Series 13

Death in the House


“How do you praise and worship God when death is in the house?” Brian asked. This wasn’t a toss-it-out-on-the-table question. This was reality in Brian’s life. 

After two miscarriages, his wife was pregnant again. At eighteen weeks, tests at the doctor’s office showed no heart beat, no signs of life.  Brian said, “I don’t care what the world says about what’s in the womb, it’s a baby!” Miscarriage equals death of a precious helpless baby. Brian prayed fervently that God would spare their child.

So how do you praise and worship God when death is in the house?

It’s easy to think of praise as an exuberant style of Christian music and worship as an hour and fifteen minute Sunday pit stop with God.

Here’s the quick lesson. The essence of worship is living a God-honoring lifestyle. And praise? The Bible says, “Let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, which is the fruit of our lips giving thanks to God.”

Then praise is speaking out thanks to God in all situations. Does this mean Brian should thank God for the heart rending doctor’s report? No, but he did chose to thank God that He would be with his family no matter what happened. And he chose to thank God for His tangible blessings—salvation, a good church, answered prayers and His faithfulness.

How do you praise and worship God when death is in the house? A decision must be made: I will thank God. I will live a God-honoring life.

Brian decided to have good fruit on his lips. He even praised God when a few days later he felt compelled to seek additional medical advice. This time they found the baby’s heartbeat and within a couple of days the pregnancy returned to normal.


A Day

Doug’s work was impeccable; organized and he presented himself professionally. Yet he had one stumbling flaw which could cave in an entire project. He was never on schedule--not even close.

I started our conversation by listing the traits I appreciated about him. Then it came to the poke-you-in-the-eye time: “Doug, if you can’t stay on schedule, you’re not going to work for me anymore.” His only response was five tersely measured words: “Just give me a day!” I did; I gave him an ultimatum to meet the next deadline.

Does God ever give us a that’s-it ultimatum? Sure, when we die, but how about pre-death? Is there a thus saith the LORD: “Shape up or I’m through with you?”

The Bible says: “Give thanks to God—He is good. His loving, kind mercy has no vanishing point; it endures forever.”  Is this good news? Will God extend His mercy indefinitely?

Wait. The Bible says more. Looking in Romans 1, we see three parallel phrases. 1. “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts.” 2. “God gave them over to shameful lusts.” 3. “God gave them over to a depraved mind.”

Yes, God has an absolute limit. When does a person cross the line? I don’t know. But if a person does, God will give a person over to their own sin. He will remove His restraint—“Have it your way.” This spiral into a sinful abyss will cripple many people’s lives.

Doug chose his consequences. The day came; the day went. He failed to deliver a promised timely completion. Our business relationship was severed.

Think you might be near the edge with God? Turn around one-hundred and eighty degrees and run towards the loving, kind merciful God.

“Just give me a day.” Today.


Leftover Meatloaf

“The battle belongs to the LORD,” I said to my wife as she dashed off to work. Turning around just before she opened her car door, Nancy said: “But we have leftover meatloaf.”

I knew what she meant-- “Invite Ted to diner.” He was going through the meat grinder of life-- outright sin, striving to live up to people’s expectations, and life zapping pride.

He would be the first to admit his sinful activities. Now repentant, he still had to deal with: “A person reaps what they sow.” Sin—big, little, yours, mine or his; there is still a cleanup operation after we get right with God.

Ted was putting the battle into the accepting hands of God. Besides that Nancy was tossing her homemade meatloaf on the table as a formidable weapon. No she wasn’t going to smack anyone on the head.

The Bible says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands in not quickly broken.”

When we gathered around leftover meatloaf plus some other tasty dishes that evening Ted looked broken—body, soul, and spirit. We started slicing the meatloaf, we looked into God’s word, we prayed, we talked, we dreamed about what God had for Ted’s future. Our faith rose, then soared. As the meatloaf disappeared; Ted, Nancy, and I became a God-believing, resilient cord of three strands.

We didn’t ask, “Does the battle belong to the LORD?” that night. But if we had questioned this close circle of friends, all would have nodded: “Absolutely, yes.” And if we would have asked, “Is it better to go through battles with friends?” our “absolutely” would have been more absolute and our “yes” would have been more resounding.

How about you? Do you know any battle weary soul who might need some meatloaf tonight?



“Mommy, did you tell him?” Jessica asked.

I looked at Laura lying in the recliner. Her looks sort of startled me--the rapid change in her health. “Tell me what?” I said. Jessica’s grandma, also in the room, said, “She’s terminal.”

So am I. So are you. Though we know what was meant—the doctor’s pronouncement that Laura’s death was near.

Terminal? What pops into your brain? How about this. Terminal—so death is near; you’re at the train terminal of life. There are two lines. We each will get a ticket—either heaven or hell.

I asked Laura, “Do you have a ticket to heaven?” She weakly said, “I think I’m going to heaven.” Her answer could have put a smile on my face, still I felt compelled to check her ticket stub.

“O.K. now tell me why you think that way,” I said. “I’m going to write down your reasons.” I attentively listened as I recorded her words. Haltingly she listed her beliefs: “I know God; God knows me and my purpose in life; I want to go.”  While all truthful statements; not one of them is a ticket to heaven.

I dearly love Laura, who is my cousin, and I am thankful that we already had an open dialog about the things of God. Now at age forty-seven the ravages of her disease were extinguishing the remaining flicker of her life.

The first words Jesus spoke when He started His ministry became the focus of my conversation with Laura: “Repent! For the kingdom of God is near.” 

Doubting my sensitivity some might say: “You’re going to launch into repent! With a dying person? Sounds like fire and brimstone.

Could be . . . but to me Laura’s response that day made it sound like a ticket to heaven.



“It scared me,” Shayna said.

She’s only eight years old. There are a lot of things that could scare her. Some could almost be laughable. What scared her this time? “Mom made me sit on my dad’s lap; she wanted to take a picture of us.”

Why would sitting on her dad’s lap for a photograph scare her? The Bible says, “Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children. . .” What did her father do?

Shayna was provoked to fear by what her father didn’t do. Not even once prior to this time had he made the effort to see her. Now she was forced to have her photo taken with this scary stranger. 

A night of passion, a man and a woman set in motion the formula to bring into existence God’s precious gift—a child. Other decisions were made. And in that process it was decided not to follow God’s guidelines for raising a child.

Instead of scaring a child, the Bible describes a father’s responsibilities: “But tenderly rear them in the training and discipline of the LORD.”

“Tenderly rear them.” The Bible says that children are a gift from God. In that light, they should be nurtured and loved with the utmost focus on their value in God’s eyes. Listen, love, hug these precious jewels.

With “tenderly” as the wrapping for the child rearing package, training and discipline are implemented. Training-- showing a child the way to live. Much of this is through being a living example. Discipline--firm loving methods to block a child’s disobedience and rebellion.

Then we come to the truly more encompassing mandate for child rearing—“Of the LORD.” Raise children in the way God prescribes. For this we’ve been given the Bible as an instruction manual. So read your Bible; do what it says.