Archive for July, 2010

Mutual Words Of Comfort

Sipping the cold drinks and feeling the Spring breeze was refreshing. Two old friends sitting outside at the small town Sonic. A few months preceding our conversation my friend had experienced the death of his wife of more than 50 years. He shared that through many years of ministry he had stood among hundreds of families and expressed the hope found in 1 Thessalonians 4. I will never forget the look in his eyes as he said with confident assurance, “Terry, all those things I told them work!”

F.B. Meyer outlines the comforting words of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 this way:

  1. Those who die in Christ are with Him.
  2. Those who die in Christ will come with Him.
  3. Those who die in Christ shall be forever reunited with us who wait for Him and them.

These are words of comfort to those experiencing grief at the graveside of a loved one. They are valuable when we hear them coming from someone preaching a funeral message. They strengthen us when others reach out to us when someone close to us dies.

But we should not limit words of comfort to such times, nor hear them only from preachers.

The Bible calls for continual, mutual comforting, not occasional sermons from a solo preacher. The phrase “comfort one another with these words” in verse 18 carries the construction of a command that is to be habitually carried out. This comforting is to be a long-term commitment to one another and a life habit of those who follow Christ. Our comforting is a mutual ongoing ministry to and from one another.

If we rarely spend time with one another during the week and if the format we employ in weekend worship services focus on those standing on a platform speaking to us, how can this mutual comforting take place? If our small group or simple church gatherings are characterized by one person doing all the talking, where is the mutual aspect of speaking to one another?

In addition to comfort offered at the time of a death, we find encouragement through regular times of gathering together. When we meet together we mutually share words of comfort whenever we remind ourselves of the hope we have in Christ Jesus.

That day, at an outdoor table at a Sonic, two Christian friends met together. I offered comfort to my friend. He brought hope and encouragement to me. We both went away strengthened and comforted because we practiced this one another passage.

Words of hope are not to be confined only to the words of pastors. They are to be mutually spoken to one another. Our simple churches, small groups and cell groups are great places for this to happen.

Look for ways this week to give and find encouragement and comfort.

Grace and Peace,

Terry

10 Practical Ways To Help A Grieving Friend

Helping with the laundryI don’t know how many times I have told a friend, “If there is anything I can do to help, just call me?” but I do know that they almost never call. When someone is experiencing grief at a time of death it is especially difficult to ask for help. The reasons may range from not knowing what to ask for to feeling guilty about being the center of attention.

Rather than asking them to call you if they need something, know what you do well and take the initiative with some specific offers of help. You could choose one or more from the following list of ideas or use it to spark your own creative ideas.

Practical Ideas To Help A Grieving Friend

  1. Bring dinner or a meal that can be frozen to be heated later
  2. Make phone calls
  3. Shuttle family to and from the airport
  4. Help with children
  5. Provide transportation to run errands
  6. Tend to the needs of pets or plants
  7. Help clean the house
  8. Mow the lawn
  9. Do laundry
  10. Go grocery shopping

If you have any other ideas of actions one can take to help a friend at the time of a death in the family use the comments section below and share them with us.

Grace and Peace,

Terry

Some Ways To Comfort Someone At A Time of Loss

Yesterday, eyes filled with sorrow fixed upon me as I stood before them. It was the second funeral among the same group of friends within a three week span.I prayed the Spirit, whom Jesus called the Comforter, would speak to and heal their hearts.

My mission was to fulfill the admonition of 1 Thessalonians 4:18. Here we are told to “comfort one another” (NASB) or “encourage one another” (NIV). The word used in this passage means to come along side of, to help, to console, to encourage, to strengthen, to comfort.

As I stood before the family I was well aware that I was not alone. There were more than 100 people gathered in the room and they were there to fulfill the same mission – to partner with me in this comforting. Many more had come and gone and others were yet to step into the lives of those experiencing loss.

When one of your friends is going through the death of a loved one, you may struggle with how to help them. Here are a few simple ways that you can comfort and encourage.

  • Be available. Having friends and family near can mean a great deal.
  • Be willing to sit in silence.
  • If you don’t know what to say – say that.
  • Listen more than you talk.
  • Let your friends express their feelings (even bitterness and anger) but don’t press if they don’t feel like talking.
  • Don’t use cliches or tell people that time heals all wounds. Avoid the phrase, “I know how you feel.”
  • Appropriate human touch such as holding a hand, offering a shoulder to lean on, or giving a hug can be reassuring
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about their loved one and share memories and stories if they want to.
  • Don’t be afraid to grieve. It’s OK to cry with them.
  • Remember, this is about them – not about you.

If you have any suggestions about how to comfort someone at the death of a loved one, share it with us in the comment section below.

Grace and Peace,

Terry

Balancing Fellowship And Mission

Balancing Fellowship and MissionI love the close, loving fellowship of my simple church. We take time to be together eating and laughing and sharing life. But this fellowship can create the danger of neglecting to reach out to those who are not part of the body of Christ. We can get so snug and comfortable that we forget the mission of Christ – redeeming and restoring that which is lost.

Each week the good folks over at House2House publish an article or story that is relevant to those involved in simple church. They recently posted Are we Eating with the Right People? Thoughts from 1 Corinthians 5 by Jon Zens. The article deals with what the author calls the “doctrine of ‘separation’” which he says seems to have been “translated into church practices which flatly contradict both the example of Jesus and the teaching of Paul in l Cor. 5:9-13.”

Let me try to summarize three ways Jon believes we miss the truth of balancing our lives between fellowship and mission:

  1. We miss the truth when we believe we should have nothing to do with unbelievers.
  2. We miss the truth when we seek to separate ourselves from the world and yet openly fellowship with deliberately sinful believers.
  3. We miss the truth when we condemn those outside the church building but do not go and to minister to them.

I agree with his points and summation that “we will not change this perverted image of the church until we become a compassionate people who will step out of our comfortable edifices and reach out to the needy.”

I want to suggest at least four ways we can balance our fellowship with believers with the mission of reaching out to those who need the very fellowship we claim:

What are some ways you and your small group, cell group or simple church practices living in proximity to those who need the Savior?

Grace and Peace,

Terry

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When You’re Smiling

God desires to fill his children with joy. But God’s joy is not simply the personal possession of individual believers. It is relational and something God gives us when we share life with him. He also desires that we share this joy with others.

Joy is one of the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. It is that inner delight that is produced by God’s Spirit for our benefit but this fruit is also for others to eat.

Like smiles and laughter, joy is contagious.

In his book To Laugh Again, Chuck Swindoll writes,

“I know of no greater need today than the need for joy. Unexplainable, contagious joy. Our country seems to have lost its spirit of fun and laughter….” – Chuck Swindoll

It worries me a little that you might think that I believe possessing certain things will produce joy because of this video link to the advertisement for the new Apple iPhone 4G FaceTime. That is far from the truth, but I do believe that the ad captures and illustrates the contagiousness of joy.

Get your coffee ready and watch the video right now, then come back here, finish reading and let me know what you think.

Our joy will be incomplete and fleeting if we see it only as something to have for ourselves. Our joy will be full and lasting when we allow God’s Spirit to produce it as fruit so others can have a taste.

Has there been a time in your life when you were able to eat the fruit of joy produced by the Spirit in in the life of someone else? Why not share it with us?

Grace and Peace,

Terry

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Hosting Summer Church Meetings

While the churches in our simple church network meet on a regular basis during the week, we don’t limit our church activity to these set times and days. For us, we don’t “go” to church, we are the church. We practice being the body of Christ in our day to day lives. In these meetings we pretty much follow a 4 W’s format but always with freedom and flexibility and an emphasis on edification.

Our groups also gather for teaching and worship on Sunday and these meetings are marked by participation and sharing. This summer we are encouraging every member to sponsor or host a Sunday gathering of the church.

This hosting or sponsoring may or may not be in their homes. It can be in any location near their house or apartment. It might be in a park, a meeting room in a local restaurant, a parking lot, a back yard, etc. The time of the meeting will depend on the location and choice of activities.

We are doing this for several reasons:

  • To make disciples by encouraging attendance of friends and family members who might feel more comfortable at a location that a member hosts
  • To mature the body of Christ
  • To break the monotony of always meeting at the same location
  • To share responsibility and give those who regularly host meetings a break

How could hosting meetings such as these make disciples and mature members?

Grace and Peace,

Terry

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