The Reality of a Virtual Funeral

The Reality of a Virtual Funeral

This COVID-19 pandemic season has been dark. Our church family has experienced three deaths since we have been separated from one another. As I write this article, I’m preparing to preach my third virtual funeral through livestream tomorrow. Although it’s being called a virtual funeral, the truth of the matter is—it’s real and such reality necessitates tangible hope.

The Reality of Pain

The family members who prepare to bury their loved ones during this pandemic experience the reality of loneliness as they walk into an empty room. The funeral directors don’t have to ask everyone to stand as the family enters, because the room is literally empty. The pain is only intensified through an empty room with friends and family watching through a camera positioned at the back of the room.

As we navigate the pathway of this pandemic, we hear the word virtual being used in church contexts and business circles. Initially when you hear the word virtual it brings to mind virtual reality which makes you think of something that looks real, but it’s really a fake pixelated imaginary world. In a virtual reality world you merely remove the glasses when you are experiencing fear and whatever you were experiencing immediately disappears. That is not possible at a virtual funeral service. It’s real and so is the pain and sadness.

The Real Challenge of Social Distancing

As Christians, we are taught in the Scriptures to “rejoice with those who rejoice, [and] weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). During this season of social distancing, the Christian community is unable to embrace one another properly as boundaries are placed before us preventing social comforts.

As the church watches hurting friends in their pain through a livestream service—even video calls following the service can only provide so much comfort. There are no hugs, handshakes, or Christian fellowship during these livestream virtual services. This goes against the grain of what the church is called to do. There is a low ceiling to technology when it comes to demonstrating true love and comfort to those people you love the most.

The Real Hope of Jesus

As we sit in empty rooms for virtual funeral services, we must look to our real hope that we have in Christ Jesus. In a strange providential season when friends, family, and our church body is kept at a distance—we must cling to the hope we have in Jesus Christ. We must remember the words of Jesus as he said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).

We have hope in Christ and we must remember that he has gone before us—passing through death—and now ruling from heaven’s throne. Jesus holds the keys of death in his hand (Rev. 1:18). In that same verse, while speaking to John the apostle while he was on the island of Patmos for preaching the gospel, Jesus said, “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore” (Rev. 1:18).

Although death is a powerful enemy and we will all have our time to face death—while we walk through the dark valleys of life and mourn the death of loved ones during a season of social distancing, we must remember that Jesus’ tomb is still empty and heaven’s throne is still occupied. Jesus is alive and he intercedes for us in seasons of real pain and sadness.

We do not weep as those who do not have hope—for our hope is in Jesus, the risen Redeemer who will one day give life to our mortal bodies when Christ raises us in bodies that are immortality (1 Thess. 4:13; 1 Cor. 15).

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:54–57).

DBG Weekend Spotlight (Resurrection) 3-31-18

DBG Weekend Spotlight (Resurrection) 3-31-18

As we prepare to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus—we must remember that the resurrection of Jesus is the high point of Christian theology. Why did the chief priests and the religious community of the Jews try to cover up the resurrection of Jesus (see Matt. 28:11-15)? The truth is—out of all of Jesus’ miracles—from the creation of the world (Col. 1:15-16) to the virgin birth (Is. 7:14; Matt. 1:21)—there is no miracle greater than the resurrection that occurred after the brutal Roman crucifixion (Matt. 28:1-10). The resurrection of Jesus stands at the center of Christian theology and points to the validity of all of Jesus’ teachings. If Jesus was not resurrected on the first day of the week (Sunday) after his crucifixion—his prophecy in Matthew 12:40 and John 2:19 would not have been true.

If Jesus was not raised from the dead as the prophet foretold in Psalm 16 the ministry of Jesus would be unfulfilled and he would not deserve to be worshiped. Without the resurrection of Jesus—Christianity falls to pieces. However, since Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to hundreds of people over a 40 day period—we can state with absolute certainty that Jesus is God and that he alone can forgive sins. As you celebrate Easter this weekend—remember one day you will stand before Jesus at the judgment. You need a Savior today who can provide you with righteousness that you will need on that day. Jesus can be your Savior today, but one day he will be your Judge. Jesus Christ deserves praise, worship, and he alone can take away your sin. We know this because of the resurrection. Call out to Jesus today for salvation.

Below are some encouraging clips regarding the death and resurrection of Jesus:

The Jefferson Bible and the Resurrection

The Jefferson Bible and the Resurrection

Today marks what would be the 274th birthday of the third president of the United States of America—Thomas Jefferson.  As the early leader and president of the United States, Jefferson was greatly respected by many.  Jefferson was a great thinker, one who loved books, valued learning, and was the founder of the University of Virginia.

His leadership came during the pivotal era of the American Revolution and is the primary author of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America.  Jefferson is also remembered for his compilation of the Bible that has become known as The Jefferson Bible.  Today, his Bible can be seen in the Smithsonian Museum and is the property of the United States National Museum.

The Jefferson Bible

Originally the work of Jefferson took on a much longer name and was never intended to be looked upon as a Bible.  It was eventually called – The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.  With a knife blade, Jefferson cut out the moral teachings of Jesus, excluding the miracles, and compiled what he thought to be the purest doctrines of Christ.

In a letter to Joseph Priestly, a Unitarian minister, from Washington on January 29, 1804, Jefferson wrote, “I had sent to Philadelphia to get two testaments (Greek) of the same edition, and two English, with a design to cut out the morsels of orality, and paste them on the leaves of a book, in the manner you describe as having been pursued in, forming your Harmony.” [1]

Jefferson would eventually carry out his work in Greek, Latin, French, and English.  His desire was to have a comparative compilation in order to compare the texts of Jesus’ moral teaching.  In a letter to John Adams on October 12, 1813, Jefferson explains his idea and the intent of his work by saying:

In extracting the pure principles which he taught, we should have to strip off the artificial vestments in which they have been muffled by priests, who have travestied them into various forms, as instruments of riches and power to themselves. We must dismiss the Platonists and Plotinists, the Stagyrites and Gamalielites, the Eclectics, the Gnostics and Scholastics, their essences and emanations, their logos and demiurges, aeons and daemons, male and female, with a long train of … or, shall I say at once, of nonsense. We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus, paring off the amphibologisms into which they have been led, by forgetting often, or not understanding, what had fallen from him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves. There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill. The result is an octavo of forty-six pages, of pure and unsophisticated doctrines. [2]

Thomas Jefferson enjoyed reading moral teachings and philosophies before drifting off to sleep at night.  According to historians, The Jefferson Bible” was a very private project. He ordered Bibles while living in the White House and cut them with a razor knife to organize his understanding of the moral teachings of Jesus.  Years later, Jefferson’s work would be purchased by the United States National Museum in 1895.

Jefferson and the Resurrection

Today is Thomas Jefferson’s birthday (April 13th), but this Sunday is the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.  If Jefferson was alive today, he would celebrate his birthday, but would most likely overlook the significance of what the evangelical church will celebrate this Sunday.  Jefferson desired to look beyond the miracles of Jesus to the morals of Jesus.  However, all such attempts to separate the miracles from Jesus’ morals is like separating the light from the sun.  If Jesus is not God and didn’t perform such miracles as recorded in the New Testament, He would be an immoral liar and deceiver of men—not a worthy teacher of morality.

Jefferson didn’t embrace the deity of Christ nor did He believe the New Testament authors were accurate in their transmission of the pure doctrines of Christ.  Jefferson rejected the Trinity and believed that the apostle Paul (the New Testament’s most influential teacher and brilliant theologian) was guilty of corrupting Jesus’ teaching.  In a letter in 1820 to William Short, Jefferson wrote:

We find in the writings of his [Jesus’] biographers matter of two distinct descriptions. first a ground work of vulgar ignorance, of things impossible, of superstitions, fanaticisms, & fabrications. intermixed with these again are sublime ideas of the supreme being, aphorisms and precepts of the purest morality & benevolence, sanctioned by a life of humility, innocence, and simplicity of manners, neglect of riches, absence of worldly ambition & honors, with an eloquence and persuasiveness which have not been surpassed. [3]

It’s one thing to deny Jesus’ power over nature and His ability to walk on water—which is a subtle way to deny Jesus’ deity, but Jefferson went much further in his theological downgrade.  As a result of his attempt to shrink down the Bible to the morals of Jesus, Jefferson was led to deny the foundational truth of Christianity—the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  If you read “The Jefferson Bible,” you will not find one word about the resurrection of Christ.  In his cutting and pasting, he skipped over the miraculous works of Jesus and this included the resurrection of Christ—the foundation of Christianity.  Without the resurrection, there is no Christianity.  Without the resurrection, Jesus is far from a good moral teacher.

For Thomas Jefferson, reason transcends revelation.  This is where many people have trouble as they attempt to “make sense” out of God.  The sovereign God of heaven and earth who rules the totality of the universe is beyond reason.  The God who spoke the world into existence from nothing—ex nihilo—doesn’t make sense.  The God who sent His Son to enter the human race through the womb of a virgin is far above human rationale.  The God who lived in the very flesh He created and subjected Himself to death, even the death of a Roman cross, transcends human explanation.  Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, died in the place of sinners and was resurrected from the dead on the third day.  This doesn’t make sense.  This is why we gather for worship each Sunday.

Jefferson traded in the highly exalted and resurrected Jesus for a cheaper version—one he could reason with.  Jesus does’t make sense, and His gospel is considered foolishness to the learned minds of sinners.  The Jews demanded signs, the Greeks sought after wisdom, and the sons of the Enlightenment in the early days of the United States pursued reason.  All of them missed the resurrected Jesus who rules over heaven and earth.

Make no mistake about it, today Thomas Jefferson understands with brilliant clarity that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.  Some day you will too.  Why not bow before Him and confess Him as Lord today?  He is worthy of your attention and worship because Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead.

Luke 24:6 – He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,

  1. Thomas Jefferson, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted textually from the Gospels in Greek, Latin, French & English, ( 2009), Loc. 257 – Kindle Edition.
  2. Thomas Jefferson, A Letter to John Adams, Dated: Oct. 12, 1813, [accessed: 4-12-17 at 2:23pm].
  3. Quoted by Thomas Kidd, “Faith and History” [accessed: 4-12-17 at 11:33am].
The Proof of the Resurrection

The Proof of the Resurrection

Have you talked with someone who doubted the resurrection of Christ?  Many people don’t believe that God exists.  In spite of all of the knowledge surrounding us in this world, they refuse to believe.  We could start with a long list of proofs to validate the existence of God as we seek to reason with the heart of man.  Perhaps creation would be a great place to begin.  The bright sun in the sky screams of God’s existence.  The small hummingbird or the intricate details of the human anatomy point to an intelligent designer.  However, these wonderful points do reveal that God exists, but we can’t know Him intimately through the blazing sun or the darting speed of a hummingbird.  How then must we come to know God and how will we answer the question of Jesus’ resurrection?

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, the apostle Paul was writing to the church at Corinth.  In those two verses, Paul made a point that we must not overlook.  Paul spoke of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and he did not tell the church at Corinth that he was delivering that message based on his apostolic authority.  Paul was reminding the church about these core truths of the gospel, but his foundational authority was the Word of God.  Notice the way Paul crafted the statement:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, [4] that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3-4).

The Scriptures were Paul’s authority and that’s where he pointed the church at Corinth.  Paul understood that long after he was gone, the skeptics would need something more than a dead apostle’s word to stand upon.  They would need substance.  So, Paul gave them substance by pointing to the authority of holy Scripture.  Often skeptics will not be satisfied with the Bible as the validating proof of Jesus’ resurrection or the mere existence of God, but it remains the foundational proof and we must begin with the Word of God.

Psalm 22 was a clear Messianic prophecy dedicated to the death of Jesus.  As Jesus was dying on the cross, He called out to the Father by quoting Psalm 22:1 in Matthew 27:46.  Likewise in Psalm 16, we see a clear prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection.  Peter quoted from Psalm 16:8-11 in his sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2:24) to prove Jesus was raised from the dead.  Psalm 16 was not speaking about David, because David’s body did see corruption, but that was not the case with Jesus.  In his commentary on 1 Corinthians 15, John Calvin writes, “Now there are many passages of Scripture in which Christ’s death and resurrection are predicted, but nowhere more plainly than in Isaiah 53, in Daniel 9:26, and in Psalm 22.” [1]

Although Paul went on to discuss the eyewitnesses and other logical proofs of Jesus’ resurrection, He didn’t start there.  His starting point is where we must always start – the Bible.  The Word of God is sufficient, authoritative, and reliable.  It was written over a period of 1,500 years by 40 different authors and the central story of the entire Bible is the drama of redemption secured by the Son of God.  The validating truth that our hope is secure in Christ is the fact that He rose from the dead.  Where is Buddha?  Where is Muhammad?  All of the other religious leaders of history have died and it was proven that they had no power over death.  That was not the case with Jesus.  After being put to death on a Roman cross (a historically validated event), Jesus was buried in a tomb and on the third day, He was raised from the dead.  Charles Hodge writes:

It is true that Christ was buried and that he rose again on the third day. These facts were included in the revelation made to Paul, and he proceeds to confirm their truth by abundant additional testimony. John 20:9 and Acts 26:22–23 teach that these facts were predicted in the Old Testament. [2]

Have confidence in the Scriptures as you point people to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  1. John Calvin and John Pringle, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, vol. 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 10.
  2. Charles Hodge, 1 Corinthians, Crossway Classic Commentaries (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1995), 273.