All posts in Questions

The Most Important Question

If I were to give you the opportunity to ask one question and only one question of God, what would it be?  I’m not talking about making a prayer request but an honest inquiry about something you do not know…

The most important question that I can think of is, “How should I be spending my time?” Or another way of phrasing it would be, “Am I doing that which is most important and has eternal significance?”  I try to begin and end every day by thinking on this subject. There are so many things that crop up in each of our lives to distract us from what is truly important. Of course we have obligations and work to perform, but even choices we make in regard to these subjects could be better directed by asking ourselves if this is truly important or if it is just routine and habit?

What were God’s priorities for His Son while He walked the face of the earth? He had a particular mission that was different than ours (the redemption of humanity and payment for our sin so that we could be right with His Father), but inherent in His unique mission was His interest in other people. He healed the sick, preached the Good News and most importantly loved others. How are you doing in those areas? Is your life all about you or is it focused on the needs of others?

There’s a woman who runs the cash register at a store where I meet with someone on a regular basis and her name is Joy. She didn’t know it, but her name reminded me of a song I learned as a young boy. It went like this: “Jesus and Others and You… what a wonderful way to spell JOY!”

How are you doing at putting Jesus and Others ahead of Yourself? That is the true path to doing what really matters. That is how you can do what is eternally significant. That is the most important question.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” ~ Luke 10:27

Heart-Broken

A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE ON THOSE WHO HAVE TAKEN THEIR OWN LIFE FOR THOSE OF US WHO LOVED THEM AND ARE LEFT BEHIND.

We want to AND MUST remember our beloved friend who has taken his (or her) own life, because we cared for him and we want to honor his memory. We especially want to express our love to remaining family and all those left behind who are suffering from this tragic loss. This is in fact where we can have the greatest impact.

It is impossible to adequately describe the emotions we feel at the loss of someone we love – especially when the circumstances are so unexpected, tragic and needless.

As a Christ-follower first, and a clergyman second, I PRAY that I can accomplish three important things in my brief remarks here –
1. First and foremost we want to remember our beloved friend … now gone.
2. Second, although we will never forget him, I hope to give us more closure on our loss … so we can
continue to move forward with our lives in a positive way.
3. Lastly, I want to give you comfort and hope for the future … by sharing some of what God says in His Word about death, and this particular kind of untimely death, so you will be better prepared when and if it comes to you again.

I pray God will preside over and guide both my words and your thoughts as you consider these remarks with me.

In times of death, any death, many emotions flood our mind – loss, fear, sadness, questioning, hopelessness, despair, anger, resolve and even courage – I want these remarks to be uplifting and hopeful for you. There is hope – God cares for you! – I Peter 5:7

ABOUT OUR DEPARTED FRIEND…
– Whatever their age, we never expected their life to end so suddenly with so much left to be lived and experienced with them. Perhaps they were giving, caring, talented, kind, loving and a wonderful friend to many… and much more … They will be sorely missed.
– If we believe they knew the Lord and accepted Him as their personal Savior – that makes a tremendous difference. If we are not assured of this fact, we can only pray that this was the case and focus on those left behind.
– But we do know that he was surely OVERWHELMED by life and SCARRED from circumstances and DEPRESSED and the pressures became just too much for him – leading to this final and terrible act of desperation.

Let me address something very directly that we all wonder about but MAY not be sure if it is appropriate to discuss …
– A person who takes their own life is wrong to do so, that is in within the purview of God’s authority alone, but it does not make them a bad or evil person. Suicide is an act of desperation brought about by irrational thinking, but it is an act that God can and does forgive if we are His …
– If our friend has trusted Christ for his salvation, we can rest assured that we will see him again and ALL those who have gone before us into the valley of the shadow of Death (remember it is only the shadow of death because Christ has taken the sting out of death by giving us eternal life when we placed our faith in Him to do so.) This means when our beloved appeared before God in heaven they were warmly embraced by God as He welcomed them into eternity. There is no doubt about that.
– We ourselves have hope of a better day. I want you to personally have that hope of eternal life because it is available to all who want it.
– If you don’t understand what I am talking about but want to know more about what the Bible teaches about eternal life in Christ, I hope you will correspond with me so we can discuss this in more detail.

One of my favorite Bible passages is PSALM 15

1 Who may worship in your sanctuary, LORD? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?
2 Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts.
3 Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends.
4 Those who despise flagrant sinners, and honor the faithful followers of the LORD, and keep their promises even when it hurts.
5 Those who lend money without charging interest, and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent. Such people will stand firm forever.

However the problem with this passage is that it is in the Old Testament and emphasizes the Law and the Commandment and does not take into consideration the New Covenant we have in Christ whereby Jesus has fulfilled the law and now serves as our lawyer and commander.

It is not by works of righteousness which we have done but because of His mercy (Jesus) we are saved … by Grace as a gift of God … Titus 3:5-7/Ephesians 2:8-9

Some New Testament Scripture verses that clearly teach assurance of salvation for the believer:

We are saved by the grace of God, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9) and nothing can separate a Christian from the love of God (Romans 8:37-39).

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” — John 5:24

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”—John 10:27-29

“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”—1 John 5:11-13

I am guessing you may be asking yourself questions like: Why did this happen? Could I have prevented it? What would I have said or done if I had known it was coming? Where does this leave me? How can I go on? Some of these questions are unanswerable and others are not …

We could not have known that our friend would have been gone from our lives so soon
Maybe you have something you wish you could have said to him before he left us or perhaps you wish there was something you could do or undo that you feel sorry about …

We best honor our beloved’s memory if we learn from these missed opportunities and apply them to our life today so we do not have these kinds of regrets again with another person we love.

Something to think about …

At Day’s End
Is anybody happier
because you passed his way?
Does anyone remember
that you spoke to him today?

The day is almost over,
and its toiling time is through,
Is there anyone to utter now
a kindly word of you?

Can you say tonight in parting,
with the day that’s slipping fast,
that you helped a single brother
of the many that you passed?

Is a single heart rejoicing
over what you did or said?
Does the one whose hopes are fading
now with courage look ahead?

Did you waste the day or lose it?
Was it well or sorely spent?
Did you leave a trail of kindness,
or a scar of discontent?

As you close your eyes in slumber,
do you think that God will say,
“You have earned one more tomorrow
by the work you did today?”
~ John Hall

A. Part of getting closure on our loss is to commit to learning from it and living our future life with fewer regrets and performing more positive acts of love.

– Learn to verbally express your care for others often and out loud in words
– Perform kind and sensitive acts of love for those around you
– Help to point others to that kind of life too
– Prepare yourself to be with loved ones again in eternity
* Our loved one had placed his trust in Christ
* You can see him again if you are willing to give your life to Christ

“If in this life only we have hope, we are of all creatures most miserable.” – I Cor. 15:9

B. That takes me to our future and how we live our life today and tomorrow.
– Life goes on … how will you live it? For yourself or for God and others?
– A life devoted to personal pleasure and self-gratification is an empty life. Maybe you don’t buy into the ideas of a Creator who rules over the universe or organized religion (I’m talking about a personal relationship, not religion) – but that’s your call and you will live with the consequences of your decision right or wrong.  In any case, I hope you see the benefit of doing good to others and putting them ahead of yourself.
– We can transform our disappointment and negative emotions into something positive if we will allow them to mold us and motivate us to be better persons today and in the future.

A FINAL QUESTION – Scripture and experience tell us that … “it is appointed unto man once to die … and after that the judgment.” – Hebrews 9:27
When Death comes into our life again (and it will come again) how will you respond?

IN SUMMARY

1. We thank God for our departed loved one
2. If we need help we will ask for it
3. We will care for one another
4. We will use this experience to make us better people
5. With God’s help we can prepare for the future and rest in the knowledge that He cares for us!

“Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your power, grace and mercy. Please confirm these truths in our heart by your Word and apply them to our life … We pray this in the strong name of Jesus. Amen!”

Whatever Happened To The Light?

“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.”

~ Abraham Lincoln

The light was there first and then came the darkness. We have lost our way and wander in darkness. Unless we seek out the light we will be lost. But where do we go to find the light and how can it be restored so we can all walk in the light continuously and habitually?

The first step is to realize that we ourselves are not the light. That is not to say that we cannot have light within us or that we do not have any good in us at all. But our natural propensity is not to seek out the light but rather we love the darkness more than the light. You see light exposes darkness and we all have some dark secrets and behavior that we would rather not have exposed.

Let Your Light Shine

Let Your Light Shine

When we are committed to bring the light to those in darkness, we will face adversity. I was raised in a very strict and conservative environment. There is nothing wrong with that and I am not ashamed of it. But my mistake in that early stage of life was to think that those in darkness were somehow not as good as me… and I definitely gave off that vibe. This was very unhelpful in my relationships and alienated me from those who needed what I had access to. So the second step is to realize that we are just mirrors who can reflect the light but in substance we are no better than those in darkness. We are all really the same. If we do not grasp this immediately, we are destined to lose contact with those we seek to serve. Someone has said it best when he said, ”We are just beggars seeking to show other beggars where we have found bread.”

The light can be found only on a spiritual plane. It is not the way of the world and the world generally does not operate according to the light. Again, we see many good things in the world and they are useful to us, but we should not be deceived into thinking that the world is friendly to the light. Its systems are dramatically opposed to the light and they will undermine our journey to the light if we do not stay vigilant.

Let’s take the notion of love as an example. I love my wife and she is precious to me. But that does not mean I always act in love toward her in every situation. In fact, most times I act in my own self-interest and not hers. I don’t mean to behave in this way nor is it my design, but I naturally slip into this pattern if I am not constantly vigilant.

The third step is to realize that our combined light shines brighter than we can ever shine alone. By that I mean that we should associate with others who have the same values, encourage one another and hold one another accountable to operate in a certain way. Community is essential to light-bearers. We cannot fight this battle on our own and if we try to do so, we will fail. Seek out those who walk in the light.

Be a mirror reflecting The Light to those in darkness

Be a mirror reflecting The Light to those in darkness

Lastly we have an obligation to take the light to those in darkness. Most people who walk habitually in the darkness do not consciously understand their plight and will not naturally seek out the light on their own. I have been fortunate to have a series of very committed and wise friends in my life that brought the light to me. At times it was painful when they revealed my darkness to me. They had to be persistent and patient with me and teach me how to be a light-bearer over many years. I can easily slip off the path if I do not stay alert and practice habits that will keep me in the light. The light of others exposed my darkness …many times without them saying a word. The comparison of my behavior to theirs was often enough to help me see my error. Will you join me in seeking to be a light in a dark world?

   “As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”        ~ Carl Jung

IF YOU READ THE NEWS, WILL YOU KNOW?

Growing up near Detroit, I was a paperboy for The Detroit News.  Their ad asked, “What in the World’s going on?” …and answered, “If you read the News you know!”  That may have been true back then, but is it true now?

 I remember the advent of 24 hour news on CNN and sitting in Ted Turner’s boardroom at CNN HQ in Atlanta.  CNN was my only link to ‘civilization’ when we lived in Moscow because the KGB signal was so strong that we got free cable the entire time we lived there and it was in English! (Their headquarters was just around the corner)

Today as I listened to the news, I reflected on what makes the news and what they think their audience wants to hear.  Are they really giving us the news?  Do we really know what in the world is going on?  I wonder …

It’s tragic that many souls were lost on flight 370 from someplace in Asia but I wonder how many times we need to hear about the endless search for the plane’s wreckage. Yes, Al Qaeda had a secret meeting somewhere and the US Intelligence Services seemed to have missed a good opportunity to nab those bad guys. The Democrats are trying to change the subject away from Obama Care to women’s rights… the Tea Party is just a bunch of crazies… Russia is invading Ukraine… some nut job killed several people in Kansas City… It’s the anniversary of the bombing at the Boston Marathon… Isis is gaining ground … and on and on …

But is this really the important stuff they should be talking about?  I sincerely doubt it.  We are so lazy, so flooded with dribble that I don’t think any of us really know what in the world’s going on.  Really going on…

The news we need to know is what will affect us most, not just what is interesting but useless information.  The news should be something we didn’t already know but is important to know.

Useful information is information that changes our life or informs us on how to get more out of life.  Useful information is information we can use – that’s why it is called ‘useful.’  Entertainment is something else again.  And I am afraid most of what we get is just to entertain us.  So I propose we change it from the “News” to the “Entertainment.”

By the way, the Gospel means “Good News.” Jesus came, suffered, died, rose again and is coming back!.  The Good News is that we can now live because He took our sins upon Himself and died in our place.  But we need to place our confidence in Him for that transaction to be true for us personally.  That’s what Easter is about and that’s news worth knowing!

“But God shows his love for us, because while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

PREPARING FOR THE WORST

Recent events have given us an amazing example of something that is going on in the spiritual realm. A jumbo jet disappeared somewhere over the ocean and no one can find it.  Search parties have combed most of South Asia looking for their loved ones and the giant airliner carrying them to their planned destination.  The passengers did not anticipate never seeing their friends or family again.  Last goodbyes that could have been shared and hasty decisions to catch a last minute business flight; it all went terribly wrong and now it’s over – or is it?

Maybe there are survivors somewhere crashed on a desolate island like in the TV series “Lost.” Maybe they were hijacked and landed safely on some abandoned airstrip left over from WWII,  Perhaps they  crashed into the sea and a few of them survived and are still floating around like a bobber in a vast ocean – we still don’t know…

Neither do we know what caused the disappearance.  Were there terrorists involved?  Was this the result of a mechanical or technical malfunction?  Did a pilot or member of the crew engage in a diabolical plan to take the plane down? Was it just an accident?

Why would something like this happen?  How could it happen?  We all have many questions and no answers.  Maybe time will tell.  Perhaps we will discover answers if and when we find the black boxes that are still with the plane.  The problem is that the transponders only give off a signal for a little while and then it fades.  Will we get there too late?

Time is of the essence isn’t it? But how do we appreciate the passing of time without something momentous bringing it to our attention?  I look into my bathroom mirror and ask, “Who is that old Dude staring back at me?”  Where did the time go? How did my children grow up so fast?  Did I do anything worthwhile with the time I have let pass so quickly? Can I still make changes?

God’s transponder’s signal is fading fast and possibly stopping at any moment.  Then it’s all over and I’ll never know the answers to the questions that I so deeply desire to answer.  Who put me here on this planet?  What is it all about?  How can I make the most of the time I am given? Am I still desperately searching or have I failed to even ask the right questions? Have I given up?

There will certainly be answers and there will be a reckoning.  We can be sure that God will not leave us hanging in suspense, but the answers may be horrifying and the story may not end well. Wake up!  Respond to God’s voice inside you, leading to the answers you seek, while you can still hear Him.  Make the change of heart to which He is calling you.  While there is time, there is hope.  But when time is out, hope dies and all that remains is the knowledge that our ship has gone down and nothing can any longer avert the tragedy we have brought upon ourself.  Prepare for the best before the signal fades and you are stuck with the worst.

“Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” John 5:25