Thursday, October 2, 2008

Eternity and the Soul

Conducting a funeral of a Suicide Victim this week has pushed me into some deep reflection about eternity and the soul. I thought it may benefit to share with you a few thoughts that I shared at the funeral yesterday. This is my perspective as of today. It does not mean it is yours or CCF’s. (I am indebted to Phil Kniss here):

At times of great pain, words from people fail us, they are just not enough. They basically feel like they fix NOTHING! Many of us who are persons of faith flee to the words of scripture. We go to the Bible to look for comfort for the pain, we look for answers to our questions, and we look for words to shed light into the places where we can’t see.

But friends, if we go to the well of scriptures, trying to draw up words that will explain all of this to our satisfaction, we will likely come up empty. If we turn to God, asking for a detailed explanation as to why this had to happen, we’re not going to get an answer with the kind of clarity we want. If we go to the scriptures, asking for words that will make sense of this for us, I am afraid we are just going to walk away disappointed. You see, I think there are questions on all of our minds that we wish we could have answered clearly, definitively, and finally, by God. But the Bible is not the kind of answer-book that we used to have in school, where the answers to all the questions we are being tested on are printed neatly in the back of the book…true, false, A. B. C., all of the above. That’s just not how it works….as much as I wish I could tell you it was.

But you know, I think that’s alright. Because I think that most of the questions being asked by those who lose someone they love in a tragic way, are not questions that can be satisfied with straight answers. They are not questions that can be answered through some logical, rational process. They are not questions of the mind, they are questions of the heart.

I would like to share some of those words of scripture to the heart. And I encourage you to listen to them with your heart. Romans 8 says “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...No!!... For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither heights nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

When people we love die, they are separated from us. But, God’s love is constant and continuous, even across the divide that separates life from death. We may want to know why God didn’t step in and rescue our loved one. That answer we won’t find in the scriptures, or anywhere else.

But, here are some more words for the heart…."The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” This is just one of hundreds I could have chosen from the scripture, that speak eloquently about the mercy of God. God is all about mercy.

Perhaps some of the unspoken questions of people hearts, especially in situations of suicide are about the state of a loved one’s soul. There are some Christians who might sometime suggest that suicide is the ultimate sin. I disagree. The wages of (all) sin is death!!! But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord! And friends, God’s grace is far bigger than we will ever know. And at the end of the day he calls the shots and knows all hearts! Period. Who of us decides which sin automatically sends you to hell? Who of us is without sin? How often do we need to ask forgiveness? Some would need to 30 times a day. If they die between sin #15 and #20 without stopping and asking forgiveness, do they go to hell? These may seem like silly questions to you…but do any of us really understand grace?

The scriptures abound in descriptions of God as being one who is full of mercy. In fact, the Bible says that God’s judgment lasts for 3 or 4 generations, but God’s mercy is for a thousand generations. Scriptures also tell us that “God judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” And in another place, “Human beings look on the outside, God looks at the heart.” And in yet another place in scripture, these wise and poetic words are spoken: “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.”

I am not a judge of hearts. That is the responsibility of God and God alone. Bottom line: WE do not decide on eternity by judging actions, GOD decides on eternity by judging hearts!

(I am thankful that Steve made a commitment to Jesus as a Teenager.)


Anonymous said...

Long before that life presented to us any of the difficult issues that we face, God presented to us His love. Not the abstract emotional feeling that you feel that just lays out there shapelessly but He named that love..J-E-S-U-S!! It is man's responsibility to accept that love and to worship His creator. These things provide for us peace that passes all understanding. Because our eyes do not see all things and because our minds don't know and understand all things does not mean that God's doesn't. ALL DEATH came to the human race because of humanity's sin not because of a lack in God's creation. Therefore whether death by cancer, whether the rape, murder or brutal beating of a child, suicide or any other horrific action that comes to humans that leave us without human answers and yet remain real and dibilitating, the word of God does provide DEFINITE answers like the ones you find on the back of your textbooks TRUE, FALSE, A,B,C or non of the above. The difficulty is when one's heart is twisted in tragedy, it's not the answers to the problems we are looking for, its the untwisting of our hearts and our mind that we are looking for. Many times as you look through the Gospels and you watch Jesus interact with the public, more times than not questions that were asked of him were ignored while he answered the reason for the question. God is the salvation of all of man's emotional distress regardless where it came from or what created it. We hear questions like "Why does a god of love allow this to happen?" Is not the very question being asked a suggestion that there is a God other than a God of love? That question is false in it's premise because there is only one true God and He is a god of love. So then the question should be not "How does a God of love let this happen?" but "How could we human beings have been so stupid as to not have been obedient when He said "Don't eat of the tree, for in the day that you do you shall surely die". Thus comes all of the things that enter the human race. Since we don't know the reason for the suicide but we do know that this human being has come to a place of complete and utter hopelessness and the only answer was to "check out". The bible explains why people commit suicide. They get baited into it by Satan. The bible says that Satan cometh to kill, steal and destroy. So when hope is gone then opened are the flood gates of destruction. Suicide doesnt just kill the person that murders themselves but emotionally and mentally it cripples those who love them so desperately. So we see there is a power at work behind the actions of humans. We are told in the scriptures, "We do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers and wickedness in high places". Thus we aren't alone here. The devil is alive and well on the planet earth. Preceding Cain's murder of his brother Abel, there was a discussion between Cain and God. God telling Cain that sin lyeth at his door and he must conquer it. The only thing that can conquer sin is the LOVE of God. Cain did not conquer his sin and thus he murdered his brother Abel. He murdered Abel because he was jealous. There is a very clear answer to why the murder took place. Cain didnt surrender his heart to God and he let jealousy prevail and jealously killed Abel. How did we get to this place? Cain's parents were not obedient and they ate of the tree they were told to stay away from. The great war that happens in men's souls happens because we want our own way and we want all God's blessings and promises too. It isnt whether or not it's difficult, its whether or not have we made Jesus unquestionably the center of our universe. Not my will, God's be done. If the word of God is true then it is all true. If it is false then it is all false and we need to choose today which of these we believe because you cannot have God half anything. It is true this is the facts and these facts are undeniable. It is not a book of suggestions, it's the book of life. It matters not whether a person believes it or not. Truth remains truth because it is truth not because of man's perception. It's not how I see the truth or you see the truth. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He is the hope of all mankind. So if he is not the center of our world then the center of our world does not have hope, love, truth or life. If he is only the convenience then he is just that. Hope that is convenient. Love that is convenient. Truth that is convenient and thus that is eternal life that is convenient. No sain person wants to go to hell. In fact the scriptures tell us, It is the fool that said in his heart there is no God. Faith is how we obtain God in our heart. We must believe he is and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. Notice the progression. A rewarder of those that diligently seek him, not who diligently seek to be wealthy, diligently seek to have the things of this world (the toys), the fame etc. But of those who diligently seek God. God never promised any human being that they would ever be wealthy or that they would have toys in this life. In fact what he promised them if we are truly his children most men will not like you. The trouble begins in the choice in human kinds mind. We want all the gods but the favor of THE God. Certain things are promised to us by the true God if we desperately seek him. Peace, hope, love, joy. We are game for all these things but we are not willing to surrender to the place where we desperately seek him. We must decide long before tragedy, grief etc, long before it takes our emotions that God will be God even when sin cripples our hearts. In the scriptures we are taught to run to God in the moments when life cripples us. Not for answers or explanation. Because those who have been desperately seeking him know what the answer is. When we run to him during these desperate times he helps us handle the answer of why we are living through these so desperately terrible situations. We can't want God to give us free will and choice and at the same time take it away from us when it is going to be inconvenient and painful. The bible answered the questions long before humans were placed on the planet. If we have the right relationship with God then the answers will suffice. They wont take away the pain or stop the sorrow. Only the love of God can minister to us in those times. But if we have not been giving to be one of those who desperately seek God and have him as the center of our life then we are going to be void of the help that we need.

Pastor Noah said...

Anonymous, Thanks for your thoughts and reflections. I agree with some of your thoughts. Thanks for really engaging this!! That is great! By the way, you get the award for the longest blog comment I have ever seen in my life! I wish I knew who you were so I could send you your free gift. Smile.

Phil Kniss said...

Noah, I'm grateful my old funeral sermon could be an inspiration to you in this most agonizing time of walking with a family after a suicide. It is truly a sacred trust that we ministers are given. May God strengthen you as you continue to offer grace to the family. I'm honored you used my sermon, and thanks for the acknowledgment. Blessings. --Phil

Pastor Noah said...

Phil, so cool that you found this. And fast! Your work was fantastic and the Lord used it in a big way last week. Would love to meet you one day.

Phil Kniss said...

I found it because I have my name flagged in "Google Alerts," so a link to your blog came in my email. I'm curious where you came across my sermon. I know I've shared it with a number of persons over the years who've asked for a copy. I'm honored that it is still being helpful to some, many years after the tragedy I was dealing with at our church.

Pastor Noah said...

Phil, one of my teammates, Nelson Okanya, pulled this out of a file and handed it to me. ...Right on time. (Hey, I will have to try that google alert. Sounds Cool.)