Thank you, Grace Community Church


At the right of my father’s body was this display provided by my church family; I thank the Lord for the prayers and acts of love that we have received – I am so blessed to have such a loving church who weeps with those who weep. Below is the clipping from the newspaper’s obituary section. My dad and I used to pick at each other over who has the correct time, since WV is Eastern and IL is Central. I would call dad up and ask, “When does WVU play today?” He’d respond, “My time”, never acknowledging that I lived in the correct time zone. You will notice that the obit refers to my dad’s time of death as “Monday, August 22.” Early, that Monday morning mom told me that dad had died at 12:06 am. When I got off the phone with mom I grinned and said to myself, “Ha – he died on my time: 11:06 pm Sunday, on the Lord’s Day – that’s my story and I’m sticking with it. Besides, he can’t argue with me about it anymore.”

But . . . what is time when you are eternally with the Lord?!

I love you dad.


Why do we need sad songs?

On the way home from WV last week, I put in my “Best of Fleetwood Mac” cd after Joseph woke up. He just turned 2, mind you. On disc one, tracks #14 and 15 played “Landslide” and “Songbird” respectively. As Christine McVie began to sing “Songbird”, Joseph commented, “. . . sad song . . .” Even a two-year old can hear the difference between happiness and sadness – his life already contains both. Here are the two songs that we listened to and they both speak about getting old and dying, and losing someone you dearly love, and the sadness of it all. After the songs, I have a few things to say.


Here are a few reasons why we need these songs:

1. Because we need others to know when we’re sad. When someone writes a sad song we are comforted by their empathy – they also know the dark days and they know that you have them too.

2. Because it’s ok to be sad. If you are never sad it’s because you refuse to take an honest look at life. So much of our culture does not permit deep sadness, but fills up the days with more and more silliness as a distraction. This is not healthy for us.

3. Because we need to cry. It’s good for the body and the spirit. It’s part of what it means to be human and it’s part of what it means to be an emotionally, healthy person.

4. Because we know that happiness has an opposite. When someone is hurting you do not laugh. You cannot eat popcorn at the side of a hospital bed. Tears are the only appropriate response to many things in this life, and it is dishonest and unloving to rejoice with those who weep.

5. Because we instinctively know there is something seriously wrong with our world. Sadness works like a billboard for our minds – it tells us that this is not the way it’s supposed to be.

6. Because we long for a time and a place where there will never be things that draw out tears again. Which is why I’m not going to trust anyone else other than Jesus when it comes to my future happiness and joy. I don’t trust Charles Taze Russell or Mary Baker Eddy or Confucius or Joseph Smith or Tom Cruise or Dr. Phil or Dick Clark or Johnny Carson or Joel Osteen. Christ alone and those who faithfully represent Christ have the only answer for my sadness (Psalm 42 and Revelation 21:4)

I am very thankful that this sad song has been mercifully postponed by the Lord, for now.

I love you dad!

The Paradox of Death

For those who love Jesus Christ as their Risen Lord and Savior, death is no longer a threat to our humanity. Since we are physical and spiritual beings, neither one nor the other, but whole beings who inwardly know there is more, we long to escape what is taking away our lives. But we can’t overrule our own death. This is why Jesus did. Jesus overruled the threat to humanity by defeating the sentence of death for everyone who knows their need of him.

In Christ, it is not death to die. It is the door to eternal life.

On the other hand, Death is God’s Response to our Demand to be God

Not only did it cost us our physical and spiritual lives to seek God-like status instead of enjoying our God who made us (see previous post), but God killed an animal and clothed Adam and Eve with a covering not of their effort, work, insight, will-power, self-determination, or wits (Gen. 3:21). Why did he do this? Because they, and all of us along with them, wanted to be God. Since we all wanted to Live apart from the Giver of Life, God chose to put to death a substitute so that death would lose its full sting: Death is going to hurt but it will not totally destroy us (1 Cor. 15:56-57). Why not? Enter a lamb. Enter Jesus – he was crucified on a cross in Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago. But why is death both the judgment upon man and the means of his salvation at the same time?

This is the mystery revealed at the cross. This is what God had planned before the world began: Christ upon the Cross would both absorb my judgment as my substitute and also become the means to eternal life (Acts 2:23, 4:28; Rev. 13:8). The one and only God-Man would suffer my death and then grant an eternal pardon by faith.

When I attend funerals, or think about people that have died in days gone by, I think about what it cost an innocent man to set me free. I’m also mystified beyond words that the Triune God would put into action this duel truth displayed in death before the world began: Judgement and Mercy at the same time, at the same junction of time upon a cross. Behold Our God and Worship!

Death is God’s Response to Our Demand to be God

I once was a monitor-tech, reading and interpreting heart arrhythmias in a cardiac unit. To prepare for the tests to get certified, one of the text-books raised the question: “What is life?” This was the question after a long chapter on how the electricity is conducted through the heart, explaining that the beginning place is a self-conducting sinus atrial node (SA Node) in the top part of the right atrium; this is where the electricity begins. “And what sends electricity to the SA Node?” This was the next question in a standard text-book on cardiology. The answer to this two-part question: “Only God knows.” There was no text-book explanation for what starts the electrical stimulus in the heart to beat. The electricity is just there. “That’s Life” as one doctor put it.

Now, to look upon a dead person and observe such lifeless existence rattles the brain. And it should. Intuitively, we know that death is not right. Something is wrong. We accept it – we have to, but at the same time our insides scream: STOP – This is not the way it’s supposed to be!!

This raises a query: Why do we want death to stop if it is a normal part of human existence? Did you catch the operative word in that last question? Though evolutionary theory wants us to believe that death is a “normal” part of the upward path to higher living, we just can’t bring ourselves to accept it no matter how many elementary teachers and high school teachers and college teachers told us otherwise. I hate death and you can’t make me feel good about death no matter how many sympathy cards you send me. Death will never feel normal!

This brings us to what I believe is the hardest confession known to man to pay homage to: Man refuses to acknowledge that he can’t be God and be Man at the same time. It was a delicious offer, but it was a lie then and it still is now.

The devil ghoulishly proposed to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:4-5). Though the woman had some fortitude to speak up and tell the truth, that God said we will die if we disobey, Adam was too passive to make the truth stick and protect their lives. They rebelled. They ate. They tried to live without God. They died. Now we all die. The tantalizing offer to be like God was a sham.

When God warned with death that if you commit mutiny against all of his joy, his love, his gifts, his eternal life, his protection for your life – when you throw all this away and attempt to live forever on your own strength and self-preservation, you will surely die.

I think about these things every time I attend a funeral:

1. Death is an appropriate opposite experience compared to what we could have had. For God to show us what we lost it took more than a time out, or an “off to your room with no supper” discipline. How else is God to demonstrate the level of exquisite Life with God that we could have had if he does not respond with the most painful and mind-numbing experience that man could know? God uses death to show us what we lost with him. Death is a universal megaphone that shouts in agony, “What have we done???”

2. Death is an appropriate response to our mutiny against God. What we did in the garden and what Man still does with unregenerated heart is treason against God. Our refusal to turn to Jesus Christ who rose from the dead to give life to all who will come to him, is STILL, an all-out assault upon the God who created the heavens and the earth. In his and her rebellion to turn to the Giver of Life, men and women believe the old putrid lie that Man can live as God on his own terms. I believe if God sent his Son Jesus to earth today, with unmistakable glorious identity and presence, and offered mankind eternal life with joy and peace and no death, IF – he would love Jesus with all his heart, Man would attempt to kill him again by his own hands, if he could. (Rev. 17:14).

3. Death is unquestionable proof that I am not God. And that’s the point, for now. One day even Death itself will be put to death (Rev. 20:14). In the presence of Christ in the new heavens and new earth, nothing contrary to the person of the Triune God will ever again insult his Majesty. Never again will there be a just response from a Holy God that will demonstrate how horrible it is to “go it alone” without God. Man cannot live without God. There is no self-generating Life in Man. One day, the selfishness will stop.

Death is all around us. It’s even in our bones. But if you are reading this it means you’re alive – God is being merciful to you! Today is a good day to be alive – it’s a day to say no to the lie and believe the truth, that only in Christ there is hope for Eternal Life (John 3:16). You cannot be God. But you can live with him forever. Won’t you join me?