Celebrating at a Funeral?

July 17, 2019 at 10:08 am | Posted in Q&A | 1 Comment
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Question: Someone in my family died, and this person had a strong salvation testimony and lived for many years the way the Bible says we would expect a Christian to live. The funeral was more like a party than a funeral. Everybody was laughing and joking, and they even played upbeat party music. Is this okay, since everybody agreed that the person had gone to Heaven?

Answer: Well, I don’t want to say it was NOT okay. There is certainly a sense in which it is okay to celebrate when we believe someone we love has gone to Heaven. But I wouldn’t want to tell people they are not supposed to grieve when someone they love has died, either. I Thessalonians 4:13 says, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” Some people take that to mean we shouldn’t sorrow at all when a Christian dies, but I think it means that it is okay to sorrow, just not the same way we would sorrow over someone that died without ever having trusted Christ. After all, Jesus Himself wept when Lazarus died (John 11:35), and He knew He would bring him back to life!

There are two considerations that might temper the celebratory atmosphere at the funeral of a Christian. One is compassion for those in attendance who may not feel like celebrating (Romans 12:15). It would be callous to act irreverent in the presence of people who are going to miss the person who has died. Two, the Bible makes it clear that death itself shouldn’t be frivolously talked about as some “natural, circle-of-life, blessing-in-disguise” occurrence. Death is caused by sin (Genesis 2:17, 3:6; Romans 5:12, 6:23). Death is an adversarial invader into God’s originally “very good” (Genesis 1:31) creation. Every time someone dies, we should grieve over the fact that we ourselves engage in behavior that our Creator deems worthy of death, and a funeral is a stark illustrated sermon on the seriousness of sin and its consequences.

Things God Prepared in the Book of Jonah: A Worm and a Wind

May 24, 2019 at 10:34 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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In the Book of Jonah:

1. God prepared a great fish.
2. God prepared a gourd.
3. God prepared a worm.

Jonah was glad for the gourd that God prepared to provide shade, but he did not take advantage of the opportunity to repent. Therefore, the next morning God prepared a worm to take away Jonah’s shelter.

But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.

Jonah 4:7

Compared to the great fish which God had prepared to swallow Jonah, a little gourd-blighting worm seems like such a small consequence, but Jonah needed to be reminded just how inconsequential even God’s “greatest” servants are once they forget how great their God is and how truly dependent upon Him they really are. The Bible calls Job, David, and the patriarch Jacob and the nation descended from him worms. I have found, when preparing to preach the Gospel in public that Jonah 4:7 (“…God prepared a worm…”) is good verse upon which to meditate, as a reminder that what I’m about to attempt – proclaiming the glory of the Savior – is something at which I will fail miserably unless God manifests His own power through – or even in spite of – me.

4. God prepared a wind.

And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.

Jonah 4:8

Finding himself without shade on a scorching day, we might expect that a stiff breeze would bring Jonah at least a little relief, but it was not so with this special prepared vehement wind blowing in with the heat from the rising sun, and taking away all of Jonah’s strength to the point that he wished to die. Under extreme duress, God’s servants sometimes need a realistic experience of the fear of literal death to remind them of the necessity of dying to self spiritually in order live in the power of God. We tend to think of death as an ending, but God sometimes uses the death of self-confidence, self-reliance, and self-sufficiency to prepare us for a new beginning on the road to spiritual victory.


Why Did God Make Fire Ants Mean?

April 26, 2019 at 9:43 am | Posted in Q&A | 1 Comment
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Question (from a four year old*): Why did God make fire ants mean?

Answer: In the Garden of Eden, before Adam and Eve sinned, ants were not mean, and they didn’t hurt anyone. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, He cursed our world with pain and death (Genesis 3:17-19; Romans 5:12). Now, He allows fire ants to hurt people to remind us that we live in a sinful world, and that we are sinful people, and that sin hurts, so that we will also remember that we need God to forgive us, and that, if we trust Jesus, we can live in a place where fire ants are nice again, and no one gets hurt or dies.

*Here is a more “grown-up” response: https://answersingenesis.org/evidence-for-creation/design-in-nature/design-in-the-curse/?utm_source=twitter-aig&utm_medium=social&utm_content=designinthecurse-4314&utm_campaign=20150702&fbclid=IwAR3vm_nkOUD824tX8ZaxcIFzUjyq_sr6B1YWged2JMU7DimZI8ZEileT1us

Signs from Beyond the Grave?

February 27, 2019 at 11:21 am | Posted in Q&A | 2 Comments
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Question: Some people (even Christians), when they have lost a loved one, believe they are getting “signs” from that person. Am I closed-minded to think that this can’t be true? I just don’t see God letting someone come back to earth to make an object move by itself across the room, or perform some other “trick.” Our final destination is either Heaven or hell. There is no in-between, right? I guess some people feel so much grief, that maybe the idea of a “sign” from their loved one brings comfort. Is there Scripture on this?

Answer: When this happens, I don’t think the person grieving his lost loved one is really thinking correctly about what he is feeling or thinks he’s seeing. The Bible says that, for a Christian, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (II Corinthians 5:6-8), so you are correct in saying there is no “in-between.” When someone dies, his or her soul and consciousness go directly to Heaven or hell (Hebrews 9:27).

It’s hard, because when a person is seriously grieving, we have a tendency to be glad when they find any sort of comfort. “If it makes them feel better or helps them get through it, where’s the harm?” we tend to think. The problem is, like you said, nothing in the Bible says this is okay. In fact, it’s really the opposite: Job 7:9-10; Ecclesiastes 9:5-6; Psalm 146:4. And we are even warned not to get involved with attempting to communicate with people who have died: Isaiah 8:19-20; Leviticus 19:31; I John 4:1,4.

Finally, it may sound harsh, but I do not really think that, once we get to Heaven, and especially once we see Jesus face to face, we will even have a desire to come back to this world to visit our loved ones or to try to make them feel better. They are supposed to be finding their comfort in Christ through His Spirit (Philippians 4:19), anyway, not from mysteriously mobile objects or spooky feelings or rainbows or old notes stowed away in dresser drawers. In the passages in the Bible which describe Heaven, the focus is always on the Lord and the worship of Him, not on what we left behind.

We should really pray for pastoral staff members who are counseling and helping people grieving over the death of a loved one. It is very easy to say the wrong thing, and there is always a temptation just to let them take comfort in whatever seems to work, but these “signs” and “messages” and “visions” can easily become an unhealthy fixation. In the Bible, the spirits of the dead were referred to as “familiar” spirits, which means people wrongly associated them with “family” members who had died. Of course, Satan can take advantage of this and prey on people’s emotions (II Corinthians 11:14-15), so it’s better to deal in truth even when we’re trying to deal with someone who is very distraught.

Reality Must be Encountered

February 20, 2018 at 4:01 pm | Posted in I Corinthians, V.I.C.T.O.R.Y. | 4 Comments
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The victory that Christ has achieved for us means that, as we live for Him in this temporal world:

V.anity must be expelled;
I.mmortality must be entered into;
C.orruption must be eliminated;
T.hankfulness must be expressed;
O.pportunity must be embraced;
Reality must be encountered.

The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

I Corinthians 15:56

Face the facts: Death is in the world. It is coming for every one of us. It is here because of sinOUR sin. And our sin is shown clearly by the Law.

That’s the strongest effect of the Law – it highlights our sin. We need to face that fact, and we need to encounter it – deal with it, talk to our friends and others about it. The opportunities that people have to trust Christ – and the opportunities we have to work for Him – are limited. The Gospel is the Good News, but the Good News isn’t good news without the bad news. You can’t get the victory over something you’re not willing to face.

Next time we will see that yesterday must be eclipsed.

Catechism Question 8

June 25, 2014 at 3:02 pm | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism | 3 Comments
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Question 8: What is the punishment for sin?
Answer: The punishment for sin is death.
Prove it.

Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.

Ezekiel 18:4

If this is true (and it is!) then why don’t we die the very first time we sin? God in His grace and mercy does not immediately kill everyone who sins, although that would be just.

How can the sinner’s punishment be eternal if death is the end? Just as the gift of God for those who trust in Christ is eternal life, so the punishment for sinners who die apart from Christ is eternal death, which means the soul consciously existing in torment forever, experiencing the eternal wrath of God.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6:23

God has woven into the curse of sin a natural progression toward death, although He is free to intervene in the process and rescue sinners.

Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

James 1:15

Catechism Question 5

April 30, 2014 at 11:58 am | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism | 13 Comments
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Question 4: How was everything when God created it?
Answer: It was very good.
Prove it.
Genesis 1:31

Question 5: What went wrong with everything God created?
Answer: Sin brought the curse of death into the world.
Prove it.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Romans 5:12

It is important to teach the relationship of sin to death. This is also a good opportunity to explore the question, “Why are we paying the price for what Adam did?” In response to this question we can discuss the idea of “federal headship,” and explain that, while it was Adam’s sin that is the origin of our sinful condition, he was an accurate representative for our race, in that all of us have sinned (and do sin often and regularly) of our own volition.

This is also a good opportunity to explain what God was working out in allowing one man’s sin to bring death, and one “Man’s” (the Lord Jesus Christ, the “God-man”) obedience and sacrifice to bring life and salvation for all who would believe.

Another obvious question is, “Why did just one sin affect the whole universe and the whole human race?” Here is where we can highlight the seriousness of sin and the holiness of God.

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Genesis 2:16-17

God sent the curse, but He is not the author of sin. He gave Adam and Eve fair warning, and He keeps His word.

For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one [point], he is guilty of all.

James 2:10

God is not determining “guilt” on a sliding scale. One sin is one sin too many, and God is righteous and just in condemning every single sin and every single sinner – which is why everyone needs a perfect Savior!

Who’s in Charge Here?

November 14, 2012 at 10:53 am | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails, Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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It can be so tempting… Someone you really care about has experienced a tragedy like the unexpected death of a loved one. It’s not uncommon in situations like this for people to react with extreme grief. “How could God do this?” they will demand to know. In these days of social media, such expressions can find their outlet in very public places. I am thankful at times like these for opportunities to minister in the name of Christ. Jesus Himself knows what it is like to experience pain and sorrow (John 11:32-38; Luke 13:34). Great care must be taken, however, to avoid the temptation to lie about God in an attempt to make someone feel better, or even to protect God’s reputation.

Let’s use the example of a parent who is grieving over the death of his or her young child. Here are some of the common lies that well-meaning Christians use to try to keep hurting people from questioning God’s goodness or even existence:

“This was not God’s plan.”
“God just needed another angel.”
“God is not in control of the earth.”
“Satan owns this world until Jesus comes back.”
“God never causes pain.”

Perhaps the most dangerous thing about these statements is that they are the types of lies that we sometimes euphemistically call “half-truths.” Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), specializes in this type of deceit. Mixing a lie in with the truth makes it all the more palatable.

Here is the truth: God can and sometimes does allow pain and tragedy. The Bible is replete with examples of God allowing the wicked to reap what they have sown, and even sending calamities and death to specific individuals and large groups of people. We don’t like to think of God having the power to spare a young child from death, and then refusing to exercise that power, but we do no service to God when we claim to know His secret counsel, and make a pronouncement that something was definitely not His plan, when in fact we simply do not know.

We also know that the angels are created beings. They exist in reality, but they are not former people who have died and gone to Heaven. The idea – popularized by everything from greeting cards to cartoons – that when people die they don a white gown, receive a halo, and float away on a white cloud playing a harp, is completely unsupported by Scripture. Is it really helpful anyway to suggest that God is lonely or lacking in Heavenly servants so that He sometimes selfishly takes away someone’s child to make another angel? The One True and Living God is not lonely. He is perfect, immutable, and lacks nothing.

Finally, we must beware of the lie propagated by the so-called “Word of Faith” or “Prosperity Gospel” movements. Many people tune in regularly to a religious television network called TBN and they have been deceived by the lie that man’s fall in the Garden of Eden gave Satan complete control over this world and locked God out pending Christ’s return. Pentecostals and Charismatics are especially susceptible to this heresy, which says that the way to activate God’s intervention into the devil’s domain here on Earth is to send up our “faith” in the form of “words,” which give God permission to make us healthy, wealthy, safe, or influential. Of course, the wealthy proponents of this false teaching will also tell you that your words of faith need to be accompanied by “love offerings” or “seeds of faith” that begin with a “$.” Again, anyone who buys into this religious Ponzi scheme has not honestly read the New Testament.

Men and women are fallen sinful creatures. Apart from the saving power of Jesus we enslave ourselves to the little “g” god of this world, Satan. But Satan has not overcome God. He has not locked God out of the earth. He has not tricked God nor unseated Him from His sovereign throne. For reasons which we can not fully understand, God allows Satan to operate with some authority in this world (subject to God’s ultimate control). If you know someone who is upset with God for taking someone they love, here are your choices:

1. Leave them alone and pray for them.
2. Pray for them, be there for them, and keep your mouth shut, your ears open, and your shoulder and tissues handy.
3. In a kind, loving, humble way, tell them the truth: God is Lord over all and He is completely in control (I Chronicles 29:11). Satan’s temporary, limited reign on this earth was broken and he was defeated by Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection (Ephesians 4:8-27). Jesus Himself is seated at God’s right hand, and has been given all authority and power over everyone, every place, and every thing (Matthew 28:18; Hebrews 1:1-3).

And whatever you do, don’t lie about God. He is working all things together for His glory and the good of those whose trust is in Christ Jesus, whether it seems like “good” at the time to us or not (Romans 8:28).


April 1, 2010 at 10:09 am | Posted in II Corinthians, Salvation | 4 Comments
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Maybe you have doubts that Jesus really died for your sins and the sins of the whole world 2000 years ago, and that He was resurrected and lives today.

Maybe you’re thinking that good deeds will get you to Heaven if there even is a Heaven.

Maybe you have joined a church.

Maybe you have completed some holy sacraments.

Maybe you just don’t think we can ever really know what’s going to happen to us after we die.

But maybe – deep down – you have a sense that none of those things are right. Maybe God’s Holy Spirit is speaking to you now and He’s convicting you of sin. You know that God is too righteous and too holy to allow unrepentant sinners into Heaven.

Maybe you really realize that the only way to be saved from your sins is to repent and believe that Jesus died for your sins, and is alive today, and is wanting to save you.

Trusting Him and believing on Him is the one and only way to get right with God (John 1:12; Acts 16:31; John 14:6).

Maybe the Holy Ghost is not the only one speaking to you now.

Maybe all three of your enemies are gathered together in a troop: Satan, your flesh, and the world.

Maybe the devil is lying to you right now, telling you that this can’t be true, that you can’t be saved just by repenting and trusting Jesus, that it’s too easy, that you better try to live right first, and then come to Jesus.

Maybe your flesh is telling you that it will be too embarrassing. “People will laugh at you. People will call you a religious nut or a big phony. Look at all your sins. Do you think you can make up for all that just by confessing that Jesus is the Son of God, and by asking Him to forgive you and save you?”

Maybe the world is saying, “Besides, think what you’ll have to give up. Look at things in which you’ve already invested your life.”

Maybe this is your last chance, and you are tempted to scoff at this post. If today is an average day there will be approximately 60 murders in the world. On average, over 150,000 people die every day. On average, 1.8 people die every second. The offer of redemption – of salvation by grace – is a “limited time only” offer. Your heart could harden, you could die, or Jesus could come back.

Today – right now – is the day of salvation for you.

…now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)

II Corinthians 6:2

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