Resources for the members of the United Church of God

Update from the President: June 8, 2017

You are here

Update from the President

June 8, 2017

Pentecost has come and gone. From the snippets of information that I received, it appears that it was a wonderful Holy Day with many churches combining for services. The weather was good in most areas. Gerald Seelig tells me, with almost all the offering reported, that per-person contributions are markedly up.

Indianapolis and Terre Haute combined for Pentecost at Brown County.

Bev and I went to Indiana, where about 140 from the Indianapolis and Terre Haute congregations met at Brown County State Park in southern Indiana for a “Pentecost weekend.” Many brethren arrived Friday evening and stayed at the park until services concluded on Sunday afternoon. Saturday night there was a “Concert for God” where several performed sacred music. An orchestra was assembled as well as a choir. It was all well done and all enjoyed themselves immensely.

On Pentecost, I gave the sermon and I look to a time that is described in the second chapter of the book of Acts. The Holy Spirit was powerfully poured out on the Church and that power was the game changer as the Church suddenly grew from 120 to 3000 and then by another 2000 shortly afterward. This great outpouring was promised to the “Last Days” yet to come. What happened at Pentecost in 31 A.D. was only a type of what will yet happen.

Scholarships in the Philippines

Earl Roemer sent me a report about the LifeNets Developing Nations Scholarship Program students in the Philippines. We are so pleased to see the fruits of this program here and other places in the world. I have posted this report showing not only what they have studied, but what jobs some of them are getting. These young people are becoming pillars of support and strength in their local congregations. You can read about some of the students at http://lifenets.org/scholarships-in-the-philippines/ .

When Our Children are Confronted by Death

Death is man’s worst nemesis. It will be the last enemy that Jesus Christ will destroy (1 Corinthians 15:26 1 Corinthians 15:26The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
American King James Version×
). It is the enemy that we fear most for ourselves, for our loved ones and most of all for our children. When death comes into our midst, we are immediately sobered as we process various overwhelming emotions. We may feel sad. We may become angry and exhibit bitterness. We may feel guilty that we had not related or spoken to our loved ones as we wish we had. We may wish that we could have said things that we didn’t and said things that we wish we hadn’t. We may even feel relief if we had been caring for an ailing loved one who finally succumbed to death.

As Christian adults we have experience and biblical knowledge to cope when death comes into our midst. It is not easy, but we do manage to get through the various stages of grief.

But, what about our children and our teenagers who are processing similar emotions? They may not have the experiential faith that you may have. They may be silent, but that doesn’t mean that everything is fine. They are exposed and experience the same shock that you do, but how are they handling it?

These are important questions because our children’s minds race quickly as they sort through their thoughts and emotions—just as we do. Our little ones, teens and even young adults may be easy to overlook because we naturally gravitate to other adults. But children have developing minds and their mindsets, attitudes and faith are being formed. How they get through the traumatic death of a loved one, particularly of a peer, can contribute to how they mature and relate to their siblings, friends, future mates, superiors and God.

As leaders, we need to be ever so sensitive to our children who may be suffering silently and battling some of the big questions of life: Why did my friend have to die? When and will I see them again? What does this mean? Why didn’t God protect my loved ones?

With the number of deaths that have occurred recently, I can see these questions becoming discussions among our campers and staff at our United Youth Camps this summer.

What to do?

Recognize first that our young people do want to talk, but they may need to be prompted and need to be made welcome to express their thoughts and feelings. Provide the opportunity for healthy and intimate conversations to take place. Encourage even the quietest ones to speak and ask questions without judgment.

Just as adults want to find loved ones to share our grief, our children also need that support more than ever. I talked with a funeral director this week who is a friend and fellow Rotarian club member. He related to me that as people are living longer, children are not faced with the death of relatives as frequently as they had in times past. Now, as they grow older, their uncles and aunts and even grandparents may be far away and there may be limited knowledge of them. They are not accustomed to working through emotional trauma in relationships. They find “answers” online and by pushing buttons. So, when there is an unexpected death, particularly of someone nearby or near their age, it can be catastrophic.

When talking (and listening) to youngsters, be honest and realistic. Always tell the truth about what has happened. The Bible is the source to rely on: “Your word is truth” (John 17:17 John 17:17Sanctify them through your truth: your word is truth.
American King James Version×
) and “the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32 John 8:32And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
American King James Version×
). Explain the most profound truths to children at their level, and in a loving and encouraging manner.

Tell them this:

Human beings were created in the image and likeness of God, as it states in the first chapter of the Bible. Near the end of the Bible, in Revelation 21:4 Revelation 21:4And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
American King James Version×
it states: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” This will be a time of the New Heavens and New Earth when God the Father comes to dwell with mankind eternally.

However, man was not meant to live forever in the human state: “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:27-28 Hebrews 9:27-28 27 And as it is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and to them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin to salvation.
American King James Version×
).

There will be a resurrection when we will be changed from transitory and short-lived flesh to immortality: “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall 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 incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’ ” (1 Corinthians 15:50-54 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 50 Now this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
American King James Version×
).

These words are indeed encouraging and comforting. They always were and always will be, as we go through this human transformational experience towards immortality.

“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning them which are asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Why comfort one another with these words.
American King James Version×
).

Yes, it’s all right to cry and grieve. But, we are not without hope. We thank God for the honest promises that are right there in His Word for us to find comfort in.

I have read these words so many times and read them in many funeral services. But, I still get a sense of excitement when I read them! Ministers and church leaders, sharing with our children the hopeful Truth is the most meaningful and spiritual thing that we can do for them. It will lead to healing and hope in the magnificent future.

Whenever someone dies unexpectedly, make a way for our children to ask questions and to express themselves. This will help us help them to cope and to have confidence in God’s plan for their loved ones.

Finally…

We who are leaders and servants in God’s Work, whether at the home office or in our congregations, earnestly pray for God’s favor and help in performing all the various tasks that we have to accomplish in the proclamation of the gospel and caring for our congregations.

Let’s be positive, hopeful and filled with faith. Lift one another up proactively. We have a great adversary who would like nothing better but to discourage, divide and destroy us. Don’t play into his devices and keep your focus on the fact that God will never leave or forsake us.

Grace to you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.