Friday, October 27, 2006

Moral Filth

Today I was doing a Bible study with a group of junior high students after school.  It is a great time of eating cookies and drinking sodas in a park across the street from their middle school.  We get together every Friday afternoon, it is one my highlights in my busy week.  We are currently reading through James.

I have read through James a thousand times.  But today God showed me something I have read over and missed.  Isn’t that amazing how your eyes see something new in the middle of familiarity?  

James 1:21 says, “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”

Today moral filth became visible to me.  Do you see it?  What is moral filth?  Moral is the ability to know or sense right and wrong.  Filth is something dirty, foul, disgusting, and unclean.  So what is moral filth?  It is something that is ok in the world’s eyes but unclean in God’s eyes.  Abortion is ok in the world’s eyes.  Premarital sex is ok in the world’s eyes.  Astrology is ok in the world’s eyes.  Most pornography is legal.  Greed and covetousness is ok in the world’s eyes.  But all these things are not ok in God’s eyes.

Verse 27 is a bookend for this idea: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Don’t get polluted by the things that the world says is ok.  Seek truth through the Bible and live for God!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Stages of Grief

Stages of Grief

Psalm 46

[1] God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.

  [2] Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

  [3] though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

  [4] There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.

  [5] God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.

  [6] Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

  [7] The LORD Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

  [8] Come and see the works of the LORD,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.

  [9] He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear,
    he burns the shields with fire.

  [10] "Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth."

  [11] The LORD Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

On Jan 17, 1994 Southern California was awakened at 4:30am to a fierce earthquake.  This was the first major earthquake under an urban city in Southern California since 1933.  This was the Northridge earthquake and it was a magnitude 6.7.  57 people died and 9,000 people were injured.  Over 20,000 were left homeless.

The Earthquake lasted between 10 and 20 seconds.  The shaking from this earthquake was felt as far as 85 miles away.  

The scoreboard at Angel stadium had to be torn down because of damage it sustained during this quake.  11 major roads had to be closed due to the damage from the earthquake.  25,000 buildings were damaged.  

When we face grief we are shaken, sometimes shaken to the core.  The actual event may only last but a few seconds but there is a lasting effect.  And there is damage.  Once the shaking has settled we must survey the damage.  

In our lives we will go through the grieving process way too frequently, we face grief everyday.  When we enter into the process we want out as quickly as possible.  Some are capable of getting through the process quickly while others may take longer.  Some prefer to go through the grieving process alone and others may require and desire that they grief in the company of others.  I do not have a pill to magically get you through the process.  But realizing there are steps may help you get through the process faster or with less anxiety.  

In my life I have my moments of grieving:

A broken 7th grade relationship
Cut from baseball team
Missed promotion
Columbine in 1999
CW Perry’s death in 2000
The 911 attack in 2001

Some times the thing that drives us back to church is because we are grieving.  People have come because they are experiencing a deep, fundamental grief, remembering losses that had caused them deep and transforming pain, and anticipating perhaps the finitude of their own lives.  Death, pain, and suffering are a part of every person's life and it is this search for answers that throws us into the embrace of God.  What is there beyond all this?

Types of grief
Divorce, separation, breakup
     Missed opportunity, promotion
     Financial Crisis
     Empty nest, children moving away
     Health crisis

Psychologist Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross developed the five stages of grief

  1. denial

  2. anger

  3. bargaining

  4. depression;

  5. acceptance

A simple example of this is:

Imagine that your car has broken down and the battery is dead.  

DENIAL --- What's the first thing you do? You try to start it again! And again. You may check to make sure the radio, heater, lights, etc. are off and then..., try again.

ANGER --- "I should have junked you years ago." Did you slam your hand on the steering wheel? I have. "I should just leave you out in the rain and let you rust."

BARGAINING --- (realizing that you're going to be late for work)..., "Oh please car, if you will just start one more time I promise I'll buy you a brand new battery, get a tune up, new tires, belts and hoses, and keep you in perfect working condition.

DEPRESSION --- "Oh God, what am I going to do. I'm going to be late for work. I give up. My job is at risk and I don't really care any more. What's the use".

ACCEPTANCE --- "Ok. It's dead. Guess I had better call the Auto Club or find another way to work. Time to get on with my day; I'll deal with this later."

In Judaism, the first year of mourning is broken down in five distinct phases:
  1. The first phase is the time between death and burial

  2. The second phase is the three days that follow, when the family is given space to grieve privately

  3. The third phase is called shiva , a weeklong shared mourning with family, friends, and community members

  4. The fourth phase (which includes the shiva) is a 30-day period after the burial, in which the bereaved person eases back into life

  5. The fifth phase is the remembrance of the first anniversary of death, at which time the headstone is placed, and things return to normal, relatively speaking

I like to use the acronym SARAH to help us deal with disappointment and grief.  

Shock and Sadness

There is a disbelief that this has happened.  You ask questions of why? How? What could I have done?  You walk in a fog, disconnected to the world.  It feels like a dream.  

In John 11 we read about a man named Lazarus who was sick and dying.  His sisters were concerned for his welfare so they sent for Jesus to come and heal Lazarus.  Unfortunately Jesus does not arrive in time and Lazarus dies.  

Finally Jesus does arrive.  Lazarus has been dead and buried for four days.  They were at a time of shiva.  The community has come to help the family in their grieving process.  Jesus notices the sorrow that Lazarus’ sisters are going through.  Jesus sees the mourners gathered to comfort the family and Jesus is moved.  This was probably the closest thing to a family Jesus had away from his own family.  

In verse 35 we read and see Jesus’ humanity and that even Jesus grieved, “Jesus wept.”


Anger becomes the next step in the grieving process.  Anger happens in the grieving process for numerous reasons.  Plans are changed.  Life is different.  People are disappointed or embarrassed by the situation they have been thrust into.  

There are feelings of bitterness, rage, or hatred.  Uncontrolled anger can lead to hurtful words and physical or psychological abuse.  It becomes a reactionary time.  Think back to 911, people wanted revenge quickly.  President Bush was quoted on September 14, “This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger.”

Going back to John 11 did you notice that Lazarus’s sisters were upset?  Both Martha and Mary tell Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Our frustrations can even turn towards God.  Our disappointments and embarrassments are attributed to God.  He let me down.  We stop blaming ourselves and blame God.  You may ask, "Where is God in this? Where is his love? His powerfulness? His compassion? Is this really God's will?"

In Job we read about the death of his family, the loss of his business, and his health under attack.  For you and me we would say the worst or the end had come.  His wife’s anger rages and she tells him to curse God and die.

     Listen to Psalm 22, do you hear Jesus’ anger on the cross?

          (1) My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?

(12) Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.

Roaring lions tearing their prey
open their mouths wide against me.

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted away within me.

My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.

Dogs have surrounded me;
a band of evil men has encircled me,
they have pierced my hands and my feet.

I can count all my bones;
people stare and gloat over me.

They divide my garments among them
and cast lots for my clothing.

Wrapped up in sadness, shock and anger are depression, denial and bargaining.  All of these stages require time to enter and exit from.  Sometimes the person grieving will return to these.  Anniversaries are notorious for prompting memories of a loved one or of an event or a missed opportunity.  But we are constantly on the move towards recovery.


At the top of my bell curve I have reflection.  Notice it is at the top of the curve.  We have the opportunity to stay on the side of sadness, shock and anger, depression, denial and bargaining or we can move forward into acceptance and happiness.  

Reflection gives us the opportunity to stop and survey the situation.  We have endured an earthquake of emotions.  What is the lingering damage?  Am I recovering?  Am I still angry?  Can I move on with my life?  Have I forgiven others?  Do I need to ask for forgiveness?  

In Jewish tradition there is a mourner’s prayer called the Kiddush.  After a great loss like the death of a spouse or a child, you might expect a person to lose faith in God, or to cry out against God's injustice. Instead, Judaism requires a mourner to stand up every day, publicly, in front of 10 adult men, and reaffirm faith in God despite this loss.  The theme of the Kiddash is the greatness of God.


Now acceptance does not mean that life has returned to its former state.  In the case of someone dying, acceptance does not bring someone back to life.  Acceptance does not get you a promotion.  Acceptance does not rebuild the Twin Towers.  

Acceptance begins the stage in our lives when we can move on.  Our lives have changed and we must adjust.  It is about acknowledging the loss and learning to live with the loss.  

     We may need to grant forgiveness to someone who has wronged us

     We may need to ask for forgiveness from someone we have wronged

We may need to show repentance from a sinful life we have lived that might have led to our grief.

Read 2 Samuel 12:13-22, David was willing to accept God’s judgement

Happiness or joy

     What does happiness look like after grieving?  How about sleeping through the night?  
How about remembering a lost one with a smile?  How about the willingness to date or fall in love again?  

Happiness can be the reality that our loved ones are being cared for by God.  

Revelation 21:1-4  

Consider the prodigal son story.  A father has allowed his son to leave the family unit.  He grieves the loss of his son.  He waits daily at the window for his son’s return.  Finally after months, or years, of waiting his son returns home.  The son has lost everything.  But the father is overjoyed as he is reunited with his son.  

Happiness is realizing that we need Jesus to get us through our times of grief.  Happiness is realizing that Jesus got us through our time of grief.  Happiness is realizing that Jesus never leaves us.  

Philippians 4:12-13 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

We are growing.  In the process of grieving we grow.  We grow in our faith.  We grow in our knowledge of Jesus.  We experience spiritual maturity.

Support groups are everywhere to help people who are grieving.  It is part of God’s plan that we help others who are grieving.  Remember the third phase of mourning?  Sitting shiva is where family, friends and the community would come together to share in the grieving process

There are some in our church who have recently had a loved one die, they need your to sit shiva.  

There are some in our church that are sick, they need your to sit shiva.

There are some that are facing divorce, they need your to sit shiva.

There are some that are facing financial hardships, they need your to sit shiva..

Some are grieving the situation our church is going through, they need your to sit shiva.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.