Today's Word for Pastors...
For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Today's Preaching Insight...
[I]n many ways our experiences with grief are all the same. We all go through the same stages of shock, denial and guilt.
First we say: "It couldn't happen."
Then we say: "It didn't happen."
Then we say: "Oh, if only I had . . . Oh, why didnt I. . . . do this or that?" We somehow feel responsible for everything. We take the whole thing on our heads. We even imagine we somehow could have leaped into the breech and changed everything, if only . . .
When an office-holder in Washington, DC died in 1917, a perennial office seeker hurried to the White House to tell President Woodrow Wilson that he would like to "take the deceased's place." The President answered, "If it's all right with the undertaker, it's all right with me."
No one can take the place of someone else in their death. But we dont have to. Jesus did it once and for all for all of us.
But no one can take the place of someone else in his life either. And when we experience a loss in our lives and have to go on living ourselves, we experience every emotion we know in that grief: anger, love, fear, hope, insecurity, abandonment — you name it. And we all have our losses. They come in many different forms. They come as separation, children leaving home, moving, conflict, job change, retirement, aging, disappointment. And these are all experiences in which we feel real grief, and all our strong emotions rise up in us and flow over us like the deep waters that Isaiah talks about going through.
And we wonder: If we start to cry, will we ever stop? Or will the flood tide take us with it. We hold back and hide our grief because we imagine that once we begin to really feel it, we won't be able to bear it.
Many people hide their grief for years, and it gnaws away at them from the inside. Then comes the torrent: 2 months later, 5 years later, 20 years later. But eventually our grief catches up with us, and we know that thing could, and did, happen, and there was nothing we could do about it.
You know the scripture story about Jesus' dear friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus. The 2 sisters had sent word to Jesus that their brother was dying. But Jesus had been busy and couldn't come immediately. By the time He got there, Lazarus was dead. And as Jesus looked at those people He loved and saw their suffering, He felt all the same things you and I feel when someone we love dies. And He wept. The people said: "See how He loved him." But others said: "If He loved him so much, why didn't He save him from this death?" And that's the question we all ask in that situation: If God loves us, why did He let this happen? Why didn't He get here sooner? And why wasn't our love enough to save this person?
"If only I had known," we say. But do we think Jesus didn't know? Do we really think the Lord didn't know all of that? Not a sparrow falls without the Lord knowing it. He knows the number of all our days, and He is there.
Now that doesn't mean things don't go wrong or that there will not be evil that effects our lives and our deaths. The Lord has told us that there is evil. But He has also assured us that before it even happens He has already overcome all of it and is able to bring good out of all of it for those who love Him.
He is there before and during and after. "As you pass through the deep waters, I will be with you, and they shall not overwhelm you." For the person who has died, no matter what the cause, there are green mansions on the other side, where the lawn is not so hard to mow. So let us be clear that when we grieve at the death of someone, we grieve mainly for ourselves, for our loss, because, as Paul said: "For me, to die is gain."
(To read the entire article "Good Grief" by Kathleen Peterson at Preaching.com, click here)
by Jimmy Gentry
Temple Baptist Church, Carrollton, Georgia
A church had gathered to pray for a needy family around Thanksgiving. The family needed food, and concerned folks from the church got together to pray for them. While the prayer meeting was going on, a young boy came and knocked on the door of the home where members had gathered, entered into the house and told them, "My father said to tell you that he can't come tonight to pray because he is too busy unloading his prayers at the Jones' house. He said to tell you that he is taking a side of beef, a sack of potatoes, a bushel of apples, and some jars of jam. He said he could not be here to pray, but that he has taken his prayers and unloaded them at their house."
Thanksgiving by way of daily thanks-living demands that we pray, yes; but it also demands that we "unload" our prayers at the doorsteps of those who are hungry, lonely and just plain without.
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