Friday, November 23, 2018

"Is She In Heaven?"

This was a family that I had come to know through many visits.  We prayed together at the end of each visit.  During my time with them, we talked about their marriage, their families, their careers, their love for travel, and about the God of the Bible, whom she knew and loved.

It was the second time she had come to be under hospice care.  This time it was different and everyone knew it.  My visits were brief due to the lack of consciousness.  Her husband was always by her side, but he really didn’t want to talk much.  Sometimes I just sat with him.

A new day came and I wondered.  I had arrived shortly after she had died.  Her family was gathered around the bed and tears were flowing freely.  As I entered the room, I remained silent.  They knew who I was and there weren’t any words that needed to be spoken.

After about 3 minutes, her husband turned to me, with tears in his eyes and asked, “Is she in heaven?”  I swallowed hard, fought my own tears and assured him that she most definitely was with her Lord and Savior.

As a Christian chaplain, one of the most difficult situations that I find myself in, is having to come up with an honest, yet, comforting answer, to a sincere question from a loved one.  It happens all too often, especially as I deal with a death.  

Sometimes the person is a known believer, as in the case above.  That makes it a little easier.  There is still the grief that must be gone through (for me as well).  But knowing that that person was a true believer in Jesus Christ, trusting in Him alone for the forgiveness of their sins and eternal life, well, that makes it a little easier for everyone involved.

Just because we’re believers doesn’t me we don’t grieve, and grieve hard.  Paul tells us that we will grieve; we should grieve.  Someone whom we loved is no longer here.  Yes, we know what the apostle Paul says about being absent from the body and present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:1-8).  We are going to grieve; we need to grieve; but not as those who have no hope (1 Thes. 4:13-18).

The New Testament is filled with the good news of the gospel and the eternal outcome for those who have trusted in Christ (e.g. John 11:25-26).

In Romans 8:38-39, the believer, his/her family and friends are assured that nothing, and no one, can ever separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.  Again, comforting words.  The love of God has made certain that eternal life is for those who are saved by God’s grace, through their faith, in Jesus Christ alone. 

But what of the, clearly, unsaved?  What words do we have for the family and friends that will not betray our Lord, and yet somehow be comforting?  Those are excellent questions, ones that will be addressed in a later article.

The time draweth nigh.  As Dr. Mal Couch would say, “Perhaps today.”

May the Lord bless you as you share the gospel of Jesus, the Savior to a, literally, lost and dying world.

Gary T. Dromi, D.Min., Ph.D. 

Monday, September 3, 2018

Death: The Great Equalizer

For there is no lasting remembrance of the wise man as with the fool, inasmuch as in the coming days all will be forgotten. And how the wise man and the fool alike die!” (Eccl. 2:16).

God’s Word is truth, absolute truth, and there can be no doubt that what He has said will come about. God has said, “for the wages of sin is death . . . .” (Romans 6:23).

One overwhelming, irrefutable consequence comes to all people:  physical death. It doesn’t matter what your race, creed, religion, gender, skin color, ethnicity, social status, financial status, career, the size of your bank account or retirement preparations, or any other category of human existence.  If you are a human being, you will die, physically.

Death is the great equalizer.

No one escapes it; no one side steps it; no one gets away from it.  God’s Word is truth.

As a chaplain I have been in the room with people, just plain ole people, most of whom I had never met before, nor did I know their status in society.  But on that fateful day, they died, physically, and I was there to witness it.

Either by virtue of being able to talk with them about their faith in Christ (or their lack of it) just prior to their death, or by talking with their families about their loved one’s spiritual condition, I was able to make a knowledgeable guesstimate as to their eternal destination.

There is a stark contrast between the end-of-life behaviors of a believer and his/her family and a person who has (for whatever reason) rejected the gospel truth about Jesus.  For the believers and their families, there is grief, to be sure.  But there is also a hope that tempers that grief. For the unbelievers and their families, there is only gut-wrenching grief and no hope, at all.

The hope of the believers and their families is one of eternal life, a new body (one that will not be subject to attacks by cancer and other maladies), a reunion with those who have gone before them, and an excitement of seeing their Savior, Jesus. There is a longing to be free from the bonds of this world where the consequences of sin are seen every day, everywhere, all around the world.  Most of the time these words are said, “I’m ready to go. I know where I’m going and I’m not afraid.”

For the unbelievers and their families, there is no hope, nothing to look forward to; only sadness, sorrow, regrets, and, often times, inconsolable sorrow.  Sometimes people will ask questions; sometimes they will say, “I’m a spiritual person. I’ll be okay.”  Most of the time, however, there is only silence and tears.  On occasion, anger comes forth at the God they say they don’t believe in.  This is, perhaps, the most difficult situation to be a part of.

Death is the great equalizer.

Here’s the amazing good news:  God, in His mercy, has provided a way to change death’s consequences from passing into judgment and eternal condemnation to forgiveness for sins, justification and reconciliation, eternal life and a new body for the one who believes and receives Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.  That’s the second part of Romans 6:23, “. . . . but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

It is my hope that you, dear reader, understand the depth of the hope that is ours through faith in Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension.  

Death is the great equalizer. 

It is no respecter of age, gender, job, social status, finances, political affiliation, career, or anything else.

And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,” (Hebrews 9:27), therefore, boldly share the gospel with everyone you come into contact with because it matters not what side of the tracks they are from, their eternal destiny is at stake. 

May the Lord bless you as you seek to grow in grace and knowledge.

By His Grace,
Gary T. Dromi, Ph.D.

Friday, July 27, 2018

No One Asks for Their Stuff

We continue to live within a world-system that promotes the idea that having more “stuff” is what’s most important.  Having lots of “stuff” is a sign of success, achievement or recognition; you’ve made it to the top; you’ve arrived.  Houses, cars, boats, clothes, electronic gadgets, etc. are all set before us as the answer to filling that empty feeling inside of each one of us.

Companies pay large sums of money to advertising firms to come up with catchy slogans that will identify their products and then stick in the consumers’ memories.  If we’re not careful, we can find ourselves spending more money than we have on “stuff” we don’t need simply because we’ve allowed ourselves to be convinced by the advertisers’ slogans and jingles. 

The question, then, is, “How important is our ‘stuff’”?  Does our “stuff” resolve the various conflicts in our lives?  Does our “stuff” improve our relationship with God, spouse, children, friends, co-workers, church family, or neighbors?  Is our “stuff” what we reach for in times of chaos and confusion?  Is our “stuff” able to improve our health, cure the cancer or restore the damaged arteries after a stroke?  Do we own our “stuff” or does our “stuff” own us? 

As one who has been at the bedside of many who are transitioning from life on earth to life in eternity (regardless of their eternal destination), not one person has asked for their “stuff” to be at their bedside.  Not one person has asked for their car, motorcycle, boat, or any thing else to be brought to them as they wait to take their last breath.

Jesus gives us a firm reminder of what’s really important.  In Mark 8:34-38 we read,
If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s shall save it.  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?  For what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

What does is profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul?  The worth of the immaterial part of a person that lives on into eternity, the soul/spirit, is beyond calculating.  It is, in fact, priceless.  Why?  Because that part of every person will experience one of only two things when it is released at physical death: (1) eternal joy with God in His presence, forever or (2) eternal grief, sorrow, and agony, separated from God, forever.  Eternal means forever and ever and ever. 

God’s Word tells us that, a person dies once and after that comes judgment, (Hebrews 9:27),
In other words, there are no second chances, after physical death occurs, for the soul/spirit to be redeemed.  So the admonition is serious, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart,” (Ps. 95:7-ff; Hebrews 3:15).

There are only a few things that most people seek when they are coming to the end of their lives here on earth: (1) Forgiveness from God and those whom they have hurt; (2) peace of mind and heart, (3) to not be alone in their dying moment.

No one asks for their “stuff.”
May the Lord bless you as you continue to seek and serve Him.
By His Grace,

Gary T. Dromi, Ph.D.

Friday, June 29, 2018

“I’m a Spiritual Person”

Have you ever made your plans, and then “God directs your steps” (Prov. 16:9) . . . to someplace completely different from where you thought you would end up? Most believers would say, “Yes.” I had made my plans; thought I had it all figured out. Well, about two years ago, God redirected my steps. I didn’t realize it in the beginning, but slowly the Lord was moving me out of the pastorate and into the ministry of a Chaplain in a medical center. There is much to share about my journey but not in this article.

In this article I will focus on a phrase that I have heard frequently as a Chaplain, and I suspect that many of you have heard it too: “I don’t believe in religion, but I’m a spiritual person.’” “I’m a spiritual person” . . . . What does that mean exactly? If a person is “spiritual” does that mean that they have a right relationship with God? Does it mean that they are saved from God’s wrath and will inherit eternal life? Does it mean that their sins are forgiven simply because they proclaim themselves to be “spiritual?” Does it mean that they are justified and reconciled to a holy God simply because they have proclaimed themselves to be a “spiritual” person?

There are some who absolutely convinced that the answer to those questions is a resounding, “Yes!” They would defend themselves by saying that their “spirituality” is enough. They hold to the belief that God (whether that be Mother Earth, Gaia or some other man-made deity) is “all loving.” Therefore, “He/she wouldn’t judge me because that wouldn’t be loving. Besides, I am a ‘spiritual’ person.”

The biblical answer to all of those questions is a resounding, “No!”

Question 1:
If a person is “spiritual” does that mean that they have a right relationship with God? It’s always good to define terms. In this case, ask them to define what/who they mean when they say, “God.”

Several passages come to mind here:
  • “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’” (John 3:3). Being “spiritual” is not equal to being born again (born from above).
  • “He who believes in Him [Jesus] is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). Being “spiritual” is not equivalent to believing/trusting in Jesus Christ as the Savior the world and for forgiveness of one’s sins.
Question 2:
Does it mean that they are saved from God’s judgment against their sin and will inherit eternal life?
  • “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures” (Romans 1:18-23). Being “spiritual” does not militate against God’s wrath for those who deny Him.
  • “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). Being “spiritual” is not the same as removing God’s wrath. Only believing/trusting in Jesus’ death and resurrection can do that.
Question 3:
Does it mean that their sins are forgiven simply because they proclaim themselves to be “spiritual?”

  • “In Him [Jesus] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins” (Ephesians 1:7). Being “spiritual” does not bring redemption or forgiveness of sins. Those two things are only found in Jesus.
  • “And there is salvation in no one else [other than Jesus]; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Being “spiritual” is not an acceptable alternative to finding salvation in the name of Jesus Christ alone.
Question 4:
Does it mean that they are justified and reconciled to a holy God simply because they have proclaimed themselves to be a “spiritual” person?
  • “ . . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24). Being “spiritual” in no way replaces God’s free gift of grace and redemption. Grace and redemption are only found “in Christ Jesus.”
  • “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:10-11). Being “spiritual” does not bring about reconciliation between a holy God and sinful people. Reconciliation comes only through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I believe people say “I’m a spiritual person” for a number of reasons: (1) to appear to have what true believer really have, a loving relationship with Almighty God; (2) to fend off any questions from other people who might ask them about their belief (or lack of belief) in God; (3) to feel good about themselves without having to do any soul searching; (4) to have an appearance of godliness which will impress others; (5) to convince themselves that they are “good people” despite what Scripture clearly states.

The next time someone says to you, “I’m a spiritual person,” ask them this question, “If you are wrong, would you want to know?” Their answer will give you much insight into whether or not the Holy Spirit is drawing them to Himself.

May the Lord bless you as you seek to serve Him.

By His Grace,
Gary T. Dromi, Ph.D.