Kevin Carson

Reflections on the Death of my Friends

My prayer is that we would receive God’s comfort, care, and love while we mourn. Praise our Heavenly Father that through Jesus, He offers us eternal life. What more could we ever ask for? What an incredible blessing! At the same time, my prayer is that each one of us would not waste the moment either. Rather, we would do self-inventory to respond wisely even in the midst of our deep suffering, sadness, and sorrow.

Over the past few weeks, an entire handful of friends and past students have died. All of them my age or younger. All of them followers of Jesus. As I have worked through each of these deaths – some I have mentioned before here and here, I have been tracking some thoughts that have been helpful to me. Over the past few days, I have been writing and thinking. Today, I want to share some of these to perhaps help you as well. Many of you readers have been impacted by these same deaths.
We Grieve with Hope
One of the great blessings that we as followers of Jesus Christ enjoy together is our hope. Paul explains:
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. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
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. 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. 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. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thess 4:13-18).
Oh yes, we grieve; however, we grieve with hope. The world grieves with ignorance. They may hope and believe many things about the afterlife, but at the end of the day, they truly have no real hope. But, not us! We grieve with hope. Our grieving is based upon the Word of God, God’s covenant faithfulness, and trust in God’s love.
Our loved one who has gone to heaven to be with the Lord is more alive than ever. Paul also wrote, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). Immediately. No purgatory. No delay. Those who have a personal relationship with Jesus immediately go to be with Him in heaven.
What if our loved one inconsistently followed Jesus at best? There’s good news for us there too. We do not go to heaven based upon our faithfulness to Him; we go to heaven based upon God’s faithfulness to us (1 Pet 1:3-5). Consider the Apostle Peter’s words:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Pet 1:3-5, emphasis mine)
Thankfully, if we have followed Jesus, going to heaven does not depend upon our faithfulness, it depends upon the faithfulness of God.
We are Better in a Funeral Home than at a Party
The Bible teaches that we are better off in a funeral home than at a party. In King Solomon’s wisdom, he wrote:
Better to go to the house of mourningThan to go to the house of feasting,For that is the end of all men….
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For Those Who Desire Justice

Trust God to handle the sin against you, your family, your neighbor, your community, or others. God will. He does not release the guilty. God’s wrath functions in righteousness and keeps you from the poison of your own. Your wrath spoils. You only hurt yourself.

Possibly you, like so many, have been sinned against in one way or another. Sometimes this desire for justice can seem overwhelming. You long for the person who sinned against you, your family, your neighbor, your community, or a group of people of which you connect to get what he has coming, to get what she is due, or to get a taste of their own medicine. Often other emotions are comingled with this desire. Hurt. Anger. Shame. Guilt. Helplessness. Hopeless. These all work together, at times, to forge a giant crevice through your soul where every day you are affected by these things. If you are one of those who desire justice, I have some good news for you today.
Justice for Your Perpetrator
Listen how God describes Himself in Exodus. Here, God talks with Moses as He prepares to once again give him the Ten Commandments. This text was partially quoted often in the Bible.
Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:5-7)
First, we must point out that to the guilty, God made all the preparations in necessary for you to be forgiven in Jesus Christ. This text emphasizes God’s willingness to forgive. Notice the key words: merciful, gracious, longsuffering, abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. Oh guilty friend, these are good, deep, and meaningful truths for you. God forgives. This truth applies to all of us.
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Who Needs Grace More?

Thankfully, a good, loving, faithful, and kindhearted God provides grace for both the sinner and the sinned against in just the right portions as the need calls. Therefore, what should be done? What can we do? If you are the sinner, then pray desperately for the grace of God to work in your heart to forsake sin, turn to Jesus, and walk in righteousness. Ask for the grace of God to seek forgiveness, to be restored, and to strive for restitution. Thankfully, God provides this kind of grace. If you are the sinned against, then pray desperately for the grace of God to work in your heart as well.

In some recent conversations, I have been reminded of this essential question, “Who needs grace more – the sinner or the sinned against?” No doubt you have been both, as have I. Sometimes I have been the sinner – who certainly needed grace in the midst of it and afterwards. At other times I have been the sinned against – who certainly needed grace in the midst of it and afterwards, too. The answer may surprise you.
Grace for the Sinner
Sin is hard. When we sin, some desire, thought, idea, or thing has captured our heart. In that moment, the follower of Jesus forsakes passionately following Jesus in order to chase after something or someone else. The heart gets captivated by the shining something, whatever that is. When this happens, gratitude and significance for the love of Christ dims in light of whatever it is that has captured the sinner’s heart. In other words, love of something in your life carries more weight than your love for Jesus or your neighbor in that moment.
Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments with two. First, we are to love God supremely, more than anything else in life – with all one’s heart, mind, soul, and strength. This kind of love of Jesus provides the foundation for living. This love for Jesus anchors your heart and keeps you from chasing after other loves. The second is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself. Therefore, when you sin against God or against another person, you have switched loves. In that moment you love something in your heart more than your love for Jesus Christ or your love for the other person.
When this happens, your attitude, words, and actions all rush forth out of your heart to express whatever it is your heart desires or loves. If someone disappoints you, you may lash out with your words. You may gossip, criticize, or be unkind. When another driver pulls in front of you, you may blow your horn, follow too closely, or complain. If someone does something you do not appreciate, you may judge motives, talk to yourself negatively about the person, get angry, or some combination of all these things.
Is grace needed? Absolutely! In this moment, the sinner desperately needs the grace of God. This grace of God is in the form of drawing the sinner back to a relationship with God filled with sweet fellowship which flows out of love for Jesus. Further, this grace gently corrects the sinner producing guilt and often shame, which should encourage the sinner to turn back to Jesus. This grace works to help the sinner identify the adulterous love in the heart, turn away from it, and run back to the loving and forgiving hands of God (James 4:1-10).
Grace for the Sinned Against
Being sinned against is hard. Someone chooses to love something more than Jesus or neighbor which results in sin. The neighbor takes the brunt of a heart gone rogue. Possibly it is an attitude. Maybe an unkind look or word. Of course, it can be so much worse than sins of the attitude or tongue. On the extreme end, laws are made to protect people from the extreme sins.
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3 Critical Components to an Intimate Relationship with God

God awaits you. He is with you (presence), speaks to you in the Bible (voice), and listens to you (ear). In order for you to have a close, intimate relationship with Him, you will need to become aware of His presence, spend time in His Word, and pray often. As you do, you will enjoy two things: 1) a closer relationship with Him, and 2) a life that changes.

Every true intimate relationship enjoys three critical components: voice, ear, and presence. Let me explain each simply. For there to be an intimate relationship, you need to hear the voice of the other person. There needs to be face time where you can hear the heart, the concerns, the joys, the thoughts, the hopes, and the expectations of the other person. You need his or her voice. Further, you need the other person’s ear. For a truly intimate relationship, you need to be heard by the other person. The other person listens to your voice. He or she desires to hear you, what is on your heart, your mind, how you feel, and what you would like. In addition to voice and ear, an intimate relationship includes presence. Another way to refer to presence would also be time. The best intimacy develops in real-time presence. We have all learned over the past years that technology can also help us build intimacy together, although not the best of course.
In my opinion, these are the three critical components to any intimate relationship: voice, ear, and presence. In action, these would be talking, listening, and spending time together. With that in mind, let us turn our attention to our relationship with God.
You Enjoy God’s Voice
You enjoy God’s voice through God’s Word. He shares with you all the components that help build an intimate relationship with you in His Word. Even better, He protected His voice through the inspiration process so that you get exactly what He wanted to communicate with you. In its pages, the Bible shares God’s voice about His heart, His concerns, His joys, His thoughts, His hopes, His expectations, and so much more. As we read and meditate on individual passages, we learn these things. So much so, we develop the mind of God.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.10 More to be desired are they than gold,Yea, than much fine gold;Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned,And in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:7-11)
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An Important Reminder About Death

What does that make death for the saved person? Death is 100% not your enemy. There is no fear in death. When you die, you simply pass from this life to the next. As Dr. Bob Smith used to teach: Death is a door from here on earth to God’s presence in heaven. 

This past week I have had the privilege of being with Bill and Mary Ann Piatt and others at a conference in Mobridge, South Dakota. At that conference, I spoke about serving those who have a medical illness. In those notes, I refer to victory from the illness. My friend, Dr. Bob Smith, initially talked me through this concept. Essentially, there are only two types of victory from illness: either you heal from the illness or you die from the illness. Only two options. But, in both instances, you get victory.
While at the conference, I have also been praying for a friend who was in the hospital in Springfield. Many of his family, friends, and acquaintances have been praying for him to get victory from his illness. The medical doctors performed surgery. Even before the surgery, the doctors explained the risky nature of it and the potential of his not living as a result of it. The surgery itself was a success. However, the surgery did not provide my friend victory from his illness; death did. In the early hours of the morning today, my friend experienced victory from the illness. You might think, “He succumbed to the illness; that is not victory.” But, no friend, not for the Christian. He experienced victory in death.
What About Death?

For the person who has placed his or her faith in the forgiveness of sin by God through Jesus Christ, death loses its fear and power. The Apostle Paul writes:

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

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Why are Teenagers Killing Themselves?

They begin to question their role or place in a family, a school, friend group, or world. As they question these things, it is easy for the teen to falsely believe that everything would be better if life was over. This false belief can take residence in the heart. When upset, hurt, disappointed, discontent, angry, or otherwise emotionally disturbed, the teen rehearses this over and over. They question whether or not everyone else would be better if they ended their own life. It is here, we must break the sequence. The music, online culture, and often friend groups do nothing to help draw these thoughts and ideas out of a teen. As long as the teen is left to walk down this path of poor perspective on life and living, suicidal ideation increases. It is necessary to parachute into the conversation.

In the recent days, I have heard of several teenagers who have died so young and needlessly. Whether it is in our neighborhood or perhaps someone you know, our hearts break. Why would a child think this is the best option? With all of life ahead, one of our young ones decides to take his or her life. As parents, friends, and concerned adults who love their community, we desire to help, to keep these things from every happening again, and somehow provide hope.
We talk to our own children, engage with their friends, and try to help with total humility. All of us as adults realize that death is no respecter of persons. Any child can be influenced, discouraged, or even momentarily devastated circumstantially. In the process, a child makes a decision which affects everyone. I think we would all say, the child drastically underestimates the love, concern, and hopes of those around him or her.
Why? How do we better understand what is taking place?
Let me suggest four obstacles to life as a teenager. The better we understand these things, the better we will be able to help our own children deal with life around them.
Four Obstacles to Life as a Teen

Trying to understand the challenges of our teenagers is important if we hope to provide them hope and help.


Teenagers struggle understanding or applying God’s sovereignty to their individual lives. God’s plan may be much different than what the teen desires.  Think through these areas: size, shape, personality, economic situation, neighborhood, skin, talent, relationships, and more. In each of these categories, what a teenager gets as part of God’s plan may be diametrically opposed to what he or she wants.
“I wish I were taller/bigger/shorter/smaller.”
“I wish my personality was different.”
“I wish I could afford different clothes, better car, better shoes, etc.”
“I wish we didn’t live in an apartment, had a better house, lived in a different neighborhood, or had better stuff in my room.”
“I wish I looked different, had a different skin tone, didn’t have so many pimples, looked better in my clothes, etc.”
“I wish I had a car.”
These are just a few of the many statements we could report. You understand them. At the end of the day, we have all been there to one degree or another.
The problem: the teen is dissatisfied with the sovereignty of God. God’s plan does not match the teen’s dreams or desires.


For years, dad, mom, brothers, sisters, and grandparents were the best. Children long to play with their siblings, spend time with their parents, and enjoy time with their family. Children look to parents with joy, honor, and respect.
Those days slowly change for so many.
“Dad, why do you have to wear socks with your sandals?”
“Mom, why are you wearing that?”
“It is unfair. What you did for him, you don’t do for me.”
“You people are so inconsistent.”
“I get in trouble when I say or do that, but you do it as well.”
“Why does mom have to be so loud?”
“Can’t we do something different than just spend time together?”
Sometimes it feels overnight, but parents go from hero to zero. Where it was a joy to hang out, spend time together, and just love each other, now the teen sees other parents and families as cool, desires to spend more time away from the house, and can’t understand the family’s rules, priorities, or decisions.

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Our Dear Children, Murdered

It’s unimaginable what the families at the Robb Elementary School are going through. As we weep, we can also pray for these families. We can pray that they will turn to Jesus for help during this incredible time of sorrow. We are so grateful for the words of the psalmist, ‭‭”The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm‬ ‭34:18). Our world needs Jesus.

My oldest son called me with the news.
“18 elementary kids dead in Texas”
I had not heard. I was sitting with my second son who had just finished his sophomore year of high school.
My oldest continued.
“So sick. I’m sick. Elementary kids.”
I agree. My reaction resembles his – just sick.
Friends, we can discuss mental health, gun control, and Constitutional rights. In the right place and time, these are welcomed conversations. Yet, today, these conversations do not help fill the arms of families who lost innocent 7-9 year olds.
At the exact same time as the shooting in Texas, I stood in my own fourth grader’s school, hugged his classmates who called me coach, gave high-fives, and watched his friends do a walk-thru since it was their last day at this elementary school. I saw their faces, heard their laughs, and witnessed their tears as they said their goodbyes to each other, teachers, school staff, and administrators. I fought tears myself as I interacted in my own son’s school in my own community.
At. The. Exact. Same. Time.
My heart is broken.
The Real Problem
As I sit this evening and just reflect on today’s news, events, and these situations, I feel a bit numb. The answer fundamentally lies in the hearts of people. The reality today remains the same. Men, women, teenage boys, teenage girls, boys, and girls all need the gospel of Jesus Christ. That may sound too spiritual or simple to you; however, the answer is truly that straightforward.
Our world needs Jesus.
Only Jesus can change hearts bent toward evil, hatred, and totally committed to personal satisfaction. Only Jesus can take a heart that loves self and change it to a heart that loves God supremely and others sincerely. Friends, only Jesus can eradicate the old heart and make all things new (2 Cor 5:17). Only Jesus died so we would no longer live for ourselves, but for the one who died and was raised to life for us (2 Cor 5:15).
Laws, programs, background checks, and self esteem will never work. They may have some level of impact; however, these things are not the answer.
The Home Matters
What people need are homes built upon that same gospel.
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How Do You Put to Death the Flesh? (Part Two) 8 Steps

Even after justification, one can live either according to the flesh or according to the Spirit. Although God changed the operating system, you still have functional control over your life. Even though you now are in-Christ, a new man, your heart remains active either for or against God. Therefore, we must actively put to death the flesh.

Today in our second post related to putting to death the flesh, we look at eight steps to help you mortify the flesh. Earlier this week in posts, we have already discussed from Romans 8 both the incredible comfort of God’s grace and the call of God’s grace. In part one of this post, we answered the question, “What is the flesh?” Remember, as sinners who are in Christ, we no longer have any condemnation; instead, we have been adopted into God’s family, become a joint-heir with Jesus, and can call God “Daddy.” However, we recognize that although we are accepted into God’s family as we are, God still has an agenda by grace to grow us more into Christ, the process we call sanctification. To do this with the greatest proficiency and effectively as possible, the Apostle Paul tells us to mortify or put to death the flesh. Today, we answer the question, “How do you put to death the flesh?” with eight steps to mortify or put to death the flesh.
How Do You Put to Death the Flesh?
Understanding the difficulty of living consistent with our in-Christ, new man, righteous inner man which is clothed in true righteousness and holiness, Paul explained that we must seek to put to death the deeds of the flesh. As we discussed yesterday, although the power of the flesh is broken, the presence of sin remains. Sadly, even after justification, one can live either according to the flesh or according to the Spirit. Although God changed the operating system, you still have functional control over your life. Even though you now are in-Christ new man, your heart remains active either for or against God. Therefore, we must actively put to death the flesh.
Understanding the Battle
Paul describes the battle between the flesh and the Spirit in Galatians 5.
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:16-21)
And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Gal 5:24)
Paul describes it as a battle. The Spirit leads you toward righteousness but your own fleshly desires and passions fight against that leading. For this reason, back in Romans, Paul instructs:
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. (Rom 13:14)
In a similar way to Galatians, he essentially highlights the battle between the Spirit and the flesh. Here, he refers to it as putting on Christ, which simply means to live consistent with your in-Christ, new man, righteous inner man. But, this is only part of the battle. In reference to the flesh, he admonishes us to starve it out or make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts. Or, to put to death the flesh
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What if the World Around You Collapses

Habakkuk trembles. He hates it for his people. The prophet longs for them to repent. He describes the conditions of his following God. Even if the world collapses around him, he will still rejoice in God. If there are no figs, no fruit, no olives, no food in the fields, the flocks are gone, and the herds gone, the world has collapsed around him. Yet, he claims he will still rejoice in God.

What if the worst thing imaginable happened to you? No one wants to imagine this, but it could happen. What if the world around you collapses? Again, who wants to go here? Not me. However, in the Bible we are given insight on how we should respond if something like this were to happen. Consider this small story.

Habakkuk and His What if… Story

Habakkuk was a prophet. He served as a prophet during the latter half of the Old Testament. He was a prophet for Judah. As one of the minor prophets, his letter occurs not long before the Babylonians’ siege and capture of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Habakkuk likely prophesied in the first five years of Jehoiakim’s reign (609–598 BC). He was begging for God’s mercy during his dialogue with God (chapters 1-2). He responds to God’s answer in chapter 3. Habakkuk wrote to a prideful people who were facing judgment by God while a righteous people live by faith (2:4).

Habakkuk’s Conclusion – You do not Want to Miss This
Read and consider what Habakkuk said to God after he understood the significance of the judgment coming upon Judah over the pride and disobedience of the people.

16 When I heard, my body trembled;My lips quivered at the voice;Rottenness entered my bones;And I trembled in myself,That I might rest in the day of trouble.When he comes up to the people,He will invade them with his troops.

A Bright Light in the Midst of Devastation

As life does move on to the next day, days, week, and weeks, may we stop long enough to be encouraged. We can be encouraged by the general kindness of those around us. We can also be very encouraged by the love and tenderheartedness of those who are in the body of Christ and have experienced truly the love of Christ. Both of these things – bright lights in the midst of devastation.

As the news broke of all the thousands of people affected by the tornadoes that ravaged through Kentucky on Friday night and Saturday morning, we began to grasp the devastation of the evening. Just days before Christmas, the celebrations in many towns throughout Kentucky have turned from holiday preparation to absolute terror, grief, and, for some, survival. As a native of Kentucky and with family living in and around multiple towns effected by the storm, this storm seems especially personal. As it came through southwest Missouri on its way over to Kentucky, both a wedding I attended and my home went through tornado warnings on the same night. However, in God’s providence, southwest Missouri escaped the destruction that happened in Kentucky. As a personal observation, I want to take a moment to be grateful for a bright light in the midst of devastation. In fact, although they are connected with each other, let me mention two bright lights.
General Kindness

The people in urban areas, towns, and communities of the United States do their best in the midst of crisis. First responders specifically and initially risked their lives to begin seeking to save others’ lives. But, as you know, it did not stop there. Hundreds of people went into action to help their neighbors. Some were seeking to rescue others, some restoring power, some collecting belongings, and others collecting and delivering supplies to help those in need. In this moment, politics are set aside at the neighbor and community level. It does not matter the person’s religion, race, social status, favorite sports team, or political bent; in this moment, all are people. Mankind helping mankind. Each person seeking to do what he or she can to lessen the impact of the storms on others around them.
This general kindness shines as a bright light in the midst of devastation. After the storm, even before daylight, the communities begin to crawl with individuals who are more fortunate than another related to storm damage begin to move toward others with help, relief, and general kindness. People literally doing whatever they can to help another. A bright light indeed!

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