Grieving in the Wrong Direction

Grief is never wrong, but there is a wrong type of grief.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again,
even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Even with the old adage ringing in our ears, it is still possible to cheat the tax man, but you will never cheat death.

Death embraces all.

And with death comes parting, and with parting comes grief.

If you have not known it, it simply tells me you have not yet lived long enough.

Grief cuts like no other pain. It’s burning sear leaves scars that will last a lifetime.

This will always be so, because the depth of our grief is in direct proportion to the depth of our love. To love someone is to send an invitation to grief, who will one day come knocking at your door.

So in large part, the world runs from grief. It seems that the human soul can bear many pains, but the agony of grief is the one we fear the most. Many would choose their own death over the death of a loved one, primarily because, “I could not bear losing you”.

Yet we must not think that simply because grief is painful that it is inherently wrong. Grief is never wrong. Parting is never easy. Love lost will always ache.

Yet, my Bible tells me that there is a wrong way of grieving. At least, if your life has been found in Christ, if your hope is in the resurrection reality of a Saviour who died for you yet rose again to defeat death, then grief isn’t wrong, but we can have the wrong type of grief.

Grief and hope are strange bedfellows. Yet Paul ties them together in a marriage of tears that we are told to encourage one another with.

If you are a follower of ‘The Way’, ‘The Truth’ and ‘The Life’, you will grieve in a peculiar direction. Your grief is ever upward; tears streaming and heart hurting, but with expectant eyes that are fixed on the coming reality of an eternal reunion.

‘We’ (plural) will be with ‘Him’ (singular).

Jesus will be the Sun of a new constellation, as countless saints are reunited in an eternal orbit of worship around the object of our mutual love.

So Paul says that that reality should underpin our grief.

Don’t grieve in the wrong direction.

There are few things more beautiful than to experience grief-laced worship beside a grave. Nothing exalts the name of Jesus more than when the grief stricken lift their eyes to eternity, and there see a living Saviour, then through their pain genuinely sing:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Refrain:
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

To the praise of His glory.

Abounding In Thanksgiving

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

– Colossians 2:6 –

I’ve recently been enjoying a more detailed study of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, using the Bible Arcing Method.

One of the key take-away’s for me was found in Colossians 2:6, and specifically the phrase, “abounding in thanksgiving”.

Now, I consider myself a reasonably ‘thankful’ type of guy, but I had to ask myself, “Am I truly abounding in thanksgiving? Is the overall tone of my life, my words and my conduct, marked prominently by an attitude of thanksgiving?”

The reason why I need to be marked by thanksgiving is, as a Christian, ‘thankfulness’ is all I really have to offer!

Look at Paul’s reasoning in Colossians 2:6: Our walk with Christ should continue and develop on the same basis we received Christ. That is to say, the way you received Christ as Lord of your life is the same way you should continue to walk in him.

So how did we receive Christ? What did you do to earn his redemptive work at the cross and receive salvation?

Nothing! You received him by faith.

You did nothing. Jesus did everything.

Your salvation was everything to do with grace, and nothing to do with works.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:8-9)

So if this is the way we received Christ Jesus the Lord, Paul’s reasoning is that this is the way we continue in him. And that’s why we must abound in thanksgiving. Any growing, any maturing, any deepening, is all a work of grace and not owing to any special ability or spiritual level I attain.

In a way, salvation has robbed me of everything except thanksgiving. All I am truly left with is the opportunity to say 1000 times a day, in a 1000 different ways, “Thank you”.

When I do this, when I proclaim my dependant thankfulness, I magnify the name and worth of Christ; I say to the world, “He has become more, and I have become less. Jesus is worthy of all your honour and praise.”

Not content to leave it at that, the Lord seemingly needed to drive the point home further. I happened to watch a ‘Look at the Book’ episode by John Piper on Psalm 50:8-15, titled, ‘God Does Not Need You’. I’d encourage you to take the time to watch it for yourself.

To the praise of His glory!

Labour To Be Affected By The Cross

I don’t know Bob well, in fact, I don’t know him at all.

I did have a brief conversation with him once, standing in line waiting for a coffee at Oxygen14, but I don’t think that counts. What I was impressed with though, was his humble and approachable demeanour, along with his taste in coffee!

I recently read through an article (you can find it here) where Bob was interviewed on a number of factors that have influenced his development as a worship leader in the church. The whole interview was great, but one particular response caught my attention.

When asked, “If you could only give one piece of advice to a growing worship leader, what would it be?”, Bob’s replied with startling clarity…

There is nothing more amazing, more transforming, more clarifying, more motivating, than understanding what Jesus accomplished on Calvary and how God revealed himself to us through Christ.  Glorying in the gospel is a never ending source of comfort, security, power, wonder, joy, hope, and faith.

And while his response was right on the mark for worship leaders, it occurred to me, that far more people than our church’s worship leaders need to grasp this truth.

Preachers who worship over the Word. Ushers who worship in serving the church. Cleaners, seat packers, sound engineers, children ministry workers, the old lady who volunteers to come in and mind the kids while young Mum’s meet for Bible study. We all need to hear this, no, not just hear this, grab hold of this. This is the one piece of advice we all desperately need, because we are all worshipers.

So no matter who you are, pursue the gospel, grab a hold of it, cling to it, treasure it, glory in it.

To the praise of His glory.

When Hearts Are Tuned to Worship

I’ve been considering afresh the amazing privilege we have in worship.

Imagine.

Lowly broken creatures standing before our awesome, powerful, Holy creator.

Who can stand in this place? Who can bear the piercing gaze of a holy God?

The only One I know of is the One who stood in my place, and now stands as my advocate before the throne.

So throw into the mix this excellent reflection on the ‘call to worship’.

I trust it is an encouragement to you.

When Hearts Are Tuned to Worship | Desiring God.

The Self Gratifying Reward of Self Redemption

I sometimes watch films in fragments. I catch a bit here and a bit there. See half an hour of it in one sitting, and then catch some other part the next time the network cycles it through it’s schedule.

Will Smith’s, Seven Pounds, was one such film. Due to the fact that it polarized so many viewers and critics on it’s release back in 2008, it intrigued me to the point that, this time round, I thought I’d stick the whole thing out.

Just in case you haven’t seen it, and want to one day, I won’t give much away here – this isn’t a review.

In a brief phrase, here’s how I’d summarize the plot.

One man’s altruistic quest for self redemption.

At least, that’s what the director may have had in mind for the viewer to experience.

However, I have a problem with pairing ‘altruistic’ and ‘self redemption’ together.

And here’s why. Continue reading

Worship Together

Corporate Church life can be hard for a family.

At least, it has been for ours.

Do we leave our kids in?

Do we send them out to kids church?

If they do stay in, will it be worth the battle?

If we send them out, will it cost something precious in the long-run?

We’ve had all these questions – and more.

I’m pretty sure we’ve got it very wrong along the way – and I’m pretty sure we haven’t arrived. So when I read this, I was encouraged.

the beginning of wisdom: worship together.

I hope you are too.

Roots and Wings

My soul wastes away everyday and everyday I need to preach the gospel to myself.

Over the last few years, the gospel in song has ministered to me in ways that only the Spirit of God knows fully.

By God’s grace, the songs of men and women greater than me, have reached down through the centuries, carried on the strings of bands such as Indelible Grace, and lifted my weary heart.

Please take the time to watch, and worship, through ‘Roots and Wings’.

Sheltering In The Shadow

The ‘hot sand hop‘ brings a smile to everyones face, apart from the poor soul who is dancing frantically across the beach in search of sweet relief in the cool waters of the waves that beckon. A stranger’s towel is fair game. A stray frisbee. A small child’s bucket. Each object a potential source of relief from the searing burn of the sun-scorched sand. A rare shadow, cast long over the wasteland, becomes a beacon of hope and rest.

These are my memories of childhood summers at the beach.

Searching for shadows.

I cherish these memories, as they remind me to seek shelter in the shadow even today.

Psalm 91:1-2 says:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust”. (ESV)

The beauty of these verses is found in the person that casts His awesome shadow across the landscape of my life.

The Almighty.

The Most High.

It’s in this shadow I find shelter.

In it I find both a refuge and a fortress.

And in it, I join voice with the Psalmist who says, “My God, in whom I trust”.

Live for the Particular Glories of Jesus, Not a Smudge

I need to confess something.

My mind is a complex mess of abstraction.

I believe God made me this way. I was shaped in my mother’s womb to a design foreknown before the foundation of the earth had been laid. I conceptualize with abstract processes, and I’m comfortable with that. God has a good purpose in my peculiarities.

However, those that know me best would attest to the fact that my language and conversation is deeply shaped by a quest for definition and preciseness. This isn’t simply the sole opinion of outsiders – as I look into the mirror, I too see this trait.

How do the two co-exist?

I’m not sure.

But I know why they must co-exist.

Abstraction and precision must be unlikely room-mates for one foundational reason – for me to know my God. From this one foundational reason, springs a thousand others that drive me to live in the tension of my own existence.

An abstract view of God may leave room for the inexpressible realities of His glories, but is deficient in seeing, defining and expressing His revealed qualities as are given through His own Word.

The quest to precisely define all of God may help us in seeing and savouring His particular glories, but is deficient for the ability to bask in the wonder and majesty of His holiness – that unique and awesome ‘otherness‘ of God.

My default is abstraction. By God’s grace, He has caused me to learn, and hunger for, precision and definition. Without this hunger, I would slip into a deficient relationship with an abstract, smudged vision of God.

What’s your default position in how you view and relate to God?

Abstraction?

Precision and definition?

For further reading and consideration, follow the link over to Desiring God and read through John Piper’s reflections on this important topic.

Live for the Particular Glories of Jesus, Not a Smudge – Desiring God.