Why You Should Go to More Funerals

As the congregation watched him walk past the casket and reach for the microphone the pastor held out, nobody was prepared for what came next.

“Well, what can I say?  The guy was a jerk!  In school he made fun of people who weren’t popular.  Adulthood didn’t change him much and if anyone ever opposed him, he’d end up in a fight.  You couldn’t count on

him; if he said he’d help, it was just to get you off his back because he almost never came through.  If he borrowed money, you might as well kiss it goodbye.  He was all about Jim, all the time.  His family–yes, those of you in the front two rows today, I know you washed your hands of him years ago because he was so mean.  And he couldn’t keep a job for any length of time.  Frankly, he was so lazy that he only seemed happy when he was out of work.  Except for his six-packs, he had no pasttimes, passions, or plans.  He was a waste of oxygen and we’re probably all better off that he’s gone!”

Ok, that didn’t happen.  It never does.

No matter how much of a scoundrel is being buried, funeral tributes are usually so glowing that people wonder if the deceased is up for sainthood. Then again, sometimes the honorifics aren’t inflated.  He/she so wanted to please the Lord that it was hard to miss how keenly mindful he/she was of the next life.  Recently at a friend’s birthday party, friends and adult family members gave high praise to the birthday girl.  She was embarrassed, but I know her well enough to know that what they said was true.  Nobody pretends she’s perfect, but she lives this life keenly aware that the next one is imminent.

Discussing his brain tumor, Senator John McCain recently told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “Every life has to end one way or another.”  Whether it ends prematurely or late in life, John’s right: sooner or later everyone stops breathing.  In Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, habit #2 is, Begin with the End in Mind.  He urges readers to imagine hearing the kind things people say about you at your funeral.  The motive seems to be “live so that people will admire you when you die”.   Begin with the end in mind.

God also wrote about keeping the end in mind in His Book but His “why” differs radically from Covey’s.  It’s not to gain people’s applause when we depart, but to gain God’s when we arrive  …each person is destined to die once, and after that comes judgement (Hebrews 9:27).  Admittedly, some reading this think, “I’d better be good so that if I die, God will let me into heaven”.  But it’s not a person’s goodness that God judges, but our response to His goodness–to the gospel of Christ’s atoning death that He’s offered (Acts 20:21).  Then again, because the person who has repented of sin and put faith in Christ for forgiveness has the Spirit, he/she lives life in ways that show he/she is mindful of the end.

It’s beneficial not just to live knowing life will end at some point, but that it could be as early as tonight.  Some think it morbid to ponder death and its repercussions, but again and again the Bible urges people to do just that.  In fact, the Preacher in Ecclesiastes says we’re better off attending funerals than parties (7:2).  It reminds us of our imminent face-to-face with God, that we are not of this world, to store up treasures for the next world instead of this one, and that what seems to really matter today, won’t when our casket closes and is lowered into the ground.

Charlottesville and the Shape of Racial Pride

Bishop J. C. Ryle said, Let us watch against pride in every shape – pride of intellect, pride of wealth, pride in our own goodness, pride in our own deserts. Nothing is so likely to keep a man out of heaven, and prevent him seeing Christ, as pride. So long as we think we are something, we shall never be saved.

When 2 groups with very different ideologies faced off against each other last Saturday in Virginia, it should have surprised no one that things would not go well–permit or no permit.  Based on videos and pics I’ve seen, President Trump may very well be correct that both sides share blame–for some of the tussling and beatings that took place before James Fields’ ever put his Challenger in gear.

But by his initial lukewarm remarks about the Charlottesville horror, the president missed a golden opportunity to dismiss frequently-leveled claims that he’s a bigot whose sympathies mostly lie with “white” America.  But, that’s a political observation.

Since I am a follower of Jesus first–an American second, I’m most interested in what the Church has to say on issues sparking heated quarrels in the public square, at least when the Bible has something to say on those issues.  When through their logos, signs and chants, white supremacists–even vaguely appeal to Christianity, Jesus’ followers must stand up and object, “that’s not Christian”.  When anyone brags that this/her race is superior to another, it’s a “shape” of pride that is antiChristian.  And, a lie.  Even the Declaration of Independence–well ahead of its time and the men who crafted it, insisted that all men are created equal.  And we all are.  Equally noble in that we are all made in God’s image.  But also, equally awful since we’re all sinners.

So let’s be clear: To claim superiority or supremacy because I’m of one race and he/she’s of another, is sin.  Racism is sin.  Period.  No “but’s” can follow.   Tim Keller’s right to insist we put a full stop after “racism is sin”.  When we white Christians follow such statements with “but”, is it any wonder it tells nonwhites that we are trying to self-justify/blameshift instead of taking the sin of racism seriously?  

See what Life is REALLY like for Missionaries (10 things they won’t tell you)

I have never been a missionary.  But I have been impassioned for the work for decades.  If you’re a Christian, what you’re about to read you need–just like I do.  Those of us who stay behind are much needed partners.  But the truth is, we’re not always good partners.  This may help.

http://churchleaders.com/outreach-missions/outreach-missions-articles/307132-ten-things-that-your-missionary-will-not-tell-you-joe-holman.html?utm_source=cl-sundaysend-nl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=text-link&utm_campaign=cl-sundaysend-nl&maropost_id=740482048&mpweb=256-4060504-740482048

A Change Gay Pride won’t Tolerate

Nearly 50 years after the Stonewall riots, last Sunday parades around the nation celebrated the gay community’s massive advances in America–complete with judicial sanction to marry no matter what state laws said.  As they accumulated more and more supporters in education, media, business and government, gay activists raised their demands from “tolerate us” to “affirm us!”  Now the US government is doing their heavy lifting by forcing vendors with religious convictions against gay relationships, to participate in gay weddings anyway by making cakes, providing flowers and booking venues.

In 48 years activists have watched nearly ever change they desired, come to pass.  But in their own circles, there is a change they will not entertain, discuss, or accept.  It is the person who claims to be “ex-gay”.  In fact, legislation is once again being considered in congress that would ban any sort of “ex-gay” therapy.  The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act would use the authority of the Federal Trade Commission to enforce the ban in federal court.

As a follower of Jesus, I would urge someone with SSA to trust in Jesus and be celibate, rather than try to help them redirect their sexual longings.  But some gay people do end up with a satisfying heterosexual relationship in marriage–stories that gay people dismiss as impossible since all truly gay people are born that way.  It seems that to them if their belief is correct, it doesn’t–it can’t leave room for a change in sexual attraction.  That would be like trying to get a puppy to pretend he’s a anteater.

Whether the premise (born gay) is true or not, it is a fact that some formerly gay people are living a heterosexual life and claim that their longings have changed through the transforming power of Jesus Christ.  Here’s Ken Williams story as recounted on Kris Vallotton’s blog. http://krisvallotton.com/a-once-gay-persons-thoughts-on-gay-pride/

50 years Later…

On that warm Virginia night in July, Mildred and her husband were fast asleep in their Central Point home.  Like other neighbors, the Lovings didn’t lock their doors so they didn’t hear Caroline County’s three lawmen until they were standing in their bedroom.

“Who’s that in your bed with you?” one demanded of Richard.

“I’m his wife,” Mildred said, pointing to the marriage license hanging on the wall.

“That’s no good here,” the one responded.  They’d been married in D.C.

It was 1958 and like nearly half of the states, Virginia prohibited interracial marriage.  Because Richard was white and Mildred was black/American Indian, they were arrested for violating the Racial Integrity Act and taken to jail.  In court, they were given the choice of leaving the state, or going to prison for a year.  They pled guilty and agreed to leave.  They were told that if they returned before 30 years, they would be rearrested and serve 1 year in prison.

Which meant they couldn’t visit their families.  Ever.  In the early 60’s, Mildred wrote Attorney General Robert Kennedy, wondering if the Civil Rights Act of 1964 might apply to their plight.  He said no, but referred her to the ACLU which eventually argued the case before the Supreme Court.  And won a unanimous decision 50 years ago in 1967.  Nearly 10 years after they were ordered to leave, the Lovings returned to their beloved Central Point where Richard built them a home.

Before the case got to the highest court, it made a stop at the Virginia Appeals Court where it was again rejected.  The judge who wrote the majority opinion suggested the Lovings might be “rehabilitated” by being allowed to return to Virginia and live apart, “contemplating the error of their way in going against God, nature and the traditions of the Commonwealth.”

Against God?

On Easter Sunday in 1960, Dr. Bob Jones preached a sermon entitled “Is Segregation Scriptural”? (he answered “Yes”, based on Acts 17:26), a public justification for a variety of Bob Jones University’s segregationist standards–one of which was no interracial dating (no longer policy at BJU).  While it’s true God wouldn’t let Jews marry non-Jewish neighbors, it was to preserve the purity of faith–not the purity of their ethnicity.  Marry a Chemosh-worshiping woman and there’s a reasonable chance she’ll talk you into visiting her temple and next thing you know you’re a member.  Scripture makes no case for opposing interracial marriages–as long as both are believers.  In fact, when Aaron and his sister criticized their Semitic brother Moses for marrying a black woman (Numbers 12:1), God dealt fiercely with them.

Although most Americans say they approve of interracial marriage, some white parents’s hearts still sink when their first-out-of-the-nest comes home from college with a black, Latino, or Asian boyfriend; and…, so do those of some black parents (or Chinese, or Latino, or Indian) when their son brings home a girl from another race.

Some of that is explained by an innate push back against change that marks many of us, but we shouldn’t rule out the possibility that other, darker implications linger.  John Piper has a point:

There “…is an inevitable pressure on all social structures to keep ethnic groups separate, especially among young people who might fall in love, if they hang out together. So, that includes neighborhoods and schools especially. No matter how much love or goodwill you may have, if my son or daughter is racially unacceptable as a spouse for your son or daughter, then you will keep your family at a distance from mine. And the social order will reflect that distance. And the desire for that distance will inevitably breed disrespect, suspicion, and antagonism.”

Parents who object to being tagged as racist because they’re uncomfortable over their daughter’s engagement to an Indian, say they have legitimate concerns.  Their backgrounds are so dissimilar, they’re going to have a hard time.  And what about their kids?  They’ll have a really hard time.

But since when do Christians wash their hands of what’s “hard”?  If we do, that might take all marriages off the table.  For sure it would take missions off the table, adoption off the table, foster care off the table, serving in the military, maybe even going to college for some or learning a trade, confessing sin to a sister or brother, and making restitution for sins committed decades ago.  It would take evangelism off the table…, and learning to live and worship side by side with those from other ethnicities.

Keystone is a mostly white church which, I am praying God will change.  I understand that in many of the communities we come from, we don’t enjoy the kind of racial diversity that’s more apparent in our cities.  But I think we should aspire to look as much like heaven as possible.  And although in Genesis we all began as one race with a common ancestor, in heaven we will gather as one people of many races (Revelation 7:9).  And frankly, I believe that only as God shuffles us together more and more–and deliberately draws us together as fellow worshipers and friends despite our unique ethnic backgrounds, does He purge the innate prejudices that haunt our hearts–the ones we admit as well as those we don’t.  And yes, it might increase the prospect that having those of other ethnicities be part of your family of faith, you end up with a son-in-law, daughter-in-law, or grandchildren who look different from you.  That’s ok, that’s a testament to the fact that you as a follower of Jesus–and we, as church leaders, are doing something right, just, and good in the eyes of the Lord who counsels us to “love one another”.

The Death of Hope on Netflix

After just a month’s episodes, Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” is a hit and has already been renewed for a second season.  Weird for a drama about suicide.  Or, as parents, teachers, and mental health professionals worry, scary.  No one who has ever loved or known someone who made their final exit this way can look at the topic “objectively”. Nor can those of us who believe in both redemption and life after death, pretend that in the hands of those without such confidences, art like this is harmless–or informative. Here’s Trevin Wax’s assessment. https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/trevinwax/2017/05/01/13-reasons-why-is-deceptive-and-destructive/

Thriving in–instead of just Surviving your Job

This commercial is hilarious.

Maybe because so many people feel the same way.  Is that all there is for an unhappy Christian employee?  Bite your lip and endure?  Or go all in looking for that dream job?  Or…?  READ on.

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-secret-to-job-satisfaction?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily%20Desiring%20God&utm_content=Daily%20Desiring%20God+CID_0bbad561580790a392d9e6f59a627031&utm_source=Campaign%20Monitor&utm_term=The%20Secret%20to%20Job%20Satisfaction