Perils of Shepherds: Lamb Chops

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You're a pastor/leader of a church.  You have been given the job of shepherding people and trying to lead them to Christ and a life that reflects Him.  Problem is, those sheep sometimes wander.  Sometimes they just don't listen or respond very well.  Sometimes they have attitudes and actions that just aren't moving in the right direction.  How frustrating!  What is wrong with these people?!   Add that to the frustration you feel toward the rampant sin in the world and the slide of our society and pretty soon you might even be angry.  "It's righteous anger at sin."  and on the coals of that anger, some sheep just might get barbecued.

In my about four decades of being in the New England church, I have witnessed a lot of pastors who, with a passion for God, have pushed sheep, verbally hit sheep, alienated sheep, and injured sheep.  In many cases I have watched these shepherds feel perfectly justified because the sheep in question was in the wrong and therefore had it coming.  In the spirit of "you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs", they feel that certain sheep, the ones who aren't on board, don't support, are in sin, etc., may need to be sacrificed.

Oh boy, Ira.  Are you advocating for a touchy-feely, coddle sin, ignore Biblical calls to righteousness, etc. and just try to keep people happy?  NO!  The message of the cross is going to be offensive and will not make sinners happy.  What I am talking about is the attitude of the shepherd in delivering the message of the cross and helping the sheep apply it.

Speak the Truth

preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:2-5)

We pastors/leaders are called to shepherd the church of God using the Word of God.  We must teach the whole thing.  We can't just cater to what people want to hear.  There are many "inconvenient" truths in the Bible and all of them must be taught.  The american culture is continuing to slide into more sin.  Even when many of the culture's moral stands were more Judeo-Christian, parts of society were still pretty unBiblical  (materialism, self-determination, etc.).  These days we struggle with many other pervasive sin issues (sexual immorality: pornography hard & soft, divorce, homosexuality, care for poor, celebration of violence, etc.).  We need to address all of these from a Biblical standpoint so that people can turn to Christ more readily and be free from the entangling sins.  How we do that is important.

In Love

For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed--God is witness-- nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority. But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, (1 Thessalonians 2:5-11)

Paul was never a punch-puller, but here he reveals how he conducted himself.  He compares his approach to a nursing mother.  Since Sarah is nursing our youngest, this is a vivid picture for me.  The tenderness this invokes.  The baby has some teeth in and sometimes bites.  That is not pleasant nor allowed.  She always corrects it immediately.  Her gentleness does not vanish during that correction.  That leads to the second image Paul invokes, that of a father.  This one is where some pastors get tripped up and I myself must be on my guard.  I have known some pastors who treated their congregation exactly like they treated their kids, and gentle is not the word that springs to mind.   How do you handle disobedience and the need for correction?  Is it with gentleness?  There have been times when my exasperation and impatience has caused me to transgress.  The correction was important and necessary, the method risked provoking my children to wrath.   I can't permit that in myself and it must not be the style I employ at church either.  This is why Paul felt it important to look at how a leader handles his family before he is selected to shepherd.

He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), (1 Timothy 3:4-5)

An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, (1 Timothy 3:2)

I have a sign in my office that my kids love to giggle at.  It says, "Don't bolt when the sheep poop on you."  I got it from a pastors' conference I went to a few years ago.  Sometimes working with people is very tiring and frustrating (ask anyone in customer service).  When you add the feeling of responsibility that a pastor can feel as caretaker and supposed builder of the church [Even though Christ is the one that is going to build the church, as leaders we often feel that subconscious pressure that we need to do better in this department], the pressure can really be intense.  When you get pooped on, bitten by, or just seemingly ignored by those who you care about, it can bring out your human frustration and unless you get yourself under the control of the Spirit quickly you may turn around and get your frustration all over that same sheep, or other unsuspecting ones who are in your way.

The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, (2 Timothy 2:24-25)

Patient when wronged and gentle when correcting are lifestyles that can be hard to carry out, especially if you are a Type A, Expressive, Emoter, Extrovert, fill-in-the-blank personality excuse.  There is never a time when love is an inappropriate response.  We can and should deliver hard truths and exhortations.  We need to confront sin and stand against unrighteousness.  We just need to remember that even if we have all knowledge, all faith, and an angelic tongue and yet leave out love, we are just making an unpleasant noise (1 Cor. 13).  I have offended a few people in the last few years.  These people have reported that I was mean to them and that I pushed them away.  What did I do?  Do I have some serious repenting to do?  Actually, what I said went along these lines.  "I love you very much and I am very concerned for you.   You are turning away from following Christ and that decision is going to cause you great harm.  I care about you too much to ignore this and I want to beg you to turn from this choice and embrace Christ."  Etc.   The message of the cross, the call to Christ was so offensive that they recoiled from me.  How I delivered the message was not offensive, nor did it need to be.  I was loving, peaceable, and inviting, but I did not soft sell or minimize sin nor the self-denial that a walk with Christ demands.    This is the truth in love.  I have watched some Christians speak in insensitive and unloving ways and then excuse the poor response by blaming the offense of the Gospel, but if the person is finding you offensive, perhaps they didn't really notice the message.

Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Colossians 4:5-6)

As a pastor, I must be an example of grace speech and this verse from Paul in Colossians is very convicting because it says that my speech should always be with grace.  'Always' is a big word that I fall very short of.  No excuse though.  I must Let the word of Christ richly dwell within me, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in my heart to God. (Colossians 3:16).  You will know that I am displaying that wisdom, not by hearing me say the words, "the Bible says" or being all 'pastoral' on you, but by the indications of that wisdom described in James.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17-18)

My passion for the Maine church has a lot to do with encouraging Shepherds to be kind and gentle with the sheep.  When we are, we will actually find it easier to say the hard things, to stand up for the hard truths, to proclaim firmly from our pulpits the fear of the Lord.   I proclaim a cross which is a stumbling block.  May I never be the stumbling block that trips them before they get to the cross!

Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:5)

Marriage: Mis-defined, Missed Opportunity

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I tried an interesting social experiment yesterday.  As Facebook began to show lots of red equal signs displayed by those looking for what they call marriage equality, I decided to make my own little graphic.  A little blue-on-blue cross.  With it I specified that I was not presenting this as a rebuttal against the red equal signs, but rather an affirmative message of losing oneself and one's rights to Christ and His life.  I sat back and waited to see what would happen.  I didn't ask or even suggest anyone repost it.   When a pastor friend reposted it, I did suggest that he include my explanation text, which he had already done.

As the day went on, I watched it spread a little.  Soon enough, the supporting text was gone and in some places, it was replaced with a rejection of "marriage equality" and a statement of "one man, one woman."  Yep, now it was not a message about turning to Christ, it was a statement about applying the Bible to our politics.   Isn't that OK?  Well, in a general nice American Christian way I suppose it is.  But, here's my issue.  We are missing the boat, especially in this time of social change/upheaval as the American culture goes through another big shift.  Our culture could use the morality that can be extracted from the Bible.  The lessons one can take from the Bible are good for society.  BUT, the point of the Scriptures is not morality and nice society, the whole point is JESUS.

"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; (John 5:39)

So, first let me say that I think the Christian message has tended to Mis-Define marriage as badly as we accuse others of trying to.  Biblical Marriage is NOT "one man, one woman"  it is One Christ, one man, one woman!   Unless Christ is the center of the marriage relationship, followed by a man and woman who are seeking to die to self and serve Christ, it is not a true "Biblical" marriage.  The current cultural desire to redefine marriage misses the mark not just by ignoring that the Bible explicity condemns homosexuality, but making marriage about personal rights instead of the giving up of rights.

A Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; (Psalms 127:1a)

God created marriage as a picture of His relationship to His people.  (Eph 5:22-33).  Earthly cultures have grabbed hold of the idea and changed it, and the American church, lulled by a society that used to be friendly to the Judeo-Christian way of thinking, allowed itself to redefine marriage into something that is about two people who love each other romantically.  The American church began to drift away from the idea of covenant and service and toward compatibility and fulfillment.  With this drift, the church saw its divorce rate follow the world's divorce rate perfectly.  Now, finally, the church has realized that the world is defining things too far away from God's Word, but the church needs to not retreat to the 1950's, the church needs to retreat to the Word of God and get its own house in order.  We must rediscover that marriage is about a man and woman who, in love with Christ, come together in a lifetime covenant to serve one another and be bonded as one person.  We need to emphasize that without Christ, one man and one woman are still lost!  We must celebrate the uniqueness that is union with and in Christ and make sure that our marriages reflect not Normal Rockwell but Aquila & Priscilla (Acts 18).

This is our Missed Opportunity.  The people of God need to stop attacking each unChristian, unBiblical thing the world does.  I'm not talking about accepting and condoning sin.  No way!  Rather, the solution to sin, especially rampant societal sin, is Christ, not christian ethics.  When we push Biblical morality rather than a transforming relationship with the Savior of mankind, we miss the opportunity.

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)

This has informed much of how I do my pastor job these days.  I recently had an individual come to me whose "traditional" marriage was on the rocks.  In the old days I would have sat down and tried to give him some tips on loving his wife better and serving her more and some communication tools.  Anything to try to help.  I have realized that while that seems good and would in the short run even help a little, I would be treating the symptoms not the disease.  The disease that is destroying the marriage is not poor communication and selfishness, it is SIN.  I know of only one solution to that; the saving blood of Christ on the cross through surrender to God.  So that's what I told him.  I lovingly urged him to turn to Christ and start there.  THEN we could work through the things that will begin to flow from a right relationship with Christ.    I have abandoned christian social engineering in favor of the Gospel.

This is an opportunity to proclaim Christ!  When we say "one man, one woman" we, as Christians, leave out the whole point.  CHRIST.  Let's return to the point.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20)

(Not So) Secret Power

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It is no secret that Bean's Corner has been growing like crazy.  This last Sunday we could barely fit everyone into the sanctuary.  The big question is why?  Of course the true and simple answer is that God is bringing people in as the Gospel is being preached.  As we drill down, what are the elements that have brought health and stability to Bean's Corner.   While there are many different exciting things you could point to, I think there is one big one that may not always occur to people.  It is easy to point to a worship band, a new exciting approach/philosophy, or youthful enthusiasm, but I do not beleive that is the true reason we are growing.  I think we too often start looking to the wisdom of man and to new and exciting things to try to cause growth when the Bible has far simpler and straightforward answers for us.

In our case, I believe it has to do with the team of men and women God has assembled in the leadership of Bean's Corner.  Let's talk about it.  First, it is not just a young group.  I think that is key.  These days I notice a lot of younger guys who have about a decade or less in ministry who are full of explaining to everyone the how's and how to's of ministry.  They are writting books, blogs, and speaking at conferences.  Now do not get me wrong; much of what they say has value and is helpful, but they are not drawing from a lifetime of experience but rather from books, other teachers, and youthful enthusiasm.  I know where they are coming from, I was there too.  I started young here in Maine and with my training and education was full of answers.  Now, after 20+ years of Maine ministry, I have much fewer answers, know much less than I did, but have seen more ministry.

The Bible makes it clear that the older should teach the younger and that there is great strength in the wisdom and experience of being older.  When Paul instructed Timothy in choosing leaders, he pointed to men who were established.  They had families and a reputation in the community.  This doesn't mean they were all old, but they were old enough to have gotten to that stage in life.  Furthermore, he instructed Timothy to treat the older men like fathers in his approach to them.  So how about at Bean's Corner?  When I think about the strength that we have at church, I cannot escape the fact that Cliff and Wilma have now been at the church for 20+ years.  Although Cliff has never been a staff pastor at Bean's Corner, the two of them have mentored, discipled, and led.  I have personally benefitted from their wisdom and experience time and again and have been deeply shaped by them.  It is hard to overestimate the value of a couple with around 60 years of ministry experience.  The lessons I have learned from Cliff have made a massive difference in how I pastor.

From there we look at so many of the other men who make up the core of our leadership.  Many of these men have been a part of the church for decades.  They have raised families, they have discipled believers, they have stayed faithful to the Word.  They have become gifted teachers and prayer warriors.  They have weathered more storms than I have had opportunity to and from that have gathered invaluable wisdom.  They call me up to check on me and ask me probing questions on how I am doing.  They exercise authority over me to make sure that in my youthful enthusiasm that I am not overextending or overreacting.  Their wisdom has saved me from making big, church altering mistakes again and again.  You don't see that on a Sunday morning, but it is foundational to the strength that is behind our growth.

 

Finally, there is another piece to this.  Lest you think that I am down on the younger, I'm not.  We have a pastor and two deacons that are younger men, or at least younger than me.  Nate has been with us coming on five years and TJ and Pete are in their second rotations as deacon/elders.  The Bible values the age and experience of the old and the energy and passion of the young.  As Paul admonished Timothy to follow him and other elders, he also reminded him not to allow others to look down on him just because he was young, but to be an example.  This is the last part of the puzzle.  We have younger men, like myself, who are also part of leadership to learn from the older, to work with the older, and to bring perspective and youth to the table.  It is a partnership, working hand and hand, that spans the generations and makes our church not an older church, not a younger church, but the Body of Christ and the family of God.  I am so excited that as we have grown, we grow in all demographics.  We have been joined by retirees, older professional people, middle aged individuals, and young families.  As you look at the wider leadership of the church, both men and women, you see the generations represented with both younger and older working together, being guided by the wisdom of the older and powered by the drive and excitement of the younger.

All this has resulted in a vibrant family that is being used by God to touch people with the love of Christ.  The Love of Christ is then drawing new people in as they look at the family and want to be a part of it.    Everything else the church offers, the preaching, music, children's ministry, then becomes a result of the growth and stability, not the cause.

I look at blogs and books that are trying to package the growth and programs and philosophies of other churches' success and realize that really it comes back to faithful men and women who mature, pray, labor, and disciple.  Everything else are good ideas that won't work really well without those older men and women who form the foundation of strength in the local church.

I am SO THANKFUL for the incredible priviledge of being surrounded by so many Godly men and women who I can lean on, learn from, and work with.  I am thankful for the younger men who inspire me, push me, and are willing themselves to learn and be led at the same time.

That is why Bean's Corner is growing.  Praise the Lord!

NOTE:  In this post I have pictured the current Deacon/Elders and pastors.  They are just a sample of the amazing men and women who provide wisdom and leadership in our church family.  There are so many more who are part of God's work in our family.  I am thankful for them all!  :)

Big Nothing

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When I was a teenager, I had a really poor self-image.  I was depressed and hated myself.  I had no idea at the time that such dark and depressing thoughts were a sign of an ego out of control.  I wasn't proud of myself, but I was the center of my universe.  I was stuck on myself and miserable all at the same time.   As I have gotten older and finally begun to mature some, I realize that not only was I incredibly selfish then, but I still am now.

Now I strive to be a humble person.  I'm not sure that I succeed as much as I should, but it is a goal.  Humility is not the issue though, it is self-centric thinking and living.  We tend to think of selfishness as thinking a lot of yourself, but the real issue is whether you think of yourself A LOT.  That comes so natural as to be hard to notice sometimes.  I eat when I am hungry, I rest when I am tired, I am constantly reacting to what I am thinking, feeling, needing and desiring.  That natural response to myself is louder than my response to the needs of others, whether you, my kids, my wife, or others.  I care about their needs, but I tend to be so much more aware and careful with my own.  As I grow older and my family has increased I continue to discover that my ego is not only alive and well but still seeking to dominate my thinking.  The habit is so ingrained that unless I consciously counteract it each day and indeed each time I make a plan, have a thought, have a reaction, it is sitting there in the driver's seat, running the show.

There are so many ways this shows itself, so many insidious ways that my ego takes control.  It is not merely me being selfish about my time or my priority choices.  It comes down to how often I actively think through the non-expressed needs of my wife and kids, my friends and church family.

Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (Galatians 6:2-3)

I can't begin to list the number of times that my wife actually has to tell me what she needs, not because I have no idea and couldn't have figured it out on my own, but because I just wasn't even thinking about her.  My thoughts tend to center around my own needs.  I try to meet hers, but too often I wait until they show up, unmet and enlarged before I pay attention.  This tendency made the first years of our marriage extra difficult because back then I not only didn't pay attention before she expressed her needs, but I didn't always keep her needs in mind even after she would bring them up.  Then, as an advanced demonstration of self-centric thinking, I would get annoyed at her when she would express her needs again, since they had remained unmet.  "I know that."  Of course, while proclaiming I as aware of her needs, I never demonstrated an understanding or caring about them in my actions.  Again, though, I would excuse myself with an expression of how hard it was, while not really trying that hard at all.  At least it made me feel better.  She'd be ok.

There is is again, Ego.  It wasn't that I felt that I was more imporant,  I didn't consciously think that, but I acted like it most of the time.

I need to live like I am nothing.  Not having a poor self image or thinking that I am some sort of worm, but rather work to further restrict the time and attention I give my wants, needs and desires.  I need to replace that attention on myself with attention, first on Christ and then on my wife and children.  This has become all the more vital as we have four kids.  Too often they will not be able to express their needs and if I leave them unmet or insufficiently met because I'm not thinking about them and hearing them, by the time those needs really show up, it will be too late and I will have done damage that I may not be able to adequately correct.  That scares me.    It will also reduce my effectiveness as a pastor.  If I wait until the church starts really feeling the need, if I am not thinking ahead to what the needs are before they become visible, I will be missing many opportunities to love and I will be planting seeds of decay in our church.

The stakes are too high for me to do what is natural and allow my natural self-centric thinking to run my life.  Learning to die to self is far harder than I think and I am going to struggle with it.  I cannot, however, use that struggle as an excuse to continue with a self-centric life.  Time to grow up and get further out of my own orbit, into the orbit of Christ and serve my wife, serve my kids, and serve those around me.  God will supply my needs.  I need to die to self.

Hope Midst Great Grief

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"LORD, make me to know my end And what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am. "Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; Surely every man at his best is a mere breath. Selah. "Surely every man walks about as a phantom; Surely they make an uproar for nothing; He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them. "And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You. (Psalms 39:4-7)

Wednesday night as I prepared to climb the stairs to bed I received a question in a text message that punched me in the gut.  Had I heard that a young man, dear to my heart, was gone?  It was hours later that I got the confirmation that this was true.  Over the last three days I have read and reread that message, telling me that Grant was gone, again and again.  There are moments that I weep and know it.  There are an equal number of moments when my mind rebels and refuses to believe it.  Its a dream.

So where is hope?  The deep sorrow of the last three days has sharpened into bright focus just exactly what hope is.

My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken. On God my salvation and my glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah. (Psalms 62:5-8)

True Hope is in Christ.  It is not an ephemeral, mystical, emotional hope.  It is not a wish and it is not generic.  The only real hope is in Christ.  I'm not talking about religion or religious feelings either.

"Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know-- this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. "But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. (Acts 2:22-24)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, (1 Peter 1:3-6)

Our hope rests 100% in the historic bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  This historical fact is the only thing that gives us hope.  Without that, everything else is just wishful thinking and fantasies to try to make us feel better without a true foundation.  The Christian life as a self-improvement, moral lifestyle only is a pitiful way to live.

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:16-22)

Anchored in the fact of the resurrection, I have an understanding of life and death.  I have hope.  The power of God which is able to destroy the enemy that man has never conquered, death, is true hope, and that power was demonstrated as Christ burst from that tomb.  My grief is deep and painful, and mine cannot compare with his immediate family and close friends who lived and worked with him.  This grief does not shake my hope, it intensifies it, because as death always does, it reminds me of the truth that this is a temporary stay, that we are not destined to stay here and none of us can stay.  Everything we carefully construct around ourselves to make ourselves feel safe, happy, or in control is an illusion that is exposed when we come face to face with death.

But I know the master of death.  He defeated it

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, 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 imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. "O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:51-57)

Right now, as Peter says in 1 Peter 1:6, I am distressed by this trial.  It is a hard thing and I can't understand it.  What I can understand is that God is greater, that Christ is stronger and that Grant had received forgiveness for his sins through Jesus, the defeater of death.

"The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. "He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. (Acts 5:30-31)

Grant's struggles, and even his ultimate choice in the way he chose to cope with his struggles are irrelevant.  God is all the more faithful for our weakness and Grant is healed and in the joy and fullness of his Savior today.  My sense of loss is great and at times crushing, but because of that, my appreciation of the hope in the victory of Christ is all the stronger and I find myself more oriented to the Kingdom I'm supposed to be oriented to everyday.   We who know Christ will mourn and weep, but not like those who don't have real hope.  We wait on the Lord, we look forward to His promised return and we know that although our sorrow may last through this night, there is a morning coming that will be full of joy, including a blessed reunion with the man who we lost this week.

This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him." The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently For the salvation of the LORD. (Lamentations 3:21-26)

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