Monthly Archives: May 2016

Handling Grief

There is no one that lives very long that is not touched by, if not immersed in, grief. Grief is a visitor to our lives that wants to pull up a seat and stay for an extended period of time, and if we are not careful, it will move in to stay permanently.  I cannot think of very many things that are worse than being overcome in grief. I have been there, but by God’s grace He has allowed me to overcome.

My first encounter with grief came in in 1993 when my father committed suicide. Anyone who knew my father knew he was a Christian,but he suffered from a chemical imbalance in his brain that caused him to suffer from manic depression. He was fine as long as he took his medicine, but someone told him a Christian should not have to take medicine. Wanting to be a strong Christian, he stopped. Tragically I had to help the police officer take my father off the rope where he hung himself.  A little over 12 years ago, my wife was told she had cancer and she only had 12-18 months to live.  Oh what grief!  I watched her dwindle away eventually losing her in 2004. Grief was not done with me yet. I lost my mother 2 years later suddenly, then in 2013, my brother lost his battle with cancer. The worse was when I lost my son to leukemia in just 4 weeks’ time.  I share this personal information to let you know that God is still good, and you can overcome.

While suffering through my grief, someone recommended I read a self-help book on grief, but I found that there is no magic wand to relive your grief except your faith in God and using His word to move in your life.  He has all the answers in His book, so let me share the 9 point plan that has helped me.

  1. Acknowledge your sorrow and shed your tears: see Ecclesiastes 3:4. Everyone’s timeline and how they handle grief is different, so whatever it is, take time to mourn but realize there is a time to regain your joy.  You need to treat your grief like a boil. A boil never gets better until it is lanced and you get the corruption out, so it is with grief.  You have to get the tears and emotions out before you can heal.
  2. Share your grief. Romans 12:15 and 1 Corinthians 12:26 say we are to mourn with those that mourn, but this also means we have to let others mourn with us. Nothing helped me more than sharing my grief with my church family and letting them mourn with me.
  3. Ask God to handle it: see Psalm 23:4. David knew about grief and knew that whatever came his way that God would help him through it. He will help you too if you ask.
  4. Don’t let it settle in. Focus on the positives not the negatives as Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8. Hold onto and repeat the promises God has spoken to us like Romans 8:28 or Revelation 21:4.
  5. Don’t let it creep back in: see Colossians 3:15. There will be times when tears and emotions come flooding back in for no apparent reason or maybe a song or saying will remind you of the grief you have suffered. This is the time to focus on the blessing you have and had, not what you lost. Be thankful, not sorrowful. I choose to remember how blessed I was to have the people I lost in my life and the fond memories I have instead of the loss.
  6. Realize that you are not the only one that has suffered or lost: see 1 Corinthians 12:26.
  7. Understand that the situation or loss is only temporary: see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14. If your loved ones are in a saved condition we WILL see them again.
  8. Consider there is a reason for your grief and ask what you need to learn from the situation: see James 1:2-4.
  9. Use the lesson you have learned to help others: see 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.  There is no better therapy than being able to help others manage their grief by sharing your experiences.

We have been given a precious gift, that even when grief is overwhelming and tears fill our eyes, we have a savior that cares for us and feels our pain. The good news is that he endured grief and hardships to give you a home in heaven where there will be no grief or sorrow if you want it. The greatest grief you will ever endure is denying the truth until it is too late.

~ Rick Greenwood

Jesus is Lord

It’s no secret we live in a time where the name, person and authority of Jesus Christ is often defamed, dishonored and disrespected.  In the world, He is the punch line of jokes.  His name is frequently muttered in vain.  The thought of His divinity is scoffed at and mocked.  He’s commonly portrayed in mainstream media as weak, unassuming, and unintelligent – all in the name of “comedy” and “entertainment.”  If His existence is genuinely acknowledged, it’s often confined to the life of a good man or prophet that lived and died 2,000 years ago – but not the Son of God.  Sadly, this is the only picture and perception many people have of Jesus Christ.

But this stands in stark contrast to the unique glimpse John gets of Christ on the island of Patmos in the opening chapter of Revelation:

 “Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.” ~ Revelation 1:12-16

Even though John had spent much time with Christ on earth as a disciple and close friend (even seeing him transfigured), this glimpse of His Lord in all His glory caused John to fall down as if he were dead. I find this reaction to be a compelling testimony of the true power and authority Christ has been given.

This stunning depiction, in Revelation 1, might not be the typical mental image we get when thinking about Christ.  It’s often much easier, and more comfortable, to think about Jesus as the gentle Lamb of God rather than the glorified Christ; the lowly carpenter’s son rather than the exalted Son of God. But the description given in the passage above is of great value because it shows Christ as He truly is today. He is pure. He is powerful. He is glorious. He is eternal. He is Almighty. Simply put, He is Lord.

This is a fact that must be acknowledged and embraced before one can truly accept Christ. While some popular false doctrines teach that you can accept Christ as your Savior while not submitting your life to Him, Romans chapter 10 suggests otherwise: “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).  This verse is often used out of context to suggest that confessing and believing in your heart is all that is required for salvation. We can see from other New Testament teaching and examples that there are other things such as obedience, repentance and baptism that are involved as well. Rather, this verse seems to highlight the important prerequisite that we acknowledge Christ as Lord. If we can’t come to grips with that fact, obedience and baptism seem to be a useless conversation. If we don’t recognize Jesus as Lord, how will we submit to him as such? Jesus seems to drive at this point Himself in Luke 6:46 when He asks, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” I don’t find in the Bible a scenario where it is possible to accept Christ as our Savior but not our Lord. It’s simply critical that we come to this realization, and that we come to it before it’s eternally too late. In Philippians chapter 2, an inspired Paul writes:

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Jesus Christ left glory and humbled Himself by taking on the form of a man and taking on the sins of the world at the cross. As a result of His submission, God has highly exalted Him. He is Lord. And at Christ’s name every knee should bow and every tongue confess as much. The question is will we do it by faith or as a result of sight? Back in Revelation chapter 1 we’re promised that the glorified Lord will come again with the clouds and that every eye will see Him – even those who pieced Him. At that time there will be no doubt that He is Lord. It says that all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. What a scary thought to realize you hadn’t recognized the Lord until it was too late. But it doesn’t have to be so. When Christ saw John fall down before Him He said: “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” It is comforting to know our Lord has such power and authority when we’re found in Him.

~ Zach Crane

Discipleship

Jesus said in Luke 18:8b, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”  This is a verse that I have wrestled with much at times.  The church that Jesus Christ built will stand forever (Daniel 2:44)!  How bright, how strong, and how faithful will the Church be in the future, if God wills there to be a future?  I believe that answer rests on every soul in the body of Christ and our discipleship.

How many of us have started out with great plans? Maybe we vowed to keep the shed or garage clean.  We started off with the best intentions, yet because of neglect, other things got in the way, and we just let the garage or shed fall into chaos.

Sometimes our Christian lives can be very similar. We start out with a close walk with the Lord, with the very best intentions and the greatest aspirations, but along the way, our lives become cluttered. Trials and temptation challenge our faith. Friends and family, things and cares of this world draw us away from the Lord and His body, the church.

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him…” ~ Hebrews 12:1-3a

We need to refocus our attention and lives on the things that really matter.  This is what discipleship is all about.

Who am I?

Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Who am I?”  Deep down what kind of person am I?  What do I think about during the day?  What do others think about me?  Answering these questions may help reveal who we really are.  What do you enjoy, what do you say, what do you do, and what do you spend the majority of your time doing?  How do you handle stress, problems that may arise, and disappointments?  Are you a caring individual? These are all signs that point to who you are. If I were to die today, what would my friends, family, teachers, co-workers, teammates, say about me if asked to speak at my funeral?  This might tell me a little bit about who I am.  Most importantly, what would God say (2 Corinthians 5:9-10)?

You may say, Dan, that’s far down the road of life; I have plenty of time to live my life the way I want to, and when I grow older I will make some changes and follow the Lord more closely.  Life comes only once. But remember, forever also only comes once.  Emerson once wrote, “For everything you have missed, you have gained something else.”  Consider that, for everything worldly that you gain, you have missed something spiritually. The choices and decisions we make now help form and mold us into who we are.

Where am I in life?

If you don’t know where you are, how can you know where you are going?  One time I was trying to find someone’s house, and I took the wrong road; because I was on the wrong road, I was getting nowhere fast.  I had to stop and determine where I was before I could ever get back to the right road to get to my desired destination.  The same can be true spiritually.

In 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul encourages and admonishes disciples to examine their lives, to consider our faith, our service, and dedication to the Lord.  Paul says that examining and testing our faith is important; otherwise we may become disqualified.  Since becoming a Christian, how much have I spiritually grown?  How much more do I understand the Bible and make application of the truths contained therein?  How involved am in the work and function of the local body?

How many of you looked into a mirror today?   Who would look into a mirror and see a smudge on your face and walk away without wiping it off?  God gives us His word as a mirror for our lives, so that we can see that smudge of sin and take the steps, with His help, to fix it—the same reason we look into a glass mirror.

It is not always pleasant to see our flaws and sins, but if we are doers of God’s word, we will be blessed.  As we look deeply into God’s word, the perfect law of liberty, we see God’s goodness, His love, and His holiness. In contrast, we see our failing, our insufficiencies, our sins and ultimately our need for Him and the godly repentance He requires (James 1:22-25; 2 Corinthians 7:10-11).  This helps us get back on the proper road.

Where do I want to go?

After this life is over, where do I want my final destination to be?  If you don’t know where you’re going, you may end up somewhere you don’t want to be.  Thomas Guthrie wrote, “If you find yourself loving any pleasures better than your prayers, any book better than the Bible, any persons better than Christ, or any indulgence better than the hope of heaven—take alarm.”  A billboard sign reads “Will The Road You’re On Get You To My Place? — God.”

As a child I was taught that a disciple is a follower; but as I have grown older I have realized that a disciple is a follower who is a learner or pupil.  A disciple has an open heart unto the Lord and His word–willing to be moldable, to allow Christ to change and mold our lives into His image (Romans 8:29).  A disciple is not above his Teacher and Master and is a servant (Matthew 10:24-25).  A disciple must abide in the Lord’s word THE truth (John 8:31-32).  Disciples of the Lord must, like branches, live in Christ and bear fruit to His glory (John 15:1-8; Galatians 5:22-23).

Are you a disciple of Jesus?  If not, why not?  The Lord invites; won’t you answer His call (Matthew 11:28-30; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15)?

~ Dan Huff