Happy Funerals

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He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

Being an Infected Saint means facing the reality that we are all going to die. Infected saints are positionally perfect in Christ but still battle with sin. Unless Christ returns first, death is inevitable. Rarely does anyone look forward to dying. As Christians we get much more excited about the thought of resurrecting with a perfect body. I can’t imagine me with a perfect body. That is Heaven! But seriously, you cannot know the joy of the resurrection without first knowing the pain of death.  It is only out of death that something beautiful resurrects.

I read an article in Christianity Today (March 2016) recently on Christian trend towards “happy funerals.” Christian funerals are encouraged to have a positive spin: they are in a better place;  they feel no more pain; you need to move on while cherishing the memories.  More upbeat songs are being played at funerals. There has even been a change in clothing. Dark suits have been replaced with something more upbeat and casual. The goal is more celebration, more moments of joy. I get that.  Jesus brings victory over death. Death is not the final word for a believer. That is cause for celebration. Yet, joy should not replace our grief. It is not only ok to hurt; it is necessary.

If not careful, we could be in danger of brushing over the truth about death. Death is loss. It is a time for grieving. Shortest verse of the Bible shows Jesus weeping over the loss of his friend, Lazarus (John 11:35). Was Jesus showing a lack of faith? Did Jesus not know death was not the final word for Lazarus? Why didn’t Jesus celebrate? Jesus knew that Lazarus would walk again in a few moments from then, yet He still wept tears of grief. Jesus felt great sorrow. His tears were not just for His friend but for the necessity of pain and death because of sin. Death is a constant reminder of the destructive nature of sin. Jesus wept for it.

Hope should be apparent in a Christian funeral. As the word says, we “grieve but not as those without hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Yet, we are no different than any lost person who loses someone they care about. In fact being Christian means we understand better how to love and so our pain might be felt even deeper than the nonbeliever. That pain should not be ignored. Not letting yourself feel or express the pain is not a mark of spiritual achievement but a denial of the reality of loss. We need to deal honestly with our pain. We hurt because we cared. We need to feel that, experience it, and let it come through in whatever way it wants. Grieving is not a sign of doubt, but serves as evidence that you loved deeply.

Death reminds us of the tension between living in this age and the age to come. Infected saints know that this world is not home. We look forward to the afterlife but face the reality that we have to pass through death to get there. Death is necessary for resurrection. Resurrection is our hope. Death might be imminent but it is not the final word!

We should celebrate our hope in Christ at a funeral but not to the dismissal of our pain. So if you lose someone you love, grieve deeply. It’s ok. Don’t lose hope while you grieve, but do not feel guilty for hurting deeply. Jesus did and so should we.

Last week of Jesus- Resurrection


And if Christ has not had been raised from the dead, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.   1 Corinthians 15:17
To be “in Christ” is the opposite of being “in sin.” To be in something means you get the benefit of it. To be “in Christ” means you receive grace, mercy, forgiveness, adoption, unconditional love, and eternal life. To be “in sins” means you receive shame, guilt, judgment, death, and ultimate condemnation.

If Jesus did not rise from the dead then his sacrifice was deficient. It was not powerful enough to remove sins once and for all. Our hope is in vain. The gospel is not good news but a false hope. It’s like someone telling us to fly and then not giving us wings to do so.

This is why Jesus appeared first to the apostles and then to 500 more. He wanted them to know that He had conquered death by rising from the dead and thus freeing them from the bondage of sin. This appearance by Christ is why the disciples were willing to give up their lives for Christ later on. As Paul stated, “To live is Christ; to die is gain.” Once you fix your gaze on the risen Christ you will not be the same.

Here are a few truths I take from the resurrection:

  • Resurrection promises me that I will one day have a resurrected body that I will have for eternity
  • Resurrection power is not just for the life to come but at work in me now.
  • Resurrection means that Jesus was the spotless lamb whose sacrifice was sufficient to cover all my sins.

I hope as you celebrate the resurrection of Jesus today that you are reminded that hope is not found in a job, bank account, beauty, or stuff. Hope is only found in a risen Christ.

Last Week of Jesus- Friday


4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, Yet he opened not his mouth; Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.   Isaiah 53:4-7

It’s Friday. Today we call Good Friday. We look forward to Fridays every week. The weekend is before us. Friday for Jesus would be the day he died. But it would not be a quick death; only after being mocked and ridiculed, beaten bloody to the point of being unrecognizable would He finally breathe His last. What seemed like a senseless death was anything but.

He bore a huge weight on the cross. The soldiers who put him up there couldn’t see it. The crowds who gathered around to mock Him or weep for Him were not able to see the burden either. The burden was much worse than the beatings or the spear in his side or the thorns digging into his forehead. The burden was my sin and yours. Not their sin but our sin. It was personal.

Jesus didn’t deserve to die. Should we have been on that cross? Nope. Not because we didn’t deserve it but because we couldn’t do anything significant with the burden. He who knew no sin became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God. There is no salvation without the cross and it was Jesus who had to die.

Wonder of the cross…God expresses judgment upon sin & endures judgment against sin at the same time. David Platt

The crowds saw a man hanging on the cross. God saw a sin sacrifice. A sacrifice for sins once and for all. A sacrifice that would open the way for all men and women who believe to have eternal life. What Satan meant for evil this day, God would use to redeem the world.

You ever played that game as a kid where you like someone and you took a daisy and picked the petals off saying, “she loves me, she loves me not, she loves me….” Every drop of blood that fell to the ground from the body of Jesus said “He loves me, He loves me, He loves me.” The cross put on glorious display the love God has for His people. Every scar, every mocking voice, everything that happened on this day had an eternal purpose.

Today starts the most important three days in the world’s history. What happens this day and onward will change the world. The question really is can you personally read it and not be changed? God wants you to experience the realities of the cross everyday. He wants you to remember daily the sacrifice that was made for you. He wants you to be a person who gives grace and forgiveness freely because you were given those freely. He wants this story to change your life and to keep doing so. If you are a Christian you need this story as much as the lost soul. It is your hope. You need to be reminded of it daily.

A few things I challenge you to do today:

  • As you finish this please don’t go on to something else quickly. Take a moment to pray and thank God for loving you so much. You have no hope apart from Jesus. As gruesome as it was for Him to die on a cross, you needed Him to do so.
  • Tell someone today about why this day is significant to you. Interrupt their reality with the remarkable good news of Jesus.
  • Today, I choose to so identify with Christ that I see myself being crucified with Him. My life is His.  Will you make the same declaration for your life with me?

Last Week of Jesus- Thursday

 

 

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36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.    Matthew 26:36-44

It is Thursday night. In less than 24 hours Jesus will be dead. Could you imagine the emotional turmoil of knowing tomorrow would be your last? Jesus was humans and he was struggling with knowing what was to come.  So he led his disciples to go and pray. His favorite spot was the Garden of Gethsemane. He and the disciples had just finished the Last Supper for the Passover. Jesus had watched as Judas left the table to go and betray Him. He passed the cup to Peter, knowing that Peter would deny him three times tomorrow. One last intimate meal with his twelve, knowing they would all scatter from Him in His hour of greatest suffering.  Jesus needed perspective so He went to the garden to find peace, guidance, and comfort from His Father.

How Jesus dealt with his impending suffering and death epitomizes how we should deal with our own pain and tragedy. We can learn how to deal with our own times of trials and pain from Jesus here in three specific ways.

Jesus brought Friends With Him

In His most difficult hours, anticipating His own death, Jesus drew his friends close to him. During these difficult times, we need people to walk with us. So many times we isolate form others when facing tough times. Be vulnerable with them. You are hurting. Ask them to bear it with you. People who care about you will do that. Jesus never shut them out. Even though they were often confused and probably frustrating to him, He included them until the end. He needed them.

Don’t Write Friends Off If They Fail To Meet Your Expectations and Disappoint You

Jesus asked His disciples to pray with Him. It had been a rough and tiring week. They were emotionally and physically spent. While praying, the disciples fell asleep. Jesus was disappointed to say the least. Wouldn’t you be? You are going to die and your closest friends fall asleep on you when their supposed to be praying for you! But what I want you to notice is that Jesus did not write them off. He continued to let them in and share His burden even after they disappointed Him. He needed them and He did not let their mistake destroy the bond. We need friends to be with us when we are hurting but we need to remember they have their own lives to live and their own struggles to face. They may fail to meet our expectations perfectly in our time of need. Show them grace. You need them. Let them be there for you even in their imperfections and quirks.

Jesus was Persistent In Praying

Jesus found a special place to pray. He found His prayer closest. No coined prayers offered here. Jesus prayed his guts out. His intimacy with the Father was on full display. Jesus prayed all night and did not stop until he had peace and His answer. Notice Jesus didn’t get what he asked for. He wanted to be saved from the torture, the pain… He wanted to be released from impending death. Yet, His Father said no. His Father’s will was for Jesus to die for humanity. The very ones to kill Jesus was who He would be dying for.  Jesus submitted fully and came to peace with what his father desired. We give up to quickly in our prayers. We pray a quick prayer and walk away already anticipating no clear answer. Why? We need to pray with determination. We need to cry out to God and not stop until we hear from him. God will answer if we seek Him until he does. If we need to pray all night then so be it. God will answer.

What a gut wrenching night this was for Jesus and his disciples. To know that tomorrow you die. Jesus could have stopped it. He had the power to do so. Yet, he submitted to His Father and died for us. He went through all of this suffering for me and for you. When we suffer, He is with us. He understands our pain and agony. He has experienced it. We are never alone. He walks with us all the way into eternity.

Last Week of Jesus- Wednesday


Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus.

 14 Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.     Matthew 26:14-16

This is Wednesday of the last week of Jesus before he would be viciously killed. It’s a day of rest as they prepare for Passover. The disciples are with Jesus, resting with Him, but one slips away. Judas Iscariot make his way to see the chief priests and strikes a deal with them for 30’pieces of silver: that is about equivalent to 400-600.00 today. In that day it was enough to purchase one slave (Expdus 21:32)

600 dollars is not much to betray God and lose your soul.

We might forget that Jesus chose Judas after praying all night. They spent every day together for three years, talking, eating together, laughing. Jesus sent him out to minister. Judas shared in the miracle of feeding 5,000 people. His was in the circle of trust. Not much hurts worse than being betrayed by a brother.

And the priests were more than happy to pay Judas. They hated Jesus. They were jealous of His power, for who of them could raise the dead? Give sight to the blind? Hearing to the deaf? Heal them of all diseases? Deliver them from demons? Who could create food? Control storms? They were also jealous of His popularity for His power had garnered Him popularity, the likes of which no person ever walking on this planet had received because none had ever done what He did. They were jealous of the accolades He received from the crowd. They hated His message.

 Theirs was a message of earn your salvation by works, and His was a message of repent for your sin and receive your salvation as a gift of grace, and they hated that because they were proud and self-righteous. They wanted to earn their way in.

It was done. Jesus would be betrayed. Judas greed had won out. The Chief Priests got the last word. Satan had struck the final blow. Or so it looked… But it was all in the plan.

It had all been foretold in the prophecies. Jesus would be betrayed and he would die for it. But it was God’s plan all along. What Satan meant for the greatest victory for evil, God would use to redeem the world. Jesus endured the betrayal of a brother, the loneliesness of being a rejected leader, and the punishment of a deadly criminal all for us. He did it all so we could live free. He did it because He loved us intensely. Never forget! Never take this sacrifice for granted!

Last Week of Jesus- Tuesday

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36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40

It is Tuesday of the last week of Jesus life on this earth. Jesus is departing Bethany and heading into the inner part of the city of Jerusalem for Passover. While He is starting the two mile journey from Bethany, Jesus engages in discussion with those on the road. At one point He encounters the Scribes. The Scribes, lawyers of the Pharisees, pose a question to Jesus. Their intent is not pure. They are not seeking to learn from Jesus’ wisdom nor are they just inquisitive. Rather, they want to trip Him up so that they can “catch” Him in a contradiction or blasphemy.

They ask him which is the greatest commandment. Instead of choosing one, Jesus brilliantly encapsulates all ten commandments by alluding to Deuteronomy 6:5 (Shema). By telling them to love God with their whole being, He captures the essence of the first five commandments. He then refers to loving your neighbor, which undergirds the second five commandments. These two commandments sum them all up. The scribes couldn’t disagree with His logic. They were unable to trip Jesus up and in turn He made a profound statement summing up what two pursuits are the most important for us in life… to love God and to love your neighbor.

We make our faith much more complicated than it should be. We make it about a list of do’s and do nots; about rules and regulations; traditions and rituals. It transcends that.

Here is how I suggest you should live.You might be shocked on my prescription but I think God would back me on it:  I have two things for you to do and from there do whatever you want. I mean it, no boundaries. Live like you want with no pressure. Don’t try and live in accordance with a bunch of rules and regulations. Do whatever you want to do. I am serious. I just want you to simply follow two principles. Just two. After that you are completely free to do what you want. Two things: Love God with all you are and love your neighbor as yourself. If you do these two things you don’t have to wonder if you are living right. You don’t have to wonder if you are doing enough. You don’t have to measure up to any other standard. Just love God with all you are and love others as much as you love yourself and from there do whatever you want.

Church if we take Jesus seriously and begin to live out these two principles it will transform not only us but the world around us. Your biggest obstacle here is yourself. The biggest threat to our obedience to these two greatest commandments is that we love self too much. I don’t want you to hate yourself. As Keller said, “humility is not thinking less of yourself but rather thinking about yourself less.” Jesus is not asking you to not enjoy life or to do nothing for yourself. He is asking us to think of self less so that we make room for what should be priority in our life as Christians, to love God and to love our neighbor.

If we don’t love , then who out there is going to take us seriously? If we live the same way they do then how can we say we have anything different worth taking notice of? They need to see our love for God and love for them as consistent and genuine. If not then we are guilty of being what they call us, hypocrites.  We show our faith to be ingenue and not worth considering. Love is the key.

We need to put more effort into responding to our God in love. We do this by praying to Him, worshipping Him, and obeying Him. Those three acts speak love to our God. Find time to do those outside of Sunday. As you love God more you will begin to care more and more about others. What could you do this week as an anonymous act for someone else that shows them love and care? There are hurting people all around you. Plenty of people need your care today. Take time to do an act of kindness for them in the name of Christ. Don’t do this on display so that you get the glory. Let your actions and words point them to Christ.