A Mess of the Message

I recently watched a documentary on Christianity in America. The focus of this documentary was how Christianity has been and is being used by various groups in America to foster their own agendas! The producers interviewed various people, from scholars, preachers, and church leaders, to people on the street, to get an idea of how they defined the Christian faith. As I watched, I was saddened to realize how much we have made a mess of the message!

It seems that the message of the Bible, more often than not, has been traditionally and historically manipulated to serve self-serving purposes! For example, ‘Christian’ slave-owners and segregationist abused the Bible in order to give a sense of divine sanction to slavery, segregation, and White privilege and supremacy. I said ‘abused,’ but sadly even today, many of the same attitudes and beliefs that were prevalent back then, are still strong today! In fact, it seems that not only are they strong, but as of late they are experiencing a revival!

The LBGT community, White supremist groups, prosperity advocates, Civil Rights groups, traditional family values groups, White evangelicals, advocates of Gay-marriage, and countless more ‘all’ claim scriptural authority and legitimacy for their causes! The Bible declares that God is one, but from the looks of the mess we have made of the message today, God is many!

The core of the issue is the tendency for man to always create idols! What is an idol? An idol is a god of our own making! The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans in regard to his people; Israel: “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” (Romans 10:2-3 KJV) Now, the problem with Israel was not that they were ‘ignorant’ of God’s righteousness (God’s standard or what God requires) because of a lack of knowledge. No! They were ignorant of God’s righteousness because they rejected the knowledge they had been given! Why did they reject it? They rejected it because it did not fit their agenda or their idea of how they wanted to live! As a consequence, instead adapting to God, they sought to make God adapt to them!

Isn’t that the same thing we are doing today? Instead of submitting ourselves to the message of God, as God gave it, we seek to alter the message to fit our own agendas and lifestyles!

And what have we made? A mess! People who scoff at the idea of a Supreme God have gain some degree of credibility because those who claim to know God and be in relationship God, are speak mixed and often contradictory messages about what God is like! And then, the people who are sincerely seeking God are also confused because Church A is preaching one message as ‘the truth,’ while Church B is preaching a diametrically opposite message, but is also claiming to be speaking the truth! Now, logic dictates that Church A and Church B cannot both be right! (However, Church A and Church B can be both wrong!)

We have certainly made a mess of things! But that’s just the nature of humans; to make the simple complicated! That’s just the nature of humans, whenever we are unable to rise to the bar, we lower the bar! Before we will let go and trust something or someone other than ourselves, we will seek to make that something or someone a reflection of ourselves!

What is the solution? Is there such a thing as absolute truth? Now, the predominate thinking of the current culture says that there is not, but there is! How do we find it? I think the first step, even before addressing the concept of religion or morality is to just stop and think: Man didn’t invent himself with all of his intelligence. Therefore logic dictates that a being even more intelligent had to create him! So it’s really a matter of faith! Faith, not just as a religious concept, but also as a practical concept! You see, from a practical standpoint, EVERYBODY has and uses faith every day! At this very moment, thousands of people are boarding aircrafts to fly to various destinations around the world. But, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone refusing to board a plane because they don’t believe the pilot can fly the plane! Of all those thousands of people, no one wants to see the pilot’s licenses or certification papers! In fact, most don’t even care to even ‘see’ the pilot! Why? Because they have ‘faith’ the airline would not allow an incapable person to fly the plane! They have ‘faith’ the mechanics are doing their jobs to ensure the plane is flight-worthy! Most have no clue how the aerodynamics of lift and thrust work! Every single day, we trust and have faith in people we don’t know and in concepts we don’t understand! EVERYBODY has faith! So the issue is not a matter of faith, the issue is the matter of the placement of faith!

We have faith in men, who often fail because of limitations. Why not have faith in a God who never fails! A God who is loving! A God who longs to have a relationship with each and every person! How can we discover and meet this God? We cannot truly meet this God through our tainted and prejudicial traditions and doctrines, we can only meet Him as we read and study His word and allow that word to reveal God as God is and not as we want God to be! How do we know when we are doing that? When the God we meet in the Scriptures does not look, act, or think like us, but confronts and challenges us to look, act and think like Him! We will meet the true God when we give up the fight to shape Him and allow Him to shape us! We will meet the true God when we recognize the fact that other people are not really just ‘other’ people, but other people are, in a sense; us! We all need and are looking for the same thing, from the same Source, that is able to abundantly provided for all!

Until then, we should all pray for God to reveal and do our part to work to find and proclaim the good news that has been lost in the mess that we have made of the message!

The Forgotten Victory?

The biblical writer; Jude, who was commonly known as the half-brother of Jesus, wrote to his readers: “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:4 ESV) Like Jude, I felt it necessary to write about the resurrection as the forgotten victory because of the many erroneous theological ideas surrounding death that are currently popular among many who are supposedly of faith.

Now, before I present my contentions, let it be known that this is not an attempt to be judgmental or condescending, but rather I write in an effort to promote the biblical concepts that were delivered to the saints of old! Sadly, too much of what is being passed off as ‘biblical’ around many Christian circles and churches today is actually current cultural concepts in biblical façade!

For instance, not long ago, I observed a funeral service in which, before the closing of the casket, a crown was placed upon the head of the deceased! The theme of the minister’s message was that, after battling sickness, disease, and the many struggles of life, the dearly-departed had now gained the victory through death! The preacher said that although the person had battled cancer, they were now victoriously healed because they had a brand new body in Heaven! Now, that’s sounds encouraging and even comforting, but is it biblical? Well. . . .not exactly! Let me show you what I’m talking about!

First of all, contrary to what is commonly preached and believed in most Christian churches, the Bible DOES NOT teach that our permanent dwelling will be in the Heaven where God dwells! Now, the Bible DOES teach that those who die in the Lord are immediately in the presence of the Lord! Jesus said to the repentant thief on the cross: “Today, you shall be with me in paradise!” (Luke 23:43) The Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:8, talks about being absent from the body and being present with the Lord. Therefore, biblical evidence suggest, our loved-ones who have died in the Lord are presently with the Lord. However, even though they are with the Lord, they are not complete, they are not whole! Why? Because they are in a dis-embodied spiritual state! Their spirits are with God, but their bodies (the part of them that was sick, suffering, cancer-ridden, etc.,) are in their graves!

Sure! The Apostle Paul said: “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Cor. 5:1 NASB) But the point that many miss is the fact that, that body is not received immediately after death! No! According to the Scriptures, we will not get our ‘new’ bodies until the Resurrection and the Resurrection will not occur until Jesus comes again! Consider another passage that is often read at funerals, but we miss the full message of it: In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, the Apostle Paul writes: “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (KJV)

Let’s unpack this so you can see what I’m trying to say. The believers in Thessalonica were anxiously awaiting the Lord’s return. However, there were believers among them who had already died and those who remained were concerned that those who had died would miss the Lord’s coming. Paul wrote this section of the letter to assure them that those who had died would be caught up to meet the Lord just like those who are alive at his coming.

Paul said that when Christ returns, he will bring with him those ‘which sleep in Jesus.’ (v.14) But then he also says in verse 16, that the dead in Christ shall rise first! But wait a minute! I thought those who ‘sleep in Jesus’ and the ‘dead in Christ’ were the same people? So, how can Jesus bring those who sleep in him, with him when he comes, if those same people shall first rise from the grave before those who are alive are changed? If those who sleep in Jesus and those who will rise from the grave are the same people, how can they be in different places (with Jesus in Heaven and in the grave) at the same time?

Well, when Jesus comes, he will bring the disembodied spirits of the saved with him and their mortal remains will be raised immortal from the grave! The Bible calls this; the First Resurrection! It is at that point that victory over death will be achieved! No! The believer does not gain the victory over death at death; the believer will gain victory over death at the Resurrection!

Now, this raises another interesting question: If Heaven, in a disembodied state (the present state of those who have died in Christ) is indeed our ‘home’ or ultimate destination, then what is the purpose of the resurrection? I’ve always heard that the purpose of the resurrection will be so that we might be judged for the things we have done in the body. But think about it; the Bible says the angels will be judged and they don’t have mortal bodies as we have, so having a mortal body is not a necessary perquisite for judgment! So, what is the purpose of the resurrection? The purpose of the resurrection is so that body and spirit might be re-united, so that we might live as we were originally created to live!

And how were we originally created to live? Well, according to the Genesis account, humanity was made from the earth to have stewardship-dominion over the earth and to be sustained by the earth! When Adam fell, he didn’t fall from Heaven; he fell from the state that God had created him! Thus if the salvation plan of God is about restoration (by definition, restoration is a bringing back to a former position or condition), then Heaven cannot be our permanent dwelling because Heaven is not where we were originally created to live!

The only way for people go to Heaven is through death! And the only reason for the existence of death is because of sin! The Bible says; the wages of sin is death! And since sin and death were not part of God’s original intent and they are the only reasons people leave this world and go to another place, then in addition to what the Scriptures declare explicitly, implicit logic requires us to conclude that being in Heaven in a dis-embodied state is not our eternal or ultimate destiny!

What sense would it make for God to go through all of the trouble of making a physical-world, making man as a spiritual-physical being to live and exercise authority in that physical world only to completely abandon that plan and opt for man to live permanently in a purely spiritual state in Heaven after man messed up? That makes absolutely no sense at all! In fact, such a notion actually implies that God was so short-sighted that man’s sin caught God completely off-guard, proving God as incapable of finishing what God had started, making it necessary for God to implement an alternative plan for man to live eternally in Heaven as a dis-embodied spirit instead on earth as a spirit-physical being as God had originally planned!

But the GOOD NEWS the Bible shares is that God had made provisions for Adam’s sin, even before Adam was created! The GOOD NEWS of the Bible is that God’s original intent will ultimately be realized! With all of our doctrines and traditions, we’ve made complicated, what is actually quite simple! The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is the story about a kingdom given, a kingdom lost, and a kingdom regained! It’s the story of a good creation that went bad, but is being and will be ultimately restored!

Theologians call Adam’s sin in the garden; The Fall! Man ‘fell’ from the state God had created him! The consequence of that fall was and is death! What is death? Death is, in a sense, an unnatural separation! Physical death is the separation of the spirit-soul from the physical body! I call it ‘unnatural’ because it is not God’s original intent; death perverts and subverts the way God originally intended for man to exist! We often cite in marriage ceremonies what Jesus said: “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder!” Well, in a sense, that’s exactly what death does! Death separates (body and spirit) what God originally joined together! Paul said of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15:25-26: “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (KJV) The resurrection will be the destruction of death! The resurrection will be God joining back together what death had put asunder!

God is working everything out to fulfill His original intent! His original intent was not for us to be with Him in Heaven, but rather for Him to be with us on Earth! He was originally ‘with us’ when He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden in the cool of the day! He was ‘with us’ in the person of Jesus; the Immanuel! He is ‘with us’ today in the person of the Holy Spirit! And one day, He will be with us as He originally was! For I read the Apostle John’s Revelation: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.” (Rev. 21:1-5 KJV) [bold italicize mine]

Yes! The victory that is most often forgotten on funeral occasions is the victory of the resurrection! In speaking of this victory, the Apostle Paul said the same things to the Corinthians that he said to the Thessalonians: “Listen, I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. For this corruptible body must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body must be clothed with immortality. When this corruptible body is clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body is clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will take place: Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, death, is your victory? Where, death, is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:51-55 CSB17)

Half-Truths, Incomplete Stories and Bad Theology

When you go to court to testify or to be sworn-in as a witness, you are asked to solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth! Some years ago, the popular columnist; Paul Harvey would tell news and special-interest stories. The stories were always good and interesting, but the one thing that distinguished the show was the fact that Harvey would only tell half of the story before having a commercial break! After the commercial break, he would then tell the rest of the story!

Much of what I am hearing today in the church-world, in personal conversations, in ‘gospel’ music, and in social media reminds me of the court-room and the Paul Harvey shows: People are promoting ‘half-truths’ as the whole truth and are not waiting until after the commercial breaks to hear the rest of the story! As a result, there is a lot of bad theology being offered that is actually detrimental to wholesome spiritual development and true biblical faith!

Let me give you a few examples: Many are familiar with or have heard of Romans 8:28, which says: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (NKJ). Taken by itself, this verse seems to simply imply that if I love God and are called according to His purpose, everything that happens to me; the good, the bad and the ugly, is working together for good! That sounds fine, but the question that begs to be asked that most people don’t ask is: What is good? Well, Paul actually answers that question in the very next verse, where he continues his thought by saying: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29 NKJ). The complete thought is that all things (the good, the bad, and the ugly) work together for good to those who love God (and by the way, according to Jesus in John 14:21-24; to love God is to obey God!) and the ‘good’ is that they might be conformed to the image of Jesus! In other words, in the life of the one who loves God, all things are working together for the purpose of shaping and molding that person to be like Jesus! Now, the Bible also says that Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). In Genesis, we discover that man was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28). Therefore, for the believer, everything is working together for the good, and the good is that the believer might be conformed to the image he/she was originally created to be; the image of God! The good is ‘to be like Jesus’ and to be like Jesus is to be like God originally created us to be! So, to only read and seek to apply Romans 8:28 without reading Romans 8:29 is to miss the purpose of all things working together for the good!

Another horrendous example of this same exegetical error is found in the treatment of 1 Corinthians 2:9, where the Apostle Paul wrote: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” ( KJV). Paul adapted Isaiah 64:4, which says: “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him” ( KJV). Oh! I can’t tell you how many songs I’ve heard or how many sermons I’ve heard, based on this verse, promoting the idea that the things God has prepared for those who love him are unimaginable! But most people would be surprised to know that was NOT the idea Paul was trying to get across! In the next verse; 1 Corinthians 2:10, Paul said: “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (KJV). Do you see that? Do you see how serious this is? When we say, preach, sing, and declare that eyes haven’t seen and ears haven’t heard what great things God has prepared for them that love him, we are NOT telling the truth! Why? Because Paul also said: “But God has revealed them to us by his Spirit!” I think part of the problem is that when most people read the Bible, their understanding is influenced by chapters and verses instead of by thoughts! The original biblical writers did not write using chapters and verses, those were added later on to help us find their thoughts! So, as we read the Bible, we must remember that a verse is not always a complete thought and the end of a chapter doesn’t necessarily mean the complete end of a conversation.

Now, I need you to read carefully at this point because I’m about to address something that is very egregious, but most who are doing it don’t even realize it! The idea of believers having the ability to ‘speak things into existence’ IS NOT BIBLICAL! That’s mystical, New Age, thinking! Let’s look at the ‘one’ verse where this idea comes from. Paul wrote in Romans 4:17: “As it is written: I have made you the father of many nations. He is our father in God ‘s sight, in whom Abraham believed– the God who gives life to the dead and calls things into existence that do not exist” (CSB17). Note that Paul said that it is God who gives life to the dead! Paul said, it is God who calls things into existence that do not exist! In the Genesis account, the Hebrew word for God’s creative act is ‘bara.’ In all of Scripture, this word is only attributed to God! Only God can create something out of nothing! Man doesn’t have to power to ‘create,’ we only have the power to procreate and recreate! We cannot, nor is there really a need to ‘speak it into existence’ because everything we need is already in existence! We just need to learn how to use faith to bring to bear what God has already created and promised!

There are many more, but these are just a few examples of the many current popular theological ‘boo-boos’ that are being made! Often, these errors are the results of a lack of diligent Bible study and application of logic. Oh! How much more are the words the Apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé; Timothy, applicable to us in this day! “Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth. But avoid all empty (vain, useless, idle) talk, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness. And their teaching [will devour; it] will eat its way like cancer or spread like gangrene” (2 Timothy 2:15-17 Amplified Bible).

The Greatest Gift!

In the Bible, John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (KJV) For years, I thought God’s greatest gift to mankind was His Son; Jesus! But after looking more intently at the whole body of the Gospels and at what Jesus said about why he was born, I am convinced that God’s greatest gift was not Jesus, but rather what Jesus came to provide! Look at the just quoted text again, do you see it? The giving of Jesus was not the ‘end,’ but rather the ‘means’ to the end! God did not give Jesus for Jesus, God gave Jesus so that those who believe in Jesus should not perish, but have everlasting or eternal life! God gave Jesus, so that we might have eternal life through Jesus! Hence, the greatest gift is not Jesus, but eternal life through Jesus!

Now, when I first considered this, it sounded a bit blasphemous and disrespectful to me until I started carefully considering the statements of Jesus. For instance, consider Jesus’ reply to Thomas in John 14:6. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (KJV) We quote and cite that verse all the time, but have we actually considered the implications of what Jesus said? Jesus said; “I am the way!” When Jesus said that, he was in a sense saying: “I am not it! I am not the destination, I am the means, the avenue, the conduit, the way to get to the destination!” I live in the Atlanta, GA area, but my original home is Jackson, MS. In order to go from Atlanta to Jackson, I must go west on I-20. I-20 is not the destination, I-20 is ‘the way’ to the destination! Practically speaking, there is no other way for me to get to Jackson, MS except by I-20! (There are ‘other ways’ but they are not practical!) Most traditional Christians ‘stop’ at the way; they stop at Jesus! But Jesus said that he was not the destination, he said he was the way!

Wow! Do we really understand the implications of what Jesus said? Jesus was saying: “Don’t stop at me, I’m just the way! My job is to get you (back) to the Father! Keep going until you get to the Father!” Consider the conversation Jesus had with his disciples in John 16. In that conversation, Jesus was telling them how things would be when he went back to the Father and the Holy Spirit comes to them. In verse  23, he says: “And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.” (KJV) Then he says: “In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (ESV) Jesus was saying that when the Holy Spirit comes (in that day) they (his disciples and by extension, all who become his disciples) would not have to ask him anything, so that he might ask the Father on their behalf, but they would be able to ask the Father themselves, in his name! We often miss this: The mission of Jesus was to provide the means (by paying the price and penalty for sin) for us to be restored as ‘sons of God!’ In the Kingdom of God; Jesus is the only begotten or ‘unique’ Son, but Jesus is not the only son! All who believe and have been born again are sons of God! (‘Son’ in this instance is not a gender-specific term; it is a legal term that refers to status or position, hence, it refers to males and females). This is what the Apostle Paul was talking about when he wrote: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8:14-17 KJV)

Oh! I wish we could see this! So many of my preaching brothers and sisters are so fixated with the thought of just wanting to hear the Lord saying to them: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” But if we read the Scriptures carefully, we would understand that God WILL NOT say that to us! Why? Because in Galatians the Apostle Paul wrote: “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” (Gal. 4:4-7 KJV) It’s really an insult to God the Father and to Jesus the Son, that after so much was given that we might (again) be ‘sons’ we still insist upon being called servants! The classic Black Baptist ‘preaching-close’ of “Well done thy good and faithful servant” makes for good whooping, but it’s actually bad theology!

Now, as Jesus said to his disciples in John 16:12: “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” (KJV), So let me wrap up a few bread crumbs I dropped along the way. You might recalled that earlier I paraphrased Jesus as saying: “My job is to get you (back) to the Father!” I put the word ‘back’ in parenthesis to place emphasis on the fact that Jesus came, not to take us to a ‘new’ place such as Heaven, but rather to restore us back to our original position! Have you ever notice that everything in God’s plan of salvation is a ‘re?’ It is a plan of redemption, restoration! We must be re-born and we must repent! Everything about salvation is a ‘re!’ Why? Because the whole plan is about talking us back to the relationship we had with God before sin entered into the world! God’s plan of salvation, Jesus coming into the world, the Cross, the Resurrection; it’s all about getting back to God’s original intent as specified in Genesis 1-2! Did you know that Genesis 1-2 are the only two ‘perfect’ chapters in the Bible? From Genesis 3:1 to Revelation 22:21, the Bible is about God’s plan to recover Genesis 1-2! That’s why I don’t believe in calling funerals; ‘home-going’ celebrations! Contrary to what traditional Christianity advocates, Heaven (the place where God dwells) will NOT be our final destination! Why would God go through all the trouble of making a ‘physical’ world and giving us ‘physical’ bodies if God intended for us to spend eternity in a purely spiritual dis-embodied state? I mean; think about it! If Heaven is our final destination, the Resurrection is pointless! No! John writes in Revelation 21:1-3: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” (KJV) The goal of traditional Christianity is to go and ‘be with God,’ but according to the Bible, God’s ultimate goal is come and ‘be with us!’ In the END, we will not be bodiless spirits floating among the clouds, but rather we will have glorified bodies, living on the new earth!

So, in essence, the greatest gift is the Kingdom of God! What is the Kingdom of God? It is God’s sovereign rule and will! It is the Eternal Life and the Abundant Life Jesus came to give us access to! It is God’s original intent for us as specified in Genesis 1:26-28! It should be our greatest quest and it is God’s greatest gift! Jesus said in Luke 12:29-32: “And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (KJV) The greatest thing about God’s greatest gift is that we don’t have to wait until we die to get it; it’s available right now to all who will accept it! This is the Gospel (the Good News) that Jesus peached: “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (KJV)

It’s A Funeral; Cry If You Need To!

crying at a funeral

There is an attitude that is being promoted today by some ‘spiritual’ people in the church toward death and funerals that I don’t think is really good. I attended a funeral service (or as many from my neck of the woods, tend to call it; ‘a celebration of life,’ or ‘a homegoing service) not too long ago and one of the speakers got up and said: “This is not a time to cry! This is a time to rejoice, for another soldier has gone home to be with the Lord!” Well, I take issue with his statement and the trending ‘anti-grief’ stance at funerals for several reasons.

First of all, I think suppressing grief is harmful; emotionally, psychologically, and physically. The same Bible people ‘abuse’ to justify rejoicing and not grieving at funerals also says: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted. . . . A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”  (Eccl. 3:1-2, 4 KJV) Well, if a funeral is not a time to weep and mourn, then when is? Now, I’ve heard some say that the Bible says (I’m not saying that it’s not in the Bible, I’m just saying that I haven’t found it yet!) that we should cry when a baby is born and rejoice when someone dies! Well, if that is the case, when was the last time you heard of someone crying or even suggesting people should be crying when a baby was born or at a baby shower? Such a suggestion or action would be deemed unacceptable or strange, to say the least! Therefore, since no one dare suggest crying at the birth of a baby (though some say that’s what the Bible says we should be doing), why only promote one half of the suggestion and insist that people rejoice at a funeral?

Now, I understand the intention (I am a preacher, after all) is to focus on what lies ahead for the (supposedly) righteous deceased, but what many people fail to understand is the fact that funerals are not really for the dead; funerals are for the living! Funerals are for those who have been left behind! There is nothing that will be said or done at any funeral that will, in any way, have a positive or negative effect on the dearly departed! While many suggest the purpose of the funeral is to celebrate the life of the person who has gone on, the actual purpose of the funeral is to be a therapeutic tool for the survivors!

I have often said: “Death can kill you, if you let it!” The meaning of that statement is that if the death of a loved-one or friend or whoever is not processed correctly, it can have an adverse effect on your well-being. Suppressed grief at the funeral service will eventually find expression in other places! It’s like trying to bottle-up steam in a boiling pot, if there is no venting, it will eventually explode! Many times the explosion will be in the form of a stroke, neurotic disorders, anxiety, dysfunctional relationship patterns, heart attacks, or psychological disorders! Whatever the case, you can rest assured that grief cannot and will not be denied expression! So, since that is the case, why not at the funeral, where it can be therapeutic and spiritually guided?

Did not Jesus weep at the grave of his friend; Lazarus? I mentioned that because it seems to be promoted by some that weeping is a sign of weak faith or spiritual deficiency! No! Crying at the death of a loved-one or crying at their funeral doesn’t mean your faith is weak; it means you are human! To do otherwise is to deny your humanity and to inadvertently abort or deny your recovery from the loss!

Grief and grieving is a process and trying to stop or deny that process is just like trying to stop the rain from falling! I understand all about honoring God, but the same God people claim to honor by celebrating instead of grieving is the One who made us with the capacity to grieve! How is God honored in attempts to suppress expressions of grief by making people feel guilty for grieving?

So, with all that being said, If I should happen to go before you; you have my permission to cry at my funeral! And, if any one should happen to get up and even suggest that your crying is out of order, you have my permission to tell them; “It’s a funeral and I can cry if I need to!”