Humans are on a journey called life. It is full of change, and we are wise to realize and accept that fact. If we don’t accept that change is inevitable, we get stuck, and become unhealthy and unproductive people. In fact, we can become heartsick if we do not accept change.
Christians ought to realize this as much, if not more, than any people group. The Bible declares to us that this world is not our home, therefore, we realize that someday we will die, and go to our heavenly home. (See Philippians 3:20)
For many of us, this reality is all too real, and all too painful, as we just experienced the death of our friend Petey Kim. His passing was especially shocking to our emotional systems, because he was only 36, and died suddenly. Not only that, but he was so full of life, and then suddenly, he was gone.
We who believe the Bible, also believe that Petey is alive with Jesus. Nevertheless, we suffer loss here, and that is what I wish to address. Here’s my story.
When I received the word that Petey was “down”, I had a strong sense that he had gone to be with God. As the next few hours played out, it was confirmed that Petey had departed from this life, and had moved on to the next.
My experience was to first “take care of business”, but then I moved on to grief. It was deep grief. For two days I felt as though I had been given a shot of Novocaine that numbed me from head to toe. I stayed up late looking at pictures online, reading people’s memories, etc. The sorrow was felt deeply in my body. I know that many of you experienced the same thing.
After two days, and through a set of circumstances that took place, God spoke to me strongly. It was as if God said, “Bill, I have given you two days to weep, mourn, and experience this sorrow. You have had two days of which I have asked very little of you, but it is time to ‘turn the corner’. It is time to gather yourself in Me, receive my strength, and prepare to minister to the many that are still grieving”.
God had indeed given me two days where I was away from the public, and dealing only with a few things, but the time had come to “turn the corner”. By God’s grace, I accepted that ‘word’, and re-focused. It may sound harsh and unloving to some, but I “had a job to do”. My time for deep, uninterrupted grieving was to come to an end.
Moving forward from deep grief to a “normal” life does not dishonor the memory of my friend and comrade in ministry. He and I and many of you agreed to follow Jesus, and so we are called to move forward. We still feel grief, we still cry, we still laugh when we think of Petey’s laugh. We experienced a very special season of life with a very special saint of God. Now it is time for me to reflect upon all the ways that God used Petey in my life, and to be a better man, and to follow Jesus more closely. That time will also come for you, if it hasn’t already.
We take away from the people God brings into our lives. We learn from them, we enjoy them while they are here, and then we let them go.
Sadly, I have seen some who have never accepted the fact that life is full of change. Some experience sorrow, and for some reason, never move forward in life. There is an interesting verse that deals with this truth.
Psalm 77:2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; my soul refused to be comforted.
We have seen people that never seem to recover from great loss, and yet the Bible tells us that this life is but a vapor, and if our life is but a vapor, then the seasons of our lives are less than vapors. The seasons of our lives are to be lived out fully, to be enjoyed, to be maximized, but then they are to be released, that we may move forward in life, and eventually, may enter into the presence of God.
Dear fellows pilgrims, we have a home in the heavens, eternal, not made by hands, but made by God. This life is a journey towards a destination. May we live for Jesus well. May we realize that the journey is not the destination, but the journey indeed has much beauty in it…and if the journey has beauty, imagine the beauty yet to be discovered when we arrive at “eternity’s shore”.
Until then, receive the words of God through Solomon…
1 To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:
2 A time to be born, And a time to die;
A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted;
3 A time to kill, And a time to heal;
A time to break down, And a time to build up;
4 A time to weep,And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, And a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to gain, And a time to lose;
A time to keep, And a time to throw away;
7 A time to tear, And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;
8 A time to love, And a time to hate;
A time of war, And a time of peace.
Matthew 26:26-28 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
Jesus was no victim. That truth continues to impact me. As He announced His impending death, and deliberately moved towards it, I cannot imagine the enormity of emotion that He experienced.
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I officated a memorial service tonight (Wednesday). Sharon was 78 years old, and came to faith later in life. She was a quiet lady, but her faith was genuine. It was a blessing to be able to speak confidently about the fact that she is with Jesus.
“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints”. Psalm 116:15
I had a really bad scare Tuesday morning. I was in a hurry to get somewhere, and I needed to grab a bite to eat as I got prepared to leave the house, and …I choked on some food. I have Spring time asthma, so my windpipe was already constricted. It doesn’t take much food to clog a constricted windpipe. It was dumb to eat while hurrying to get ready to leave.
It was a bad choke. (as if there are any good ones) It was very bad. After a few minutes of barely being able to breathe, I was thinking, as my face was turning deeper shades of red…well…you know…I was thinking…”this isn’t a very noble way to enter into Heaven.” I don’t know how close I came to…you know…but it kinda ruined my day. I finally rescued myself. Actually, I think my guardian angel karate chopped me on the back. MMA to the rescue.
God almost had another Psalm 116:15 moment. Read more »
Isaiah 61:3 “To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for their heaviness…”
I “officiated” a candle light vigil tonight. I actually was one of the minor players in the event, though I was officially leading it. The families and friends of four people who died in a house fire (including two kids) were the ones who spoke volumes to me tonight. They didn’t say anything I haven’t read or heard, they just “spoke”, and their words were full of substance and passion. Though in deep sorrow over losing their loved ones, they spoke with dignity and integrity.
Ten and eleven year old kids spoke of losing their cousin and best friend. They spoke, cried, held each other and sometimes wailed. It was terribly sad and admirable all at once.
The familia was courageous to share (in both English and Spanish) with 200+ people that had gathered together to comfort and be comforted. I stood near them. I overheard as they said to one another that they didn’t think they could speak, and then somehow they found the courage to share their hearts, and the comforting continued to all who had gathered. I admire their courage and love for one another.
It was an intense night.
Earlier in the day a pastor friend of mine, Daniel Fusco from Calvary Chapel, Mill Valley called me about something unrelated. In the course of our conversation, he asked what was happening, and I told him that I had been asked to lead this vigil. He prayed for me, and prayed that God would give me “beauty for ashes”.
I immediately knew that that was a word from the Lord. The victims had died in a fire. (Smoke inhalation) Their bodies came forth from the ashes. God wanted to use that picture to illustrate what He wanted and could do for those who were grieving.
When the ancient Jews grieved, they would put dust and ashes upon themselves. The thought took me back to my Catholic roots of Ash Wednesday, the day when the priest would make a cross on our foreheads with ash, reminding us that “from dust we were made, and to dust we would return”. Ash Wednesday is the first day of the Lenten season.
Some of the grieving family is Catholic, and they had attended an Ash Wednesday service earlier in the day. They arrived with ash crosses on their foreheads. They wore the reminder of our origin and the brevity of life.
Long story short: I was able to share with the crowd that God does bring forth beauty from the ashes, if we will receive it. Tragedy does make us appreciate life more. We can go on to love family and friends better. We realize that our days are numbered. For me, it makes me want to love and serve God more, and communicate Him in any way that people will receive. (Hence, this blog)
I am so proud of the folks from our church and other churches that serve as community chaplains, along with lead chaplain Lee Shaw. When the fire occurred, there were six chaplains needed to minister to the extended family, as well as classmates and faculty of where the older child attended school. Even more chaplains showed up tonight to help with the vigil. These folks are all volunteers, and are there to help during the worst of the worst.
You can read more about their ministry at http://www.cityofnapa.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=203&Itemid=155
There was no altar call tonight. We didn’t hand out tracts. I didn’t get too preachy (I think), or give a three point sermon. We got to help some people in need, and share a few of God’s promises with them. We got to serve some folks tonight, and I am supremely blessed and proud to be in God’s family with some mighty fine people.
And I love how the Lord can speak to my heart through the prayer of a friend.