Celebrating at a Funeral?

July 17, 2019 at 10:08 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a 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.

Two Kinds of Heart Medication

August 22, 2012 at 11:32 am | Posted in Ecclesiastes | 4 Comments
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A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.

Ecclesiastes 7:1-5

Can it be that the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth? From King Solomon’s Old Testament, life-under-the-sun perspective, he could imagine a life so filled with struggles, troubles, pain, and sorrow, that leaving this world behind would be sweeter than entering. Of course, New Testament Christians shouldn’t be so pessimistic. We celebrate birth and new life passionately, but there is still in a sense in which it can be said that our “death day” will be better than our “birth day.” For Christians, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, and our final breath in this earthly life will mean entering in to the far-superior Heavenly realm to experience the unsurpassable joy of the presence of Jesus forever and ever.

Solomon went on to state that the house of mourning is better than the house of feasting. Can this be so? In a sense, feasting is a celebration of temporal, earthly things, and mourning is the facing of the reality that this world and its finite pleasures will come to an end. Mourning tends to help us face reality and truth, whereas – sometimes – eating, drinking, and merry-making suspend our sense of the importance of eternal things.

Can sorrow be better than laughter? Who would rather cry than laugh? Again, we must temper our understanding of Solomon’s pronouncements by taking a long view of the good of our souls. The Bible does say that a merry heart can be like medicine, but sometimes we need to experience sorrow to diagnose our true ailment.

Can being chewed out be better than someone singing a song to you? It depends on the person doing the rebuking or the person doing the singing. To be entertained by a fool can be far worse than being rebuked by a wise friend who is holding you accountable in truth and love.

This passage of Scripture always reminds me of a poem by A.E. Housman which starts off with the line, “Terence, this is stupid stuff…” One of the points of the poem is that grief and mourning and meditating on tragedy strengthens people for future troubles and trials and difficulties which are sure to come. Housman uses the example of King Mithridates, who is supposed to have intentionally consumed small doses of poison over long periods of time to inoculate himself against assassination attempts (which in ancient times often took the form of poisoning the king’s meat or wine). I don’t endorse all the sentiments of the poem from a Christian perspective – especially since the narrator endorses drunkenness as a valid means of dealing with heartache! But this section of the poem is a pretty good summation of what Solomon was getting at in Ecclesiastes Chapter 7:

And while the sun and moon endure
Luck’s a chance, but trouble’s sure,
I’d face it as a wise man would,
And train for ill and not for good.

A.E. Housman

Christians find our true joy, peace, and fulfillment in Christ Jesus when times get tough, but we do not live in a make-believe world where suffering, grief, mourning, and tribulations are to be brushed aside with frivolous distractions or vain entertainment.

Healing for Truly Broken Hearts

September 20, 2010 at 9:53 am | Posted in Bible Studies, Salvation, Selected Psalms | 6 Comments
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Lord, help us today to get our eyes off of uncertainty. Help us to take our focus off of questions like, “Why now?” “Why did it happen?” Help us instead to look at something we don’t have to wonder about – something we can know for sure – Your Word. In Jesus Christ’s Name I pray. Amen.

God is the God of comfort. “Comfort” means “with strength.” God has provided for us three main things which work together to comfort us. A table with three legs has strength and stability to stand. A table with less than three legs would be very unstable. The three legs of Christian comfort, stability, and strength are: God’s Spirit; God’s Church; and God’s Word.

God’s Word is a living Word. Psalm 147 is a Psalm of comfort. Its Words were written down long ago, but they are written in present tense because God – and His Word – are still doing these things today.
“He gathereth together.”
“He lifteth up the meek.”
“He maketh peace.”
“He sendeth out His Word.”
In modern English we would say, “He is gathering; He is lifting; He is making peace; He is sending out His Word…”

Today, you may be brokenhearted. If so, no creature is able to heal a broken heart. But there is One that we see only by faith – and He can heal… even a broken heart.

He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.

Psalm 147:3

Even now He is healing broken hearts, and He is binding up wounds. Different people have different kinds of wounds, but God knows exactly what type of binding you need.

He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.

Psalm 147:4-5

There is nothing about you that God does not know. There is nothing broken in you that God can not heal. Understanding that God knows everything about you may make you uncomfortable. We know it’s true, but it’s scary. The Lord Jesus said:

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Matthew 5:4

That used to bother me. It’s so upside down from the way we’ve been taught. The way to get comfort is to mourn? “No,” says the common wisdom of man, “the way to get over mourning is to get your mind off it, to find something fun to distract you – then you won’t mourn.”
That’s not what Christ is saying. He is saying the ones who are blessed are the ones who have come to Him mourning over their own sins.

Has there been a day when you came to Jesus mourning over your own sins? If so, then Jesus kept His Word. You were comforted. And today you are truly blessed.

But if you’ve never come to Jesus Christ mourning over your own sins, please do it – receive the blessed comfort of healing and forgiveness.

“Your” time in this world is not really “your” time. It is really God’s time. There is going to come a time in the next few minutes or hours or days when something happens to make you mourn. When you want to ask, “Why the loss?” – remember all the times when you failed to ask, “Why the blessing?”

Blessed are they who mourn. They mourn over taking God’s time and using it for themselves. They come to Jesus and they are mourning because they have sinned against Him. Then He heals their broken hearts, and binds all their wounds. Will you tell Jesus you’re sorry for your sins? Will you go to Him mourning for yourself today? Will you ask Him to heal you? Jesus wants you to. His Word CAN NOT lie.

The Great Trading-Post

July 1, 2009 at 9:06 am | Posted in Bible Studies, Biblical Greats, Isaiah | 15 Comments
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The Lord God is the Creator of Life, and the Maker of Heaven and Earth. He has given us His Word and His Spirit, and He has not left us without hope. The Bible says that He heals the broken-hearted, and He binds up their wounds.

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.

Isaiah 61:1-3

Life is not always easy. Sometimes it seems like life is just a series of problems. Sometimes we are right in the middle of a problem. Sometimes we are coming out of a problem. Once in a while it seems like everything is going great, and then we have a problem, and we look back, and we see that time when we thought things were going great as just a time when we were about to go in to a problem.

I find comfort and hope in Isaiah 61:3 because it tells us that one day, if we submit our lives to the Lord, He has some great trades in mind for us – especially for those who mourn – who feel sorrow or sadness.

First, He says that He will take away our ashes and give us beauty. Ashes were worn on the head during times of grieving in the Old Testament. Beautiful head coverings were worn in times of great joy. Do you have a testimony of a life spent serving others? A willingness to serve others is a very good quality. Sometimes it doesn’t look beautiful to us, but the Lord says, if we place our trust in Him, and serve others, one day we will wear a crown on our head instead of ashes – a beautiful crown – for we will be children of the King.

Second, the Lord tells us that we can give Him our mourning – our grieving and sadness – and He will take that from us and anoint us with the oil of joy. Are you the kind of person that other people just like to be around? Would people use the words “loving” and “lovable” to describe you? In this world, we can’t have happiness all the time. But for those who will place their faith in Christ Jesus, He will anoint you with His Holy Spirit. And you can trade in your circumstances-dependent “happiness” for a “joy” that comes from Him living inside you.

Third, the Bible says that Jesus Christ can take away your spirit of heaviness, and clothe you in a garment of praise. Are you content? Do you have a tendency to be satisfied with the things you have? All kinds of problems – but especially financial problems – can make us feel heavy, like we are carrying a weight on our shoulders. Too often we picture a dollar sign as the answer to our problems. But it is as if the Lord says, “I’ll trade with you. You stop placing your desire on ‘things’ – stop being ‘covetous.’ Stop trusting in material things, and I’ll give you a garment of praise. I’ll clothe you in My righteousness, and you’ll be content in Me and want to praise Me.”

My wife is good at just about everything – except she doesn’t have a green thumb. She can kill the healthiest plant in the most fertile soil.

But God can grow the strongest plants in the least favorable conditions.

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.

Isaiah 61:3

The Lord knows that we are going to mourn in this life from time to time. He knows our spirits are going to get heavy. He knows we are going to feel like dumping ashes on our heads. But we do not have to feel that way. Just as an expert gardener can take a sad-looking, drooping plant, and water it, and care for it, and bring it back to life, so can the Lord give us new life – ETERNAL life, and make us, not just any old plants, but strong trees – trees of righteousness: THE PLANTING OF THE LORD, that He might be glorified.

Will you accept this comfort from the Lord? He has promised it to you if you will trust Him and Him alone.

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