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.

Jeremiah and the Blackhearts

May 30, 2018 at 1:51 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 4 Comments
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It is almost as if the Lord turns introspective in Jeremiah Chapter 8. He was clearly both angry and sad (grieved) by the people’s refusal to understand (or accept) the basic concepts of being blessed for loyalty, and being punished for treason.

Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return.

Jeremiah 8:5

Some backsliding was to be expected, perhaps, for fallen sinners, but they had become “perpetual” – permanent, continual, unrepentant – backsliders who WOULD NOT turn. They had let go of the Lord so easily, but they held on to obvious lies like drowning men clinging to a floating log. Such nimble “turners-away” seemed to be so dead-set against “turning back.”

As Christians, we must be careful of that same problem. We may assume that we can always come back to the Lord, or come back to church, or come back to what we once knew was right, but self-deceit has a way of sinking its hooks into us and brainwashing us.

It’s much easier to get out of church than to get back in, but it’s easier to STAY in church than to get back in, too. Set your anchor in God’s Word and in His body. Don’t experiment with the world. Don’t try to prove your will power or your false maturity by “proving” that you can handle what God says you can’t.

I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle.

Jeremiah 8:6

It’s an uphill battle to get back on the right track, obeying God, but our sin nature will charge into sin and evil like a horse charging into battle.

Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the Lord.

Jeremiah 8:7

Even birds follow their instincts to go where their Creator programmed them to go. How could God’s “greatest,” “wisest” creatures defy the law He has given to them?

How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain.

Jeremiah 8:8

This is the first mention of “scribes” in the Bible. These were men who should have been faithfully recording and teaching God’s law, but instead were adding silly legalistic rules to it, in order to cover up its true spirit.

The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord; and what wisdom is in them?

Jeremiah 8:9

The canon of Scripture wasn’t closed in those days. God was still speaking through prophets like Jeremiah and Hosea and Malachi, but the priests and scribes and kings and false prophets were too “wise” to listen to God’s Word. They used the Law as a covering for their sin instead of using it as a mirror to point them straight to the Law-Giver and His Savior.

Jeremiah’s feelings mirrored God’s feelings:

When I would comfort myself against sorrow, my heart is faint in me.

Jeremiah 8:18

Every time he considered the people’s hearts it affected his own heart. Their behavior should have been hurting their own hearts, but it was hurting Jeremiah’s instead.

Behold the voice of the cry of the daughter of my people because of them that dwell in a far country: Is not the Lord in Zion? is not her king in her? Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images, and with strange vanities? The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.

Jeremiah 8:19-20

This was a proverb for the years when the wheat harvest would fail, only to have the fig, olive, and grape harvests fail, too. It meant that there would be no food that winter, and that people would starve.

For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me.

Jeremiah 8:21

Jeremiah had worse than a case of the “blues.” He had a case of the “blacks!”

Letter to a Grieving Mother

November 30, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Posted in John, Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Dear Ms. Smith:

My family and I were sorry to hear about your daughter. I wish I had known her better. My wife and I and our daughters have cried about Sally, and we have prayed for you. I don’t imagine there is anybody besides Jesus who can honestly say they know what you are going through right now. Over the years I have counseled with people whose children have passed away, and sometimes they try to describe their feelings, but it’s not really possible. When I was a small boy my dad would take me fishing and he would get so angry when I didn’t cast the lure properly, because the fishing line would snap back into the reel and cause a huge knot. Sometimes he could get the knot out – through clenched teeth and flared nostrils – and sometimes he gave up and threw the rod down in disgust: it was too tangled. My friends who have experienced the death of a young child sometimes feel sad, confused, angry at themselves, angry at others – even angry at God. Sometimes they feel loneliness, despair, hopelessness, aggravation, numb, or lost – sometimes all of these things at once. Like a big tangled knot of fishing line that can’t be sorted out. Please don’t think that I’m saying that’s what you’re feeling about the loss of your beautiful young daughter. I don’t have any way of knowing what you are going through. But I still want to tell you some things that I know to be true.

When a child is crying and can’t be consoled sometimes the child’s mother will hold the child’s face in her hands. Using her thumbs like miniature windshield wipers, she will wipe away the tears under the child’s eyes. She will look the child in the face and say, “Everything’s going to be okay.” And it helps – it really does. But, the thing is, there will be times after that when the child will cry again. I have no way of knowing if Sally was crying when she went to see Jesus. Maybe she was. But if so, the Bible tells what happened to her next: Jesus wiped away her tears. Jesus did not look like a stranger to Sally. He did not look mean or scary or intimidating or stern. He looked beautiful and comforting and loving to Sally, and He wiped away her tears in a way that made it so that she will never ever cry or be sad or lonely or scared or confused ever again. She knows things we have no clue about right now, and she wouldn’t leave where she is for the world. The words “happy” and “joyful” and “having fun” do not even begin to describe the sublime bliss and peace and excitement that Sally is experiencing for all eternity. She is in the best place in the whole universe, and she will be forever, and it will only get better and better.

When you try to comfort someone whose child has died you are not supposed to say stuff like this. You are supposed to shut your mouth and just be there for them and pray for them. The chances of making a grieving parent feel worse are high, and the chances of making her feel better are miniscule. I’m breaking that rule in writing to you, because I hope you already know the truth, but in case you don’t, I want you to know it. When Jesus told His disciples He was going to be arrested and put to death they were scared and confused. In those days when the government killed a criminal they tortured him publicly and killed him slowly over a period of days. The disciples were thinking, “If they’re going to do that to Jesus, they might do it to us, too.” So here’s what Jesus told them:

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

John 14:1-3

Jesus was telling them it would be okay. Heaven is real. He really has gone there, and if we have believed the Gospel and placed our trust in Him, we are going to where He and Sally already are. Please make sure you have believed the Gospel and trusted in Jesus.

Sincerely,


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