This week’s CrossTalk is the second part of Ann Brazile’s article on Death and the Christian. Last week focused on the fact that death touches us all. This second part focuses on faith and dying.
At this point we have to bring faith into the thought processes. And this is the answer to the question of how a Christian deals with death: FAITH. The New Testament gives us insight into this. Paul tells us, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Despite his desire to “depart and be with Christ”, he would remain “for your sake.” Yes, it is human to want to stay and watch your children and grandchildren grow up and to be a part of their lives. The Apostle John painted for us the most beautiful description of Heaven in the last chapters of Revelation (who wouldn’t want to experience that?!?) He ends his writing with these two sentences; “Yes I am coming quickly. Amen. Come Lord Jesus.” He conveys a strong desire for Jesus to return. John was ready for death because of his faith in the Lord’s promises. Our Lord Himself faced a certain awful death His whole life. Philippians tells us that “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”. He knew the kind of death He would endure but accepted it saying “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will, but thine be done.” He too, knew human fear, but didn’t let it take control of His life.
Hebrews 2:9-18 gives us the real clue in what takes away the Christian’s fear of death. We don’t have to fear death because Jesus “destroyed him who holds the power of death…and freed those who were held in slavery by their fear of death.” We experience total freedom when we die. The author of Hebrews in Chapter 11:13-16 tells us that the founders of our faith “desired a better country, which is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God for he has prepared a city for them.” And for us, too – the one that John described so beautifully.
How strong is your faith? Hebrews 11:1, 6 states “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen…And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He rewards those who seek Him.” If the fear of death overwhelms your faith, then at death your whole life of service to the Lord – no matter how short or long it may be – will have been for nothing.
And, after all, death is a win/win situation for the Christian. For if you live, great! If you die, even better!! You do not have to be fearful of death. All will be well. The Lord has control of our life and our death!!
We have several in our family that are struggling with their health, and even end of life issues. I don’t know how those brothers and sisters feel, but I do see them with a courage and contentment that only faith could bring. Several weeks ago Ann Brazile and I were visiting and talking about these things. Since she is living this, I asked her to write about it. What follows is part one of what she wrote. The rest will follow next week. I am thankful for Ann and her willingness to share her experience with us. Her article is called, “Death and the Christian.”
Yes, everyone knows they are going to die at some point – but usually not how or when. The day you sit across the desk from your physician who is telling you that you have an incurable disease that will give you maybe 6-9 months to live, maybe less, will put a very different perspective on death. (And, yes, I do know the power of prayer!) Many in our church family face the prospect of death daily because of their profession. Many of us face this prospect daily as we travel the freeways and commute to work. These circumstances are everyday life. When your health circumstances become fatal, then your mortality is something that you have to deal with. Death becomes real – not just a concept.
To most people death is something to be feared – both your own and those you love. The loss of loved ones can be a catastrophic occurrence in one’s life. I know this well! In the past two and a half years I have lost a dear niece, two brothers, three sisters-in-law, a brother-in-law, my dear daughter, and the love of my life – my sweet husband of 60 years! But this I also know; the Lord takes care of His servants. When death comes to them, He takes them home, to a better place. He also mourns when they die, as David told us in Psalm 116:15 – “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones.” In recent conversation with a “wise beyond years” friend of mine, he said that “We trust that our lives and experiences are a part of God’s plan…fear is a natural emotion. Fear of death provides safety because it helps us avoid things that may cause death…it doesn’t show a lack of faith to have fear, as long as you can place it as a human emotion.”
God is as sad as we are, when it comes to dying. He created us to live forever, and death suggests something different. But even in death, God’s will can be done. He gives us comfort in suffering and peace in conflict.
Next week, Ann’s article describes how faith speaks to the dying process. Thank you, Ann for sharing your experience.
As of 1990, the correlation studies between prayer and physical healing were numbered at 250. This number has increased since then. In these various studies, researchers have found that prayer has a positive influence on relationships, physical and mental health, and overall well-being.
Recently, Christian researchers have begun to investigate the relationship of social and psychological factors as they are related to individual health and illness. These researchers examine how the mind, nervous system, and immune system interact with each other. Our immune system protects us from the millions of viruses and bacteria we’re exposed to on a daily basis. Thoughts and emotions influence how we are able to repel these viruses and bacteria. Stress can weaken the immune system through the emotions, such as fear, sadness, and anger. Stress-reducing activities, such as laughter and exercise, strengthen our immune systems. The research revealed religious devotion was associated with improvement of one’s immune system. Studies have shown similar positive effects between religions practice and individuals with mental illness.
Living by Christian principles leads to a greater quality of life, more contentment, and greater well-being than individuals who are less religious. Active Christians have higher rates of optimism, hopefulness, resolve, self-value, thankfulness, countless positive emotions, and moral traits. In a study conducted by Koenig et al. (2014), Koenig and his associates found that active religious involvement significantly and positively reduces depression, and increases each of the positive emotions, attitudes, and behaviors listed above.
Koenig makes three suggestions for the church: The church must stay true to its foundational principles and instill them into children and young Christians. Second, the church must urge healthy habits among its members: avoiding alcohol, drug use, and cigarettes, as well as encouraging healthy diets, regular doctor visits, and disease screenings. Third, the church must share how God can bring spiritual, financial, and social wellness to the rest of the world.
Information in this article was compiled by John Lakvold. It is a response to the sermon last Sunday. The practice of Biblical Christianity significantly increases the quality of life and leads to healing and wellness. Research sources are available upon request.
That God is Will is Sovereign, does not mean I have nothing to bring to the table of my salvation. Quite the contrary; I am to work with God and “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).” God cares about what I think. In another place He says, “Let us reason together (Isaiah 1:18).” He wants us to come to an understanding of our lives and understanding of what He offers. God listens to us and desires to instruct us and to help us work through our issues. He wants us to but fully and freely. He is like a good counselor, who listens and asks the right questions. Like a good counselor, He practices Motivational Listening:
He listens to us with empathy.
He points out the discrepancies in our lives between where we are and where He wants to be.
God rolls with our resistance to His Will.
He will support our self-sufficiency when we follow His Will.
What becomes apparent in this process is that we have to discover the difference between feelings and thought. Ayn Rand said, “don’t use you heart but use your mind” as you seek to discover truth. Once you find truth, embrace it with all your heart. This is what Paul says in Romans 12:1-2. The Christians in Rome had to distinguish between Jewish teaching, Greek philosophy and Biblical truth. Offering your bodies as living sacrifices is living with all your heart, but that is only going to happen when you are not like the people of Babylon and you let God change the way you think. Then you will be able tell what God Will is; His good, pleasing and perfect Will.
An early Christian said, “Our own will is like a wall between us and God, preventing us from coming near to Him or contemplating His mercy.” His statement reflects the great mystery surrounding the sovereignty of God and the free will of humans. It also helps us understand the reasons people who choose to follow Christ struggle with the flesh. They don’t respect the power of desire for freedom, and their need to submit to the will of God.
The scriptural word for this struggle is dominion. God has endowed us with a sense of dominion in order to live with initiative and creativity. This is a part of God’s image in us. It is intended to help us live productive and purposeful lives, but it has been distorted by sin. Eyes that should otherwise turn to God, turn to self. We value our own opinions over God’s Word and live by our own code.
The passage that begins in 1 Corinthians 12:27, teaches us the importance of those who teach and what it is they teach. What they teach, Paul says, is the “most excellent way.” It is most excellent because love directs the course. If God’s love directs your life, it will be most excellent and that wall between you and God will be gone. Your actions will look like God because you will be able to clearly see God. You see what Isaiah did (Isaiah 6:1-8). You will understand the sovereignty of God and not be afraid of it. You will see the need for someone to say something, raise your hand and say, “here I am, send me.” In saying this you are accepting God’s code for your life.
When you walk in love you are able to see the balance between human free will and God’s sovereignty. One writer said it is like two ropes hanging from a ceiling, running through a pulley. You must hold on to both of these ropes to find balance for your life. Submitting to God’s Word and teaching brings benefits beyond your own abilities, but you must grasp them for yourself, and allow His truth and power to make the most of the gifts and abilities you have. Hold on to both of those ropes, seeing clearly the God who is.
Tabitha was a model Christian woman in the church of Joppa. She was full of good works and charitable deeds. At one point she became sick and died. The woman washed her for burial and laid her in an upper room. The disciples sent two men to Apostle Peter who was nearby and asked him to come quickly. When Peter arrived, the widows met him and showed him the clothes that Tabitha had made them. Peter was left alone in the room with the body of Tabitha, and he prayed and told her to arise. She opened her eyes and she stood up; then he called the others into the room. Hearing of this miracle, many others came to believe in Jesus.
We have too many brothers and sisters who are struggling right now with health concerns. People like Tabitha, who are involved in ministry and beloved by God. I wish they would experience what Tabitha did. I do have hope that they may. Paul also served with people who he loved and with whom he struggled (see 2 Cor. 1:8-11). His words describe how we feel; “affliction…completely…beyond our strength.” We share the ability to endure. God delivers. He has done this in the past and will continue to strengthen His people. He states, “We have put our hope in Him that he will deliver us again while you join in helping us by your prayers.”
Paul’s enemies taught anyone who would listen that Paul had these struggles because he was not a genuine teacher of God. Real teachers of God don’t have these struggles. Paul stresses that struggles gives us the opportunity to engage in prayer and other acts of faith. Even Jesus taught that in this world we will have suffering (John 16:33). “Be courageous, because He has conquered the world!”
Devotion To Christ
Over the past year the Elders have desired to present to the Congregation the focus of our ministry and study as having a closer walk with Jesus. Having a closer walk with Jesus means many things. In this article I wanted to address devotion as an element of that closer walk. Words that help us understand devotion are; loyalty, faithfulness, fidelity, constancy, and commitment.
I begin this discussion by asking, are you devoted or distant when it comes to where you are in your faith? If we desire the closer walk, then we are going to have to surrender all the circumstances of our lives, past and present, good or bad to the light of God’s grace. For the love of these things and the bitterness of these things can direct our lives someplace other than closeness to God.
Being distant and being devoted are opposites. Being distant is safe, being devoted is exposed. Being distant keeps me out of the limelight, being devoted makes me a target. Being distant allows me to control the circumstances, being devoted gives God the controls.
My proximity to God comes down to two roles that I should seek out: Being a student of Scripture, or a disciple of Christ. Proverbs 20:27 states, “The Lord’s lamp sheds light on a person’s life, searching the innermost parts.” His word is that lamp that brings truth to my life. Do I desire that truth? The second role is being a suitable temple for the Spirit of God. When a person is baptized, she or he is given an amazing gift…the presence of the Spirit of God. He is with us to empower us and enable us to live out the truths of God’s message to us. Paul tells us, “Don’t stifle the Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). For the closest place we can ever be to God, is when He is in us.
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.” There are several ideas in this passage that are humbling and significant. The idea that we could be ambassadors for Christ challenges us to live up to a higher standard, but that will never happen to me personally until I see myself in that role.
Paul was great in the work of the Kingdom because he could see himself used by God in significant ways. Paul Little, in his classic book, How To Give Away Your Faith, states that “Obedience in evangelism is one of the key to spiritual health.” His point illustrates that we are ambassadors, and fulfilling that role is a part of my spiritual calling. The reason it is vital is because for us to do this work, we have to depend on God. Little puts it this way, “When we evangelize (share good news), we pray specifically, calling on God to give the victory in the spiritual struggles within the soul of an individual we care about.” We ask God to show Himself to that person, to introduce the work of Christ and demonstrate the new life. We ask God to use us or any other means He may chose to get through to the seeker. With anticipation we watch God answer prayer. These are all things God wants to see at work in our lives. This is the type of lifestyle that will produce fruit.
When we are busy doing the work of God a couple of things happen we may not expect:
We will see the truths of Scripture come alive.
We won’t have time to pick at other Christians and their faults.
We will take serious the weaknesses we have and be encouraged to leave our own sins at the cross.
The Holy Spirit will be engaged in our personal lives.
As we begin our Home Bible Studies (HBS), the conviction of this verse must be yours. If you are ready to take the next step and be involved in a HBS, be at a meeting this Sunday evening following the assembly time. The HBS Teams are made up of three couples. ( 2 host couples and 1 teaching couple). In our evening lesson we will talk about the specific roles and about how to invite people to your HBS. The meeting after evening assembly should be about 30 minutes. Talk to me (Dennis) if you have any questions.
A week ago Friday, a group of people gathered at the church building and prepared the things necessary to share with those who are served by the Tacoma Rescue Mission. We prepare coffee and hot chocolate, purchase and pick up 30 pizzas, and organize what we are planning to share (hygiene products). We also load sound equipment. We usually have 20-30 people help with the operation. After a briefing and prayer, we drive to the Tacoma Rescue Mission. When we arrive, we set up in various places. Either the kitchen serving line, coffee in the courtyard, hygiene products at another table in the courtyard and singing in the dining room. We also have those whose task it is to talk with the people, share literature and pray. This past Friday we served 320 people. Then at the end, the tables, sound equipment and coolers and people load back up and head back to Lakeview.
We have a good committee and groups of people who serve, but we could always use more helpers. It is a good work of compassion and helps us live out Matthew 25:31-40. It also teaches how to be compassionate without expecting anything in return. We continue to need support from the congregation in the way of financial contributions, donations of hygiene products and clothing donations. We are in the middle of our annual clothing drive and ask that you consider bringing used clothing that you would normally give to charity. We especially need men's clothing. This project gives us the opportunity to be creative and able to involve others. Some have found clothing at yard sales or even gone to a thrift store and found inexpensive clothing. Some have involved the people at their place of work, after having received permission to have a clothing drive at work. This is a great idea. It helps others know about our faith and gives people a chance to serve when they otherwise wouldn't. The deadline for turning in clothing is October 1st. The committee is thankful for the way the congregation has given to bless this ministry. You contribute the resources and we get to share and receive the thanks. But we point to God, who has given all we need and enables us to be generous. Thank you for your continued support.
A few weeks ago I spoke about worry and control. Several
commented that it was relevant and needed. One of our
members, John Lakvold is a credentialed people helper and was
very positive about the topic, and offered to write a researched
explanation (and a biblical) for the problem this is in our time.
Good stuff John! I hope it is helpful for everyone who struggles or
knows someone who struggles with worry and anxiety. (P.S. I am
still on a fishin’ expedition in central Washington. See you all
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the
United States (Anxiety and Depression Association, 2014). These
disorders touch the lives of 40 million adults in the United States,
approximately 18% of U.S. population (National Institutes of
Mental Health, n.d.). Even though anxiety disorders are highly
treatable, only about one-third of those suffering anxiety will
receive treatment (Anxiety and Depression Association, 2014).
According to WebMD (2008), Americans spend 42 billion dollars
annually on anxiety disorders. Roughly 23 billion dollars is spent to
treat anxiety symptoms that imitate physical illnesses (WebMD).
Anxiety is the natural response of the body to potential danger,
threats of harm, feeling stress situations, or being under pressure
(Helpguide.org, 2014). A healthy amount of anxiety allows us to be
attentive, provokes us to take action, and motivates us to solve
problems in our lives (Helpguide.org). Unhealthy amounts of
anxiety cause physical and emotional symptoms (Helpguide.org).
Emotional symptoms include constant worrying or uneasiness,
feeling of dread without any known cause, inability to concentrate,
internal tension, catastrophic thinking, irritability, restlessness,
hyper-awareness toward danger, forgetfulness, overwhelming and
swift feelings of panic or doom, fears of losing control or going
crazy, and detaching from others and from reality (Calm Clinic,
n.d.). Physical symptoms include increased heartbeat, choking,
frequent sweating, stomach cramping, lightheadedness, diarrhea,
shortness of breath, rapid breathing, changes in body
temperature, muscle tension, headaches, shaking, exhaustion,
restlessness, and nausea (Calm Clinic).
According to Hart (2003), the only type of anxiety that God
condemns is perceptual “worry anxiety” (p. 15). As Christians, we
are torn between two worlds (Matthew 6:24). On one hand, we
struggle to make ends to meet. On the other hand, God tells his
people that he will provide their every need (Jeremiah 31:35; Mark
13:30-31). For this reason, Jesus tells us, “That is why I tell you
not to worry about everyday life . . . Today’s trouble is enough
for today.” (Matthew 6:25, NLT, emphasis added). Thus, the
apostle Peter tells us to “give all our worries to God, because he
cares about you” (I Peter 5:7, NCV). Otherwise, the worries of this
world can choke out the Word of God implanted within us
(Matthew 13:22, NASB). When the Word of God is choked out of
us, we become enmeshed in “affairs of this life” (II Timothy 2:4,
NKJV, emphasis in the original). Being enmeshed in the “affairs of
this life” hinder our souls and dulls our attention toward pleasing
Christ (Luke 21:34-36, NLT).
Being concerned about our own lives, having a sleepless night
worrying about a love one, or feeling some anxiety is not
unforgivable sin (Hart, 2003). Hart points out that the problem with
worry is constantly ruminating on it. To resolve our perpetual
worrying, the apostle Paul reminds us to “pray and ask God for
everything you need, always giving thanks” (Philippians 4:6,
NCV). When we petition God, “God’s peace, which is so great we
cannot understand it, will keep [our] hearts and minds in Christ
Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, NCV). When we face religious
persecution, the Holy Spirit will guide our words (Mark 13:11).
God will provide our every provision (Luke 12: 22-30). Relying on
God will leave us unshaken (Psalm 55:22).