Why I Welcome Funeral Opportunities for the Unchurched by David Osborne

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Why I Welcome Funeral Opportunities for the Unchurched
by David Osborne

David Osborne and his wife, Lori, pastor the Burlington Church of Christ, an independent, community Christian church located in North Central Indiana. In addition to being a 1982 graduate of Rhema Bible Training Center, David holds a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University and a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling from Liberty University.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”custom” style=”dashed” el_width=”80″ accent_color=”#919191″][vc_column_text]

Funeral Opportunities for the Unchurched by David OsborneProverbs 11:30 (ESV)
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who is wise wins souls.

I stood in front of a crowd of people in a grief-filled room for a deceased man that I had never met and for his unchurched family that will most likely never come to my church. I asked myself once again: Am I doing the right thing offering my ministerial service and sacrificing personal time for the unchurched? The funeral service I am referring to was my third funeral for that week, and like the two before it, I did not know the deceased or any of their family members before being contacted by a local funeral director for help. The only connection I had with the crowd before me was that they needed a minister, and I was willing to help.

Throughout the service, I’d like to say that their many warm smiles confirmed that taking on one more funeral for the week was the right choice. But this particular crowd was almost expressionless, stoic even, only adding to my worry that the time and effort I had already spent on this service was a waste of valuable ministry time. However, at the conclusion of the service, confirmation came as many in attendance shared emotion-filled words that indicated that my time spent was not a loss, but possibly some of the best seed planting for the Gospel I had done in a while.

So why do I take on so many non-church family funerals even though there is both a personal cost and cost to my ministry to do them? It’s simple. I have learned over the years to treat every funeral opportunity as an extension of my pastoral work and not a conflict to it. The Apostle Paul once told his apprentice and partner in ministry, Timothy, to “be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim. 4:5, KJV). For me, providing pastoral care and ministerial services for the deceased and their surviving family members has become some of the richest soil to plant the seeds of salvation into the hearts of non-Christian people while also shepherding the wandering sheep of Jesus back to the safety of following Him more closely. Once I made this change in my outlook concerning the calls I get almost weekly to perform funeral services for the unchurched and those without a pastor, I noticed a deep, spiritual change in the whole process I go through every time a funeral director calls me for help. I would like to share some of these helpful insights and practices with you.

1 Corinthians 15:58, NIV
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

1. Just Showing Up Changes Everything

Some time ago, I was getting out my car to walk into the funeral home for a person I had never met. In that moment I thought, “Am I really going to make a difference today?” I was tired and overwhelmed with many other ministry tasks yet to perform that week. In the middle of the groan that came from my soul came the familiar voice of our Savior by His Spirit saying, “Your ‘showing up’ changes everything for them.” I knew in an instant that regardless of how well I conducted the service, which is a pressure I always feel, I had already provided the family with something they desperately needed: someone to minister to their pain. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” This isn’t just a great Scripture to read at funerals, it’s what the Lord does through us as we “just show up.”

2. Every Person Counts

It’s easy to focus on the family members most affected by the death of a loved one. However, we are given a great opportunity to serve every person involved. From funeral director to grave services, from closest friends to the most distant relative, we represent Jesus and His love for each of them.

Not too many funerals ago, a family requested a bagpipe player to play as the casket was carried to the gravesite from the funeral coach. Following the committal service, the bagpiper approached me commenting on how moving the service was (I didn’t even know the bagpiper was in listening distance to the service).

There are many ways to bless the overlooked-grievers (my word) when a death occurs.

When a 92 year old man passed away, his dear friend that wintered close to him in Florida made the trip to Indiana in order to attend his friend’s service. I noticed before the service began that the friend from Florida was displaying heavy grief. Because he was not family, he took a backseat to their needs. At the grave site, as the pallbearers were making ready to carry the casket to the grave, I quickly asked the friend if he would like to lead the casket with me to its final resting place. It was a sweet walk with a dear, aging friend that needed to be included in the service and identified as someone who was deeply grieving. Needless to say, he thanked me, hugged me, and told me how honored he was to join me in that moment. Small things matter.

Funeral directors and staff need ministry.

Some of the best ministry moments have been riding out to the cemetery with funeral directors and staff. While the slow procession is in motion, and I would rather be reviewing my notes in preparation for the committal service, it’s at that time the directors or staff seem to want to open up to me about what’s going on in their lives and to see if I have any words of help. I know it seems strange, but if we approach the whole funeral service event as a rich field to work in for Jesus, even a funeral coach becomes a counseling room for those needing spiritual guidance.

I make it a standard practice to find the person or persons that seem to feel that they are serving in the least capacity, and I serve them.

Mark 10:44-45 (ESV)
And whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

3. Format vs. Rubber Stamp

All pastors face the need to streamline reoccurring activities; however, we need to avoid the trap of using the same funeral service every time. The answer is to use a standard format that provides a familiar flow every time while allowing plenty of flexibility making every funeral service special and unique for every family served.

Here’s my standard outline when serving those without a pastor or home church. Note the flow.

  1. Opening song (if requested by family)
  2. Opening words—this is my first address to those attending the service.
    • Reference opening song (if a song is used)
      • I’ve learned to go with what the family wants. I have had some pretty interesting songs used as an opener. However, I have also learned that when I demonstrate respect for their requests, they become better listeners when it’s my turn to speak of Christ and His love.
    • Open with a poem selected by the family for the funeral service bulletin.
    • Open with a Scripture passage, if requested by family.
    • Always thank those attending the service on behalf of the family.
    • Transition toward opening prayer.
  3. Opening prayer
  4. Read the obituary as it appeared in the paper.
  5. Family sharing
    • If family members or special friends want to speak, here is where I insert them.
    • Read the notes provided by the family if they feel they can’t speak. This is a great way to let their voice be heard as you read their words.
  6. Open the floor for guests to speak. I always get the family’s permission for this. Some tell me they don’t want others speaking, many welcome it.
    • Opening the floor can be a little risky. I have had some interesting and nervous moments as grief-speak (my word) flows out of the hurting. Even so, we can’t control what is said. Just know weird things can happen and be okay with it.
  7. Pastoral words of comfort
    • Here’s where I typically speak directly to those in attendance using what I have learned about the deceased while including the Gospel and other relevant Scriptures.
      • If the deceased was unchurched, I am careful not to preach a message. Typically most of the family and friends will be unchurched as well. However, I have learned to share the Gospel in a way that appeals to their hearts while testifying of the love of God expressed in the Savior, Jesus Christ. I’m always amazed at how powerful it is to quote John 3:16-17 while looking directly in the eyes of those gathered before me. This is where it is good to have a few “go to” verses ready to be quoted by memory. Nothing communicates like eye contact, so intentionally have a few places set in the entire service where you are ready to for eye contact and can leave your notes for a moment or two.
      • There’s much to detail here, but my encouragement to you is learn to tell the Gospel in such a compelling way without condemnation so that the love of God is on display.
        • Romans 2:4 in the NLT says, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”
  8. Closing remarks
    • If you feel there is more to say, say it as you work toward a single closing statement. Many times here is where the inspiration of the Holy Spirit moves me to say things in the moment that I could not have planned for. If the Holy Spirit isn’t giving clear direction, I move toward the closing prayer and trust that is what the Holy Spirit was leading me to do.
  9. Closing prayer
    • If there will be a procession to a cemetery, include it in the closing prayer by asking for protection for the procession. I have had some close calls as oncoming traffic doesn’t always yield to the procession.
  10. Closing song (if the family selects one).
  11. Committal service—following the funeral service and usually at the grave site or a mausoleum.

If there are military rites given, serve the military rites team by letting them go first (this respect has created a really close relationship between our local teams and myself).

FYI: When the flag approaches, stand at attention and cover your heart. When TAPS is being played, stand at attention and cover your heart (non-military don’t salute). A good cue is to watch what the military rites team members are doing and follow their lead.

Sometimes I like to read the lyrics to TAPS out at the grave, especially if the military rites team can’t be present for some reason. Also, it makes for a great closing statement before the closing prayer. Here are the lyrics I use:

Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh.

Fading light dims the sight
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
From afar, drawing near
Falls the night.

Thanks and praise for our days
Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky
As we go, this we know
God is nigh.

Committal services feel different—they should be very dignified and reverent. Typically, they should be about the minister concluding the duty the Lord has given to oversee the returning of a human body to the ground from which all our bodies were formed while trusting the spirit and soul to the Lord. I have five main components:

  1. Opening scripture or poem.
  2. A statement of purpose: “The Lord has given us a duty today. That duty is to lay to rest the earthly body of _________.”
  3. The inclusion of appropriate Scripture.
  4. A prayer committing the body of the deceased to the earth as we trust the person’s soul and spirit unto the Lord. Sadly, we know if there is no salvation, there is no Heaven. When there is no clear testimony of faith in Jesus, I leave that up to the Lord by saying, “as we trust their soul and spirit unto the Lord.”
  5. When closing, I like to lead in the Lord’s prayer by inviting all to pray it with me either out loud or silently in their heart. What a blessing this practice has been. Make sure you tell them which version you are praying (e.g. debts vs. trespass).

4. Familiarize Don’t Memorize

It takes a lot of time for me to memorize a message, so I don’t. My brain doesn’t work that way. But, when I work to familiarize my heart and mind with what I took the time to write out, I find that I am well prepared as a speaker to be used of the Lord by His Spirit.

Learn to balance some reading with speaking from the heart while making eye contact. Throughout the service, have moments where you can leave your notes, look up, and make extended eye contact for a minute or two. Having those brief moments separated by parts of the service reading your notes is required and expected by the audience. For example, I know I am going to read the obituary. That is why it follows what I call “opening words” and “opening prayer.” Throughout the opening words and leading up to the opening prayer, I have familiarized the statements I felt the Holy Spirit wanted me to say while making a good connection with their hearts through careful eye contact. Looking up and looking into the eyes of the crowd is needed here, especially at the very beginning. It puts the crowd at ease, and it reassures them that this service is going to be both personal and professional as their loved one is being remembered.

Develop a good repertoire of Scriptures that relate in most funeral services. These become the “go-to” verses that seem to leap out of your heart as you minister to the bereaved.

5. The Four Do’s

  1. Do meet with the family a few days before the service. Ministry to the family begins with that first meeting. Plus, you’ll get most of your information for the service at that time allowing you to go back to your busy schedule. I use the meeting rooms at the various funeral homes. The family is already acquainted with the location of the funeral home, and many times they have things to drop off, like pictures and clothing. So attempt to work with their schedule. To do this well, plan on the meeting taking about an hour. Hand out your business card, making it clear they can call on you leading up to the service as well as long after the day of the service has passed. Pastors are in for the long haul when it comes to working with our communities.
  2. Show up to the funeral home an hour before the service. This is my best time for final prep as well as an opportunity to see the family making sure all is on track for the service the way you have planned it. The funeral directors I work with really appreciate this practice.
  3. Do treat the funeral director as someone you are serving. They need ministers they can count on and who demonstrate a high level of respect for their work with the bereaved. Learn their ways and learn their needs. It will minister to them in great ways. This is why I have so many funeral directors with my number on their speed-dial.
  4. Do treat every funeral service as the most important service—it shows.

6. Funerals Take Time

At a minimum, it takes one hour meeting with the family, two hours typing out the service and getting a sense from the Holy Spirit the direction He wants the service to go, one hour before the service checking on the family and reading over my notes several times, 40 minutes for an average service, the time it takes to travel to the cemetery for the committal service, and 10 minutes for the committal service (my part). Add 15 minutes if there is a military rites team involved. That’s around five hours of time well spent every time a funeral director calls and asks, “Can you help me with a family that does not have a home church or a pastor?”[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Funeral Resources

Would you please send us any material that could be helpful to other pastors relative to conducting funerals? Any tips or suggestions? Is there a helpful story or illustration that you’ve found to work well at funerals? Do you have any funeral message outlines you’d like to share (please remove names)? Whatever you send us this month, we’ll add to the “Funeral Resources” section on our website.

Suicide Remarks by Tony Cooke

Suicide Remarks
Rev. Tony Cooke

Note from Tony: Conducting a funeral for someone who has taken his or her own life can be one of the most challenging tasks for a minister, and yet it provides an opportunity to speak words of comfort and encouragement to a family and friends who are in great pain and distress.  The following may or may not be appropriate in every situation.  The best funeral messages will come after speaking to the family, hearing their heart, and learning all that you can about the deceased and about their perspective of the situation.  Of course, we always look to the Word of God as our ultimate source of information and inspiration, but listening carefully and sensitively to the family and finding out what is comforting to them is of utmost importance.

Precede Message with Personal Remarks.

To say that these have been very difficult days for ___________________’s loved ones would not begin to touch the magnitude of what they have felt and experienced, but in the midst of the present turmoil and distress, I want us all to be reminded of God’s goodness and mercy, and the comfort and strength which I know is available to us here today.

Jesus said, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

It is not my intention today to be eloquent, to become philosophical or to speak forth lofty platitudes, but to simply focus on God’s love and compassion, and to share the simple truth of God’s care for each one of us.

As I considered some of the things I shared about ____________________ earlier – his love for Jesus, his desire to see other people know him – I remembered the words of Jesus who said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”  ____________________ exhibited that hunger and that thirst and I am so thankful for Jesus’ promise that he would not leave the desire of our heart unsatisfied.

I was also reminded of a statement that Jesus made in John 6:37 where he said “Whoever comes to me I will never cast him out.”  It gives me great joy to be able to remind the family this day that ____________________ did, in fact, during his life come to the Lord Jesus seeking his mercy and forgiveness for his life, and I am so thankful for Jesus’ very plain and simple promise that whoever came to him, he would not turn him away or cast him out.

The issue of an individual taking his own life is very difficult from many perspectives.  Words cannot describe the shock, the dismay, the pain, and the struggles which face a family when one of their loved ones has died at his own hand.  Not only is this type of thing something which is emotionally devastating to the family left behind, but it often raises very perplexing spiritual questions as well.

I feel it is of utmost importance that we recognize there are situations where a person succumbs to internal pressures and problems that we know little of.  Depression, despair, despondency can at times cause a person, as we might say, to not be himself – to do things he would not otherwise do if he were thinking clearly and rationally.

Rev. Kenneth Hagin said that a person can be sick physically and act in ways he would not normally act and to do things he would not normally do.  Likewise, a person can have a sickness which affects his thinking and emotions, and he may act in ways and do things he would not otherwise do.

Though we still feel the loss of the person we knew, there is a tremendous amount of comfort from the Scriptures because we are clearly taught from the Bible that God’s mercy, compassion, and understanding are very great.  We see God’s love demonstrated in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ when he said:  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

This is a statement that is full of God’s grace and God’s mercy and we see in this statement the glorious fact that God takes our knowledge and awareness of reality into account when He looks at our lives.

In the light of this, I want to encourage the family today, that even though you might feel sorrow very deeply and shed several tears, I remind you and encourage you to look to the precious promises of God that I believe will bring you comfort.

What lies before us this day in this casket is not ___________________, but rather the body in which ______________________ lived.  The Bible teaches very clearly that when a person who trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ leaves this earth his spirit goes to heaven and is very much alive and conscious in the presence of God and in the presence of Jesus.

Revelation 21:4, 5 says:

4 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."

5 Then He who sat on the throne said,” Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful."

Actually, the tears that are shed today are shed more for ourselves than they are for __________________.  Though his death grieves us, the place to which he has gone is far superior to this earthly life that we know.

Paul stated that “To depart and be with Christ is far better.”  (Philippians 1:23)  He also stated in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”

This is our hope and this is our source of strength during this time.

Sample Funeral Message for a Minister and Soul-Winner

Sample Funeral Message for a Minister
and Soul-Winner Pastor Kenneth Hagin, Jr.

We have come here this day for a number of reasons…

1. We are here today to pay our tribute and our respect to a man of God, our brother, ______________________________. Not only have people from this congregation and community gathered, but many ministers have come… ministers who have respected _______________________ as a minister, and have loved him as a friend.  To know _______________________ was to love him! 

2. We are here today to show our love and support for ______________________’s very precious family.  Not only have we sensed our own personal feelings of loss over __________________’s passing, but our hearts have been drawn toward them, and will continue to be with them.

3. Finally, we are here today to seek and to receive comfort.  We would be less than honest if we said that our hearts have not ached over this situation.  We are not too proud to acknowledge that we have come here today trusting that God would minister to our hearts, and give us strength as we continue in our walk with Him.

It is our human nature to want to understand everything now, but TRUST requires that we lean and rely heavily on God even when things seem unclear.

Proverbs 3:5

5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

Philippians 4:7

7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

I’m not going to tell you not to cry or not to experience emotions.  Emotions are God-given.  They are a part of who we are. 

Jesus Himself said, "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted." (Matthew 5:4)

Tears are the safety-valve that God built into us to help us at times like these.  It’s OK to cry. 

I’m not going to tell you today that you’ll never have questions come to you.  But I will tell you this:  There is something wonderful that you can focus on.  Choose to focus on the things you know… things the Word of God declares.

We declare with Job… Job 19:25

25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.

We declare with Jesus… John 14:2-3

2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

We declare with Paul…2 Corinthians 5:6-8

6 …We are always confident, knowing that, while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: 7(For we walk by faith, not by sight:) 8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

Philippians 1:21, 23

21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better…

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye 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 unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto 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 Wherefore comfort one another with these words. 

We are going to move beyond the tears.  We are going to move beyond our questions… because the Holy Spirit is here today to comfort and strengthen each and every heart!  And he will continue to be with us as we continue to live for God.

An individual made the following statement: “The measure of a life is not in its duration but in its donation.”

When we think of ____________________’s donation… what he contributed… what he invested… we have much to be thankful for!!!

  • Consider the investments of love and devotion that he made in his marriage with _________________.
  • Consider the investments of godliness and nurturing that ______________________ made with into the lives of his children and grandchildren.
  • Consider the investments of the Word of God that _______________________ made into the lives of so many people… not only members of this church, but all of the people, including ministers, that he poured his life into.

Let me say again that “The measure of a life is not in its duration but in its donation!”

Later this day, when all the words have been spoken, when all the songs have been sung, we will stand at the graveside and commit the body of our friend, _______________________________ to the keeping of this earth until the coming of the Lord, and we will commit his soul into the loving hands of the God he served… bringing an end to the final chapter of his earthly life.

But it will not be the end of his story, because the memory of his life and the influence of his life remains. 

Because _____________________ committed his life to God and the work of God, He was energized by a power greater than this natural world understands.

We all knew _______________________ as a great friend and a wonderful pastor, but one of the things that caused me to so highly respect _____________________ was his great love for souls.  In this sense, ____________________ was a real hero to me – he did have, and continues to have my highest respect.

_________________________’s life reminds me of a preacher that was on the Titanic…

There were a lot of notable, wealthy people on the Titanic in 1912.  But the most notable passenger on the Titanic was someone that most of the world has never heard of before.

He was a man by the name of John Harper.  He was a plain, ordinary Pastor from the city of Glasgow, Scotland.  He had faithfully shepherded his congregation for 15 years.  He was a fairly young minister, only 40 years old.

Moody Memorial Church in Chicago had invited him to come and preach a series of sermons. So he had accepted the invitation and had booked himself on the maiden voyage of the Titanic. As he boarded the ship he thought, “I will have plenty of time to prepare my sermons for this preaching series.”

But Pastor John had a bit of a problem staying in his room and studying because he had such a heart for people. It is told that the night before the Titanic sunk that John Harper was on the deck earnestly pleading and begging people to come to Christ.

He had given his life day-in and day-out to see people get into the spiritual lifeboat.  And that night when the ship struck the iceburg, he was awakened, he got up, and started making his way to the lifeboat, and he realized there wasn’t enough room for everyone.

So he started going from deck to deck crying out – “Women and children and the unsaved to the lifeboats.” He said, “Let’s get the non-Christians in first.” Now as he was doing this you could imagine the panic. Pastor John was one of those who eventually ended up in the freezing waters. He hung on to a wooden piece of debris floating in the water.

Some of the passengers because of the swirling currents of the sinking ship were being brought close to one another and then flung back apart. One of the men was brought into close proximity with John Harper, and John cried out, “Sir, are you a Christian?” And the man answered simply, “no.” And the current took him away into the darkness. A few minutes later by God’s providence that same man was brought back into John Harper’s sight, and John asked him again, “Sir, are you saved yet – have you accepted Christ?” And the man said, “No, I can’t honestly say that I am.”

Apparently that was the last thing John Harper ever said on this earth. He lost his grip on the piece of debris, sunk down into the Atlantic Ocean, and died.

The man that John Harper was pleading with to become a Christian was one of the very few who was plucked out of the icy waters by one of the ships that rushed to the scene. He testified that he did accept Christ that very night, and he settled in Hamilton in Ontario, Canada. He was often asked to speak and give his testimony and he would proudly step up and say, “I’m John Harper’s last convert.”

When I think of _____________________, I think of the verse in Revelation that says:

13 Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, "Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’" "Yes," says the Spirit," that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them."  (Revelation 14:13)

I have no doubt that _______________________ has already met people in heaven who have thanked him for leading them to the Lord.  I have no doubt that others in the future will come up to him in heaven and express their gratitude for him having led them to the Lord.

His work on this earth was of eternal value, and because of that, he will have eternal reward.

This Memorial Service is not really for _______________________.  He is in Heaven.  This is a time for us who are yet on this earth.

He’s reached the ultimate destination of the universe. 

We say that he has “departed,” but God says that he has “arrived.”

God sees things from such a different perspective than we do.  God never sees His children die.  He simply sees them coming home.

The real questions we face today don’t really pertain to _______________________.  He has arrived.

The real questions today have to do with us. 

  • What are we going to do?
  • What are we going to focus on?

Dwight L. Moody, the great Evangelist, may have one day lived amidst question marks, but he discovered the glorious secret of complete trust in God.  His last days were wonderfully spent amongst exclamation points!

Dwight L. Moody said, "Someday you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody of Northfield is dead.  Don’t you believe a word of it.  At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now.  I shall have gone higher, that is all — out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal, a body that sin cannot touch, that sin cannot taint, a body fashioned into His glorious body.  I was born in the flesh in 1837; I was born of the Spirit in 1856.  That which is born of the flesh may die; that which is born of the Spirit will live forever."                                                             

A few hours before entering the ‘Homeland,’ Dwight L. Moody caught a glimpse of the glory awaiting him.  Awakening from sleep, he said "Earth recedes.  Heaven opens before me.  If this is death, it is sweet!  There is no valley here.  God is calling me, and I must go." 

His son was standing by his bedside and said, "No, no, father, you are dreaming." 

"No," said Mr. Moody, "I am not dreaming.  I have been within the gates.  I have seen the children’s faces." 

A short time elapsed…and he spoke again, "This is my triumph; this is my coronation day!  It is glorious!"

Contrary to what we would have liked, our pastor and our friend has taken an earlier flight, but we still share a common destination.

His race ended earlier than we anticipated, but we still have our race to run, and David would not have it any other way than that we give our very best for the Kingdom of God.

I will deeply miss my friend, _______________________.  But I rejoice this day that he is with my Savior, Jesus.  And in honor of my friend, I say…

Ring out the welcome.

Swing wide the gates.

Choirs of angels stand and sing, “Amazing Grace.”

There’s one more soldier of the King.

Whose trials are past.

Ring out the welcome loud and clear –

He’s home at last.

Sample Funeral Message for a Person Saved Shortly Before Death

Sample Funeral Message for a Person Saved Shortly Before Death Rev. Tony Cooke

Eulogy – Memories of the Person are Shared…

We are thankful for these memories, and I know this family is appreciative of the love and support they have received from so many — cards, flowers, meals, hugs… all of these bring comfort in the midst of pain.

Today is about memories.

Today is about the support of friends, and of people pulling together.

But today is about more than that.  Today is about life and about death.

In spite of the beautiful flowers and the comforting music, we still feel the impact and reality of death, and we are reminded once again that…

…life is precious

…life is fragile

…life is brief

Isaiah 40:6-8

6 …All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.

7 The grass withers and the flowers fall… Surely the people are grass.

8The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.

James 2:14 

14 …What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

Life in this world — our human existence on this earth — is very temporary.

One person said:  "There is nothing more certain than death, and nothing more unsure than life."

The Bible is even very specific in referring to our bodies as tents, and for a little while, a tent can be a wonderful home.  When a hiker is in the mountains, enjoying the wonderful outdoors, a tent can be exactly what he needs when he becomes weary and needs a place to rest and be refreshed.

While tents are wonderful for their intended purpose, a person doesn’t expect to live in a tent forever.  Before long, a person longs "to go home" and live in a house, a structure that is much more permanent and sturdy than a tent.

You remember the Scripture read earlier.  Jesus said: "Do not let your hearts be troubled.  In my Father’s house are many dwelling places.  I go to prepare a place for you, so that where I am, there you may be also."

Tents are good for a purpose and helpful for a season, but they can wear out.  The fabric can become weak and torn and the poles collapsing.

The Apostle Paul, speaking of the confidence possessed by a believer said (2 Corinthians 5:1, 6-8)

"Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven.  Therefore, we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord.  We live by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord."

The reason that we can have joy today is because of the reality of a God who is full of mercy, and because of the reality of a place called heaven.

Heaven is a place of perfection, but perfection on our part is not one of the entrance requirements.

If it was, none of us would be going.

Heaven is a gift.

Forgiveness is a gift.

Salvation is provided by God’s love and purchased by Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:8 

8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

(Note from Tony: Share the story of the person’s salvation experience.  Sensitivity to family and friends is required here, as some may or may not be aware of this event in the person’s life.  It is good to have discussed this with the immediate family and make sure this is something they desire.)

"The language spoken in heaven by the angels and the redeemed is the language of forgiveness.  It will be the only language spoken there.  No other language will be understood.  It will be spoken by the seraphim and the cherubim and the whole angelic host as they praise God, the author of forgiveness and of eternal salvation.  It will be spoken by all the redeemed as they greet one another on the banks of the River of Life and gather around the throne of the Lamb and sing their song unto him who loved them and washed them from their sins.  But no one can learn that language after he gets to heaven.  It must be learned here upon earth — in this world, and in this life."

There is a song that _______________________ loved…

SONG: Select song that was meaningful to the deceased (if applicable)

Closing Prayer

Dismissal

Sample Funeral Message for an Infant

Sample Funeral Message for an Infant Rev. Tony Cooke

Dear Heavenly Father,

We have come here this day to commit to your loving care, the spirit of _________________________.

We have also come to show our love and support for these dear parents, ________________________ and ____________________________, and to surround them with our love, our prayers, and our faith.

We are not here today because we are wise enough to understand this situation, but we are here today because we are human enough to share in their sense of disappointment and hurt.  The love of God that has been shed abroad in our heart compels us to reach out to them and touch them in some meaningful way.

We thank you this day for the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and for the promise, Lord Jesus, that you will never leave us or forsake us.

We thank you that beyond the sorrows and disappointments of life, we have hope and confidence because of your goodness and faithfulness.

We ask this day that you would help each of us look beyond the limitations and the heart-aches of this temporal life and see the glories and the wonders of your eternal promises and your everlasting kingdom.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

 

Message

Mark 10:14-15

“Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.”

Verse 16 goes on to say:  “And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.”

As we stand here this day, I have every confidence that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  The same Jesus who took little children in his arms and blessed them on this earth, has received _______________________ in his arms, and has blessed him, welcoming him personally into heaven.

There are many questions that come to peoples’ minds at a time like this, but we are not here today to speculate about uncertainties.

Deuteronomy 29:29 tells us:

The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever…

We are not here today to become philosophical about things we don’t understand, but to find comfort and strength in the eternal truth and certainty of your Word.

We are here today to focus on what we do know…

Jesus received, welcomed, embraced, and blessed little children when he was here on earth, and we are certain that he has done the same toward _____________________.

In the midst of natural disappointment and sorrow, we can take great comfort in knowing this.

(Address the parents) _____________________ and ________________________, I want you to know that Jesus understands the heartache that occurs with this kind of disappointment, and whenever you find yourself hurting, I want you to know that you can take shelter in Him.

The Bible says that Jesus is touched with the feelings of our infirmities, and Jesus Himself said, "Blessed are they which mourn, for they shall be comforted."

The Bible says that our God is "the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort."

We are told that He is the one "who comforts us in all our tribulation."

There is a story in the Old Testament where David, the man who wrote many of the Psalms, experienced the loss of his child.

Though the circumstances are very different, we see the beauty of David’s faith as he responded to this loss.

David had been praying and fasting for seven days, but when he learned of his child’s death, this is what happened:

2 Samuel 12:20-23

20 So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he went to his own house; and when he requested, they set food before him, and he ate. 21 Then his servants said to him, "What is this that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive, but when the child died, you arose and ate food."

22 And he said, "While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ 23 But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me."

There are several very powerful lessons here that can serve as a pattern for us in recovering from those experiences in life that trigger grief:

1) David arose.

Remember that God wants to lift you up!

2) David washed himself.

Remember "the washing of the water of the Word."  Let God’s promises refresh you!

3) David changed his clothes.

Allow God’s comforting presence to surround you like a garment!

4) David went to the house of God and worshipped.

We need to honor God for Who he is.  We understand that God is not the author of bad things.  But God is our "good thing" in the midst of bad things.

5) David ate.

Psalm 23 says "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies."  Remember that God has made provision for you!

6) David recognized that even though he could not change the circumstances, that God would still have the final word!

There are things that happen in life that we don’t like – things that we would change if we could. 

When we encounter these types of situations, we recognize our humanity and our limitations.

When David said, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me," he was acknowledging that God would have the final word!

To the world, to the person who does not know Christ, death is the final word.  But we have a Savior who conquered death, a Savior who provides eternal life and the hope of the resurrection to all who believe on him.

In speaking of the physical resurrection, Paul said:

1 Corinthians 15:51-57

51 Behold, I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will 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 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."  

55 "O  Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?"  56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

These parents feel their loss today, but they know their God is bigger than their disappointment, and they know His comfort and strength will see them through.

For years, Christians have been comforted by the hymn, It Is Well With My Soul.  Many, though, are unaware of the circumstances around this great song.

Horatio Spafford lived in Chicago and was a close friend of Dwight L. Moody in the last half of the 1800’s.

Mr. Spafford had invested heavily in real estate just months prior to the Chicago Fire of 1871.  His holdings were wiped out by this disaster.

Just before this, he had experience the death of a son.

Some time after this, Spafford planned a trip to Europe for his family, and at the last minute, business developments required he stay in Chicago, but he sent his wife and four daughters ahead of him with intentions to join them shortly.

The ship carrying his wife and daughters sank at sea, and only his wife survived.  Spafford left immediately for Wales, where his wife and the other survivors had been taken.

While crossing the ocean himself, Horatio Spafford penned this text with words so significantly describing his own personal grief:  "When sorrow like sea billows roll…"

It is noteworthy, however, that Spafford does not dwell on the theme of life’s sorrows and trials, but focuses attention on the redemptive work of Christ and His glorious Second Coming.

Humanly speaking, it is amazing that one could experience such personal tragedies and sorrows as did Horatio Spafford and still be able to say with such convincing clarity, “It is well with my soul."

In our human strength, that is impossible, but at times like these, God blesses us with grace…

Song:  "Amazing Grace"

 

Committal Service

Scriptures

Revelation 1:17-18

"Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.  18 I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

John 14:19

Because I live, you will live also.

________________________________ is not here.  He stands in the Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The body that lies before us is but the earthly tabernacle, the house in which his spirit dwelt.  It is very tenderly and reverently that we commit this house to the grave.

The body returns to the earth, from which our bodies came.  The spirit returns to God who gave it, waiting for the day when both spirit and body shall again be united at the coming of the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

16 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. 17 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. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

 

Committal Prayer

Heavenly Father,

We thank you this day for Jesus, for his precious gift of eternal life, and for the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

In the midst of our natural sorrow, we thank you for your supernatural grace.

In facing death, we thank you for the promise of life everlasting.

And in the face of separation, we thank you for the assurance of eternal reunion.

We acknowledge that _________________________ is with you now, rejoicing in your presence and enjoying the blessings of heaven.

So Father, we now committ the body of ______________________ to this earth, and we rejoice that his spirit is with you even now.

We look forward to that day, when we can all rejoice together, and we thank you that we are not without hope or comfort at this time.

We thank you for making your presence very real to (parents) ________________________ and ___________________________, and that you will especially strengthen and sustain them in the days, weeks, and months to come.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

Sample Funeral Message for an Older Person

Sample Funeral Message for an Older Person

Prayer

Scripture Reading

John 14:1-3, 6
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Revelation 21:3-6
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And 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. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

Psalm 116:15
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.

The Message

“God never sees His children die; He simply sees them coming home.”

It is said that when one of his church members was dying, John Watson, the Scottish preacher of Edinburgh, would kneel down and whisper in the person’s ear:  “In my Father’s house are many rooms.”

Then, with a contented sigh, the person would “slip away”—entirely unafraid. There is something about this great portion of scripture which consoles us.

If we could see, only for a moment, just how glorious _______________’s homecoming was, no one here would call her back to the limits of her aged body.

Even though ______________ will be missed, there is something very appropriate about her departure, even as the author of Ecclesiastes indicated, “There is a time to be born, and a time to die (see Ecclesiastes 3:2).

It is appropriate because…

…she had lived out a full, complete, life.
…she had accepted and known the love of God and of family.
…her house was in order
…she was ready to die
…she was a Christian and she loved God

One person said:  “There is nothing more certain than death, and nothing more unsure than life.”

Life in these bodies, and life on this earth is temporal!

The Bible refers to our bodies as tents, and for a little while, a tent can be a wonderful home. When a hiker is in the mountains, enjoying the wonderful outdoors, a tent can be exactly what he needs when he becomes weary and needs a place to rest and be refreshed.

While tents are wonderful for their intended purpose, a person doesn’t expect to live in a tent forever. Before long, a person longs “to go home” and live in a house, a structure that is much more permanent and sturdy than a tent.

You remember the scripture we read earlier. Jesus said: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. In my Father’s house are many mansions (or dwelling places). I go to prepare a place for you, so that where I am, there you may be also.”

Tents are good for a purpose and helpful for a season, but they can wear out. The fabric can become weak and torn and the poles can collapse.

The Apostle Paul, speaking of the confidence possessed by a believer, said…

2 Corinthians 5:1, 6-8
Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven. Therefore, we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

Probably no one has given us a clearer picture of what death means to a mature Christian than grand old John Quincy Adams. When that remarkable American was turning four-score years, he was hobbling down the street one day in his favorite city of Boston, leaning heavily on a cane. Suddenly a friend slapped him on the shoulder and said, “Well, how’s John Quincy Adams this morning?”

The old man turned slowly, smiled, and said, “Fine, Sir, fine! But this old tenement that John Quincy lives in is not so good. The underpinning is about to fall away. The thatch is all gone off the roof, and the windows are so dim John Quincy can hardly see out anymore. As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if before winter’s over he had to move out. But as for John Quincy Adams, he never was better… never was better!”

With this he started hobbling on down the street, believing without a shadow of a doubt that the real John Quincy Adams was not a body that you could enclose in a casket or bury in a grave.

He recognized that beyond the temporary physical man on the outside, there is a spiritual and eternal man on the inside. The flesh dies and is buried, but the spirit lives forever with God.

When someone we love passes on, there is naturally an element of sorrow. When you’ve been around someone for many years, or for however long you’ve been alive, that person can become an important part of your life, and you miss them when they’re gone.

But today, beyond our natural sorrow, there is a supernatural joy that comes from knowing:

…the reality of Jesus

…the reality of God’s love

…the reality of forgiveness

…the reality of the new birth

…the reality of Heaven

…the reality of eternity

…the reality of future reunion

Years ago one of the American churches produced a film about missionary work in Angola entitled, I’ll Sing, Not Cry. It was based on the book, African Manhunt, by Monroe Scott, which recounted Christ’s victories in the lives of Africans. There was the story of Pastor Ngango (Nah-gone-go), whose beloved wife had dies. Great numbers came to the funeral, and they wailed in the customary pagan dirge of despair, until Pastor Ngango (Nah-gone-go) stood up by the casket and said, “Stop all this yelling and howling.” The mourners stood in shocked silence. “This woman was a child of God. She has gone to her Father. I loved her, but today we are not crying, we are singing.”

With that he started to sing, “Praise God,” and the Christians joined him. It was not a song of despair or fear or sadness. It was a praise to God, a song of Christ’s victory, a hymn of confidence. Across the centuries comes the theme “I’ll sing, not cry.”

Weeping may endure for the night. Our human emotions sometimes need a release. But joy comes in the morning!

An earthly light has gone out, but where ______________________ is, no earthly light is needed. The glory of God, shining brighter than the sun, is her radiance, and her face is now glistening in that glorious light!

So we come to the end of a journey; it is a good day. An earthly journey has ended. A heavenly residence has been established.

What is our hope?

What is our confidence?

What is our expectation?

1 Corinthians 15:50-56
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall 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 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. O death, where [is] thy sting? O grave, where [is] thy victory? The sting of death [is] sin; and the strength of sin [is] the law. But thanks [be] to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sample Funeral, Graveside and Committal Services by Pastor Mike Cameneti

Sample Funeral, Graveside and Committal Services
by Pastor Mike Cameneti

GRAVESIDE SERVICE

Today we are gathered together for the graveside service for ____________________.  On behalf of the family, I would like to thank all of you for coming today.

Open with prayer:

Death reminds us:

1. A Painful Reminder
Death reminds us that we live in a fallen, imperfect world… we are reminded of mankind’s failings, flaws, and limitations.  Anytime we stand at the graveside, we are reminded of the shadow that has been cast over humanity because of Adam’s sin.  Paul said in Romans 5:12, that “through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men…”

The universal nature of mankind’s problem is further expressed in Romans 8 where Paul refers to:

*the sufferings of this present time (vs.18)
*the whole creation being subject to futility (vs. 20)
*creation itself being under the bondage of corruption (vs. 21)
*how that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs
together until now (vs. 22)

But, death doesn’t merely remind us of the universal nature of mankind’s problems.  God did not leave us in the valley or under the shadow.

When we know God and the truth of His Scripture, death also brings us…

2.  A Precious Realization

We realize that God has a solution… something greater than the painful reminder.

We read earlier that death came into the world through the sin of one man, but that’s far from the entire picture.

Romans 5:15,17-19
15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.
17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
18 …through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

We have a precious realization today: that God has acted on our behalf and provided for us a greater answer to our need.  This precious realization is why the Psalmist said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil” (Psalm 23:4).

Our realization, and indeed, our proclamation today, is that:
Life has triumphed over death!
Mercy and grace have triumphed over sin!
Justification has triumphed over condemnation!

We have a precious realization today, and that leads us to…

3.  A Promised Resurrection

There is a period of time when we are, as the Bible describes, “absent from the body” and “present with the Lord.”

But one of the most clearly taught doctrines of Scripture is that of the resurrection.

Paul said, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body…” (Philippians 3:20-21)

1 Corinthians 15:51-54
51 Behold, I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will 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 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.” 

Charles Spurgeon said, “When we shall rise again, we shall be freed from all corruption; no evil tendencies shall remain in us.  ‘Without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,’ without even the shadow of a spot which the eye of Omniscience could discover, we shall be as pure as Adam before his fall, as holy as the Immaculate manhood when it first came from the divine hand.  We shall be better than Adam, for Adam might sin, but we shall be so established in goodness, in truth, and in righteousness, that we shall not even be tempted again, much less shall we have any fear of falling.  We shall stand spotless and faultless at the last great day.  Brethren, lift up your heads.”
Because of the resurrection, we also have the hope of…

4.  A Perpetual Reunion

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

13 “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. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 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. 16 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. 17 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. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

Notice how beautiful and how powerful those words are: “thus WE shall always be with the Lord.”

There will be no isolation in heaven… we will not be separated from each other.  Heaven, for us, will be a place of perpetual reunion.

 

FUNERAL SERVICE

My name is _____________________ from _______________ Church.

On behalf of the family, I would like to thank all of you for coming out today.

I’m honored to stand before you to conduct this service.

When someone we love dies unexpectedly, there is a tremendous amount of shock.

When a (husband/wife), (a father/mother), (a brother/sister), (a friend) is suddenly no longer with us, it can trigger very strong reactions, emotions, and questions.

We are here today as the people of God to find comfort in the truth of Scripture, and especially to surround ____________ with our love, our faith, and our prayers.

If I could summarize the purpose of this service, I believe I could do it in these few words:

The Hurt
The Help
The Hope

The great Apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 5:8, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”

Today, we know ____________ is present with the Lord.
When the wife of the great evangelist Charles Finney died, he grieved deeply.  Here are his words describing the experience:

My wife was gone!  I should never hear her speak again nor see her face!  Her children were motherless!  What should I do?  My brain seemed to reel, as if my mind would swing from its pivot.  I rose instantly from my bed exclaiming, “I shall be deranged if I cannot rest in God!”  The Lord soon calmed my mind for that night, but still, at times, seasons of sorrow would come over me that were almost overwhelming.

One day I was upon my knees, fellowshipping with God upon the subject, and all at once He seemed to say to me, “You loved your wife?”  “Yes,” I said. “Well, did you love her for her own sake or for your sake? Did you love her or yourself?  If you loved her for her own sake, why do you sorrow that she is with me?  Should not her happiness with me make you rejoice instead of mourn if you loved her for her own sake?”

“Did you love her,” He seemed to say to me, “for my sake?  If you loved her for my sake, surely you would not grieve that she is with me.  Why do you think of your loss, and lay so much stress up that, instead of thinking of her gain?  Can you be sorrowful when she is so joyful and happy?  If you loved her for her own sake, would you not rejoice in her joy and be happy in her happiness?”

I can never describe the feelings that came over me when I seemed to be thus addressed.  It produced an instantaneous change in the whole state of my mind.

From that moment, sorrow, on account of my loss, was gone forever.  I no longer thought of my wife as dead, but as alive, and in the midst of the glories of heaven.
(Memoirs of Charles G. Finney, p. 382)

The reason I like this story is that it vividly portrays all three of these elements:  the hurt, the help, and the hope. 

  1. The Hurt

Hebrews 4:15-16 says, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (NKJV)

Jesus suffered in every way we could ever suffer, and He also is sympathetic with our weakness.

No matter how eloquent the words that are spoken today…

No matter how beautiful the music is…

No matter how kind friends are in their expressions of care and concern…

There is still a very genuine and valid sense of sorrow and loss that is experienced when a loved one is no longer with us.

Even when a person has faith, and this family does, there is still a sadness that exists because someone we love is no longer with us – we are no longer able to enjoy their company, their friendship, and their fellowship.

We see, within the pages of the Bible, a compassionate God who is touched with the feelings of our infirmities.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

Jesus Himself faced great heartache when His own cousin, John the Baptist, was taken from this earth in the prime of his life.  When Jesus heard of John’s death, the Bible says:

“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” (Matt. 14:13, NIV)

I believe that Jesus was deeply saddened by this news, and he desired some solitude in which I’m sure he was drawing comfort from His Heavenly Father.

Many times people will hear a story, like the one I read about Charles Finney, and they get the impression that God’s direction to anyone who is grieving is just to “snap out of it” and quit grieving.

But if you listened carefully to the wording, it is evident that there was a season of time involved before the Lord spoke to Finney in the way that he did, and it was then that Finney’s emotions were changed.

Just like there is a healing and recovery process that involves time when our body is wounded or injured, so there is a period of time when we suffer loss.

This is why the writer of Ecclesiastes said:

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”

The reason we have the ability to grieve is because we have the ability to give and receive love.

 

  1. The Help

In John 14:18, Jesus said, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”

Comfortless means “orphans – one without help.”

It has been said that God never sees His children die; He only sees them come home.

The Word of God is so very clear, that we as believers have received the Holy Spirit; who is our Helper and our comforter in every difficult place of life (John 14:16-18).

Psalm 46 tells us:

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.  Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.  There is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most high.  God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.”

I Thessalonians 4:13-18

(13) “But we do not want you to be uniformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as the rest who have no hope.

(14)  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.

(15) 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, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. 

(16) For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. 

(17) 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.

(18) Therefore comfort one another with these words.

   
BENEDICTION

Hebrews 13-20,21

(20)  “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep.”

(21)   “Equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

COMMITTAL SERVICE

Revelation 1:17-18
17 “ … Fear not; I am the first and the last:
18  I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore …”

John 14:19  Because I live, You shall live also.”

Revelation 14:13, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”

I Corinthians 15:51-55
 “Behold, I show 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 shall sound, and the dead shall 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 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.

O death where is thy sting?  O grave, where is thy victory?”

________________is not here.  He/She stands in the presence of the Lord, the same Jesus who said to the dying man on a cross “…TODAY YOU SHALL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE.”
The body that lies before us is but the earthly tabernacle, the house in which __________________ lived among us for a time.  Tenderly and reverently, we commit that house to the grave,to God who gave it, waiting for the day when both the spirit and the body shall again be united at the coming of the Lord.

 

I Thessalonians 4:16-18
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  “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
                                             

 

COMMITTAL PRAYER

Heavenly Father, we thank You this day for Your precious, eternal, and unchanging Word.  We thank You that You are, to us, the Rock of Ages and the great I AM.

In the midst of our natural sorrow, we thank You for Your supernatural comfort and grace.

In the face of death, we thank You for Your gift of eternal life.

In the face of separation, we thank You for the eternal reunion we so eagerly anticipate.

We thank You for ________________’s life here on this earth, and we recognize that the body that lies before us is not  ________________, but rather the house in which he /she lived.  We acknowledge that __________________ is rejoicing, even now, in Your very presence, enjoying the blessings of Heaven.

Father, we commit his/her body to the earth, from which our bodies were originally created, and we rejoice in the fact that his/her spirit is even now with You, the Father of spirits.

We anticipate the day when spirit and body shall be united again at the coming of the Lord, and we find great comfort in knowing that we shall forever be together with the Lord.

We thank You Father, that in the days, weeks, and months to come, these realities and the abiding presence of Your Spirit will especially strengthen, sustain, and comfort ______________’s friends and family.

IN JESUS’ NAME, AMEN.

 

Sample Funeral Outline  (Why Suffering) – by Pastor John White

FUNERAL SERVICE FOR H.C. BELL
by Pastor John White

Sardis #2 Baptist Church, Addison, AL
July 25, 2003

I. His testimony
            A. His relationship to his family.
            B. His relationship to God.

II. Why the suffering?
            A. Man is a three part being, spirit, soul and
                 body.
                        1. I Thess. 5:23
                        2. Rom. 12:1-2

            B. The wages of sin is death. Rom. 6:23
                        1. Rom. 5:12
                        2. The sin infected blood of Adam.

            C. Death is an enemy
                        1. I Cor. 15:26
                        2. Death is not a friend to God.

            D. Richard Exley in his book “WHEN YOU LOSE SOMEBODY YOU LOVE”

We inhabit a planet which is in rebellion, we are a part of a race living outside God’s will, and that one consequence of that rebellion is sickness and death. God doesn’t send this plague upon people, nor does he will it. It is simply a natural consequence of humanity’s fallen state. Although, as believers, we are a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), we remain a part of this human family-a family that is tainted by sin and death.

As a consequence, we too suffer the inevitable repercussions of that fallen state, even though we may be personally committed to the doing of God’s will and the coming of his kingdom. In truth the cause of sickness and death is not God, but the hated enemy, sin. Nor our personal sin necessarily, not a specific sin-for life and death cannot be reduced to a mathematical equation-but the fact of sin.

III. Why bad things happen to good people.
            A. Hos. 4:6 ignorance
            B. The tongue.
                        1. Prov. 18:21
                        2. James 3:6
            C. Fear
                        1. Fear hath torment. I John 4:18
                        2. Job 3:25
            D. Satan hasn’t been expelled from the earth

Conclusion:         2 Cor. 5:1,6-8
                        Phil. 1:20-23
                        1 Cor. 15:19-26, 51-57

Grave side: I Thess 4:13-18

Song:

 

Sample Funeral Outline (What Happens to Those Why Die) by Pastor John White

Sample Funeral Outline (What Happens to Those Why Die)
by Pastor John White

FUNERAL SERVICE FOR
NORMAN ROLAND
March 12, 2004
Cullman Alabama

Gen. 5:5 And all the days that Adam lived were 930 years and he died.
8. And all the days of Seth were 912 yrs. And he died.
11. And all the days of Enos were 905 yrs. And  he died.
14. And all the days of Cainan were 910 yrs. And he died
17. And all the days of Mahalaleel 895 yrs. And he died.
27. And all the days of Methuselah were 969 yrs. And he died.
31. And all the days of Lamech were 777 yrs. And he died.

Intro: All these men lived long lives on this earth but the most common trait they had was “and they died”. No matter how long you live unless Jesus returns soon for his church you too will die.
I Cor. 15: 19 says if in this life only we had hope we would be of all men most miserable.

I. The Fear of Death Has Been Conquered.
            A. Heb. 4:14-15
            B. I Cor. 15:20-26

II. What Happens To Those Who Die.

            A. Saints
                  1. Lk. 16:22 says that they are carried by the Angels to a place called Abraham’s bosom or better known as paradise. There with the Lord they await the gathering of the Church.
                  2. II Cor. 5:10 They also appear before the Judgement Seat of Christ to be judged for their works.

            B. Unbelievers
                  1. Lk. 16:23, Go directly to Hell
                  2. Great White Throne Judgement
                            Rev. 20:12-15

Conclusion: Rom. 10:9-10, Give invitation

 

 

 

The Reality of Heaven

The Reality of Heaven Rev. Tony Cooke

Facing the death of a friend or loved one is always challenging.  There are usually very mixed emotions.

There is sadness that a person is no longer with us.  But there is also joy that a person is in heaven.

There is sorrow that a chapter in our lives has closed, and that someone very significant to us will now be but a memory to us.

There can also be a sense of relief and release… that someone we care about will not have to suffer or experience any of the pain and discomfort that this life can bring.

All of these, and countless other emotions can be very strong at a time like this, and we can understand why Jesus said: "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted."  He understands that loss hurts, and we should not be afraid or ashamed to express our grief.  Jesus does not condemn us, but said there was comfort for us.

I am convinced that Jesus not only offers comfort through the Person and the Presence of the Holy Spirit, but also through the truth of His Word.

The Bible makes it very clear that physical death is more of a transition than it is a termination.  There is an element of termination involved in that the physical body ceases functioning, but the Bible describes more than just a body, an outward man.  The Bible describes an inward man.

Man is a spiritual being with a soul, and he lives inside of a body.  When the body terminates its functioning, the spirit of man simply transitions to a new location.

For a believer, that new location is a wonderful place called heaven.  When we say that a believer who dies has "gone to a better place," that is not a mere cliché.

Heaven is not a dream.  It is not

  • a figment of someone’s imagination
  • a metaphysical abstraction
  • someone’s theological conception

Heaven is a real place.

Paul said, "To depart and be with Christ is far better."

He said that if this "earthly tent" were destroyed, that we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

He said that "to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord."

With this in mind, I’d like to share just a couple of thoughts about heaven.

1. HEAVEN IS A PLACE THAT IS FREE FROM ALL THE THINGS WHICH CAUSE PAIN IN THIS LIFE.

Revelation 21:3-6

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."  5 He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."  6 He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.

2. HEAVEN IS A PLACE OF PERFECTION.

Not only in the physical sense (no pain, etc.).

Not only in the spiritual sense (God’s presence, etc.).

But also in the mental sense… in terms of what we’ll know.

1 Corinthians 13:9-10, 12

9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.

12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

I John 3:2 

2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

3. HEAVEN IS A GIFT.

John 3:16 

16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Though heaven itself is a place of perfection, perfection on our part is not one of the entrance requirements.  If it was, none of us could make it.  That is why there is forgiveness.

Romans 5:8

8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Eternal life is a gift.  It was prompted by God’s love  –  It was purchased by Jesus Christ.

It is a gift that was received by                                              , and it is the basis for our hope this day.

4.  HEAVEN IS NOT AS FAR AWAY AS WE MIGHT THINK.

Leighton Ford is an evangelist, who, for many years worked as an associate to Billy Graham.  His son, Sandy, died an untimely death, and in spite of his strong faith, Leighton struggled with that loss.

Even though he fully understood that he could not literally communicate with his departed son, Leighton kept a journal in which he wrote imaginary "conversations" with his son; it was his way of expressing things that were on the inside of him and bringing proper closure to the relationship.

In one of these imaginary conversations, Leighton wrote:

"Sandy, I sure do miss you.  I think about you more now than I did when you were here on earth."

"I know you do dad, and I hear those thoughts"

"I guess I’m just afraid that as our time goes on here, that I’ll lose the sense of nearness we once had."

"But why?"  Sandy responded, "It’s just like one big long day here, dad, and besides that, you’re not moving away from me, you’re moving toward me.  And the wall between us is so thin, you would laugh if you could see it."

"Thanks son, it’s getting late, I’d better get to bed.  Enjoy the stars."

"It’s day here dad, enjoy the light."

As we conclude this service today, let me encourage those of you who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ: You will see your friend and loved one again.  And as the old hymn says: What a day of rejoicing that will be!

If there is anyone here who has never placed your trust in the Lord Jesus – the one who lived a sinless life – who died for our sins on the cross – and rose from the dead – I invite you, in the quietness of your own heart, to ask Jesus to be your Savior the same way _______________________ did.

Closing Prayer

The Purpose of Funerals

The Purpose of Funerals

Understanding the purpose of funerals can be very helpful as a Pastor plans to minister to a grieving family. More than an opportunity to present a message about heaven, a funeral presents a myriad of opportunities and needs that enable the love of God and the kindness of believers to be expressed. Understanding these opportunities and needs enables a Pastor to be more sensitive in providing meaningful and thorough ministry to people in need.

1. Funerals provide a structure through which comfort and spiritual, psychological, and social support can be provided to the survivors during the initial stage of mourning. Well designed funeral services carry out and reflect the core beliefs and values of those receiving ministry, thus validating and accentuating the relevance and significance of their faith.

2. Though funerals serve as a time to remember and honor the dead, funerals are really conducted for the living. They bring survivors close together for needed community support, affirming that life goes on. Meaningful funerals are doorways of healing for the bereaved.

3. Funerals provide a time of order and structure during what may seem like a time of disorder and chaos in the lives of the survivors.

4. Funerals can help satisfy the need of people to do something for the deceased.

5. Funerals help people accept the painful reality of death. In accepting the reality of death, there is, of necessity, a transition that occurs in the life of the survivors. Funerals assist mourners in beginning to accommodate to the changed relationship between themselves and the deceased loved one. In other words, the relationship with the deceased shifts from that of physical presence to that of memory.

6. Funerals provide a time and a place for the acknowledging and releasing of emotions.

7. Funerals allow the Church to proclaim its most significant doctrine: the resurrection. An ideal funeral sermon should:a. Comfort with the truth of Scripture

b. Instruct listeners about the way of salvation

c. Remind men of the certainty of death

d. Invite people to take Christ as their Savior

8. Funerals begin the process of reintegrating the bereaved back into the community.

9. Funerals remind people of their own mortality, and cause them to search for answers concerning their own eternal destiny.

10. Funerals bind the social group together through present experience and collective memory. They help the group adjust to the loss of one of its members, and affirms to the group the continuity of life; though one of their members has died, the community lives on.

Adapted in part from Death and Grief: A Guide for Clergy, by Alan D. Wolfelt, Accelerated Development, Inc.

Beyond the Question Marks by Pastor Kenneth Hagin Jr.

 

Beyond the Question Marks
Pastor Kenneth Hagin Jr

We have come here this day for a number of reasons…

1. We are here today to pay our tribute and our respect to a man of God, our brother, _____________________________.

2. We are here today to show our love and support for _______________________’s very precious family.  Not only have we sensed our own personal feelings of loss over __________________’s passing, but our hearts have been drawn toward them, and will continue to be with them.

3. Finally, we are here today to seek and to receive comfort.  We would be less than honest if we said that our hearts have not ached over this situation.  We are not too proud to acknowledge that we have come here today trusting that God would minister to our hearts, and give us strength as we continue in our walk with Him.

What have we experienced these past few days?

“Shock” almost seems not to be a strong enough word.

“Disbelief” probably describes what many of us have felt…

  • That the news of __________________________’s passing just couldn’t be true…
  • That the information must be a mistake…
  • That this is somehow just a bad dream that we’ll wake up from, and then everything will be back to normal…

For others, a sense of “disorientation” or “confusion” has been experienced.  You may have found yourself struggling to somehow make sense of all this, and to get your bearings.

I would venture to guess that all of the people in this auditorium today have faced questions these past few days:

1. How could this have happened?

2. Where is God in this?

3. Why???

4. Where do we go from here?

Questions are totally normal at a time like this, and I am not standing in judgment over anyone whose mind has been full of question marks these past few days.

However, by the Word of God and by the Spirit of God, allow me to take your hand today and take you to a place that is BEYOND THE QUESTION MARKS.

The reason we must move beyond the question marks, is simply because there are some things in life that will remain a mystery.

Deuteronomy 29:29

29 The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.

Even with the additional revelation provided by the New Testament, there are still things that are unclear to us.

1 Corinthians 13:9, 12

9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

It is our human nature to want to understand everything now, but TRUST requires that we lean and rely heavily on God even when things seem unclear.

Proverbs 3:5

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 

Philippians 4:7

7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

I am not here today to condemn anyone who has struggled with this very traumatic event. 

I’m not here to fault anyone who has wrestled with this issue or who has found it troubling.

I’ve struggled with this.

I’ve wrestled with this.

I’ve found it troubling.

But I invite you to join me in choosing to trust God in spite of what you don’t understand. 

I invite you to join me in continuing to believe God’s Word and find the peace that passes understanding.

Jesus doesn’t wait for you to become perfect before He will work with you.  He meets you right where you are… no matter how confused or hurting you may be right now.

We hear Jesus’ teaching at the Sermon on the Mount, where he said:

"Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted." (Matthew 5:4)

Jesus Himself faced great heartache when His own cousin, John the Baptist, was taken from this earth in the prime of his life.  When Jesus heard of John’s death, the Bible says:

"When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place."  (Matthew 14:13, NIV)

I believe that Jesus was deeply saddened by this news, and he desired some solitude in which I’m sure he was drawing comfort from his Heavenly Father.

When Stephen, the first martyr of the church, departed this world in the prime of his life, the Bible says, "…and godly men buried Stephen, and mourned deeply for him." (Acts 8:2 – NIV)

So we see that grieving and mourning is normal and natural in the face of loss.  But I do want to point out something very important. 

Jesus withdrew to a solitary place for a season, but He later moved BEYOND that place.

Godly men mourned deeply for Stephen, but later they moved BEYOND that.

The fact of the matter is that life is a constant progression.

  • We once were lost, but Jesus came into our lives, and we moved BEYOND that.
  • ________________________ once was single, but he met ________________________, and he moved BEYOND that.  
  • As a couple, they had no children, but they moved BEYOND that.
  • There was a time when ________________________ had done nothing for God, but he moved BEYOND that.
  • For ___________ years, ____________________________ lived, and loved, and labored upon this earth, but now, he’s moved BEYOND that.

This Memorial Service is not really for __________________________… He is in Heaven.  This is a time for us who are yet on this earth.

He’s reached the ultimate destination of the universe. 

We say that he has “departed,” but God says that he has “arrived.”

God sees things from such a different perspective than we do.  God never sees His children die.  He simply sees them coming home.

The real questions we face today don’t really pertain to ___________________________.  He has arrived.

The real questions today have to do with us. 

  • What are we going to do?
  • What are we going to focus on?

We have all been impacted differently by ___________________________’s life and by his death. 

We have faced different emotions and encountered different questions.

What I want to do today is to take you BEYOND THE QUESTION MARKS.

_____________________________ was a leader.  He has gone to his reward. 

But if he were here today, I have absolutely no doubt that he would want us to move beyond the question marks.

How do I know this?

Because __________________________ did not live his life in the realm of question marks; he lived his life in the realm of EXCLAMATION POINTS!

Someone made the following statement:

“The measure of a life is not in its duration but in its donation.”

We may have questions about the duration of _________________________’s life.  It seems to have been shorter than we think it should have been.

But we have no questions when it comes to the donation he made. 

When we think of his donation… what he contributed… what he invested… there is nothing there except an exclamation point!!!

  • Consider the investments of love and devotion that he made in his marriage.
  • Consider the investments of godliness and nurturing that he made with into the lives of his children.
  • Consider the investments of the Word of God that _____________________________ made into the lives of countless people.

I say with great exclamation to you that “The measure of a life is not in its duration but in its donation!”

People might have questions as to ____________________________’s death, but we have no questions as to his destiny.

When we speak of _________________________’s destiny, there are no question marks, only exclamation points!

What is it that we proclaim with great confidence today?

We proclaim with Job… Job 19:25!!!

25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.

We proclaim with Jesus… John 14:2-3

2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

We proclaim with Paul… 2 Corinthians 5:6-8

6 …We are always confident, knowing that, while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: 7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) 8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

Philippians 1:21, 23

21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better…

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye 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 unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto 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 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

Dwight L. Moody, the great Evangelist, may have one day lived amidst question marks, but he discovered the glorious secret of complete trust in God.  His last days were wonderfully spent amongst exclamation points!

Dwight L. Moody said, "Someday you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody of Northfield is dead.  Don’t you believe a word of it.  At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now.  I shall have gone higher, that is all — out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal, a body that sin cannot touch, that sin cannot taint, a body fashioned into His glorious body.  I was born in the flesh in 1837; I was born of the Spirit in 1856.  That which is born of the flesh may die; that which is born of the Spirit will live forever."   

A few hours before entering the ‘Homeland,’ Dwight L. Moody caught a glimpse of the glory awaiting him.  Awakening from sleep, he said "Earth recedes.  Heaven opens before me.  If this is death, it is sweet!  There is no valley here.  God is calling me, and I must go." 

His son was standing by his bedside and said, "No, no, father, you are dreaming." 

"No," said Mr. Moody, "I am not dreaming.  I have been within the gates.  I have seen the children’s faces." 

A short time elapsed…and he spoke again, "This is my triumph; this is my coronation day!  It is glorious!"

There was a woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live.  As she was getting her things in order, she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discus certain aspects of her final wishes.  She told him the songs she wanted sung at her funeral, the scriptures she wanted read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in.  The woman also requested to be buried with her favorite Bible.  Everything seemed in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

“There’s one thing more,” she said excitedly.  “What’s that?” came the pastor’s reply.  “This is very important,” the woman continued.  “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.”  The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say.  That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the woman asked.  “Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the pastor.

The woman explained.  “In all my years of attending church socials and pot-luck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, “Keep your fork.”  It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming, like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie.  Something wonderful, and with substance!  So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder, “What’s with the fork?”  Then I want you to tell them:  “Keep your fork.  The best is yet to come.”

The pastor’s eyes welled up with tears as he hugged the woman goodbye.  He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death.  But he also knew that the woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did.  She knew that something better was coming.

At the funeral, people were walking by the woman’s casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing, her favorite Bible, and the fork in her right hand.  Over and over the pastor heard the question, “What’s with the fork?”  And over and over he smiled.  During the message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the woman shortly before she died, and explained the meaning of the fork.  The pastor told the people he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to either.  He was right.  So the next time you find yourself reaching for the fork, remind yourself that the best is yet to come.

I’m not going to tell you today that you’ll never have “question marks” come to you.  But I will tell you this:  There is something wonderful that you can focus on.  Choose to focus on the things you know… things the Word of God declares.

I’m not going to tell you not to cry or not to experience emotions.  Emotions are God-given.  They are a part of who we are.  Tears are the safety-valve that God built into us to help us at times like these.  It’s OK to cry. 

But remember this.  We are going to move beyond the tears.  We are going to move beyond the question marks.

Much to our surprise, our friend has taken an earlier flight than we anticipated, but we still share a common destination.

His race ended earlier than we anticipated, but we still have our race to run, and ____________________ would not have it any other way than that we give our very best for the Kingdom of God.

I will deeply miss my friend, __________________________.  But I rejoice this day that he is with my Savior, Jesus.  And in honor of my friend, I say…

Ring out the welcome.

Swing wide the gates.

Choirs of angels stand and sing, “Amazing Grace.”

There’s one more soldier of the King.

Whose trials are past.

Ring out the welcome loud and clear –

He’s home at last.

The Joy of Preaching My Father’s Funeral by Pastor Doug Foutty

The Joy of Preaching My Father’s Funeral
by Pastor Doug Foutty

Doug Foutty and his wife, Laura, founded Faith Fellowship Church in Parkersburg, West Virginia in January of 2003.  They are the parents of three children.

This may seem like a strange title to the ministers who have not been in this situation before. In November of 2006 my dad became increasingly sick. He had seen enough doctors to know that something serious was wrong. It turned out to be a cancerous brain tumor the size of a grapefruit pressing on his brain. He had it removed but he was still given a limited amount of time to live. He began to get his affairs in order. That is when one of many, many things hit me. Did I want to preach his funeral? Could I preach his funeral, even if I wanted to do it? I knew one thing; I would be a pall bearer. I would carry his body on its last march.

Things got much worse over the next few months with dad’s health. We were in a two week frame of mind in April. Dad was 78 and a he was Christian. In those last 2 weeks of his life I really decided that I WANTED to speak at his funeral. I would subtly mention it to different family members. I was speaking it in faith because my mind was screaming—NO!

My parents didn’t attend my church. They attended the church close to their home. It is the church that I was brought up in and has been their home church since 1970. So, I also knew that his pastor would be speaking since the funeral would be held in his church. I hoped that dad’s pastor would understand what I wanted to do. I can’t say that he was thrilled with my decision. I was going to be polite and respectful to him, but also do my best to get him to understand my reasons for wanting to do this. It is a denominational church that this man pastored and they weren’t much for allowing anyone behind their pulpit that hadn’t been approved.

Dad went to be with Jesus in mid April 2007. The day for the funeral finally came. Even that day, moments before the service was to start, the other pastor asked if I still planned on saying a few words. I only include this part of the story because this is to help ministers. You don’t always know what you might encounter. You might not expect another minister to be uncomfortable with you in their church. I really like this man and he really liked my dad. It was just uncomfortable for him trying to keep the rules that he felt his denomination would want kept and not offending the son of the man that just passed away.

I was very pleased with how dad’s pastor started the service and with the humorous story that he recounted. He honored my father and he celebrated his life. There it is. Did you catch it? That was my whole endeavor. I wanted to celebrate dad’s life. I did not want a sad and dreary funeral. The place was packed and there was an overflow room. Dad would not have wanted all of these friends and family members of his gathered together to be put through a gut-wrenching message of grief and sorrow.

So this is what I did. I told funny stories. I told touching stories that showed the Jesus in him. I also told a story that I made up on the spot about what I suspected he was up to right now in heaven. As a minister, as his son, as a boy who had just lost his father, these were the kinds of stories I could tell and not break down. These were the kinds of stories I could tell and know that my mom would laugh and get some relief from the grief.  These were the kinds of stories that I could tell and look back the rest of my life and say—“Doug, you celebrated your dad’s life.” These were the kinds of stories that brought me JOY to tell them. Dad would have liked it.

I told of the familiar story about not giving your father credit for what he knew until your experience caught up and you found out that he really did know a lot. It went something like this. It was Christmas 1970 and I got my first REAL bicycle. I was 8 years old. That was back in the days when bikes needed assembled after you bought them. I was excited and dad seemed concerned. He got all of the tools out and carefully laid out the parts of the bicycle. During this ‘too long’ of an ordeal for an 8 year old, I heard the only curse word that he would ever utter in my presence in the 44 years that we had together on this Earth. He said it twice, the same phrase. I told the people at my dad’s funeral that I wasn’t sure if he said it twice because he wanted to make sure my bike heard him or because he wanted my bike to know he was serious. I don’t even know how my dad knew my bike was a boy, but it must have been. He called it a SON of something twice. I was embarrassed and disappointed at the same time. It was the Christmas season and dad was cussing my new bike. I didn’t think it was fair. That day came and went. I had that bike for several years. I had many wrecks on that bike. That bike threw me and slid out from under me and mistreated me on a regular basis. It wasn’t a very nice bike. One particular time that the handle bars came loose and I was picking myself up and was bruised and bleeding after a bad wreck I looked at the bike and said—DAD WAS RIGHT ABOUT YOU!

I told several stories that made the people laugh and made me laugh as I told them. The one that I made up as I went was about what I thought dad was doing in heaven right that minute. Dad was the type of man that knew everyone and knew all of their relatives. He prided himself in being able to talk about someone’s relatives with them.  He helped people with their family trees and was just a wealth of knowledge when it came to things like that. Also, everyone was well aware of this talent. He had even told me of people that were too closely related to be married and wouldn’t be if they knew what he did. So, the story I made up went something like this. I told them, I can just see dad right now. He’s talking to Eve. You know, as in Adam and Eve. He’s asking her where she’s from and who her mother and father were. I’m sure that Eve is trying to explain her situation to dad without offending him. She is saying—I WAS A RIB! Of course dad is saying, I knew some Ribs once. They lived in Ritchie County. I went to school with the oldest girl. Then Eve says. I wasn’t a Rib on my momma’s side of the family and I wasn’t a Rib on my daddy’s side. I WAS A RIB ON MY HUSBAND”S SIDE!!!

And with that, I sat down.

I had celebrated my father’s life. I had experienced JOY in preaching my father’s funeral. I recommend that if a minister faces this opportunity, take it. Think of the best way to celebrate your parent’s life and tell everyone about them. The laughter and smiles from the crowd will bless you and a merry heart truly works like a medicine in a time like that.

I hope this will help you choose to celebrate your parent’s life. No one can do it like their own child.

11 Great Stories About Going Home

Story #1: Certainties
When the great Christian and scientist, Sir Michael Faraday, was dying, some journalists questioned him as to his speculations about life after death.  “Speculations!” he said, “I know nothing about speculations.  I’m resting on certainties.  ‘I know that my redeemer liveth, and because He lives, I shall live also.'”

Story #2: Arrived
There are Christians from a certain tribe in Africa who never say of their dead “who die in the Lord” that “they have departed.”  Instead, speaking as it were from the vantage point of the gloryworld, they triumphantly and joyously say, “they have arrived.”

Story #3: The Revised Edition
When Benjamin Franklin was about to die, he asked that a picture of Christ on the cross should be so placed in his bedroom that he could look, as he said, “upon the form of the Silent Sufferer.”  He wrote in advance the epitaph to be on his gravestone:  “The body of Benjamin Franklin, Printer, like the cover of an old book, it’s contents torn out and stripped of its lettering and gilding, lies here…Yet the Work itself shall not be lost; for it will, as he believed, appear once more in a new and more beautiful edition, corrected and amended by the Author.”

Story #4: In My Father’s House
It is said that when one of his church members was dying, John Watson, the Scottish preacher of Edinburgh, would kneel down and whisper in the person’s ear: “In my Father’s house are many rooms.” Then, with a contented sigh, the person would “slip away” – entirely unafraid.

Story #5: Dwight Moody’s Homegoing
Dwight L. Moody said, “Someday you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody of Northfield is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone higher, that is all — out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal, a body that sin cannot touch, that sin cannot taint, a body fashioned into His glorious body. I was born in the flesh in 1837; I was born of the Spirit in 1856. That which is born of the flesh may die; that which is born of the Spirit will live forever.”

A few hours before entering the ‘Homeland,’ Dwight L. Moody caught a glimpse of the glory awaiting him. Awakening from sleep, he said “Earth recedes. Heaven opens before me. If this is death, it is sweet! There is no valley here. God is calling me, and I must go.” His son was standing by his bedside and said, “No, no, father, you are dreaming.” “No,” said Mr. Moody, “I am not dreaming. I have been within the gates. I have seen the children’s faces.” A short time elapsed…and he spoke again, “This is my triumph; this is my coronation day! It is glorious!”

Story #6: Reville
Winston Churchill had planned his funeral, which took place in Saint Paul’s Cathedral. He included many of the great hymns of the church, and used the eloquent Anglican liturgy. At his direction, a bugler positioned high in the dome of Saint Paul’s, intoned, after the benediction, the sound of “Taps,” the universal signal that says the day is over. But then came the most dramatic turn: As Churchill instructed, as soon as “Taps” was finished, another bugler, placed on the other side of the great dome, played the notes of “Reville” – “It’s time to get up. It’s time to get up. It’s time to get up in the morning.” That was Churchill’s testimony that at the end of history, the last note will not be “Taps,” it will be “Reville.” The worst things are never the last thing.

Story #7: Both Sides of the River
The story is told of old Bishop Warren Chandler, after whom the school of theology at Emory University was named. As he lay on his death bed, a friend inquired as to whether or not he was afraid. “Please tell me frankly,” he said, “do you fear crossing over the river of death?” “Why,” replied Chandler, ” I belong to a father who owns the land on both sides of the river.”

Story #8: Waiting
There is a woman who is buried under a 150-year-old live oak trees in the
cemetery of an Episcopal church in rural Louisiana. In accordance with this woman’s instructions, only one word is carved on the tombstone: “Waiting.”
Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew

Story #9: The Fork
There was a woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. As she was getting her things in order, she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discus certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him the songs she wanted sung at her funeral, the scriptures she wanted read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. The woman also requested to be buried with her favorite Bible. Everything seemed in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

“There’s one thing more,” she said excitedly. “What’s that?” came the pastor’s reply. “This is very important,” the woman continued. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.” The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say. That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the woman asked. “Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the pastor.

The woman explained. “In all my years of attending church socials and pot-luck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, “Keep your fork.” It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming, like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance! So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder, “What’s with the fork?” Then I want you to tell them: “Keep your fork. The best is yet to come.”

The pastor’s eyes welled up with tears as he hugged the woman goodbye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She knew that something better was coming.

At the funeral, people were walking by the woman’s casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing, her favorite Bible, and the fork in her right hand. Over and over the pastor heard the question, “What’s with the fork?” And over and over he smiled. During the message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the woman shortly before she died, and explained the meaning of the fork. The pastor told the people he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to either. He was right. So the next time you find yourself reaching for the fork, remind yourself that the best is yet to come.

Story #10: It’s Day Here
Leighton Ford is an evangelist, who, for many years worked as an associate to Billy Graham. His son, Sandy, died an untimely death, and in spite of his strong faith, Leighton struggled with that loss.

Even though he fully understood that he could not literally communicate with his departed son, Leighton kept a journal in which he wrote imaginary “conversations” with his son; it was his way of expressing things that were on the inside of him and bringing proper closure to the relationship.

In one of these imaginary conversations, Leighton wrote:

“Sandy, I sure do miss you. I think about you more now than I did when you were here on earth.”

“I know you do dad, and I hear those thoughts”

“I guess I’m just afraid that as our time goes on here, that I’ll lose the sense of nearness we once had.”

“But why?” Sandy responded, “It’s just like one big long day here, dad, and besides that, you’re not moving away from me, you’re moving toward me. And the wall between us is so thin, you would laugh if you could see it.”

“Thanks son, it’s getting late, I’d better get to bed. Enjoy the stars.”

“It’s day here dad, enjoy the light.”

Story #11: The Waterbug Story (Great to help children…)
Down below the surface of a quiet pond lived a little colony of waterbugs. They were a happy colony, living far away from the sun. For many months they were very busy, scurrying over the soft mud on the bottom of the pond. They did notice that every once in a while one of their colony seemed to lose interest in going about with its friends. Clinging to the stem of a pond lily, it gradually moved out of sight and was seen no more.

“Look!” said one of the water bugs to another, “one of our colony is climbing up the lily stalk. Where do you think she’s going?” Up, up, up it slowly went… Even as they watched, the water bug disappeared from sight. Its friends waited and waited but it didn’t return…

“That’s funny!” said one water bug to another…
“Wasn’t she happy here?” asked a second…
“Where do you suppose she went?” wondered a third…
No one had an answer. They were greatly puzzled.

Finally one of the water bugs gathered its friends together. “I have an idea. The next one of us who climbs up the lily stalk must promise to come back and tell us where he or she went and why.” “We promise” they said solemnly.

One spring day not long after the very water bug who had suggested the plan found himself climbing up the lily stalk. Up, up, up he went. Before he knew what was happening, he had broken through the surface of the water and fallen into the broad and free lily pad above.

When he awoke, he looked about with surprise. He couldn’t believe what he saw.

A startling change had come over his old body. His movement revealed four silver wings and a long tail.

Even as he struggled, he felt an impulse to move his wings… The warmth of the sun soon dried the moisture from his new body. He moved his wings again and suddenly found himself above the water.

He had become a dragonfly. Swooping and dipping in great curves, he flew through the air. He felt exhilarated in the new atmosphere.

By and by the new dragonfly landed happily on a lily pad to rest. Then it was that he chanced to look below to the bottom of the pond. Why, he was right above his old friends, the water bugs! There they were scurrying around, just as he had been doing some time before.

Then the dragonfly remembered the promise.
Without thinking, the dragonfly darted down.
Suddenly he hit the surface of the water and bounced away. Now that he was a dragonfly, he could no longer go into the water…

“I can’t return!” he said in dismay.
“At least I tried. But I can’t keep my promise.
Even if I could go back, not one of the water bugs would know me in my new body.
I guess I’ll just have to wait until they become dragonflies too.
Then they’ll understand what has happened to me, and where I went.”

And the dragonfly winged off happily into its wonderful new world of sun and air…

The Hurt, The Help, and The Hope

The Hurt, The Help, and The Hope Rev. Tony Cooke

We are here today as the people of God to find comfort in the Presence of God and the truth of Scripture, and especially to surround this family with our love, our faith, and our prayers.

If we could summarize the purpose of an occasion like this, I believe we could do it in these few, brief words:

The Hurt

The Help

The Hope

When the wife of the great evangelist Charles Finney died, he grieved deeply.  Here are his words describing the experience:

“My wife was gone!  I should never hear her speak again, nor see her face!  Her children were motherless!  What should I do?  My brain seemed to reel, as if my mind would swing from its pivot.  I rose instantly from by bed exclaiming, "I

shall be deranged if I cannot rest in God!"  The Lord soon calmed my mind, for that night; but still, at times, seasons of sorrow would come over me, that were almost overwhelming.

One day I was upon my knees, communing with God upon the subject, and all at once He seemed to say to me, "You loved your wife?"  "Yes," I said.  "Well, did you love her for her own sake or for your sake?  Did you love her or yourself?  If you loved her for her own sake, why do you sorrow that she is with me?  Should not her happiness with me, make you rejoice instead of mourn, if you loved her for her own sake?"

"Did you love her," He seemed to say to me, "for my sake?  If you loved her for my sake, surely you would not grieve that she is with me.  Why do you think of your loss, and lay so much stress upon that, instead of thinking of her gain?  Can you be sorrowful, when she is so joyful and happy?  If you loved her for her own sake, would you not rejoice in her joy, and be happy in her happiness?"

I can never describe the feelings that came over me, when I seemed to be thus addressed.  It produced an instantaneous change in the whole state of my mind.  From that moment, sorrow, on account of my loss, was gone forever.  I no longer thought of my wife as dead, but as alive, and in the midst of the glories of heaven.” (Memoirs of Charles G. Finney, p. 382)

The reason I like this story is that it vividly portrays all three of these elements:  the hurt, the help, and the hope.

1. The Hurt

No matter how eloquent the words that are spoken today…

No matter how beautiful the music is…

No matter how kind friends are in their expressions of care and concern…

There is still a very genuine and valid sense of sorrow and loss that is experienced when a loved one is no longer with us.

Even when a person has faith, and this family does, there is still a sadness that exists because someone we love is no longer with us – we are no longer able to enjoy their company, their friendship, and their fellowship.

We see within the pages of the Bible a compassionate God who is touched with the feelings of our infirmities.

We see Jesus’ teaching at the Sermon on the Mount where he said:

"Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted." (Matthew 5:4)

Jesus himself faced great heartache when his own cousin, John the Baptist, was taken from this earth in the prime of his life.  When Jesus heard of John’s death, the Bible says:

"When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place."  (Matthew 14:13 – NIV)

I believe that Jesus was deeply saddened by this news, and he desired some solitude in which I’m sure he was drawing comfort from his Heavenly Father.

Many times people will hear a story, like the one I read about Charles Finney, and they get the impression that God’s direction to anyone who is grieving is just to "snap out of it" and quit grieving.

But if you listened carefully to the wording, it is evident that there was a season of time involved before the Lord spoke to Finney in the way that he did and it was then that Finney’s emotions were changed.

Just like there is a healing and recovery process that involves time when our body is wounded or injured, so there is a period of time when we suffer loss.

This is why the writer of Ecclesiastes said:

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

The reason we have the ability to grieve, is because we have the ability to give and receive love.

2. The Help

Psalm 46 tells us:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.  Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.  Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.  There is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most high.  God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved:  God shall help her, and that right early.

God is committed to helping us through the difficult, the turbulent times of life.

A.  God helps us by giving us promises that reflect true reality, ultimate reality, and eternal reality.  We need to understand that death is a temporal reality.

We have to deal with the temporal issues that are involved, and sometimes those are unpleasant.  But they are, nevertheless, temporal.

B.  God helps us by His abiding presence and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

C.  God helps us through friends who are supportive, who are there for us, who are non-judgmental.

He helps us through friends who don’t put unrealistic standards in front of us, who allow us time to be "human."  Friends who don’t feel obligated to throw out trite clichés to help us "snap out of it."

The Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians described a time in his life when he was "pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that [he] despaired even of life."  He said that his flesh had no rest, but that he was troubled on every side.  On the outside were fightings and within were fears.

I want you to notice that Paul’s spirituality and faith did not rule out just how very human he was.

But God did help Paul.

He went on to say:

"But God, who comforts those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus."

Another time, in 2 Timothy, Paul was relating a time in prison when he experienced a sense of abandonment and loneliness.  He then referred to a friend named Onesiphorus who had sought Paul out, found him, and refreshed him.

Illustration: A little girl was sent to the store on an errand by her mother with specific instructions to go straight to the store and return straight home.  The girl did not arrive home at the expected time, and the mother became anxious and concerned.  When the girl finally returned, her mother was quite agitated, and the frustration of the mother came out when she questioned where the girl had been and why it had taken so long.

The girl responded that on the way to the store, she stopped to help a friend whose doll had just been broken. 

The mother was somewhat sarcastic when she asked what she knew about fixing dolls.

The little girl said, "I don’t know anything about fixing dolls.  I just sat down with her for a while and helped her cry."

 

3. The Hope

God does understand our hurt — he is touched with the feeling of our infirmities.

God does help us — in the midst of our humanness and our natural emotions, God helps us with his promises, with his presence, and through friends.

But God goes beyond these first two elements and gives us hope.

When the world says it’s all over.

It’s finished.

No more.

The end.

God says:  "I will have the last word."

To that, we respond:  We walk by faith, not by sight.

As Christians, we have something very positive and tangible to look forward to in the future.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

13 But I would not have you to ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye 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 unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not precede 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 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

Not only does God offer us hope with the promise of the resurrection, but the resurrection offers us the promise of reunion.

Leighton Ford is an evangelist, who, for many years worked as an associate to Billy Graham.  His son, Sandy, died an untimely death, and in spite of his strong faith, Leighton struggled with that loss.

Even though he fully understood that he could not literally communicate with his departed son, Leighton kept a journal in which he wrote imaginary "conversations" with his son; it was his way of expressing things that were on the inside of him and bringing proper closure to the relationship.

In one of these imaginary conversations, Leighton wrote:

"Sandy, I sure do miss you.  I think about you more now than I did when you were here on earth."

"I know you do dad, and I hear those thougts.”

"I guess I’m just afraid that as our time goes on here, that I’ll lose the sense of nearness we once had."

"But why?"  Sandy responded, "It’s just like one big long day here, dad, and besides that, you’re not moving away from me, you’re moving toward me.  And the wall between us is so thin, you would laugh if you could see it."

"Thanks son, it’s getting late, I’d better get to bed.  Enjoy the stars."

"It’s day here dad, enjoy the light."

The Funeral as an Outreach (Plus Helpful Forms) By Rev. Jerry R. Weinzerl

The Funeral as an Outreach (Plus Helpful Forms)
By Rev. Jerry R. Weinzerl

THREE THINGS TO CONSIDER:

1. Do you have a heart for people, lost people? You can only impact those you have a heart for.

2. Are you motivated by the right things? (Love, gospel message, to help hurting people, etc.)

3. Can you see beyond your own traditions to reach people where they are? (especially when asked

to do a funeral for someone you have never met and are totally unsure of their spiritual condition)

 

KEY SCRIPTURES:  (for defining the purpose of your service to the family)

Matthew 5:13-16 – A reminder to “let your light shine that they see your good works with the result of glorifying the Father!”

Isaiah 55:11  &  Romans 1:16 – These are not necessarily Scriptures you share at the funeral. These are to remind you that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation and that the Word will not return void. I’m not a big fan of “preaching” people into heaven at a funeral. I’m going to put the Word of God out there and let the Spirit of God do the work.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-13-18 – This Scripture get the seed of the Word into their ears and maybe their hearts regarding their belief in Jesus Christ.

Psalm 23 – Why do I use this? Because it’s the family/friends that are left behind that are truly in the “…valley of the shadow of death…” and God said he is there with you!

The Lord’s Prayer

This isn’t the time to teach about the real purpose of Jesus teaching them to pray. Most people at the funeral will be familiar with this prayer and sometimes this “religious familiarity” will bring comfort.

THE PROCESS:

FUNERAL SERVICE

Our Lord in heaven, as we have come together on this day to remember the life and love of  ____________________________, our feeling of loss can be hard to express as we honor his/her _____ years of life. Many aspects of his/her life were filled with a richness that love, commitment and dedication brings. I ask you God, that the words spoken in these next few moments would be those that accurately reflect your heart, for I want your heart to be made known……your care, compassion and love for these people.   Holy Spirit, I ask that as we remember this one that has entered heaven’s rest, minister to those that remain, bring them comfort, bring them peace………..In Jesus name, AMEN.

 

INTRODUCTORY THOUGHTS:

As we remember the life of __________________________________ born ____________________in __________________ and has gone to be with the Lord, _________________ 200____……We are faced with life in a different context. Although ___________________________ enjoyed a life surrounded by a family and friends, (As you have experienced in this loss), we see once again that life can be filled with such amazing / often difficult contradictions… Happiness / Sadness, Peace / Turmoil, Incredible Joy / Unbearable Sorrow           

The writer of Ecclesiastes understood this (Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

1 To everything there is a season,

A time for every purpose under heaven:

2 A time to be born,

And a time to die;

A time to plant,

And a time to pluck what is planted;

3 A time to kill,

And a time to heal;

A time to break down,

And a time to build up;

4 A time to weep,

And a time to laugh;

A time to mourn,

And a time to dance;

5 A time to cast away stones,

And a time to gather stones;

A time to embrace,

And a time to refrain from embracing;

6 A time to gain,

And a time to lose;

A time to keep,

And a time to throw away;

7 A time to tear,

And a time to sew;

A time to keep silence,

And a time to speak;

8 A time to love,

And a time to hate;

A time of war,

And a time of peace.

Some of these things we understand; some leave feelings of emptiness and despair, even loneliness.

There is a misconception that there is an answer available for every event in life, an answer that we can someday come to understand.

Psalms 23

1 The LORD is my shepherd;

I shall not want.

2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside the still waters.

3 He restores my soul;

He leads me in the paths of righteousness

For His name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;

For You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

My cup runs over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

All the days of my life;

And I will dwell in the house of the LORD

Forever.

Psalms 61:1-2

1Hear my cry, O God;

Attend to my prayer.

2 From the end of the earth I will cry to You,

When my heart is overwhelmed;

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.  Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.  Amen.

John 14:1-3

1 "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

I want to leave you with this exhortation:                       

1. Life is precious, make the most of every moment.

2. Take time to enjoy what you have, especially each other!

3. Take the best aspects of  _________________’s life and live them out in your own……….then a part of him/her can live on through you.

Committal Service

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

13 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. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 

15 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. 16 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. 17 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. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

* Then pray the Lord’s Prayer again.

Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life.  He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.  And whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die.”

Prayer: “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, and dust to dust, but the spirit is with you, O God, the giver of all life.  And we look for the resurrection of the dead according to your promise.  For he that believes shall never die.

We trust in your care and in your mercy and now commit this loved one __________________________ into your hands.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Committal Prayers: (circle one)   Cemetery     Funeral Home

Things to mention / check:

  • No phone!

  • Podium

  • Did you ask for people that might want to share?

  • Special Scriptures

  • Arrange for songs to be played

  • Extra chair if someone else is speaking

Songs:

  1. _________________________________________

  2. __________________________________________

    Memories:

    Others Speaking? _____________________________________

    Deceased Name: ______________________________________

     

    SURVIVED BY:

    ·  Spouse:   Married ___________ years. (Month_____Year_____)

    ·  Son(s):                                                

    ·  Daughter(s):                                

    ·  Grandchild(ren):                       

    ·  Great Grandchild(ren):

    ·  Great Great Grandchild(ren):           

    ·  Parent(s):

    ·  Brother(s):                       

    ·  Sister(s):

    ·  Niece(s)/Nephew(s):                                               

    ·  MILITARY: ___________________________________________

    ·  WORK HISTORY/RETIRED FROM: _______________________

                                                                                       

    Church Funeral Preparation       

    Day/time of funeral:__________________________

    SONGS:           

    #1______________________________________

    #2______________________________________ 

    Name of Deceased: _________________________________

    Nick-Name (if any)__________________________________

    Age at Death_____________Born_______________

    Where_______________________________Died___________________

    Funeral Date / Time_________________________________

    Location of Funeral Service___________________________

    Cemetery Name / City__________________________________________

    Committal Service:   Yes  or  No    

    If yes, location: _______________________________________________

    Church Attended__________________________________________

    Names of Survivors:

    Spouse_____________________________________________________

    Years Married________________________

    Children_______________________________________________

    Parents________________________________________________

    Siblings________________________________________________

    Grand / Great-Grand Children______________________________

    Military Background______________________________________

    Work History / Retired From__________________________________

    Clubs / Groups / Community Service ______________________________________________________

    Personality Type___________________________________

    Stories / Likes / Dislikes:

     

    How would you like this person to be remembered?

Death: Friend or Foe? by Tony Cooke

Death: Friend or Foe?
Rev. Tony Cooke

Whenever death occurs, there is naturally an element of sorrow and grief which is present.

Even when a person has faith, and this family does, there is still a sadness that exists because someone we love is no longer with us – we are no longer able to enjoy their company, their friendship, and their fellowship.

We see within the pages of the Bible a compassionate God who is touched with the feelings of our infirmities.

We see Jesus’ teaching at the Sermon on the Mount where he said:

"Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted." (Matthew 5:4)

Jesus himself faced great heartache when his own cousin, John the Baptist, was taken from this earth in the prime of his life.  What was Jesus response to this tragic news?

"When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place."  (Matthew 14:13 – NIV)

I believe that Jesus was deeply saddened by this news, and he desired some solitude in which I’m sure he was drawing comfort from his Heavenly Father.

When Stephen, the first martyr of the church, was killed, the Bible says, "…and godly men buried Stephen, and mourned deeply for him." (Acts 8:2 – NIV)

So we see that grieving and mourning is normal and natural in the face of loss.  But I do want to point out something very important.  The Bible says we are not to grieve as others which have no hope.

There is a difference in the way we grieve when we know Jesus.

There is sorrow, but it is infused with hope.

There is loss, but we have a promise.

There is a separation, but we anticipate a reunion.

We still feel the natural sense of loss and disappointment, but God is with us, and he gives us a comfort and a strength that no one else can.

Even with God’s help and presence, when someone we love dies, when someone who has had a significant impact in our life dies, it can have a very disorienting effect on our lives.

I feel certain that every person here today has asked many questions within themselves, and has probably done some serious self-evaluating in the midst of this situation.

For many people, death is a great mystery, shrouded in mystery, and evoking fear and a sense of avoidance. 

Many dislike funerals, not only because it means someone we love has died, but because it reminds us of our own frailty and mortality.  It reminds us of just how fragile life can be.

Very often, we really struggle with all of this.

We try to come to grips with death.

We endeavor to establish some kind of understanding

We seek to attach some kind of meaning to such an impacting event.

I am reminded of a soldier on the night shift.  He has been charged with the duty of keeping the camp safe.  And like a good soldier, he is alert and awake, when off in the darkness he hears a noise.

His adrenaline level shoots up, he tightens his grip on his weapon, and he looks out into the darkness trying to "see" what made the noise.

He wants to assume it’s nothing, perhaps just a squirrel or some other small animal, and even though he wants to assume the best, he knows he needs to be on guard just in case…

As his heart races, and as he continues to gaze out into the darkness, he calls out those familiar words:  "Halt, who goes there?"

Hearing no response, he calls out again, "Halt, who goes there, friend or foe?"

That’s how we are about things we don’t understand.  We want to know if it’s friendly or unfriendly.

Is this unknown thing going to hurt us or do us good.

I want to share with you for just a few minutes today on the subject of "Death: Friend or Foe?"

The answer seems obvious enough.  Death is not our friend.  Death is certainly an enemy.

I Corinthians 15:25-26

25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.

26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

The very reason Jesus came had to do with giving us victory over the power of death.

Hebrews 2:14-15

14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

Many years after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the Apostle John and said:

Revelation 1:17-18

17 …Fear not; I am the first and the last:

18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

As valuable and precious as these insights are, we really wouldn’t need the Bible to know that death is an enemy.

Anything that robs a person of their son, their brother, their friend (Note from TC: or whatever relations existed)… certainly is not considered welcome in our lives.

We know it’s an enemy because of the sorrow and the disappointment and the heartache it brings to the heart of people.

Death:  Friend or Foe?

It’s obviously an enemy.  We know this biblically and we know this experientially.

But what about the other perspective?

I’m not ready to call death a "friend," but is there another side to the issue?

Is there another perspective?  Is there another vantage point?

I believe there is!

While I cannot and will not say in an unqualified way that death is a friend, I am saying that there is another perspective that goes beyond our five physical senses.

Psalm 116:15

15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.

God never sees His children die; He simply sees them coming home.

When you can look at death from the heavenly perspective, you can see it also from an entirely different perspective.

You see that death is not a termination, but a transition.

You begin to understand why Paul called our bodies a tent, a temporary dwelling.

2 Corinthians 5:6-8

6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:

7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)

8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

You can understand that while believers still have emotions or sorrow, and are going to miss their loved one, we are not morbid and fatalistic about the death of our loved ones.

Consider some of the following stories of God’s people:

  • About the year 125 A.D., a Greek by the name of Aristeides was writing to one of his friends about the new religion, Christianity.  He was trying to explain the reasons for its extraordinary success.  Here is a sentence from one of his letters: "If any righteous man among the Christians passes from this world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God, and they escort his body with songs and thanksgiving as if he were setting out from one place to another nearby."
  • There are Christians from a certain tribe in Africa who never say of their dead "who die in the Lord" that "they have departed."  Instead, speaking as it were from the vantage point of the gloryworld, they triumphantly and joyously say, "they have arrived."
  • When Benjamin Franklin was about to die, he asked that a picture of Christ on the Cross be placed in his bedroom so that he could look, as he said, "upon the form of the Silent Sufferer."

            He wrote in advance the epitaph to be on his gravestone:

"The body of Benjamin Franklin, printer, like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out and stripped of its lettering and gilding, lies here… Yet the work itself shall not be lost; for it will, as he believed, appear once more in a new and more beautiful edition, corrected and amended by the Author."

  • When the great Christian and scientist, Sir Michael Faraday, was dying, some journalists questioned him as to his speculations about life after death.

"Speculations!" he said, "I know nothing about speculations.  I’m resting on certainties.  ‘I know that my redeemer liveth, and because He lives, I shall live also.’"

Consider the following death-bed statements:

  • Martin Luther said:  "Our God is the God from whom cometh salvation:  God is the Lord by whom we escape death."
  • John Knox said:  Live in Christ, live in Christ, and the flesh need not fear death.
  • John Wesley said:  "The best of all is, God is with us.  Farewell!  Farewell!
  • Charles Wesley said:  "I shall be satisfied with thy likeness — satisfied, satisfied!"
  • Adoniram Judson said:  "I am not tired of my work, neither am I tired of the world; yet when Christ calls me home, I shall go with the gladness of a boy bounding away from school."
  • John Pawson said:  "I know I am dying, but my deathbed is a bed of roses.  I have no thorns planted upon my dying pillow.  Heaven is already begun!"
  • Realizing that he would soon be gone from this world, Dwight L. Moody said to a friend:

"Someday you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody of Northfield is dead.  Don’t you believe a word of it.  At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now.  I shall have gone higher, that is all – out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal, a body that sin cannot touch, that sin cannot taint, a body fashioned into His glorious body.  I was born in the flesh in 1837; I was born of the Sprit in 1856.  That which is born of the flesh may die; that which is born of the Spirit will live forever."

A few hours before entering the ‘homeland, ‘ Moody caught a glimpse of the glory awaiting him.  Awakening from sleep, he said:  "Earth recedes.  Heaven opens before.  If this is death, it is sweet!  There is no valley here.  God is calling me, and I must go."

His son, who was standing by his bed, said:  "No father, you are dreaming."

Moody responded:  "No, I am not dreaming.  I have been within the gates.  I have seen the children’s faces. 

A short time later, right before his passing, Moody spoke once more and said:  This is my triumph; this is my coronation day!  It is glorious!

Funeral Tips by Pastor Brad Allen

Funeral Tips
by Pastor Brad Allen

1.  Always write out your opening and closing prayers or statements. 

2.  Live music interspersed in the service is very helpful.  Instrumentals, solos, even CDs will often help a lot and take some of the pressure off of the minister.  Keep them short, though.

3.  Having close relatives read passages like Psalm 91, Psalm 23, 1 Cor. 13, etc., work well.

4.  One close relative who is a good speaker should prepare and read an honoring biography.  If you knew the deceased well, you (the minister) can do this part.  However, it’s nice when a relative can tell warm stories about the deceased.

5.  The minister should deliver a brief message.  For Christians who have died, talk about heaven.  For those who may not have been saved, talk about grace or forgiveness.

6.  Closing with everyone saying the Lord’s Prayer works well.

7.  At the end, invite close friends and relatives to share remembrances briefly from the microphone.  I’ve conducted several services for homeless people.  At this point, I hold the microphone for the friend who is speaking, because I may need to take it back if they become inappropriate (I smile, hug them, and whisper in their ear, “Good job, let’s stop there").  I’ve even asked the biggest friend to be my usher if needed, but I’ve never needed it.  A lot of times people drink heavily before a funeral so just be prepared, gracious, and firm.

8.  Some sort of reception afterwards is always appropriate.  Many funeral homes do not allow food.  So if you can do it at a church, that’s best.  The reception should be as close as possible; on-site is best.

9.  It’s amazing how uncomfortable people are before the service and how blessed they are afterwards.  Focus on God and people will be helped.

10.  Print out the scriptures that relatives will read in large font.  Bring several copies.

11.  Print out your order of service for all participants and or have it in the bulletin.

12.  Arrive very early, check mics, bring a case of small bottled waters, breath mints, and Kleenex.

13.  Wear a black suit and dark tie.

14.  Humor helps, but it’s best to let it come from the family and not from the minister.  Stay professional, gracious, and warm.

15.  Double check any facts about the deceased or the family.  I’ve been given printed material that was incorrect or had important typographical errors.

16.  Weddings should always start on time.  A funeral can start 5 minutes late if important people are still arriving.

17.  For funerals where many people speak a foreign language, it’s okay for the speakers to speak in their language.  We’ve done several funerals where I spoke in English, but the scriptures were read in Spanish or the remembrances from family members were in Spanish.  This worked fine.

18.  I do a lot of funerals for the unsaved and unchurched.  I talk to the close relatives and tell them about my convictions and ask for their permission to respectfully talk about heaven, mercy, and Jesus.  No one has said ‘no.’

19.  If the deceased ever served in the armed forces or for a police or fire department, officers will often participate in the funeral service and this can be very honoring to the family.  Military/National cemeteries are less expensive.

 

What Death Brings

What Death Brings Rev. Tony Cooke

Today, we have heard wonderful testimony of a woman who love and served the Lord.  We have heard reflections and memories of a genuine lady whose life made an impact on all who knew her.

It is only fitting that the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ be uplifted in her Memorial Service as it was throughout her life.

The world doesn’t understand how we as Christians can stand here this day, and rejoice… not only in a life that was beautifully lived, but in the hope of a glorious eternity.

It is a fact that our view of death is different than what the world possesses.

I’d like to share with you today Four Facts about WHAT DEATH BRINGS.

1. Death Brings a Painful Reminder

There is an element of sorrow in death. 

There is the human emotion of missing a person… realizing that for a season, we will not be able to enjoy their company and their fellowship.

The Bible does not deny or minimize the reality of human emotion.

Jesus himself said, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

In the midst of the painfulness of death, in the midst of grief and mourning, we have a Father who cares, a Savior who understands, and a Spirit who comforts.

It is up to each of us this day to open up our hearts to the care, the understanding, and the comfort of God, and give Him every heartache and care that we might have this day.

But beyond the human emotion of missing someone, there is also the painful reminder of the human condition.

Because we are human, we are all identified physically with our first parents, Adam and Eve.  As a result, we are all partakers of the consequences of their actions.

Romans 5:12 says:  “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.”

We are imperfect people, living in an imperfect world. 

Paul said:  “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26).

We recognize this day, that in one sense, death is definitely an enemy.  It reminds us of a universal problem.  But we don’t focus on the problem.  We choose today to focus on the one who conquered death, hell, and the grave:  Jesus Christ.

 

2. Death Brings Positive Reflections

Death can never rob us of the memories left behind by our loved one.

Death can never remove the legacy of love and godliness that she imparted into our lives.

Death can never change the fact that _____________________ made a great difference in the lives of countless people.

Proverbs 10:7 says, “…the memory of the just is blessed.”

(Septuagint)  “The just are remembered with praises.”

(Jerusalem)  “The virtuous man is remembered with blessings.”

There is no easier funeral to preach and no easier eulogy to deliver than for a person like ____________________.

Her life really speaks for itself today!

 

3. DEATH BRINGS A PRECIOUS REALIZATION

What could be more precious than to realize that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8)?

What could be more comforting at a time like this than to realize that “to depart and be with Christ is far better” (Philippians 1:23)?

What could be better at this very moment than to recall Jesus’ words?

John 14:1-3

1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.  2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

Millions of saints throughout the ages have conquered the fear of death and have actually anticipated heaven because of the Precious Realization provided by the Scriptures.

The story is told of old Bishop Warren Chandler, after whom the school of theology at Emory University was named.  As he lay on his death bed, a friend inquired as to whether or not he was afraid. "Please tell me frankly," he said, "do you fear crossing over the river of death?"  "Why," replied Chandler, "I belong to a father who owns the land on both sides of the river."

 

4. DEATH BRINGS A PROMISED RESURRECTION

There was a woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live.  As she was getting her things in order, she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discus certain aspects of her final wishes.  She told him the songs she wanted sung at her funeral, the scriptures she wanted read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in.  The woman also requested to be buried with her favorite Bible.  Everything seemed in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

“There’s one thing more,” she said excitedly.  “What’s that?” came the pastor’s reply.  “This is very important,” the woman continued.  “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.”  The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say.  That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the woman asked.  “Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the pastor.

The woman explained.  “In all my years of attending church socials and pot-luck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, “Keep your fork.”  It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming, like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie.  Something wonderful, and with substance!  So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder, “What’s with the fork?”  Then I want you to tell them:  “Keep your fork.  The best is yet to come.”

The pastor’s eyes welled up with tears as he hugged the woman goodbye.  He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death.  But he also knew that the woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did.  She knew that something better was coming.

At the funeral, people were walking by the woman’s casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing, her favorite Bible, and the fork in her right hand.  Over and over the pastor heard the question, “What’s with the fork?”  And over and over he smiled.  During the message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the woman shortly before she died, and explained the meaning of the fork.  The pastor told the people he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to either.  He was right.  So the next time you find yourself reaching for the fork, remind yourself that the best is yet to come.

What we’re talking about today is not wishful thinking designed to make us feel good.  What we’re talking about today is founded upon the eternal, infallible, unchanging Word of God!

1 Corinthians 15:19-20; 49-57

19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.  20 But now is

Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

49 …as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth

corruption inherit incorruption.  51 Behold, I shew 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.  55 O death, where

is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?  56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is

the law.  57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Conclusion:

As we stand here this day, we do not deny the human elements that God designed in us when he created us.  We will miss ___________________________.  Everytime one of our loved one dies, there is a painful reminder of the human condition.

But we have more than a painful reminder today.

We celebrate POSITIVE REFLECTIONS of a life beautifully lived!

We have a PRECIOUS REALIZATION that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

We have a PROMISED RESURRECTION.  It is not in this life only that we have hope in Christ, and we are not of all men most miserable.  We are kings and priests in this world, and we have hope – not only in this world, but also in the world to come.

We rejoice this day because ______________________ has gone to her eternal reward.  We look beyond our own human feelings of loss and sadness, and we choose to be glad for her… because she’s better off.

Perhaps nothing is more appropriate to close with than the words of the old hymn:

Ring out the welcome.

Swing wide the gates.

Choirs of angels stand and sing, “Amazing Grace.”

There’s one more soldier of the King.

Whose trials are past.

Ring out the welcome loud and clear –

(S)he’s home at last.

Do’s and Dont’s for Funerals

Do’s

DO work with the family and the funeral home director in planning the funeral service. If you know the family is challenged financially, let them know they don’t need to prove their love for the deceased by over-spending on the funeral.

DO inquire of the family regarding their desires for the service itself and seek to accommodate accordingly. It is important to be aware of the musical selections made by the family.

DO try to visit with a variety of family members before preparing the service. Each will have a different perspective of the deceased to share with you. It can also be helpful to invite family members to write a personal note about the person. Some of these comments can then be included in your remarks.

DO check on the correct pronunciation of all names to be read from the obituary (clergy record).

DO arrive early for the funeral. Make sure all participants in the service are present and aware of their responsibilities. Provide each participant, including the funeral home representative, with an “order of service.” Make sure all parties clearly understand the order of events and the logistics of the service, including the dismissal.

DO make the service personal. In addition to sharing God’s Word, reflect positively, genuinely, and realistically about the deceased.

DO endeavor to add a light moment somewhere in the service if appropriate. It is sometimes helpful to share a warm, funny memory about the deceased, something that will bring a smile and a warm remembrance to the family and friends. This can help break the tension, create a more rounded picture of the deceased, and let people know that it’s OK to smile and laugh again.

DO validate feelings of loss. Let people know it’s all right to cry and feel sad. A significant loss has taken place, and such feelings are normal and natural. In the midst of sorrow, we have the Comforter and access to supernatural grace and hope. Both elements (sorrow and comfort) are real. This is why we “sorrow not…as others which have no hope.”

DO speak personally to the family during the service, but make sure you don’t leave anyone out if you do so. For example, talking about the deceased’s relationship with one child while ignoring another child can cause hurt feelings. Be consistent.

DO let those attending the funeral know that their love and support is very appreciated by the family. Also, encourage them to remember to support the family in the months to come.

DO have the church provide a meal for the family at the church or at their home after the funeral. The healing process for the family is facilitated when they have such an opportunity to fellowship and reminisce.

DO follow up on the family periodically after the funeral.

Don’ts

DON’T preach long at a funeral. Share the Word, but keep your comments short and sweet. People have come to pay their respects to the deceased and to show their support for the family, not to hear a lengthy sermon. While there may be some variation depending on cultural expectations, 45 minutes is typically a good length of time for a funeral service (the church or chapel portion).

DON’T preach a person into heaven or hell if there are questions about their spiritual condition. Simply commit them to a merciful and just God and minister to those present.

DON’T convey expectations that inhibit the family from experiencing or expressing their sorrow. They shouldn’t feel pressure to project “victory.” On the other hand, don’t play on the emotions of people in an attempt to make the service a “tear-jerker.”

DON’T use worn-out clichés that offer little comfort and may even be unscriptural. For example, saying, “God took John to a better place” implies that God is responsible for the death of their loved one. It is better to say that God “received” John and “welcomed him home” when his life on earth ended.

DON’T say to the bereaved, “I know how you feel.” Even if you experienced a similar loss, it is important to remember that different people experience grief differently. Every person is unique, and that uniqueness should be respected.

DON’T be opportunistic in sharing the gospel at funerals. This is not to say that the gospel should not be shared or that people cannot be invited to receive Jesus, but we it must be remembered that people attending funerals are often from varied backgrounds and are at different levels of spiritual receptiveness. If guests at the funeral feel like the main purpose of the funeral was to convert or proselyte them, they may leave feeling betrayed and exploited. It is recommended that the gospel be presented positively and in good taste, but not in a “hard-sell” type of way. Remember that Proverbs 25:16 indicates that a little honey is good, but too much will have an adverse affect.

A Final Thought

Though you don’t want to over-use quotes, stories, or illustrations, they can be very effective when used properly. Here are a few to consider…

When Benjamin Franklin was about to die, he asked that a picture of Christ on the cross should be so placed in his bedroom that he could look, as he said, “upon the form of the silent sufferer.” He wrote in advance the epitaph to be on his gravestone: “The body of Benjamin Franklin, Printer, like the cover of an old book, it’s contents torn out and stripped of its lettering and gilding, lies here…yet the work itself shall not be lost; for it will, as he believed, appear once more in a new and more beautiful edition, corrected and amended by the Author.”

John Pawson said, “I know I am dying, but my deathbed is a bed of roses. I have no thorns planted upon my dying pillow. Heaven is already begun.”

Dwight L. Moody said, “Someday you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody of Northfield is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone higher, that is all—out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal, a body that sin cannot touch, that sin cannot taint, a body fashioned into His glorious body. I was born in the flesh in 1837; I was born of the Spirit in 1856. That which is born of the flesh may die; that which is born of the Spirit will live forever.”

A few hours before entering the Homeland, Dwight L. Moody caught a glimpse of the glory awaiting him. Awakening from sleep, he said “Earth recedes. Heaven opens before me. If this is death, it is sweet! There is no valley here. God is calling me, and I must go.” His son was standing by his bedside and said, “No, no, father, you are dreaming.” “No,” said Mr. Moody, “I am not dreaming. I have been within the gates. I have seen the children’s faces.” A short time elapsed… and he spoke again, “This is my triumph; this is my coronation day! It is glorious!”

When the great Christian and scientist, Sir Michael Faraday, was dying, some journalists asked of his speculations for life after death. “Speculations!” he said, “I know nothing of speculations. I’m resting on certainties. I know that my redeemer liveth. and because He lives, I shall live also!”

Sample Committal Service

Sample Committal Service Rev. Tony Cooke

Scriptures

Revelation 1:17-18

17 Fear not; I am the first and the last:

18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore.

 

John 14:19

19 …because I live, ye shall live also.

 

I Corinthians 15:51-55

51 Behold, I shew 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.

55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

______________________________ is not here.  (S)he stands in the Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The body that lies before us is but the earthly tabernacle, the house in which (s)he lived among us for a time.  It is tenderly and reverently that we commit this house to the grave.

The body returns to the earth, from which our bodies came.  The spirit returns to God who gave it, waiting for the day when both spirit and body shall again be united at the coming of the Lord.

 

I Thessalonians 4:16-18

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 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

Committal Prayer

 

Heavenly Father,

We thank you this day for Jesus, for his precious gift of eternal life, and for the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

In the midst of our natural sorrow, we thank you for your supernatural grace.

In facing death, we thank you for the promise of life everlasting.

And in the face of separation, we thank you for the assurance of eternal reunion.

We thank you for ______________________’s life here on this earth, and we recognize that the body before is not _______________________ but is the house, the tabernacle, in which (s)he lived. 

We acknowledge that _______________________ is with you now, rejoicing in your presence and enjoying the blessings of heaven.

So Father, we now commit the body of _____________________ ____________________ to this earth, and we rejoice that her spirit is with you even now.

We look forward to that day, when we can all rejoice together, and we thank you that we are not without hope or comfort at this time.

We thank you for making your presence very real to each family member, and that you will especially strengthen and sustain them in the days, weeks, and months to come.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

Death & Grief by Pastor John White

Death & Grief
by Pastor John White

  1. Alfred Askenburg’s testimony.
  2. Don’t let grief overwhelm you.

    A. Grief: Deep mental anguish, painful, sorrowful, distress. Usually brought about by a sense of loss.

    B. What God says about grief.

    1. Isa. 53:4-5
    2. John 14:1, 27
    3. I Thess. 4:13-18
  3. C. When you’re ignorant of death it will cause grief.

    1. I Cor. 15:26 The last enemy.
    2. Heb. 2:14 Refers to Satan as the author of death.
    3. Ezek. 18:32 God has no pleasure in death.
    4. Ps. 116:15 Precious (costly) in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

Conclusion: Song of Solomon 2:10-13