after we depart this planet? Will there be a resurrection? If so, what is the point? Do we spend eternity in heaven with Jesus like an unending worship service? Will we still be married to the one we love? Will she be waiting on the other side, longing to be reunited? Let’s take a look at Luke 20:27-40.

“But now, as to whether the dead will be raised—even Moses proved this when he wrote about the burning bush. Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, he referred to the Lord as ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live before him.” (Luke 20:37-38)

As Jesus taught in the temple courts, several religious leaders from the Sadducees approached him in an effort to trip him up theologically. The Sadducees were a priestly group of elite leaders who based their theology on the Torah only, the five books of Moses. That is why they did not affirm the resurrection of the dead, a view that comes out of  later sections of the Old Testament. This put the Sadducees at odds with other Jews of the time, including the Pharisees. The Sadducees believed that the soul perished along with the body. They would have answered the question “What happens after we die?” simply: “Nothing. When we die, we are dead. Period.”

In Luke 20:27-40, the Sadducees approached Jesus with a theological problem they thought invalidated the resurrection of the dead. It seems likely that they had discovered that Jesus, like the Pharisees, affirmed the resurrection doctrine. Suppose a widow remarries several times, the Sadducees proposed, when she and her husbands are resurrected, whose wife will she be? Since the Sadducees, along with all other Jews of their day, rejected the rightness of polygamy, their hypothetical situation seemed to show the foolishness of the resurrection.

Jesus responded to this challenge in a way that the Sadducees did not expect. He revealed that marriage “is for people here on earth” (Luke 20:34). In the age to come, when people are resurrected, they will not be married. Moreover, Jesus provided evidence from the Torah for the reality of life after death. The “God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” as revealed to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:6), is the God of the living. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are alive in God (Luke 20:38).

Jesus’ vision of life after death can be upsetting, not only to first-century Sadducees, but also to Christians today. We sometimes assume that the after-life will include marriage as we have known it. For those of us who are deeply connected to our spouses, it’s hard to imagine an eternity without being married to the one we love. Yet, if we trust God’s goodness, we have confidence that the life of the age to come will be wondrous beyond our imagination.

When it comes to the question of what happens after we die, there is much that we don’t yet know. But we do know that we will enter into a fullness of life in God, eternal life, abundant life, life as it was meant to be.

How do you respond to Jesus’ teaching about life after death? When you think of what God’s future holds, what do you envision? What do you hope for?

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God is Near, Don’t Miss Him

It’s been a busy month, so that is why the lack of posts in July. First I was on a mission trip to Kansas City, MO to help contract the new chapel at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Lots of framing, stage building, window trim, wood staining; take a look at the video presentation we did at church on July 24. It is a great week to spend with fellow believers doing something for someone else. Trips such as these can be life changing.

Then my mother-in-law, Polly Jo Wingo, passed on after a long health battle. Kim was down in Alabama for several weeks trying to care for her and her father. The hospice people were very helpful is getting things set up for Jo’s final two weeks. She died on Tuesday July 26. The experience reminded me how life is a gift and time is short, even when someone had 73 years on this planet.

As I was thinking about the brevity of life, I was reminded about his passage of Scripture from Isaiah 55:1-7.

Seek the Lord while you can find Him; Call on Him now while He is near (Isaiah 55:6)

It reminds me of missed opportunity, but also joy, because Isaiah is telling us that it is not too late.

October 2010, the world looked on as 33 Chilean miners were plucked one by one from their deep, cavernous prison. For more than 2 months, these men hung on to hope and life a half-mile below ground. The rescue teams preparing for the evacuation had many concerns:

  1. Would the escape pod function properly?
  2. Would the men experience hypertension as they rose to the surface?
  3. Would they develop blood clots?
  4. The primary concern, however, was panic attacks. “This is the first time in many weeks that the miners are going to be completely alone,” said Chile’s health minister.

We know what it feels like to be alone. Perhaps you’ve been abandoned by a parent or friend. You have experience the death of a close family member. Perhaps you have been overseas and culture shock is about to overcome you. You may feel lost. Even in a crowd, you feel isolated. In a city of a million people, you feel alone. God, however, invites us into relationship, into friendship. “Come to me,” God says (Isaiah 55:3). He invites us to come out of isolation and embrace relationship with Him.

When we come to God, we’re always welcomed with open arms. Unlike other relationships we’ve known, God’s love isn’t based upon us meeting some expectation or providing something for Him. He simply loves—completely, entirely, without hesitation. God loves us anyway, not for what we have done or what we’ll become. God makes a promise to His people, an “everlasting covenant [of] unfailing love” (Isaiah 55:3).

This everlasting covenant finds its ultimate expression in Jesus, who came to us and brought God to us, along with His life and forgiveness. We didn’t reach up to Him. In Jesus, God reached down to us. We didn’t come near to Him. In Jesus, God came near to us. Since God is near, don’t miss him!

“Seek the Lord while you can find Him,” Isaiah says. “Call on [God] now while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). The good news is that, in Jesus, “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23). You need to know more? Write to me, a comment here or use my online form, let’s talk.

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He Died in the Service

You’ve heard the joke… a boy sees a plaque in the foyer of the church honoring “those who died in the service.” While shaking the hand of the pastor at the end of the worship service, the little boy asks, “were they in the 8:30 or the 11:00 service?” I don’t know too many stories about people dying in church, but the Bible records one such story when Paul turns into a long-winded preacher in a place called Troas (Acts 20:7-9).

Paul left Ephesus and traveled through Macedonia and into Greece, where he stayed three months (Acts 20:1, 2, 3). Under more persecution, the small group (Acts 20:4) caught up with Luke at Troas (Acts 20:5, 6).

Luke was a man short on elaboration when it came to details, but as Paul preached on and on past midnight, a boy name Eutychus fell asleep sitting on a third floor window sill, fell out and “was picked up dead” (Acts 20:9). It appears that Paul’s enthusiasm exceeded the stamina of his audience.

As one with a spiritual gift of teaching, I understand the dilemma, wanting to pass on everything that I learn to others. I often wonder about my writing too much on this blog, but then justify the length at times for a few reasons:

  1. People will read only what they choose to read.
  2. If people want to know more they have it available right now.
  3. If people choose not to read it, I still have it on my blog as an electronic filing cabinet for my future reference!

I can imagine some of you reading this getting a kick out of Acts 20:9 where Luke mentions, “Paul kept talking on and on.” Perhaps you are thinking the same about me, going on and on, but I hope what I share with you is worth your time!

Back to the story. Had this boy not fallen asleep and out the window, Paul would not have had the opportunity to raise the dead. The message went on and on, the room was so crowded they had to sit people in the window to hear. The lamps and bodies made the room warm. Most of the listeners had risen at dawn that morning, so it was a very long day. I imagine the boy (and others) had to prop their eyelids open.

Perhaps a dream caused the boy to twitch and he fell out the window. It would not be such a funny story if it were not for the happy ending, Paul runs down and declares the boy is alive (Acts 20:10). Another humorous part for me is that after he raises the boy, Paul goes back upstairs and continues talking until morning (Acts 20:11).

The moral of this story, don’t sit too close to a window as you read my lessons… did I make this one a little shorter?

The Grounds for Faith

This Sunday we continue in Second Peter, which begs the question as to why would we have faith at all? How can we know God’s plan for us? Can we really trust what is recorded in Scripture? Peter will also address his thoughts as he nears the end of his earthly life. How can we know that what we have followed all these years was right? If you could convey a final message to people whom you hoped would continue and persevere in the Christian faith, what would you say? What would you want them to know?

This letter is in many ways Peter’s farewell address. He reminded them of their source of faith. It was not built on the apostles, but upon another source.

Invoking His Memory

What God revealed to Peter: Peter wants to remind his readers of what they already know, Peter was not holding anything back (2 Peter 1:12). These believers have been established in the truth. He mentions that stirring them up, teaching and encouraging them was the right thing to do, even though his execution was drawing near (2 Peter 1:13, 14). Jesus made it clear that he would not live to a ripe old age, but a martyr’s death (John 21:18, 19).

What Peter requires of us: Peter wants these believers to remember the great spiritual truths he has written in these letters, especially after “his departure” (2 Peter 1:15).

Identifying His Majesty

Here, Peter reviews what we call the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-13, Matthew 17:1-13). He and the disciples did not follow cleverly devised tales or stories about Jesus; he proclaimed that which he experienced. He was an eyewitness to the glory of Jesus (2 Peter 1:16, 17). The glory faded on the mountaintop, but the Word of God will never fade (1 Peter 1:24, 25). There was a sight (2 Peter 1:16) and there was a sound (2 Peter 1:17, 18). Peter experienced Christ, he did not just believe the right stuff about Him. Peter had a first-hand faith rather than a second-hand faith.

Inspiration of His Message

First Peter addresses the accomplishments of the Bible, moving toward giving us hope for the future (2 Peter 1:19). God’s Word is a light that shines in the darkness. As Galadriel spoke to Frodo giving him a gift of the special lamp, she said, “May it be a light in the dark places, when all other lights go out.”He challenges us to “make more sure” about the prophetic Word, which we “do well to pay attention.”

Then Peter moves to the author of the Bible (2 Peter 1:20, 21). So we beg the questions… can we trust the Word of God? How has it been preserved for us to read today? Is it reliable? Do we interpret the text properly? What does the word inspiration mean anyway? The message did not come from human writers, but from the power of God, people moved by the Holy Spirit.

Questions to Consider this Week:

  1. What people and events does Peter remind his readers (2 Peter 1:16-21)?
  2. What responsibilities did Peter seem to feel he had for his readers (2 Peter 1:12-15)?
  3. What phrases indicate Peter’s view of death?
  4. What can we assume was his attitude toward death?
  5. What do you hope will be your own attitude when death approaches?
  6. What could you be doing now to build toward a “good death?”
  7. In what ways did the transfiguration reveal the majesty of Jesus?
  8. What difference does it make to know that Peter’s teaching about Jesus came from eyewitness testimony?
  9. What difference does it make that the Father said of Jesus, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him.” (Matthew 17:5)
  10. What does this passage tells us about the design and purpose of Scripture (2 Peter 1:19-21)?
  11. What are some ways we can show respect for the Bible?
  12. Other verse to consider about the Messiah: Isaiah 40:1-11, 53:1-12, Micah 2:2-5, Zechariah 9:9, Revelation 21:22-22:7

Commentary:

Peter’s readers needed a reminder that rested on apostolic authority that was in harmony with other Scripture.

The Need for a Reminder (2 Peter 1:12–15)
Returning to the subject of God’s promises (2 Peter 1:4), Peter developed the importance of the Scriptures as the believers’ resource. This was designed to enable his readers to appreciate the value of the Scriptures and to motivate them to draw on God’s Word so they would grow in grace.

Peter’s previous words were a reminder to his readers, not new instruction. 2 Peter 1:3–11 contain basic truths about the Christian life. Peter apparently believed that he would soon die as a martyr. He said he wrote this epistle so that after his death the exhortation in it would be a permanent reminder to his readers.

The Trustworthiness of the Apostles’ Witness (2 Peter 1:16–18)
Peter explained that his reminder came from one who was an eyewitness of Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry, which would have heightened respect for his words in his readers’ minds. This section begins Peter’s defense of the faith that the false teachers were attacking, defense which continues through most of the rest of the letter.

The apostles had not preached myths to their hearers, as the false teachers were doing. They had seen Jesus’ power in action as God’s anointed Messiah. God had clearly revealed that Jesus is the Christ at His transfiguration when God had announced that Jesus is His beloved Son (2 Peter 1:18).

The Divine Origin of Scripture (2 Peter 1:19–21)
The prophetic Old Testament Scriptures confirm the witness of the apostles. That witness is similar to a light shining in a darkened heart and world. Until the Lord returns, we should give attention to the Old Testament and to the apostles’ teaching. That is the only real light available to us. What we have in Scripture originated not in the minds of men but in the mind of God (2 Peter 1:21). The prophets did not simply give their interpretation of how things were or would be. They spoke as God’s mouthpieces, articulating His thoughts in words that accurately represented those thoughts. The Holy Spirit “carried along” the prophets to do so.

The next lesson we will take a look at false teachers. Have a great week.