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Question #1:

Good day,

Hope you still okay.

Question: Is it sinful or biblically incorrect to be cremated? My father believed it was incorrect.

Shalom

Response #1:

I have two links for this at Ichthys which cover everything I've been able to find in scripture:

Is cremation permissible?

Cremation or Burial?

The "nutshell" response is that the Bible never addresses the issue directly, never condemns cremation, but all instances of "after care" for the deceased in scripture involve burial, not cremation. It doesn't make any difference from the standpoint of the eternal state of the deceased: everyone will be resurrected, "those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment" (Jn.5:29 NASB). That is true no matter what happened to the first body. There are many good believers who as soldiers/sailors/airmen in war had their bodies obliterated or lost without a trace in combat. That will not harm their resurrection nor diminish their reward one bit. Also, for those who die of natural causes in peacetime, their bodies, after all, are buried or cremated by others, not by themselves.

So the issue, to the extent that it is an issue, is one for the living, not for the dead. The traditional method of burial is one which, rightly understood, speaks of the hope of the resurrection. That is why Joseph commanded the Israelites to preserve his body and bring it back with them to the land of promise. Christian burial – again, rightly understood – is meant to symbolize confidence in the resurrection and therefore to witness to our Christian hope. Of course pagans like the Egyptians who practiced elaborate burial have the entirely wrong idea (as if preserving the material body had anything to do with eternal life – it does not); and Christians who don't understand the resurrection or who entertain any number of the odd ideas which have accreted around traditional burial practices today are not giving much of a witness either.

What we do in this life in terms of putting our faith in Christ, following Him through learning the truth and putting into practice, and then helping others do likewise is what counts – how this first, temporary body of ours is disposed of when we are home with the Lord, face to face with Jesus Christ, has no impact on any of that whatsoever.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Dear Bob,

Praise the Lord!

I have a few queries. I live in Tanzania, east Africa; I have been reading your publications for quite some time now. I was born a Roman Catholic but in the past few years have had quite a few serious issues with that group. Last year I lost my father and as a result some questions came up: 1. Is praying for the deceased at his/her graveside consistent with Bible teaching? 2. Is holding a mass for the dead to pray for their salvation consistent with Bible teaching? I did not attend the recent graveside mass as I had some doubts about its "legality" according to scripture. 3. Please pray for me as I am currently facing some financial difficulties.

Regards,

Response #2:

Very good to make your acquaintance, my friend.

In terms of your questions, this world is the place where we decide where we want to spend eternity. Who wouldn't want to spend it with the Lord? Actually, in the history of the human race, it turns out that the vast majority of people, regardless of background, have had no real use for Him and really want nothing to do with Him (even if they go through the motions of being involved in a religion that claims to honor Him). This is all explained at the link: "God's Plan to Save You". Because of what Jesus Christ did in dying on the cross for the sins of us all, there is nothing that stands in the way of our salvation and eternal life except our own egos. So no one is lost except by their own choice – to reject Christ as their Savior. That is why everyone's name is written in the book of life, until, that is, it is blotted out (either for willful denial of Jesus in this life or failing to accept Him before time runs out). When we stand before the Lord on that great day, it will be made clear that no one who was lost would ever have been saved in a thousand lifetimes. The reasons why people are unwilling to submit their will to the Will of God are manifold, but for one reason or another, most are not (even if they make a show of religion in this life). God has done absolutely everything for everyone to be saved . . . except to force them. He doesn't force us; we are here in this life to choose, and no one can choose for us.

So there is no point in praying for the dead. Saved or unsaved (and in a great many cases we are only guessing and no doubt in at least some of these we are guessing wrong), they have had their time to choose and they have chosen. Nor is there any point in conducting any kind of ceremony for the dead, because God does not change and His truth does not change based upon what we do. It is customary in most cultures to have some sort of funeral for those who have left us, and that is good and proper to do. No doubt the vast majority of such services, even Christian ones from many disparate groups, get at least some things wrong in terms of what is true. Whether to attend or not is a personal decision. I certainly am not going to fault you, especially under the particular circumstances you report. You acted out of a respect for God's truth as opposed to the traditions most people around accept. Good for you! I'm sure it wasn't an easy choice, but I know that the Lord honors that type of godly choice. And it was a witness to others which I pray may bear fruit.

I correspond with many former members of the R.C. church, and I know that coming to the truth from this religion involves many growing pains. I would be happy to put you in touch with someone who shares the experience, if interested.

I do promise to say a prayer for you, and I have put a prayer request for you on the site.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #3:

Some small still voice inside of me says that my departed friend's life has just begun.

I remember when I was in eight grade with him and we watched a series together. It was raining and we went out to the fast food restaurant across the street. I came back wet and he lent me his t-shirt. I still have that t-shirt somewhere.

He was a naturally joyous person who played with my younger brother and sister. I loved his presence because his goofy demeanor and his joyous personality served as a counterweight to my overly philosophical and existential persona. Whenever I would talk about theology or philosophy he would bring me down to earth with a warm "Oh my God would you please shut up?" But we still enjoyed each other.

I still feel extremely shaken by his death. Sometimes, I'm scared if God is sending me an "omen" of destruction (even though we are commanded not to interpret omens). This is because I've internalized his death for some reason. It's extremely extremely difficult to find the joy in living or even prayer. But I still persevere.

Response #3:

Please don't allow yourself to become overly depressed by this tragedy or, what can be even worse, over-react to it. Take it from someone who severely over-reacted to the death of a dearly loved friend in the (now distant) past that there is no up-side to that but quite a large down-side. We have to remember at these times as in all times of testing that the Lord knows what He is doing. Whenever He takes someone home, it is better for them – and better for us too (even though it will never seem so at the time). The sort of reflection that such loses brings on is actually a good thing – just as long as we don't over-react (this is not an omen; it was your friend's time):

A good name is better than precious ointment,
And the day of death than the day of one’s birth;
Better to go to the house of mourning
Than to go to the house of feasting,
For that is the end of all men;
And the living will take it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
For by a sad countenance the heart is made better.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
But the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 NKJV

These words are true, even if we feel we have a hole in our hearts when someone we really cared for is lost. We can comfort ourselves with the truth that we will see them again – as long as they believed and as long as we persevere. So do indeed persevere, my friend. Your faith is worth more than the finest gold refined in the fire seven times.

And thanks again for your kindness, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob

Question #4:

I only hope that my friend is beholding the face of Christ.

Response #4:

I hope so too!

I do know that even if you and eye never set eyes on each other in this life, we will walk together with Jesus Christ in white and in the light of life forever.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hi Bob,

Yesterday I paid a visit to the parents of my friend and consoled them, giving them as much counseling and spiritual advice possible. I learned several facts.

(1) His mother was a lapsed Catholic, who wasn't really sure if the afterlife existed. I read to hear 1 Cor. 15 and gave her assurance that there will be a resurrection.

(2) Near the end of his life, he wanted to help other people who were suffering from cancer.

(3) His death was extremely sudden and unexpected. They were trying a stem-cell treatment and something happened with his platelets that caused him to die.

(4) His parents are not taking his death well at all. I will leave it at that.

In general, there was a positive reception to the gospel, and it felt as if I provided important answers to important questions that needed to be answered. My presence was appreciated greatly, and they invited me to future social functions.

I thought I "got over" his death, but later that night when I came home, it hit me the greatness of this travesty and how tragic his life was. Even my mom, when I recounted to her the extended details, started crying. I am alternating in my sobbing. But who am I to question the decisions of God? Shall I accept blessings from him and not trouble? (Job 2:10)

My spirit is broken. There is nothing I can say to myself to console. My eyes are on the Lord, because only he has the power to release me from the snare. (Ps. 25:15)

Sincerely,

Response #5:

You're a good Christian man. I'm sure this will be a "star in your crown".

Grief is like this. It doesn't come and go merely at the time of the loss. It comes in waves, resurfacing later in cases where the loss is truly felt in a deep way – but it does get better (trust me). Your intent to lean on the Lord in this trial is really the only way to get through in a good and godly way.

We never know how things will affect other things in this life, the ripples certain events send out. But God knows – and He works them all out together for the good for those who love Him. Perhaps this is the only way that your friend's parents would ever have heard or been responsive to the truth.

One thing this has brought to light is just how far you have come in the faith since we first met online. You are actively taking up the burden of ministry for the lost and suffering. Not ever having been of the R.C. or Orthodox persuasion, I am not particularly good at relating to the particular needs of folks who are recovering or attempting to extricate themselves from that type of religion (the problems with traditional Protestantism, Evangelicalism and Charismatic groups are more in my "wheelhouse" in this regard). But it very clear that as we approach the end, there is much work to be done in helping those who are willing prepare for that day.

"Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!"
John 4:35b NKJV

Then He said to them, "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."
Luke 10:2 NKJV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the God of all comfort who is able to comfort you in every tribulation (2Cor.1:3-7).

Bob L.

Question #6:

"May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus."
II Timothy 1:16-18

(1) "May the Lord grant that he will find mercy..." is a petition to God. Prayers are by definition petitions to God, so if Paul was allowed to petition on behalf of Onesiphorus, and if we grant that Onesiphorus was indeed dead when Paul wrote this (this, of course, remains to be proven), then it follows that we also have the ability to pray for the deceased. At the very least, there is apostolic precedence for praying for the dead.

(2) The grammar suggests that Onesiphorus no longer was when Paul wrote II Timothy. Of course, we are not Epicureans who believe that the spirit is annihilated upon the destruction of the material body, but the grammar seems to suggest that he was no longer physically on Earth when Paul wrote this. All of the referrals to him are in the past tense, and the special attention called to his household and to pray for them (which would make no sense if he were still around to provide for them.) Furthermore, near the end of the same letter, Paul sends greetings to "Prisca and Aquila, and the house of Onesiphorus", (II Timothy 4:19) again apparently distinguishing the situation of Onesiphorus from that of the still living Prisca and Aquila

(3) No, I am not asking this out of bereavement for my recently deceased friend. I am reading a book titled Catholicism and Fundamentalism: the Attack on "Romanism" by "Bible Christians" (which is pro-Catholic) which uses this passage as an example for praying for the deceased being allowed.

"The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him." (Proverbs 18:17)

However, I did have a metaphysical experience at the hour of my friend's death. On the same day on the same hour of his death, I was reading a portion of the last eight chapters of Ezekiel. Suddenly, I had this feeling of lightness and I was in the presence of all of my childhood friends and my heart was light as the desert was blooming with the crocus. I felt like I was present with them by the Dead Sea in the Millennial Israel. The joy was inexplicable.

Response #6:

Good to hear from you, my friend. I'm keeping you in prayers for comfort and consolation; I'm very happy to hear that the Lord has provided on that score.

As to the question of Onesiphorus, since we are speaking of theological constructs, I will start with that. Human life is all about free will. We are here for one primary reason, namely, to determine our eternal future through self-selection to heaven or hell. Free will in the sense of genuine choice regarding this all-important outcome can only be exercised here on earth. That is because only in our relative ignorance in an environment of plausible deniability is it possible to receive the gospel in faith and through faith, making a conscious decision to trust the Lord in spite of what our senses and this world tell us. Like the rich man in Hades, once the truth cannot be denied, and once the consequences of rejecting God are being suffered, there is no longer any realistic way a person could "have faith". The issue, of course, goes deeper than that, because even if all such persons were released back into life, we know that they would make the same decision over and over again. That is only a hypothetical, but it is true that God knew who we wanted to be and that is how He made us.

This is a long way of saying that, from a purely theological point of view (correctly understood, orthodox, doctrinal theology in keeping with the above discussion), there could not possibly be any benefit whatsoever in praying for the dead because the dead are no longer in the world, the place where free will decisions matter. Certainly, God is not going to condemn a righteous person who is heaven because of a prayer, nor is He going to turn divine justice on its head and pardon a person who has rejected Christ or refused to accept Him, just because someone down here says a prayer. We are told that God will answer all of our prayers . . . provided they accord with His will (1Jn.5:14); that is such an obvious proviso that it is left out in most passages which speak of prayer. Since it cannot possibly be in the will of God for us to change another human being's will, especially after the fact, there cannot possibly be any effect, for good or ill however defined, from prayer on behalf of the dead.

As to the grammar of the Greek, Dibellius (e.g.) noticed the obvious here, namely that this language doesn't have to mean that Onesiphorus is dead – only that he is probably not in Ephesus at the time of writing. That certainly makes a good deal of sense when one considers the entire context of 2Tim.1:15-18. Paul usually saves such personal notes for the end his epistles, but Onesiphorus is brought in as counterpoint to the fair-weather disciples who have abandoned Paul (most notably and named specifically, Phygelus and Hermogenes). In contrast to these disappointments, Onesiphorous had gone above and beyond in his ministering to Paul. This ministering took place not during the first captivity of Paul at Rome whose initial period is treated in the last chapter of Acts. On that occasion, Paul was allowed to await trial in his own rented quarters with no restrictions on his friends. This epistle, however, constitutes Paul's last recorded words, and was written during his second imprisonment, a quite different one too where we find him chained in a cold cell (2Tim.1:16; 2:9; 4:13), not on house arrest (see the link). It is under these circumstances that Onesiphorus has found Paul and done his best to encourage him and help him.

At 2nd Timothy 1:15 the NKJV has "all those in Asia have turned away" (emphasis added): the English translation suggests that we have here a perfect tense, but in fact what we have is an aorist. It's not a bad translation (NIV, DBY, WEB, NET similar), because in the Greek of the NT in particular, it is not uncommon to have an aorist representing what in English would be a perfect tense (especially in an epistolary mode; see below). The thing most versions and commentators miss, however, is that the same thing applies in the following verses: "for he has often refreshed me and has not been ashamed of my chains; but as soon as he arrived in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me" (a defensible translation on the same grounds). In other words, Onesiphorus is either still in Rome at time of writing . . . or recently departed. Either he had a soon or certain date of return known by Paul (travel by sea in the ancient world was notoriously risky and unpredictable – as Paul's experiencing in getting to Rome for his first imprisonment makes clear enough), or, alternatively – and this is my best guess – Onesiphorus is the very person to whom Paul entrusted this letter (a personal courier as in the case of Phoebe and the letter to the Romans: Rom.16:1-2). Under that circumstance, it would hardly do for Paul to ask Timothy to greet a man who Paul saw off with this letter and from whom some months later Timothy would then be receiving it personally. However, there were no doubt many in his household who were believers (cf. Acts 16:31-34), and it would be entirely appropriate for Paul to express greetings to them. In this last case, the aorists would be epistolary, that is, representing the time from the standpoint of the recipient reading the letter. Given what biblical Greek does with tenses under Hebrew influence, however, in this situation that is a distinction without much of a difference. The point is that Onesiphorus is not dead, so this is not a prayer for the dead.

I appreciate your caveat. I would only wish to add that you would not be the first person to search the scriptures for all manner of comfort in bereavement. I certainly did the same after the loss of a dear friend many years ago. But I will say that the temptation to allow one's grief to influence how one thinks about scripture is a temptation that has to be resisted. From personal experience and observation, I have to say that in my opinion the loss of loved ones is one of the greatest possible pressures that may lead a person to fall away from the Lord or from the truth.

But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way.
Hebrews 6:9 NASB

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and our heavenly Father, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort (2Cor.1:3).

Bob L.

Question #7:

Hi Bob,

I'm at the stage of grief where all that is left is depression that is deep and biting. I cannot see any blessing, but only cursing.

I cannot believe how badly I feel that he is gone. Reading about an eternity with only blessing actually makes me feel paradoxically depressed, because I can only think of things in terms of utility they give me, but lack all feelings of deep, enjoyable pleasure that I used to have.

Whenever I pray, I just ask God for strength in perseverance, for him to consider me worthy to be placed among the elect, and an occasional cry that I miss him still.

My eyes are filled with tears as I write this.

Response #7:

In this world we do have tribulation, but Christ has overcome the world (Jn.16:33). And though we sow now with tears of grief, we will reap with tears of joy on that wonderful day to come when the Father wipes away all sorrow in the presence of our beloved Lord Jesus (Ps.126:6; Rev.7:17; 21:4).

I'm praying for you, my friend.

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hi Bob,

My daughter passed away early on Saturday morning after a 7 year struggle with ALS.

I really covet your prayers for her two children who have now been removed to the care of her husband and his partner who are non-believers.

Thanks be to God that she is now in glory and no longer has need for our prayers but the children do and I would so appreciate you standing with us for them (James 5:16).

We are all heartbroken but trust in God's perfect timing and purpose.

Regards,

Response #8:

I'm very sorry to hear your sad news. I had been praying for healing – but God knows what's best, even if to us it may seem all wrong at the time. I will most certainly be praying for you and your grandchildren (and have put a request on the Ichthys' list).

It is certainly a blessing that as Christians we have such a powerful hope when it comes to the loss of those we love. It's so hard anyway, even though we know they are happy and so much better off, and that we will certainly see them again by and by. It always makes me wonder how unbelievers can cope with life and its inevitable losses. Praise God that you and your daughter are believers, and that we will all rejoice in our great reunion with the Lord when we rise up to meet Him on that great day to come (not too far off at present)!

Keeping you in my prayers.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our faithful Savior.

Bob L.

Question #9:

Hello Bob,

I just wanted to let you know that my dad passed away last night. It was a shock. He was ill, as you know, but had been ok. He just went to sleep and never woke up. The best way to go, in my opinion. The nurses said that he was at peace the last few days and comfortable which has given me peace. Although we can never know for sure until we are gathered together who is saved or not, I have a belief that he was. He may be in "as through fire" but I believe he’s there. The Lord has given me such peace, from the phone call to now. I know He is there with me and my family and will continue to guide and comfort me as we plan for his funeral and our future.

Thank you for your prayers for us and for him. Please send my thanks to those who have kept us in prayer, as well. We are truly grateful.

In Him,

Response #9:

While I'm sorry to hear of your loss, I rejoice that the Lord took your father home in such a merciful way and added to your confidence in his salvation thereby.

Precious in the sight of the LORD

Is the death of His godly ones.
Psalm 116:15 NASB

I put a "thanks" on the prayer list – and I will continue to keep you and your family on mine.

My dad went peacefully as well (many years ago now). My mother is having a hard time of it. She's on hospice at 96 and not doing all that well. I'll be going up there next week to visit her and my brother and his family. I'm happy to have her around still, but it pains me to see her going through what she's going through. But we have to trust that God knows what's best in each and every situation.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:

How does one set their mind on heavenly things? When I try to it feels like fantasy rather than godly thinking. And this normally happens when after not repenting for a while I get bored of my sin and repent because there's not joy in it, so it makes me feel as if it's just an emotional thing I do when I feel lonely.

Response #10:

In my interpretation of this verse, "heavenly things" is not the best translation for this verse. Here is how I render it:

(1) Therefore since you have been resurrected [positionally] with Christ, keep seeking after the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (2) Keep thinking on the things above, and not the things on the earth.
Colossians 3:1-2

"The things above" can refer not only to the paraphernalia of heaven but everything that heaven and the divine is about. In other words, thinking about anything good and true and biblical fulfills the verse. More to the point what Paul is really trying to do here, it seems to me, is to get us to adjust our thinking to the divine point of view. If we were in heaven in company with our dear departed loved ones, looking down on ourselves and our own situation, we would realize what was really important and would be cheering ourselves on whenever we did the good things related to spiritual growth, progress and production, while wringing our hands whenever "we" got off track (although of course there will be no anxiety in heaven!).

There is a "divine point of view" which is different from our human one. We need to learn to look at things through God's eyes. That is in a nutshell what the Bible is all about. For example, just applying the truth of God's perfection is a plus if we will do it. He loves us perfectly, so no need for guilt or worries about sin not being forgiven. He deals with us in perfect justice, so no need to think that we can ever get away with anything. He has absolutely everything planned out to the nth degree beyond our comprehension, "working everything out together for the good for those who love Him", so everything has been provided for, everything has been foreseen, everything is already written into the script of history, so no place for worries of any kind. And He is with us here and now, with His Spirit within us, and Jesus Christ is here too at all times leading us and protecting us until the day He calls us home to be with Him. These are all "the things above", part of the divine perspective on what is really happening here in this world.

So Paul is asking us in the Spirit not to get hung up on all the noise we hear, the chaos we see, the confusion we feel and the loss we experience. Rather, we should learn to look at the world and our lives in it from the heavenly point of view, remembering that we are saved, that we are going to have a wonderful eternal future (even though can scarcely imagine the details), and that everything going on has a purpose and is part of the plan – everything, even if may seem impossible to bear at the time. With that perspective it becomes easier to do the right things and avoid the wrong ones. And it all gets better with growth.

So if you are feeling frustrated, back things up a bit and go back to basics, taking a verse and/or a principle of truth you fully accept and understand, and treasure it. This life is supposed to be a joy – even if this life and our walk in it as dedicated followers of Jesus Christ is not always "fun", especially in grief and loss. The more we appreciate what He is doing – and what He has done for us in going to His death for us – along with the sure and certain eternal result, the more we will be able to have that joy, smiling even through our tears.

He that goes forth weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.
Psalm 126:6 RSV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

I particularly enjoyed today's post on ichthys, and this is exactly what I thought as I was reading through it: "It's comforting to be reminded that whatever problem or trial we might have, 'the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world' (1Pet.5:9 KJV)." It is indeed very comforting to hear that other Christians are going through similar troubles; it's nice to be reminded that we're "all in this together."

I'm sorry to hear about your mother. Hope you're doing well.

In Him,

Response #11:

Thank you.  It's a good verse to remember at all times and especially at such times as this.

I appreciate your good words and your concern.

Keeping you and your family in my prayers, my friend.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for emailing me to let me know your mom has gone to be with our Lord. I did see your update on the Ichthys prayer list. Since I read your last email, I have been praying for God’s will to be done in your Mom’s life and for Him to deliver her from any pain or discomfort. I will definitely be keeping you and your family in my prayers, but I am rejoicing that your mom has been delivered from the state she was in. I know going through this over the holidays is not easy. I think you are right - it was God’s grace that she was not as aware during the final and most difficult days of her life. She is now with Christ, looking down on the battlefield here on earth and seeing it for what is, observing God’s plan unfold for us who are still here (and also singing with the angels!). To be alive for 96 years is amazing, really. She was blessed to live through and see so many changes in the world and she had a large, loving family there for her until the end, making sure she had expert care. Recently my teacher was telling me about a funeral she went to for one of her departed Christian friends, but she didn’t even call it a funeral, she called it a homecoming celebration.

I have yet to experience someone very close to me go through a serious illness or pass away, though I have gone through the loss of several pets growing up, some of them traumatic. I can see my parents starting to slow down and I worry about their health. We can all take care of ourselves better, and even that is a struggle for most of us. We are going to be taking care of them soon.

My grampa (my mom’s dad) passed away in 2012 from congestive heart failure - he was 88 years old. He came to live with us with us for 4 years after getting a hip replacement and my mom took care of him for that time. He could not talk due to having a stroke earlier in his life, but he was sharp as a tack until the end and very mischievous. It was like having a wheelchair bound little kid around. I was not close to him growing up, but was blessed to get to know him more in those 4 years. He passed away in my mom's arms and I got home from work about an hour after he passed. He was a believer and God’s timing during his illness and death was astounding. My mom was at her wits end struggling to take care of him and the week before all of his children (and many grandchildren) had come to see him including his son, who he really loved and favored, but who he hadn’t seen in years.

When I talk to other believers about their loved ones passing, I can always see God’s hand and grace guiding the situation. Like you, I do not know how unbelievers deal with the loss of their loved ones without having the hope of being reunited with them again. Even though we have this hope as Christians, I do think there is something vital and necessary about grief. I think grief is another way God blesses us. There is a reason He brings us into the world and makes us dependent on each other. Grief is painful, but the pain keeps us from "drying out" and intellectualizing death to a dangerous degree. Grief is overwhelming and can completely take us over - but that is a time when we can viscerally feel how dependent we are on those we love and on God’s love. Even a temporary separation like that of a soldier leaving his family to go on deployment produces grief. And for Christians, the separation of death IS a temporary situation! Grief is hard to endure but, when I have felt it, it reminds me of how important my loved ones are to me, how weak I am on my own and that love itself (and God as the origin of love) is the most powerful force in the world.

If there is any specific prayers that you need, or anything else, please let me know!

In Christ’s Love,

Response #12:

Thank you for this WONDERFUL and encouraging email! It is greatly appreciated . . . as are your (continuing) prayers. Even though I miss my mother, it was a blessing that the Lord took her home to be with Him when He did (that is, of course, "better by far": Phil.1:22-23). I have just come back from Florida where mother's remains were sent to be buried with my dad's. It was all a very trying experience as I am sure you may imagine, but it went well. I was able to find the retired pastor of the church mom had attended when she lived in Lakeland. I knew she liked him and he was only too glad to do the services at the chapel and the grave side. I spoke for about fifteen minutes or so; blessedly, I didn't "lose it". Between pastor Jack and myself, everybody there got plenty of scripture and commentary about the resurrection and some encouraging background about my mom. Anyway, that is over and I am back in Louisville. I'll probably take some unplanned time off next week since classes don't start until the ninth and should be "good to go" for the next semester as a result.

What you say about grief is very insightful (and I will post it when I do something on grief). And, after all, "Jesus wept" for Lazarus, even though He knew of a certainty that He was going to be bringing him back to life in just a few minutes.

A good name is better than precious ointment,
And the day of death than the day of one’s birth;
Better to go to the house of mourning
Than to go to the house of feasting,
For that is the end of all men;
And the living will take it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
For by a sad countenance the heart is made better.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
But the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 NKJV

Here's hoping and more importantly praying that 2017 will be a very blessed and happy year for you and your family and for us all!

Your friend in Jesus Christ our Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Professor,

I will not say that I know how hard it is - because I don't. I have not experienced such a loss and will be praying also for your comfort in all this. Despite such a moment being inevitable, it must still be so difficult when it finally comes, even I know from you the state that she was in most recently.

On this, Professor, I still am so happy for you that she died as a believer and is in the Lord. Except my father I cannot say that of anyone and it was not long after I became a believer that this has crossed my mind - that should any of my unbelieving close ones depart, this is a permanent departure, this is the end. For this reason I can only second you in what you said - I also don't know how unbelievers endure that.

Professor, I will be praying for your comfort and given the reports I had from you, if only any of my dear ones was in a similar situation and I knew they were in the Lord, I would also much prefer them to be with the Lord than to endure what can hardly be counted as life.

I also hope that despite it being such a difficult time, maybe you and your close ones will still be able to have a family Christmas where you can spend time together in what is a hard moment for everyone.

It is one of these things where it is hard for me to really say anything, Professor, I will just pray for your comfort.

In our Lord and with constant prayer for you,

Response #13:

Thank you for your loving concern. Words of comfort from fellow Christians who have enough troubles and challenges themselves are all the more meaningful – and yours are greatly appreciated.

I hope you had a great Christmas and a good time with your family. We had a very good one here in spite of everything. Here's wishing you a very happy new year too!

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:

I have been meaning to email you for some time now - what prompted me to do so even more so was that I just saw on the Ichthys website you had posted about the passing away of your mother. I am very sorry to hear about your loss. However, I was delighted to read that she was also a believer and is now united with our Lord. How wonderful must that be. I’m sure that it’s just this divine perspective that allows us to cope with such losses. I had been keeping both of you in prayer for some time. The Lord decided to take her home and it seems like this was a blessing as you described. She must have been so proud of you and your ministry and I have no doubts you will have had no small contribution to her growth, maturity and reward.

All glory be to God,

Response #14:

I very much appreciate your good words of consolation about my mom, my friend. They mean a lot indeed.

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Bob,

I read your email about 1:30 this morning, shortly before our family prayer, when we often prayer for mom. Well, she no longer needs our prayers as you know, for she is with the LORD. Marvelous news she is with the LORD now and gets to see all her loved ones and likewise. It was shortly before Thanksgiving when I received a call that my mother had passed many years ago and I can clearly remember the details and the sorrow I felt. So I truly feel with you my brother the loss and the emptiness and a little aloneness with her gone.

But as you so assuredly know, she could be in no better place fully alert and aware of His presence. Bob, it marks a close to a chapter in our lives after the loss of our parents but opens the final chapter to our own lives because we know that we are next. You have all our prayers and condolences for you and your family members.

It will be a saddened Christmas but at the same time we think of your loss, we think of our LORD who saved us all and the joy to come.

With all our love,

Response #15:

Thank you, my friend!

Your words of comfort mean a lot to me.

Please pass on to your whole family my sincere thanks for all of your prayers on mom's behalf.

Hope you had a great Christmas – wishing you a very happy new year as well.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Hey Bob,

Thanks for writing back. I was wondering if you would have problems going back up north over the holidays.

I want you to know, we have been with you as much as we could in this--in our prayers and thoughts. I would have liked to have met your Mom and Dad in their better days but I will just have to wait till we get to heaven. What a "great day" that will be for all of us! Thank you for letting us know it went well. That was tough for you, I'm sure.

Sometimes I think that "day" could not come to soon. I am so tired of fighting so much around me.

Take care my friend. We love you.

In His care--with you,

Response #16:

Actually, the funeral and burial were in Florida (Lakeland); that's where my dad's body is buried and it was mom's wish to be buried beside him. Weather wasn't a problem, but it was an expensive ordeal getting down there (flying is not my favorite activity, and "bereavement rates" to ward off paying full price for last minute flights are apparently a thing of the past, at least on the airline that worked out best for this trip).

I think my parents would have liked you a lot (thanks). I'm looking forward to the other side too, more and more day by day. It's all "vanity" here as Solomon says so eloquently in the Spirit. But as Paul says, while it's much better to depart and be with Christ, "yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake" (Phil.1:24) – so we stay as long as the Lord has a job for us to do (and I know your family needs you for sure). This was the theme of my talk at mom's service. She had a very rough time of it at the end. After she lost her husband, she lost her home, lost her health, and had pretty much lost the one thing she would surely rather have died than lost, namely, most of her mind. But she never quit. She never let go of her faith. So she is a very strong witness to me (and I hope also to those who knew her and to whom I pointed this out) that holding onto our faith is the most important thing. We know there will be trials and troubles around the bend, but we have to stay faithful no matter what to win the prize: we have to cross the finish line, no matter what. That's even more true for the years and time of trouble fast approaching.

I'm sorry to hear about your continuing troubles. I have been faithfully keeping this in prayer every day. God always has a reason. It's hard for us to see it often, especially when we are under pressure. I know my mom couldn't see the reason why she was still around the last sixteen years or so after her stroke on her 80th birthday. Not sure I got it either until recently. Some things we'll probably have to wait till we get to the other side to understand. But I'm pretty darn sure that the Lord has a good explanation.

Please pass along my thanks to your family for their prayers! I definitely felt the support down in Florida (and continue to do so).

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Hello sir,

Very sorry to know about your mother. I had been praying for her for quiet a long time. Well, now she is with the One we all long to be with. This is a rotten world we are living in. No one is interested in the truth.

Thank you so much for your wishes and prayers. All the very best for the next semester. I will be praying for you and your ministry.

Your friend in our dear Lord,

Response #17:

Thank you for your good words of consolation, my friend. What you say is absolutely true.

I survived the first day of classes today, so now I know I can make it through to the end. I appreciate your prayers. Know that you in are in mine day by day as well.

Keep in touch when you can.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Hello Bob,

I’m so sorry to hear of your mother’s passing. We were keeping you in prayer for safe travels and a pleasant visit with your family. I’m glad you got to visit and say your goodbyes before she went. My father was a strongly independent Arky and really was not happy about his situation, either. That made it hard on us but he, too, had loving and constant care. That was a comfort to us, knowing that. I have to admit there have been a few times where I wondered why He would have someone live until 91 or 96 just to have them struggle with health issues and lead miserable lives at the end. I know it’s all in His plan and for good reason. I take comfort in Phil 1:23 and knowing I will see him again and you your mother. I know he is out of pain and with our family that has gone on before and with Jesus. He has given me such comfort knowing this these past few weeks. And I, too, also wonder about those who have no hope or comfort in the resurrection. I wouldn’t have been able to make it though any of this I went through with my dad if He hadn’t been there. I know you feel the same about your mother and her situation.

Thank you again for sharing this with me and we will continue to keep you and your family in our thoughts and prayers. Thank you also for giving me encouragement through all that I went through with my dad. I appreciate it so much and I will never for get it.

I hope you and your family will also have a blessed Christmas time together.

In our Great Comforter,

Response #18:

Thank you!

Words of comfort from fellow Christians who have experienced loss themselves are all the more meaningful – and yours are greatly appreciated.

(3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of compassion and all encouragement, (4) the One who encourages us in all our tribulation so that we in turn may be able to encourage those in all types of tribulation by means of the very encouragement which we ourselves received from God. (5) Because as our sufferings for Christ multiplied in service to you, so through Christ did the encouragement we received multiply to the same degree. (6) So if we are experiencing tribulation, it is to provide you with encouragement and salvation. And if we are being encouraged, it is for the sake of the encouragement you have received, which is now at work in your successful endurance of the same sufferings which we also experienced. (7) And so our hope for you is a solid one, since we know that as you have become partakers of suffering, in the same way will you also become partakers of encouragement.
2nd Corinthians 1:3-7

Hope you had a good Christmas in spite of your loss – wishing you God's comfort and encouragement for a blessed new year.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Having been there myself I know how tough it is losing your mom. I'll remember you and your brother in my prayers. When my mother passed it was a blessing as she had cancer but it did not lessen the feeling of loss. Just reminded myself she was now with my father and brother who wouldn't come back here now if given the chance after being in the presence of their Lord. We're still here in the race so you have my prayers old friend; yours are always welcome for me. Difficult at Christmas time for those who remain behind but great for her to go home.

Response #19:

Thank you, my friend!

I appreciate very much your words of wisdom and comfort. They mean a lot, especially from someone who's lost so much himself in the course of your life.

Wishing you and yours a happy Christmas.

Your pal in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Dearest Robert,

I am saddened to hear of your mothers suffering and you know I will keep her as well as you in my prayers. I will pray for peace to envelope her but rest assured, she already has the peace which only resides with our Lord and gives freely, especially when we are at the end of our life on this earth. I have experienced this myself as well as with others before they went to be with our Lord. Many years ago I was in the hospital fighting an infection and I remember fighting with everything that I had to get well. After they administered the antibiotics I felt much worse and became fearful. As I prayed for God to strengthen me, I felt an overwhelming peace and quietness envelope my entire being and I felt at peace with dying if it were to go that way. I have experienced this same peace during this illness where I feel myself simply give it over to God and the universe to do with me as He wills and I am no longer afraid. I saw the same with my 32 year old brother before he died. He suffered a lot but when he went into a coma, he had the biggest, brightest smile on his face right before he passed and he reached up and kind of sat up as if he were reaching for Jesus with both arms. At that moment I felt his spirit leave his body through me almost as if he wanted my spirit to join him and that was the most beautiful gift God could have blessed me with. I think your mothers body is sleeping because her spirit is slowly transitioning so whatever you think, I believe she can still hear everything you say and knows you were there with her because she is both here and there at the same time. I have found there to be just as much beauty and miracle in experiencing the death of a loved one as I do experiencing the beauty in life itself.

Merry Christmas my friend!

Yours in Christ,

Response #20:

Thanks so much for your encouraging words, my friend. They mean so much more coming from someone who has been and is under pressure herself.

I do know that the Lord is taking care of her. It's still hard to bear (as you know). Today I guess she must have slept most of the day – she was sound asleep both times I called up there. That's probably a blessing too.

Keeping you in my prayers and looking forward to a blessed 2017 for us all!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Hi Robert,

It is a blessing that she is resting and know that the nurses all know that she is still aware of everything going on around her and I am sure they are mindful of this while caring for her. When my brother was dying of leukemia in the hospital, I sensed that he was hanging on for the family, mostly for his wife and two children. When my sister-in law went home I stayed with him and even though he was in a coma, I took his hands and looked into his eyes and told him everything was fine and we would all be okay if he wanted to leave his body now. My sister in law came right back and we heard wailing in the next room over. A young Spanish boy had just passed and his relatives were reacting. At that moment, the room brightened and it was not from the sun and Ben opened his eyes and smiled the biggest smile I have ever witnessed and at that moment his spirit left his body. I believe that my brother left this world with the boy in the next room. God is so merciful isn't He? God knew my brother and possibly the boy, were afraid to go alone so He allowed them to go together to ease their fears. The boys family did this long procession up and down the hall and into our room as if they also sensed they went together. Anyway, I believe Jesus is with your mother right now as well as God's helpers from heaven. As I said in my previous email, there is much beauty in the passing of a loved one and some people purposefully avoid witnessing this to protect themselves from the pain rather than witnessing the beauty of the miracle. At one point my brother reached up and called out for our mother and instead of going to him, she ran from the room and never returned. I am in no way judging her but I feel she missed out on what could have helped her one day alleviate her own fears about death. I felt the need to share this with you Robert but you are much wiser than myself in the ways of the Spirit so you may feel differently. Anyway, you have a wonderful and spirit filled Christmas my friend and my thoughts and prayers are surely with you.

Yours in Our Dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, 

Response #21:

Thank you,

I very much appreciate you insight into all this. It is most certainly true that "precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His godly ones" (Ps.116:15). He gives us the extra grace/help we need for whatever situation we face, including this one – both for the person about to be called home but also for their loved ones.

As in all things, we have to trust Him that He is working it all out for the good . . . for those who truly love Him. If we do, we shall never be disappointed.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Dearest Robert,

I send you my heartfelt condolences in the passing of your beautiful, loving mother Alice. We both know she is with our Dear Lord in a place where there is no more pain or suffering or death, tears or sorrow but we still grieve and miss our loved ones after they leave us. I believe our Lord allows our loved ones to help of through all of this grief if we only take the time to look for the signs. After my 53 year old father passed from a heart attack only a month after my brother Ben's passing, I often felt his spirit. A few days after the funeral I was washing dishes and as I gazed out the windows at a tree that I looked at every single day, I noticed what appeared to be a carving of an owl in the trunk of the tree. My dad was a carpenter who delighted in making all kinds of beautiful things but he would carve owls quite often out of birch or maple and give them away. When I saw the owl in the tree limb I couldn't believe it as it had never been there before. We had a bird feeder hanging in the spot and I enjoyed watching the birds each day. The first time I noticed the owl it was just beginning to take form but still looked like an owl. Each day it began to take on more shape and form until one day it appeared complete. My husband and I were freaking out and he said, "isn't it amazing what nature can do"? My response was, "that is not only nature but dad telling us he is okay and ever present in our lives"! He remembered the owls my dad used to make and said it gave him the chills thinking it could possibly be a sign. Sometimes, things which happen in this world completely defy our understanding but I believe if you start to pay attention Robert, you too will begin to see signs that your mother wishes for you to see or feel. My experience most definitely helped me through the grieving process. For a long time I forced myself not to think about my brother and father because it hurt too much so I pushed my feeling aside which was a huge mistake because I did not grieve properly. Sometimes I think this is why I became so sick now from holding on to past experience I chose not to think about or feel. Anyway, you will continue to be in our thoughts and prayers Robert, and if there is anything at all even just to talk know that I am always here for you my friend.

Peace and caring thoughts from

Yours in our Lord,

Response #22:

Thanks my friend. I very much appreciate you taking the time and also sharing with me these precious memories.

I hope you had a good Christmas. Here's wishing you a very happy new year – and a healing one too.  I and I am sure many Ichthys readers who pay attention to the prayer list are keeping you in prayer for finally being healed.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23:

Dr. Luginbill,

I'm very sorry to hear of the passing of your mother. As tough as it must be, the thought of how glorious and happy she is now I hope is comforting.

I will be keeping you in my prayers. Thank you again for your commitment to this site, it has and will continue to be foundational to my Christian education.

Response #23:

I appreciate your encouragement, my friend!

Your friend in Jesus Christ our Savior,

Bob L.

Question #24:

This is a quick message of condolence for you and your family. No matter how rich a life lived for Christ, death of a loved one is still hard. I and all followers of Ichthys will continue to pray for your strength and comfort during this time.

Please keep this verse close to your heart.

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
Psalm 34:18 KJV

He will help you overcome just like you have helped many others.

In Christ Jesus our Lord

Response #24:

Thank you!

You have had more than enough challenges and troubles yourself so that your words are all the more meaningful and encouraging to me – and greatly appreciated.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #25:

I hope you’re doing all right. I noticed the addendum you added recently to the prayer request list at Ichthys. My condolences on the passing of your mother. As you said though, it is a blessing that the suffering she (and her care-givers) were experiencing toward the end (as I read in the Family Matters email posting) has ended and she’s now with the Lord.

Response #25:

Amen! Thank you my friend!

[p.s.: Thank you so much to all of you who have kept me and my family in prayer in all of this, even if I have not yet had the privilege of meeting or corresponding with you personally.  I have certainly seen and felt the results!]

 

 

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