In Loving Memory

For those of you that are readers of my blog, you know that I always write my own thoughts. For the rest of this post, I want to share someone else’s thoughts. Years ago, a dear sister in Christ passed away. She suffered more than any person I have ever known. She physically hurt so much that she wished for death on more than one occasion. And yet, she would rarely miss a worship service. (Even if it meant she had to be carried into the building). When she died I met with her family and we were going through her bible and this article fell out of it. It was as if she put it here for us to find. I do not know where she found it as she cut it out of some magazine. I only know the author and title…

 Why do Christians Grieve?

             When good fortune comes to a beloved Christian brother, we are happy for him. When an honor is bestowed upon a dear one, we do not grieve. To live and die a true Christian is an honor. To receive the reward of eternal life in heaven is something for which we all pray. When a Christian goes to receive his reward it should be a time of rejoicing. Yet, for those who are left behind, it is not a time of rejoicing, but a time of sorrow and grief.

Why do Christians grieve when another Christian dies? We know and are able to conceive to some small extent, that he is missing nothing of importance by being called from this earth. The joys of earth cannot be compared to the joys of heaven – a Christian’s reward. Still, when one passes on to receive that reward, we grieve. Why? This is truly a great mystery. We hope for, work for, pray for the joys of heaven and are unable to be happy when one of our number moves on to receive these same joys.

Why do we grieve? If we are brave enough to really analyze the question, we will be shocked to find that we do not grieve for the one who has passed on, but for ourselves. The human in us makes us so selfish that we cannot bear to lose anything or anyone we hold dear without feeling sorry for ourselves.

Think about the grief we feel. We do not feel sorrow because the dead loved one will never again eat a meal on earth, but because he will never again share a meal with us. We do not grieve because he will never laugh again on earth, but because we will never hear his laughter. We do not feel unhappiness because he will never again know the joy of loving and being loved, but because we will never again know the joy of being loved by him.

If we will overcome our selfishness and allow our thoughts to penetrate deeply enough, we will realize that he who has passed on will know laughter and love and happiness that surpass any he has ever known or could ever know on earth. If we will forget ourselves, we will realize that to grieve over the death of a faithful Christian is but human folly and selfishness. When we look at it in this light, we will cease our grieving and will be happy because good fortune and honor have come to someone we know and love.

By Lee Barnet.

Thursday night I learned that my Aunt Shirley Chumbley passed on from this world. Aunt Shirley was a special person in my heart. You see, her late husband, my Uncle “Tac” where two of my favorite people in the world. They had an apple orchard out on their farm that we visited quite regularly. I remember going out there and enjoying their company, fresh apple cider, homemade applesauce, etc. I remember their love, the joy in their hearts, and most importantly their faith. Aunt Shirley was one of three important bible class teachers I had in my childhood (both of my grandmothers were the other two). In fact, she may not have remember, and I regret now never telling her, but it was Aunt Shirley that put he “bug” in my heart about baptism. I recall one bible class years ago we were talking about the book of Acts and Paul’s conversion. She looked me squarely in the face and asked me if I believed in Christ. I said I did. She then said, “What are you waiting for.” I didn’t have an answer then. Here I sit, almost 25 years later and I still can’t find an answer. It wasn’t long after that, that I put on Christ in baptism and had my sins washed away (See Acts 22:16).

So, when I got the phone call Thursday night, my heart was immediately broken. I would never again get to know the joys of being loved by her. I would never again share in those delicious apples with her. I would never again hear her teach me some vital lesson. I would never again get to see that precious smile. But, I would never wish her away from her reward. She lived her whole life preparing for this moment. So Aunt Shirley, I say good-bye. Or better yet. I’ll see you soon in that sweet by and by.

Happy in God

happy

Over the last 5 years I have experienced some ups and downs when as I have preached here in Iowa.  My first weekend here in Iowa we were hit with a rather nasty blizzard.  While it was nowhere near as bad as what the NE has experienced over the last month, it was enough to cause us to be snowed in at a hotel for several days.  We had to wait until the roads cleared enough that I could actually get to our new home, unbury the moving truck that was dropped off in the middle of the blizzard and finally dig my new home out so that we could unload the truck.  It was such a trying week that my body was physically spent when I finished.  The following Sunday I passed out in the pulpit.  (It was not a good first impression).  Since then, I have bought a home.  My wife gave birth to our 4th child.  We lost our 5th before the little tie breaker was born earlier this year.  We have experienced some very mild winters and we have experienced some very bad ones.  I have had to say goodbye to people I love and I have made some new friends along the way.

But, perhaps the most important lesson I have learned living here in Iowa is the lessons I have learned regarding contentment.  Believe you and me, I could find every reason to be unhappy and unsatisfied with life.  Before I moved here I didn’t know if I wanted to preach anymore.  I had moved on average every 2 years since i started preaching.  I grew up in a very close family and I vowed to never be away for very long.  (I rarely see my family (parents, siblings, grandparents, etc) today and I do dearly miss them).  I lost a baby.  It still breaks my heart when I talk about it as I had too the past couple of weeks as I saw friends that hadn’t seen me in years and had heard of our loss.  I could allow those things to keep me from being happy.

Of course, we usually say things like a person who is said just needs to change their perspective.  I have even caught myself doing it from time to time.  Count your blessings I would say.  Name them one by one.  Bow your head.  Praise God for everyone of your blessings.  But, there is a real danger in allowing the temporal things of this world to be the basis for your happiness.  For instance, what if I say  I am happy because I have a good job?  Would I cease to be happy if I lost that good job?  What if I say I am happy because I have 4 beautiful children?  Possessions?  The world’s goods?  What if I, like Job, lost everything in a single day?  Would I cease to be happy?

Sure, I wouldn’t be dancing in the streets.  I would morn my losses.  But, I cannot allow my faith, my love for God, and my joy to be forever removed.  Happiness is not to be based upon external things that are here today and gone tomorrow.  Real happiness, real joy needs to be found in a relationship with God.

When Paul said, Rejoice in the Lord always again I say rejoice.  He wasn’t saying rejoice when things fall apart.  There is a time for morning.  He was saying, let you joy always be found in God.  Let him be the basis for your happiness.

Show Hospitality

serve

Heb. 13:2 “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

The past couple of weeks I have spent a lot of time upon the road. I traveled down to Alabama for the 1st time since I was in college, and even then it was a quick drive through the state as I was trying to avoid Atlanta. From there, I went to Florida College, were I attended the Florida College lectures and was greatly encouraged by the bountiful lessons given each day. After the lectures concluded, I headed home, making my way through Atlanta this time where I was taken in by an old friend from my Florida College Forensics team. By the time I returned home, I had slept in 5 different beds on my journey. I had meals provided for me on 10 different occasions. I was certainly at the mercy of my gracious hosts and everyone of them were completely and totally amazing!

In the above quoted verse we find the Hebrew writer bringing his book to a conclusion. He gives us a slew of rapid fire commands. He tells us to let brotherly love continue, be hospitable, to not defile the marriage bed, to not trust in the uncertainty of riches, to be content with what we have, to be respectful towards our leaders in the church, etc. We often look at these verses as if they are completely unconnected. However, they are all tied to that first command in verse 1. “Let brotherly love continue.” How? By loving your spouse by being faithful. By not permitting the love and desire for things to rule your heart for then jealousy and envy can and will creep in. By not questioning the elders; knowing that they are trying to lead you to heaven, and by being hospitable.

Today, hospitality has regretfully become a lost art form. We live in a time when we like, no love, our privacy. At one time our homes were inviting. We had large porches that we would sit upon, enjoying evening air as we waved to our neighbors. These large porches always led to an inviting front door. The homes had large kitchens and large dining areas that seemed to beg for an opportunity to be filled with people, laughter and love. Today, we have grass that says stay off. Some have larger walk-in closets than they have dining areas. We have attached garages that we use as our main entrance and helps to keep our identity secret as we don’t have to even be spotted actually going into our homes. Our homes have essentially become a castle that says “Keep out!” People can live next door to someone and never know who they are.

I for one am thankful for the wonderful example provided to me these last couple of weeks. My home is not a dungeon to keep me in. It is not a fortress that should never be penetrated. It should read “Welcome Center.” We should certainly be inviting our friends and family for meals. We should be asking members of the local church into our homes so that we can get to know each other better. It is time we stop fooling ourselves. I cannot claim to love a person if I never try to serve that person. When Jesus taught us that Old, New command, he was telling us that we need to change the nature of our love. Service needs to be at the heart of our love one for another. Wash some feet, provide a meal, offer a bed, open your heart and open your home to one another.

My Thoughts on the Superbowl

I am no different that any red-blooded American.  I love football. Even if my team is really bad, and they are, I tune in every Sunday to watch them get shellacked.  I don’t remember the last time I failed to watch at least some part of the Superbowl (two years ago I was traveling and missed the 1st half).  It is not just an iconic game it defined part of my childhood as I can remember watching the games with my family.  Back then the commercials were not nearly as important as the game itself.

So, when the game this year pitted the Seahawks and the Patriots (neither of which I am particularly fond of) I knew we had a recipe for an exciting game.  I could watch the game as a fan of football.  And for the 1st 59 minute and 42 seconds I was not disappointed.  The game had everything.  It had big hits.  It had sacks.  It had redzone turnovers.  It has big plays and even some wow I can’t believe that just happened plays.  The game was on the path of being as iconic as the Rams Titans Superbowl from  15 years ago.  Then, the unthinkable happened.  A brawl broke out.

I sat there, with my mouth wide open in complete shock over what had just happened.  I know football is a violent game.  I know there is always pushing and shoving.  I know that on occasion tempers will flare.  But, I haven’t seen a fight like that on a football field in a long time.  It had the feel of Artest vs Detroit.  It was something that continued to escalate and spiral out of control.

The next thing that popped into my head was that I was glad my boys were not watching this year.  Earlier in the night I was hoping that they were.  Two commercials showed father in a light that has sorely been missing the last 20 years on television.  For too long men have been shown to be buffoons, idiots, morons, violent, absent, foolish, and the list goes on.  Kudos to Dove and Toyota for having the conviction to show men as good men.  And then in a blink of an eye we were reminded why certain stereotypes exist.  And in some ways it was a fitting end this black-eye of a season the NFL just had.  It was filled with stories of men letting their tempers get the best of them.  Ray Rice knocked his girl friend unconscious.  Adrian Peterson hit his kid with a switch badly enough that a visit to the hospital was necessary.  These were just the high profile cases.  And the season ended with them hitting each other.

This is not what I want my children to grow up thinking men are.  I guess I can be thankful the season is over so that y children are not encouraged to idolize such men.