Archives For death

One of my uncles died last week. He was 67. My dad is also 67.

I turned 35 today. If you cut my years on this earth in half and went back in time, it would be the summer between my junior and senior year of high school.

Blink.

Now I’m 35.

If you double the years I’ve already spent on this earth, I’ll be 70.

Blink blink.

It’s been a reflective couple of weeks for me. It’s a reflective time when I start realizing my parents and their siblings are the generation of people who are dying. Like when I was in 3rd grade and my grandpa died. I was sad, but also gained a pragmatic understanding: that’s what old people do, they die. Continue Reading…

Too often in Christian circles it’s taught that if you have faith, pray and obey, God will take away your problems.  If you are worried, give those worries to God and he will solve them.  If you’re going through a challenging time, God will fix it.  Things typically don’t work out this cleanly in real life, often leaving people wondering what they did wrong, or why God abandoned them.  Thankfully the Bible tells a different story.  Continue Reading…

I had the opportunity to preach at Trinity Church in Lansing this past Sunday on Romans 8:31-39.  Romans 8:31 and Romans 8:37 are home run verses that we love (and I love), but if we’re not careful they can become verses we take out of context and use to formulate a theology that bad things will never happen to us if we are Christians.

How often has something really bad happened to someone and they have one of the following responses: “God, you could have prevented this from happening and you didn’t, thus you don’t love me,” “God I must be a failure in your eyes / not a good enough Christian, or else this bad thing wouldn’t have happened,” and “God you weren’t able to stop this bad thing from happening, thus you are a weak God, or even worse, you are an evil God.”  With the final statement of all three of these being therefore I am leaving you.

The truth is we can’t understand the triumphant verses of Romans 8:31 and Romans 8:37 without also understanding what the “these things” are that the verses are referring to.  They are referring to the suffering described in Romans 8:17-18 and Romans 8:35-39!

Ever heard of Christians being fed to the lions in the Roman Coliseum?  Check again who Romans 8 was written to…you’ve got it, they are one and the same people!  The Roman Christians were lion food.  In Romans 8:35, Paul is so specific with the people about the type of suffering they will undergo as Christians.  And he never tells them the suffering will stop.  What he tells them is that Jesus’ authority is greater than the authority of our suffering.  Jesus doesn’t offer a life without problems, he offers a life with One who is greater than your problems.

Jesus wins.  Our problem is we get the scenes of the movie mixed up.  We are living in the middle of the movie, with the authority of Jesus’ victory covering us, though we wait patiently for the final scene of the movie, when there truly will be no more suffering on earth, to take place.  When we get things out of order, our entire theology gets out of order and it’s no wonder we get blind-sided when trouble comes our way.

Knowing the end of the story not only brings incredible peace and joy (let alone give us the ability to not ditch our faith when suffering comes), it also unleashes us to a life of freedom and sacrificial obedience.  Having the authority of Jesus over everything the world can throw your way is like having a royal flush in poker: you know your hand will beat any other possible hand at the table.  What do you do when you have a royal flush?  You go all in!  You certainly don’t fold your hand.  Many Christians are afraid to take any risks in their faith, anything that might bring any sort of persecution or risk or jeopardize our comfort zones or sense of security.  We have the royal flush but never use it.  We never push the chips in to the center of the table, applying the truth that Jesus fills us up and nothing can separate him from filling us up.  Is there really any risk when you are holding a royal flush?

Praying Hebrews 12:27-28 has been life-changing for me and I hope it is for you as well.  Pray and ask God: God please show me your unshakable kingdom in the midst of the shakable kingdom all around, and then let me invest fully in your unshakable kingdom.  Pray this prayer and then keep your eyes open; it will change everything about how you use your money, how you use your time, how you share your faith, and the things you worry about and get anxious over.

I am so thankful for the authority of Jesus, as it is the authority to free me from slavery, from myself, and from death itself.

 


At church growing up, they would always have all moms stand up and then ushers would walk around and give each mom a carnation.  While I understand the heart behind this, there are several significant reasons this and other Mother’s Day observations / celebrations should not be done in church:

proverbs 31 29

It’s hard to read but Proverbs 31:29 is written at the bottom of this flier, “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Imagine how this sounds to a woman who can’t get pregnant.

1. Many women have had miscarriages or are infertile.

The burden, shame, anger and envy that goes along with a woman not being able to get pregnant, or with a woman who has had a miscarriage, is something that as a man I cannot fully relate to.  I do know these are very strong feelings though and things we need to be sensitive to in ministry.  Having moms stand up and get flowers handed to them, or even having them be applauded, or any other type of special attention given to moms on Mother’s Day is like fiery salt in the wound to these women.  Salt that they don’t need to experience at church.  A reminder of what other women were given from God that they weren’t given.  A reminder they don’t need rubbed in their faces.

2. People have been abused by their mothers.

A friend of mine will never attend church on Mother’s Day because they were sexually abused by their mom.  Mother’s Day is the day the church tells everyone to be so thankful for their moms, as if everyone had a perfect mom given to them from God.  Being reminded of a sexually abusive mom and all the scars and emotions this churns up is not something someone needs at church, let alone the theological mess it puts someone in wondering, “Why did God give other people good moms but not me?”

3. People whose mothers have died prematurely

“Why did God take my mom from me when he did and the way?”

4. Mothers whose children have died prematurely

Again, is the pain and emotional/spiritual upheaval caused by the forced reminder of their greatest loss in life worth it?

5. 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetime

Picture that 1 in 3 women in your congregation have had an abortion and walk around with its shame, most of them having no one in their lives who even know about this.  If you have all the moms stand, should they stand as well?  Many of these women have repented of this, but still live with its reality.

6. Women who legally have had their children taken from them

 

How is the devastating pain inflicted to the above six individuals worth the nominal encouragement a flower will bring to a mom attending your church service?

I’m not bashing Mother’s Day or moms, I just don’t think it should be a part of a public church worship service meant to be a sanctuary for the hurt and broken.  Let families honor their mothers at home and let the church take extra care of the hurting and vulnerable in their communities.  The appreciation moms might feel from a carnation is not worth the devastation an infertile woman, abused child, or a woman who had her children taken away legally will feel from being reminded of motherhood on a day that is already almost unbearable.  After all, a person decided to get out of bed and come into community with other followers of Christ this Sunday morning to exalt God, not motherhood.  To find hope, not shame and pain.  They should be able to worship the Lord without having their deepest wounds and pain rubbed in their faces.  While the tradition of “honoring mothers” on Mother’s Day comes from a good place, it does much more harm than good and is a tradition that should be ended.

Romans 6:23 is one of the most common verses used in evangelism:

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (NLT)

It’s a key feature on the Romans Road Bible tract and in general serves as a summation of the gospel message we’ve been taught to spread:

  • You’re a sinner who deserves death/hell
  • Believe that Jesus died for your sins and you’ll be saved and given eternal life

Both of these things are very true.  Both of these are also very incomplete.

An incomplete gospel is a false gospel.

So what are the repercussions of spreading a false gospel?  The answer: A lot of people think they are Christians who really aren’t… Continue Reading…