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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.
It has been said that the church is a hospital. A place where hurting people go to be healed up by God and His people. A place where the wounded can go and not be expected to do much. In part, I agree with that concept. Church should be a place where the wounded can go and experience healing.
But is church “just” a hospital.
Think about your last visit to a hospital. You went to be taken care of. You expected people to do things for you. If they didn’t help you get better, you got frustrated, because it’s their job to “make you better”.
If they were successful, and you felt better, you left. In fact, you probably couldn’t wait to leave. You didn’t stay to involve yourself with other patients. You didn’t consider the needs of the caregivers, staff, doctors, or nurses. You got better, and then you left.
A church is a hospital, but it is much more. It is a family, a community, a body. If people come to be healed, then good, they should. But if, when they have become healthy (God knows when that is) and then they decide that “their felt needs” have been met, and then they leave, then they have missed much of what Church is designed by God to be. They have gone from being a patient to a consumer. They have gone from being needy to being self focused, or at least ignorant that there are other patients that could use their help.
It is true that one church might help bring healing to someone, who God then directs to serve somewhere else. That person sees the Church as more than a hospital. That’s good.
I am sympathetic to people’s needs for healing. But I know that the Church is designed by God to be much more than a hospital. It is designed to be a family.
Being a patient means you receive. Being a family member means you give. Let’s not do the first and neglect the second.
I continue to be amazed at the love of Jesus Christ for humanity. He loves those that we would not love. He approaches those we would avoid. He speaks to those whom we would turn away from.
In Matthew 8, Jesus healed three people: a leper, the slave of a Roman centurion, and a woman. All three of those people were considered “undesirables” during those days.
Lepers were hideous to look at, and were physically dangerous to be around. Romans centurions were the backbone soldiers of an army that occupied, dominated, and offended Israel. Women were considered 2nd class citizens by many of Israel’s spiritual elitists.
Yet Jesus loved each one of these people, and showed it in wonderful ways. Read more »
This little story is not directed towards any one church, but is a compilation of the stories of many people I have talked to and read about. May we love His Body, the Church.
Talk To The Hand
“Talk to the hand”. Hand liked the sound of that.
The phrase described Hand as a “go to” guy; the guy people would ask to help them get things done. Hand was a problem solver. Hand was selfless. Hand was happy to help Body with any need. He liked being a “go to” guy. If there was a need, Body would direct others to Hand. Hand thought the phrase had a good ring to it. “Talk To The Hand”. It was a compliment.
But as time passed, the phrase took on a new meaning for Hand. Hand had somewhere heard the phrase used in a negative way. When someone didn’t want to discuss something, he would hold up his hand and say, “talk to the hand”, meaning that the discussion had ended. For Hand, that eventually became the meaning of the phrase in his life.
Hand had been with Body since the beginning. He had served Body well. Because of Hand’s efforts, Body had grown and become strong. Maybe a little too strong, Hand thought. Hand had never imagined that he would ever separate from Body, but eventually he saw no other option. Body had become sick and dangerous.
It wasn’t that Hand had never talked about the problems that Body was having, but some very painful experiences had brought Hand to this point in life. Over time and much agonizing, Hand had made up his mind to separate from Body.
He didn’t want to talk about it. He was sick of talking about it. It hurt too much to talk about it. He saw no other option. After many words, prayers, and tears, Hand separated from Body. Hand was devastated, but such was life. Some didn’t understand. Others understood far too well.
In the beginning, the relationship between Hand and Mouth had been good. He enjoyed being Hand, and was happy to fulfill his part in helping Mouth with his ministry.
But things changed as time passed. Hand noticed that as Body grew, Mouth was saying a lot of pompous things, and was bossing people around horribly. As Hand objected to Mouth’s words and actions, Mouth insinuated that Body needed Mouth, but that Mouth didn’t need Body, or Hand, for that matter.
Hand also noticed that others were discussing Mouth. He hated hearing these guarded conversations. Body was dividing. Hand could see it.
Ear was too eager to hear gossip and pass it on. Mouth used the pulpit to remind Body that Mouth was in control. Mouth had forgotten that Body belonged to Head, and that Head was the real leader of Body. Mouth was getting mouthier. Foot got nervous, and left. Ear was too eager to hear gossip. Heart got hardened, and was unforgiving.
And everyone was asking, “Where is Head?”
All of this happened as Hand continued to serve, struggling with how to rectify the problems with Body. Hand loved Body, but he was torn over what he saw and felt. Hand had trusted Mouth for years, but he was now disillusioned.
Hand watched Body lose members. He felt lost in the midst of this dying Body. Hand tried to talk to Mouth, but Mouth felt threatened, and turned on Hand. Hand and his family were seen as the enemy of Mouth. Mouth made sure that Body knew Hand was a troublemaker.
Finally, Hand and his family left Body. Body suffered, because individuals were suffering. Like many of his fellow members, Hand wondered why Head seemed absent. Didn’t Head love Body? Where was He?
Invisibly and seemingly absent, Head suffered even more.
Fast forward some years.
Head proved Himself to be the faithful leader of Body. Head removed Mouth and some others, and brought NewMouth to speak His words. Members began to return to the blessings of Body.
Slowly, hope returned to Body. NewMouth spoke of grace, and others began to speak of grace too. Foot returned, Ear listened with love, and Heart became soft again.
Head was healing Body.
As Body healed, people began to ask about Hand. They missed him. Hand had been such an integral part of Body. Where was Hand? Had anybody seen him? Had anybody heard from him?
Questions became discussions, and discussions were finally recognized as promptings from Head.
Head was prompting Body to reach out to Hand.
“Someone needs to talk to Hand.” Prayers began to go up for Hand.
Spirit began to move, and Hand started feeling something inside.
That is a sad statement, but it is true. I’m not real happy about it being true, but that’s the truth: I used to hate Christmas. It’s been many years since that dark season of life, but I don’t forget how sad it used to be for me. Since the unforgiving multitudes aren’t reading this blog, I thought it might be safe to share that little secret with my friends.
Christmas used to be, for me, like walking into a huge surprise pop quiz, except that it wasn’t a quiz, it was your final grade for the class. No, it was bigger than that. It was a public statement about who you really were, what you were really like. It revealed your heart, which in different seasons of life, could be quite discouraging.
Christmas was a time of seeing how everyone else lived. It was a time of seeing people who were full of joy, and who were lighthearted. A time of noticing thoughtfulness, sensitivity, loving planning, and selflessness. Gifts were given that hadn’t been picked up at the last minute, but that had been lovingly searched for. Surprised faces and warm laughter told stories of thoughtful loved ones who had purchased the gift that was “just right”.
Christmas was a time of seeing how life ought to be. Even though the day was on the calendar, the total sum of what Christmas meant always caught me unprepared. It was a day that “measured” me. I used to hate Christmas.
I clearly remember those somber days. I am blessed to say that in these days, I love Christmas. I am aware of the “then”, and aware of the “now”, but the in between time is a difficult to quantify.
By God’s grace, a huge change has taken place. It has been gradual, and almost imperceptible on a day by day basis. There was nothing that happened overnight, but something that was slowly happening every day. There was no huge one time revelation, but a thousand small ones. There wasn’t a single, momentous inner resolution towards a total life change, but a daily decision to follow Jesus. There was no self-reformation, but a conforming that came by God’s hand upon a hurting heart.
Two verses illustrate this work that God has done in me…
Philippians 2:13 “…for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
Romans 8:29a “…For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…”
When a person surrenders to Jesus, God begins to work in that surrendered heart. He creates His will in that heart. He puts a heavenly desire in that heart. That act of God doesn’t remove a person’s will, but now a new will and desire is there. A higher will for better things.
Along with that new heavenly desire is the ability to follow God’s will, to “do” it. So that person now has the desires of God in his/her heart, along with the ability to begin to follow through in that direction.
What then, is God’s desire for that person? God’s desire is to conform that person’s life to the image of His Son. That means that God helps that person to become more like Jesus, “full of grace and truth”, and so much more. Besides forgiveness, there is healing and wholeness that takes place in the soul.
Once a person surrenders to Jesus, the only responsibility that they have is to keep surrendering to Jesus. God gives both the desire and ability to do that. The result is a wonderfully changed life.
I didn’t change my life, God did. I may have been able to change my behavior, or my habits, or my language, but I could never change “what” I was. I could never change the deep stuff of the soul. And I certainly never could conform myself to “the image of His Son”. God did that. God continues to do that.
What has been the result? Well, I like Christmas. It doesn’t measure me any more. It gives me an opportunity to express my love for people, without fear of failure. It doesn’t dictate to me what kind of person I am. Whether I have a “good” Christmas or not, they are all good, because life is good. Life is no longer based upon events, performance, or even feelings. There is an under girding that doesn’t fluctuate with emotions. There is a stability that is other worldly. There is now a life that is sustained, encouraged, and comforted based upon God, and His love for me.
Christmas speaks to me of God’s love for me. Jesus stepped into my world, and brought Heaven to me. Christmas speaks to me of that unsearchable but very knowable truth. Emmanuel. God is with us.
May you all have a blessed Christmas season. Love to you all.