Grief

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Comforting Those Who Need Us Most

 

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.

For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”

Thessalonians 4:13-14
Life is a miracle filled with God’s blessings, love, and cherished memories. Life also comes with struggles, temptations, and loss.  At some point in our lives, we will grieve the loss of a loved one.  Our grief is one of the hardest things to overcome – and it manifests differently for everyone.  We as God’s creatures love deeply and thus we feel loss strongly.  

For many, it takes time, faith, prayer, and support to heal from the loss of a loved one.  But for some, the journey may be too difficult and their burden too heavy.  We’ve all heard that there are 5 stages of grief:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  But what if someone struggles to heal?  What happens if they get stuck in one of the stages of grief – anger- for example can lead to a great deal of self-destruction.  How far might a person go “to make the pain go away.”

There’s an upcoming film “Annabelle: Creation” that deals with this very premise.  I’m not usually a fan of horror movies but there’s something in the storyline of this upcoming film that’s worth talking about.  The movie begins with two parents – the Mullins – who suffer through the unimaginable and sudden death of their daughter.  Their grief is unbearable, and it is when they are at their weakest and most vulnerable that temptation and evil comes with whispers of consolation, and a way of “seeing” their little girl again.  I don’t want to give away any more plot spoilers, but needless to say the Mullins give into temptation, and a supernatural battle against evil takes place in their home.  If you’re a fan of horror movies, you may really enjoy this film which releases in theaters this Friday, August 11.

Though the Mullins are fictional characters, the idea that we’ll do anything to hold on to a loved one who has passed and/or that evil wants to take advantage of us during a time when we are vulnerable can be very real.  

Grief, especially when it comes unexpectedly, can crush the spirit of even the strongest among us.  As Christians, it is my hope that whenever we come across someone who is grieving, we reach out to comfort and support them with their immediate needs (ex. cooking dinner for the family, babysitting the children, etc.).

It is also my hope that we minister and share God love with them and remind them that they are not alone.  As Christians it is our duty to take care, comfort, and pray for one another.  Healing may take weeks, months, or years, but it is a comfort when they know they can turn to God and to their neighbors to help them through.

 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.”

2 Corinthians 1:3

“After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

Thessalonians 4:17-18

 

Photos provided by Warner Bros.

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Thought Overload

I really need to be posting things here more often. I suppose posting is not the best terminology. Anyone can hit the post button and throw something up on the internet to live forever. Rather, I need to take the time to sit and hammer out some words. Not only will it help keep the creative juices flowing, but it will also hopefully allow my brain to process the thoughts that I do have.

I do not know if my brain ever slows down. I would not say that I need a therapist or anything like that, but rather my brain always runs scenarios, sequences, word analysis, and a host of other things without slowing down. I can have a conversation with someone and be analyzing their choice of words and actions while trying to figure out if any of it will fit with an upcoming sermon and continuing to dwell on the Scripture and book I read earlier that morning. My brain is a scary place.

Writing helps me take these thoughts captive for a few moments to put together a coherent string of words. It is a little refreshing, if we are being honest.

More on this to come….

Book Review: People of the Second Chance

I could not wait to get my hands on this book. When the release was first announced, I was excited to see it happen. I have kept up with the movement known as People of the Second Chance (hereafter referred to as POTSC) for years now. I have backed their Christmas project. I keep up with what Mike Foster, the founder, is doing to further the mission. I believe that we are all in need of a second chance, or a third chance, or a tenth chance. We should never think we are beyond hope and have messed things up to the point that there is no return and probability of a rescue.

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I am thankful that instead of telling stories of people who have embraced the message of POTSC, Foster takes time to tell us why it is important to embrace the mission. One of the big takeaways from the book is that we should celebrate the unloved. Rather than seeing the downsides of our experience, we are told to let the journey drive us to the arms of Christ. We know that we have experienced failure, no matter what demographic you want to place on us. Rather than letting it define us, we must find our place in Christ and allow him to mold us into becoming a different person.

If you have follow the POTSC movement from the fringe, now would be a great time for you to move into the arena of being a champion for the movement. There is only freedom and warm hugs in the movement. No matter where you are in life right now or where you were five years ago, the movement says welcome. I encourage you to get this book, read it, and then give it away. It is that important that we get this message to those around us. The more we recognize our value in Christ despite our flawed past, the better of a community we will become.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. The words here are my own and have not been influenced in any way by the author or publisher.

Go by Preston Sprinkle

The church in America is in a downward spiral. You do not have to see any survey results to know this. It seems as if you can look at any church and gather the truth. Preston Sprinkle has not only reported the facts of a new Barna survey in his new book Go, but also given us ideas to combat this and compel the church to action.

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In his writing, he does not call the current way of doing church a sin, but rather encourages us to look at other ways of gathering. As a church planter, I recognize the fact that the same old ways will not gain us ground in spreading the Gospel. I know the hardships faced by a church with a small budget while wanting to maintain a consistent outreach and mission presence.

In the grand scheme of things, I believe that the church has failed to make disciples. We may have done a decent job at getting our message out there, but we have failed to make life change. The survey results show it. Our churches show it. Preston shows us, but he also gives us hope. By taking a different path, we can see the church return to vibrancy.

It does not matter if you find yourself before the pew or in the pew, this is a book for every church member. There are common denominators between all of us and we are all responsible for making disciples.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. The words expressed are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

We Could Use Some Culture

I have often found that people are reading their Bible, but they do not take time to consider the culture in which the words were written. Rather than seeking to hear the words through their original culture, we tend to read it from our modern vantage point. This can sometimes lead to confusion and even frustration as we get things wrong. I am glad that there has been a study Bible released to help us bridge this gap.

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Let me be quick to say that I can already sense the mumbling coming from the mouths of seminary scholars. I know that this Bible will not address every facet of the culture and will not outline everything as neatly as you would. However, I am thankful for its existence to help educate everyday readers to the culture of the Bible.

Throughout the Bible, we are given chapter summaries, maps, and snippets of everyday life for the Jewish people that were the first recipients of Christ’s message. These are just a few of the many things that are addressed on the pages of this Bible. To fully appreciate Scripture, it helps to know the connotations in which it was written. You can relate more to the struggles that were facing the original audience and grasp a little bit more what it meant to have a relationship with God. For the relatively compact size, this Bible packs a lot of information. Could there have been more information? Absolutely, but then it would have been too big to move around. While it is still large to preach or teach from, it is not unbearable for personal study at home.

I received the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible for free in exchange for an unbiased review from BookLookBloggers. The words expressed here are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

Be You Do Good

9780801018770I am somewhat of a coffee junkie. I have a couple of cups every day and am always looking for new blends and roasters to try. When the opportunity to read a book by a coffee businessman came up, I did not hesitate. While I had heard of Land of A Thousand Hills Coffee Company, I have grown to love this roaster. I have yet to enjoy a cup of their coffee, but if it is as rich as this book by their founder, I have no doubt it will be quite exquisite.

In Christianity, people are often to think that God’s will is going to be revealed in a grandiose way and be the only thing an individual can do their entire life. Golden rejects that notion. Instead, he generously weaves a more integrated view of calling. Rather than waiting in a cave for years for God to reveal your calling, he encourages you to take a look back at your life and the inklings God has given. Most likely our callings will not be a radical shift from what we did yesterday or the day before, but rather nudges inviting us into a greater story along the way.

As a result of our calling being nudged in directions, there is also the understanding that this calling may change throughout our lives. Rather than it being about one specific thing, that one thing may be for a season until the next thing comes along. This is a freeing view of calling because even if you sense that you got it wrong for a few years, God is still not finished with you and can still use you as He sees fit.

Really what Golden is challenging us to do is to strive to live our lives for God wherever. You should strive to be you and to do good however that may look. While this book reads more like a memoir, there are plenty of thought-provoking quotes and remarks to get your mind churning. The one thing I would like to have seen more is how Golden has used his influence for the Gospel. It seems as if the mention of the Gospel has been avoided in the book and I had hoped for more of that from him. Will it stop me from recommending the book? No. Will it stop me from seeking out what Golden describes as the best coffee and Land of a Thousand Hills? No.

If you want to learn more about Golden or take advantage of some of the sweet promotions going on right now with the launch of the book, head on over to the website. I would recommend that you purchase this book for yourself or someone you know. Now is the time to be you and do good.

I was grateful to serve alongside of an amazing launch team for this book. As a result I received the book for free from the publisher. However, my words are my own and have not been influenced in any manner by the publisher.

Book Review: Good Things

God’s favor is a difficult concept to describe. Some people see it as something that is magical and only happens on a rare occasion. Kevin Gerald set out in this book to change that idea. Could it be that favor is found all around us?

9781601427748So often we see favor as something that has to be either earned or begged down from Heaven. The idea that we somehow earn God’s favor goes against Scripture as we know that there is nothing that we can do to earn God’s love. The thought that if we prayed enough that God would somehow hear us doesn’t quite match up with Scripture either. Instead, as Gerald proposes, we need a new way of looking at this favor.

It is sort of like asking God to reveal Himself to us. Maybe instead of asking Him to somehow become tangible and a magnificent presence in our life, we need to simply see Him in the life around us. This is the same concept that Gerald is teaching through this book. God’s favor been evident in my life today because I managed to wake up, put two feet on the floor, and take a step. To simply manage to wake up is enough to ensure me that I have seen God’s favor.

In our human nature we manage to make favor more mystical than it is. Rather than begging God to show His favor, we should take sight of where it is already present in our life.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. These words are my own and have not been influenced in any manner.