Adult 301 Course Rolls On This Sunday ! (… and “A Travel Guide through the Parables” for ages 3-11, too !)
I can’t wait to get back to our “Discovering My Ministry 301” course this Sunday morning at 9:00. The next two Sundays are going to be key, as we continue to take inventory of our own Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences (SHAPE) and discuss ministry opportunities and vision at Emmanuel.
If you’re part of the class, please do make an attempt before Sunday to do the reading and exercises on pages 13-27 of the 301 handout. Then, record as much of your responses as you can in the second handout, the “SHAPE Personal Profile.”
This series of exercises is mainly for your own benefit. We’re not going to ask you to turn this work in. However, the hope of the Elder Board is that at a later time we could have a short “debriefing” with each of you about what you learned about yourself so that …
… we can know better what your gifts, desires, and abilities are ;
… we can all together have a better sense of how we’re doing plugging people into ministry opportunities at Emmanuel.
Just imagine what God may launch in your life and in our church in just the next two Sundays ! Our goal: Serving in the church in the way that best expresses what God made you to be !
I hope you’ll join us, and thank you ! Kids ages 3-11 will continue their time with Pastor Jeff this Sunday. Thanks, Pastor Jeff, and thanks to our nursery workers too !
Faith Tested By Fire at 10:15
We will continue our sermon series in 1 Peter at 10:15 this Sunday. We will be asking the questions “Why should I keep fighting through my trials ? Why should I care ? Why should I keep up the struggle to move on through this adversity ?” I trust the Lord will give us some answers from 1 Peter 2:9-12. I look forward to joining you and to having time to worship the Lord in song, prayer, and other ways. A Bible verse that spoke to me today was Proverbs 3:34 —
“Though He scoffs at the scoffers, yet He gives grace to the afflicted.”
Grief Journey & Resurrection 101
In the course of my grief journey over the past year, help has often come from unexpected sources and at unexpected times. Today it came in the form of a discipleship study with one of our men from Emmanuel.
Some of you might remember Book 1, The Uniqueness of Jesus, Lesson 4, “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ,” in our Ten Basic Steps discipleship series.
“What a simple lesson,” I thought to myself ahead of time. “It’s so basic – I hope we get something out of it.” As it turned out, it was just what I needed and is the very heart of what gives all of us hope and perseverance as Christ-followers going through the trials of life.
Of particular help was this question :
What does the resurrection tell us …
… about Jesus Christ (according to Romans 1:4) ? Answer : He was declared (shown to be) the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.
… about what will eventually happen to our own bodies (according to Philippians 3:21) ? Answer : They will be transformed to be like Jesus’ resurrected body. (Interestingly, as I write this to you I am reading the answers out of Diana’s copy of the discipleship book – her handwriting, her answers, to questions that pertain to her situation).
… about the power God exercises in our own lives (according to Ephesians 1:19-20) ? Answer : God makes available to our lives the same incomparable power He used to raise Jesus.
That became to me today, in a fresh way, a truly amazing thought. The same power God exercised to raise the Lord Jesus from the dead is the power He uses in my life (and would like to use more often, if I would avail myself of it). If that’s true, then there truly is hope and purpose for us, no matter what our trials or pain may be. We can and will experience healing and transformation if we will take Him at His word and, through a daily relationship with Him, make ourselves available to His life-changing power.
So, as it turns out, death is not the end of the story. Resurrection is promised to the believer in Jesus, and in some ways, it seems, resurrection has already begun …
The day Diana died, nearly one year ago, was an intensely spiritual day. Yes, we were unprepared for her departure ; yes, we were scared when we understood what was taking place. My thoughts were drawn simply to trying to do everything I could within my power to make this a good day – a good departure – for her. There was, that day, truly the sensation of journeying with someone right up to the gates of heaven, though not being allowed in myself. It wasn’t for me to enter in on that day ; this was Diana’s day to meet the King.
By the end of the afternoon none of us had eaten, and I (who rarely get a headache) had a headache I thought was literally going to split my skull in two. But, along with four of the kids, our hospice chaplain, hospice nurse, and another administrator from the hospice, we had journeyed with Diana right up to the door and had watched her go in. Death would not be the victor on this day ; it was a defeated enemy, and one day will be abolished entirely (1 Corinthians 15:26).
There is only one human relationship which the Bible describes as two people becoming one, so I guess that explains why the separation is so painful and why the hurt lasts so long. Author and counselor Dr. Alan Wolfelt says that grief (mourning) is “not an enemy to be vanquished but … a necessity to be experienced as a result of having loved.”
C.S. Lewis, in writing about the death of his own wife, described the loss in these ways :
“Did you ever know, dear, how much you took away with you when you left ? I was wrong to say the stump was recovering from the pain of the amputation. I was deceived because it has so many ways to hurt me that I discover them only one by one.”
“The act of living is different all through. Her absence is like the sky, spread all over everything.”
“At times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says.”
Nevertheless, while grief is the journey, resurrection is the destiny, and the Bible presents resurrection as so real and urgent a subject that for the believer it seems to be so close as to already be happening. In fact, I think God painted a picture of it this week for us in Eastern Missouri as we went abruptly from ground covered by ice to a February thaw that included the surprising sound of birds singing in the mornings and the hopeful sight of skies staying a little lighter in the afternoon.
Dr. Wolfelt talks about being reconciled to one’s grief. There is no return to normalcy – it’s just not possible after the death of someone loved. We never really resolve our grief, but we can become reconciled to it. That’s the journey I’m on. It’s true that after one entire year on the journey I feel a renewed capacity to become re-involved in the activities of life. But two questions still stare me in the face : “Who am I ? And what am I meant to do with my life now ?” Those seem like strange questions needing to be answered at age 51. Thank you for your patience as I seek my new identity. I would appreciate your prayers for me along these lines.
Actually, the activities of each week don’t really leave too much time to worry about it. Meals every day for two teenagers and two soon-to-be-teenagers easily answer the question “What should I do with my life today ?” Two college graduates in two years (and a 2nd-semester freshman) means I haven’t had to worry too much about what to do with my money. Videos, pictures, and a recent visit from a new grandson remind me who I am … and also where I can go to find a smile.
God is flying the airplane ; I’m just a passenger. Some day I’ll make that journey to heaven’s gate again, and one day I’ll get to go in myself through the doors to meet the Lord, and to see Diana and others. In the meantime, it’s left to us who are still earthbound to give thanks for God’s provision for today and to look forward to whatever He chooses to offer up tomorrow. For me, today, it was a refresher course on the resurrection. Tomorrow will be something else again. As someone has said, “Each day comes bearing its own gifts. Untie the ribbons.”