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Tag Archives: funerals

Is Being Devout Good Enough?

If you have been to a funeral recently, eulogies tend to focus on the good that an individual has done over the course of their life.  Despite flaws, imperfections and weaknesses, positive qualities are highlighted to give friends and family members hope that their loved one has entered the gates of heaven.  This makes me wonder is being devout good enough?

Now at Caesarea [Maritima] there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who, along with all his household, feared God. He made many charitable donations to the Jewish people, and prayed to God always, Acts 10:1-2.

In the passage above, Luke introduces a highly respected individual.  Despite his lack of Jewish upbringing, Cornelius earned a reputation of being God fearing.  This holy reverence inspired a cheerful heart to give and fueled a desire to pray to God daily.  Perhaps, this character makes Cornelius an ideal candidate to become the first Gentile to receive the good news about Jesus Christ.

This Jesus is the stone which was despised and rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief Cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among people by which we must be saved [for God has provided the world no alternative for salvation],” Acts 4:11-12.

Earlier in the book of Acts, Luke makes it clear that being devout is not good enough.  There is only one door, one way that leads to eternal life, faith in Jesus Christ.  God found favor in Cornelius, using a series of events that led to a meeting with Peter.  During Peter’s message within a house in Caesarea, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening.  Immediately, following Peter’s mini-sermon, Cornelius and his family were baptized.  If you want the eternal security mentioned in 1 John 5:13, place your trust in Jesus to seal the deal, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

That’s Impossible

It’s a Miracle debuted on Pax Television in 1998.  This sixty minute documentary examined true stories that on the surface appeared to be impossible.  However, as eyewitnesses recounted these events, it was clear that angels, divine intervention and the power of prayer gave birth to a miracle.  This program that ran for six seasons reminding me that with God, anything is possible.

Now as He approached the city gate, a dead man was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her [in the funeral procession]. 13 When the Lord saw her, He felt [great] compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep,” Luke 7:12-13.

When I first read the passage above years ago, I didn’t conceptualize the magnitude of what Jesus was able to do.  I’ve attended several funerals where the victim died unexpectedly, long before they should have.  As a bystander, Jesus is moved by the Holy Spirit, stopping what he was doing to approach the casket.  When the pallbearer’s stopped, Jesus touched the bier and spoke life into this dead man.  What Jesus did defies logic and medical science, a resurrection.

And He came up and touched the bier [on which the body rested], and the pallbearers stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise [from death]!”15 The man who was dead sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother, Luke 7:14-15.

In 2015, Project Afterlife took a closer look at near death experiences.  This Destination America series explored cases of individuals presumed dead by doctors, but miraculously awoke, given a mulligan, a new lease on life.  According to reports from missionaries in Africa, resurrections aren’t limited to the Bible.  According to eyewitnesses, persistent prayers refused to believe that their loved ones have passed on.  Like the example from the film Faith Like Potatoes, the impossible is occurring as the pronounced dead are being raised back to life.

by Jay Mankus

Just Another Part of Life

Christopher Bullock was one of the first Americans to coin the phrase, “there are 2 certainties in life: death and taxes.”  In a letter written by Benjamin Franklin following the creation of the United States Constitution, Franklin relayed this painful reality in 1789.  Thus, every April Americans scramble to collect paperwork to meet the filing deadline.  Yes, taxes is just another part of life.

And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it, Ecclesiastes 12:7.

Modern quotes have added one more element: life, death and taxes.  Unfortunately, death is one of those topics most people shy away from talking about.  The idea of never being able to see or talk to someone for the rest of your life is scary.  This fear places future conversations on hold until accidents, illness or old age arrives unexpectedly.  Funerals force the issue as human beings return to the same dust from which God created Adam.

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also, John 14:3.

The older you get, it seems like weddings are replaced by funerals, bringing the reality of death to the forefront.  Yet, if you listen to the clergy who perform these ceremonies, there is an assumption that everyone goes to heaven.  I guess celebrating eternal damnation doesn’t draw a large crowd so the other choice is a better option.  While death is a certainty, heaven is not guaranteed.  Therefore, before you leave this earth, make sure your reservation is secured, Romans 10:9-10.

by Jay Mankus

 

Coping With the Silence of Death

Three weeks ago, Nascar driver Tony Stewart was living his dream, driving and racing on whatever surface he could find.   While competing on a dirt track race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, Stewart spun out Kevin Ward going into a corner.  One lap later, Kevin got out of his vehicle, stepped toward on coming traffic and was struck by Tony’s back tire.  Flying several feet in the air backwards, Kevin laid motionless as a hushed crowd waited, not sure if what they saw was real.  This is the silence of death.

One of the biggest mistakes individuals make at a funeral is to try to relate with someone who has just lost a loved one.  Although your words may be eloquent and motivated by compassion, the silence of death is different for each person.  Some never recover, like a widow who dies shortly after their spouse passes away.  Others go through months or years of depression before the sun shines upon their bruised and broken soul.  Regardless of where you fit into this spectrum, the silence of death takes its course, using time, reflection and seeking God to ease the pain.

An unnamed author provides insight to the process of healing.  According to Psalm 93:16-17, divine intervention is sent from heaven to those struggling to carry on with life.  Whether through angels, friends or the power of the Holy Spirit, God reaches down to give footing for those slipping away, Psalm 94:18.  Though anger is a natural emotion connection with death, consolation comes once you let go of “what if, why me and how could you?”  As the silence of death lingers for those still not able to cope with this harsh reality, may joy rain from heaven to touch and encourage your soul, Psalm 94:19.

by Jay Mankus

 

Don’t Be Late to the Party

Cinderella was held up, late to the ball due to jealous step sisters.  David wasn’t even invited, until a prophet passed on his brothers, getting a late invitation, 1 Samuel 16:10.   Today, many try to play it cool, arriving casually late to make a grand entrance.

In life, there is one party you don’t want to be late to or forget about.  The prodigal son became engrossed in his own sinful desires, seeking to indulge in the pleasures of this world, Luke 15:13.  This invisible force is one of the greatest distractions, 1 John 2:15-17, causing half of the 10 virgins to miss the party entirely, Matthew 25:10-13.

At a funeral, heaven is often assumed, whether you made your reservations or not, 1 John 5:13.  Some may get a second chance, surviving a near death experience.  Regardless of the cards you are dealt, the road you choose lies in the choices you make, Deuteronomy 30:15.  Don’t be late to the final party in life or else you’ll have eternity to regret it.

by Jay Mankus

Trust vs. Want

I’ve heard Psalm 23 read several times at funerals that I’ve attended.  However, this morning the first verse struck a cord within my heart.  “I shall not be in want,” jumped off the pages at me as if God was trying to get my attention.  Will I trust the Lord to fully provide for my needs or will wants inside my sinful nature force me to take back control of my life?

The prophet Isaiah makes another comparison with sheep, claiming each person have moments in life when they reject their shepherd, turning toward their own way, Isaiah 53:6.  While the great shepherd is patient, stubbornness has driven many far from green pastures.  Instead of relying on shepherd’s crook to get back on track, selfish steers countless toward a path of destruction, Matthew 7:13

Nonetheless, the words of Jesus in Luke 15:11-16 are much closer to reality than the average person wants to admit.  If only I could came to my senses, then I would hand over the keys to my lord.  Yet, a long Christmas list of wants has brought me to a spiritual pig pen, stuck in the mud of empty promises of this world.  May the rod of the great shepherd knock some sense into you before another innocent victim enters the grave.  I pray that the valley of the shadow of death will prompt you to trust Jesus, yielding your wants on earth for a greater cause, Luke 15:7.

by Jay Mankus

Awakening the Soul

The word wake refers to 3 different aspects in life.  The first relates to emerging from a state of sleep.  The second is an act, participating in a vigil, pouring out your soul to expedite the process of healing of a dead family member, friend or loved one.  Finally, wake are turbulent waves following the passing of a large vessel on water.  Inside the pages of Genesis 50, lies an event which awakens the soul.

While there may be ancient books that refer to a wake, I believe Genesis 50:10-11 contains a glimpse of the first documented religious ceremony.  Following a mass funeral procession from Egypt to Canaan to bury Jacob with his ancestors, Joseph stops along the banks of the Jordan River.  According to Moses, Joseph observed a 7 day mourning period for his father, lamenting and weeping, crying out to express his bitterness to God over losing his dad.  Observing from a distance, the Canaanites were so moved by Joseph’s display of emotions that they named this site “Abel Mizraim,” meaning a solemn ceremony of mourning.

I find that many men hide their true feelings, trying to be cool or adhere to the world’s belief, real men don’t cry.  Others sweep their emotions under a proverbial rug, deadening their soul.  Though I am by no means an expert in this area, I get the sense the Bible is urging individuals to “let it all hang out.”  After a good cry, I tend to be rejuvenated by practicing this form of releasing the burdens deep inside your heart.  If you have been holding back tears, maybe, just maybe, you need a waterfall of emotions to awaken your soul.  May the promise of Psalm 34:18 be fulfilled this day!

by Jay Mankus

The Detours of Life

When unforeseen events, startling situations or the unpredictable occur, you end up in a foreign place, side tracked by life.  These trials can be time consuming, often resulting in cancellations, delays or detours from the route you thought you would be traveling.  The most common response from Christian observers is Romans 8:28, thinking they are helping by quoting, “all things work together for the good for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

What these first responders don’t recognize is that mothers, fathers and hurting people aren’t ready to accept the fact that their child, friend, relative or spouse is dead.  Having a front row seat, I’ve had classmates die in car accidents, friends fall to cancer and others end their life through suicide.  While exiting out of funeral homes, the promise of Romans 8:28 was the furthest thing from my mind.  The only thing I could provide was a hug, shoulder to lean on and my silent prayers.

During the exile of the Israel, a similar thought process went on in Psalm 137.  To cope with this detour, the Psalmist called people to remember the good times, the glory of Zion.  Through time, reflection and mediation on the word of God, healing comes.  Unfortunately, rates vary, with some turning a journey in the desert into 40 years of aimless wandering.  As you go through your own detours in life, lean on James 1:2-4 to provide you wisdom until a new path opens or the old is restored.

by Jay Mankus

A Mother’s Prayer


Several years ago I attended the funeral of one of my former students.  She was popular, athletic, yet quiet so I never knew what if any impact I had on her life as a Bible teacher.  Unfortunately, when you have 30 students in a class, its hard to get to know individuals well and follow the set curriculum.

Anyway, there was a public viewing before the ceremony, full of former classmates, current students and teachers.  The line zig-zagged back and forth several times before you reached the chapel area.  This room was filled with instrumental music, tears and sighs.  I almost gave up after standing in line for 2 hours, but I am thankful I remained.

As I approached her mother, I reminded her who I was, especially with the masses who already paid their last respects to her daughter.  When I reached to embrace her with a hug to keep the line going, she whispered the following words into my ear.  “I pray that the words from the Bible you shared with her class were etched upon her heart!”

While I stood in line selfishly thinking about myself, this woman of God was ministering to each person who greeted her family.  Not sure of her daughter’s eternal future, this woman held fast to the teaching Nikki received from me.  I was blown away by this responsibility which I often took for granted.  From that day on, until my last day teaching, I was radically transformed by a mother’s prayer.

by Jay Mankus

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