They Will All Wear Out Like a Garment

And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”
(Hebrews 1:10-12)

There is a beginning and there is an end. In the above passage, we see that the earth and heavens are the work of God, and that “in the beginning” God laid their foundation. We also see here that there is an end as well. The things of this earth will wear out, be rolled up and  changed. Newton’s laws are true, things wear out and go from order to disorder. They have an end in contrast to God who has “no end.”

What gets us so frustrated? What distracts us so easily? The stuff that wears out, changes and ultimately will all have an end. The “here and now” will be the “distant and past” one day. It may be that you have to re-center your mind today to remember the One who always was, is and is to come. I know I need that right now. All this stuff is temporary, and we have to deal with it and live in it, but our mind can’t be drowning in it.

God laid the earth’s foundation and one day it will all be burned up and changed. While we are here, remember that “God is the same and His years have no end.”

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
(Colossians 3:1-4)

When God Brings Justice

I was listening to a video by Frank Turek this week and he made an excellent point about our view of God’s justice. He said something to the effect of, “So many people wander why God doesn’t do something about evil, but when He does do something about evil we don’t like how he went about it!”

We all can probably relate. There are times, I’m sure, when you have read the Bible and came across one of God’s judgments and were tempted to think, “Man, that’s harsh.” David was angry when God struck Uzzah dead for touching the ark of the covenant. Habakkuk had a really hard time accepting that God would send a more wicked nation (Chaldeans/Babylonians) to punish the nation of Judah. Abraham was very concerned about God being a just judge and doing what was right when it came to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

There are many more examples of people questioning God’s decisions, and we can all say that at some time we’ve wondered about why God does things the way He does. It can be a real struggle for our faith, but as we come through those valleys of confusion, we can have a much stronger faith and a better appreciation for who God is.

Here are a few thoughts about God when He administers justice.

When God brings justice:

  • God has exhausted all other avenues to bring someone or a group of people to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). If you read through the pages of the Bible and see the wrath and punishment of God, you can in those same texts see the mercy and long-suffering nature of God. He waits until there is no remedy but to bring punishment.
  • His punishment is at the right time, done in the right way, and is completely free of partiality (Romans 2).  This is why mankind does such a lousy job of vengeance and punishment. We often do it at the wrong time, with poor motives and full of favoritism.
  • He sees the hearts of mankind and sees the future. Since you and I can see neither of these, we are not equipped to make God’s judgments like He is. There is a lot of information He has access to that we will never have. I remember having a hard time wondering why God struck Uzzah dead while King David lived. God sees things that I don’t see, and I need to trust that.
  • God’s heart is always ready to forgive and receive back the sinner. We just studied about King Manasseh last Sunday. Manasseh was a really wicked dude. No king was as wicked as he was. God brought punishment upon King Manasseh and the nation of Judah, and what happened? Manasseh showed great humility and repented of his sins. God forgave him.

Our hearts can be built up in faith knowing that when God makes a decision, even a decision that causes us to shudder, we can be assured that it was the right decision with the purest motives. God will do what is right, and He will do it out of love.

then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,
(2 Peter 2:9)

God’s Family—Mayer Road Case Study

  • Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.  Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;  rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality…. (Romans 12: 9-13)
  • rejoice with those who rejoice…weep with those who weep… (Romans 12:15)
  • But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. (Hebrews 13:16)
  • Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing…let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being… (1 Thes 5:11)
  • Bear one another’s burdens(Galatians 6:2)
  •  And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

Please consider these verses. Each of them have a specific moral issue for which Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote to admonish, instruct, and encourage the various brethren receiving them. I do not want to add to or take away from these lessons but want to emphasize these principles as I consider what is happening in Casco, Michigan as Christians come together for one of our own and do what they can to rebuild for one of our own.

Not too long ago, one of our families experienced a profound loss as their barn burnt in the middle of the night with all their equipment and livestock inside. The physical and emotional loss was tremendous and the ramifications are still felt as each of us continue to deal with the loss. This event was enough to burry many families…to cause many individuals to lose hope. That is not how this story ends though!

Though a terrible and fiery loss, what really resulted was God being glorified, His children strengthened, and an opportunity for those outside the faith to see the hope available through Jesus. I can’t emphasize the significance of the good that has been done, is being done and will continue to be done because of all the experiences around this great loss, clean up and rebuilding process. The work is far from done but isn’t that the case for all of us? Don’t we all have profound loss and struggle? Aren’t we all experiencing physical and spiritual struggles?

In all of that, do we do what we must? Do we put our full faith and trust in God’s love and power? Do we share our struggles with each other or create an environment to make it ok to do so? Do we take the time to not only pray for those who are struggling or hurting…but also to rejoice in the happiness, success, and blessings of our most dear brethren? Even if it isn’t as a result of a great struggle conquered…but in a blessed life…do we rejoice?

We are so blessed in one another and what is happening in on Mayer Road this week is another piece of an exceptional example of that…but we can see the same awesome God and Christian family in the everyday goings on in our own lives. Take time and thank God, thank each other and rejoice! We are here for but a short time and times aren’t always going to be easy…but we all share the hope of Heaven and living now within the context of eternity is such a blessed place to be. Living there with like-minded loving brethren makes it even the sweeter. Take a moment, see God’s blessings in His family and thank Him…and hugs always help too…because that right there is what God’s love looks like.  Have a blessed day brothers!

How Can I Keep from Singing?

The point I am considering today and invite you to consider is that of contentment and joyful living and how that makes a huge difference in the lives of those we come in contact with each day.

One of the Shepherds at South Macomb Church of Christ once said to me… “God didn’t promise a smooth flight…He promised a safe landing.” The comment was made in reference to fact this world is tough, our lives will be tough, difficult circumstances will present themselves…BUT…if we cling to our God and Father through our Elder Brother and Savior Jesus Christ…we will one day make it home to be with God forever. That home has no tears, no fears, no sin, no death, no confusion and the list goes on. It is a perfect rest in the place God always intended for us to be…in His presence, in His family, forever.

Though we are not home yet…God is all around us! His glory and power are screaming at us…but we don’t always see it because of all the noise and confusion and suffering in the world. But He is there and if we look, and we consider Him and His promises…how can we not be filled with joy and peace? And if we are filled with this how can we not love and live in such a way that is different and makes those around us take notice? And how powerful is that opportunity when someone asks “How can you be so at peace or so joyful or so loving and so hopeful in a time or place like this?”? That is when the power and love of God that fills us pours out and makes a difference in the world.

Fill yourself up with Him to the point it overflows and others will notice and opportunity will arise for the Gospel. We sow the seed…the increase belongs to God. Go about your day singing and you will be different and you will have opportunity for Christ and in that God will be glorified.

I love you all and appreciate the work you do for the sake of Christ in your homes, in the Church, in the workplace and throughout your everyday experiences. May a song of Jesus fill your heart today and the spill over into the lives of others.

When God says “No”

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
(2 Corinthians 12:7-10, ESV)

Were Paul’s prayers for his thorn in the flesh prayed in faith? Yes.

Did those prayers come from a heart that was pure before God? Yes.

Were Paul’s prayers for this physical agony fervent, genuine and persistent? Yes.

Were Paul’s prayers specific? Yes.

Was Paul’s motive for this prayer selfish and self-centered? No. Just because it was about himself doesn’t make it selfish. Jesus did the same, right?

But with all of this, God still said “No” to Paul’s request. That is just hard to swallow. When God says “No” to our prayers, it can be a great challenge to our faith. Why pray at all? What does it matter? Is prayer just an exercise in futility?

If you are challenged by me even bringing this up, then that’s good. Read the Psalms. Look at those who are looking up into heaven and asking “Where are you God?”, or “How long will it be before You hear us?”

Remember the Psalm that Jesus quoted on the cross…

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
(Psalm 22:1-2, ESV)

These feelings are real. Sometimes when fellow Christians bring up these feelings and questions they get dismissed or invalidated by others who give their default “churchy” answers without thinking. If Jesus Himself wondered why God had forsaken Him and whether God wasn’t listening at all, is it okay for me to wonder that once in awhile, too?

Yes, yes it is.

Here are some thoughts I see from Scripture that help me when I go through that process of wondering where God is.

God IS listening. The Lord responded to Paul’s prayers. The prayer was heard, and the prayer was answered. “From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached His ears” (Psalm 18:6, ESV).

God answered the prayers of many people in Scripture and gave them their requests. Gideon, Joshua, Moses, Samuel, Abraham, Hannah, Esther, Mordecai, Elijah, Hezekiah are just a few of the faithful to whom God granted their petitions. Prayer is not an exercise in futility. It most certainly works.

God’s grace is sufficient. When God says “No,” or “Wait awhile,” or “Yes, but in a different way,” then you can be assured that He has a very good reason. It may be very difficult at times to accept that, but His grace is sufficient.

God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. God’s “No” answers will work for His glory so that His strength, not ours, is exalted.

I will glory and boast in my infirmities. We may want the “testimony” and “witness” to others that we prayed for something and God gave a definite and mighty “Yes” to our requests. But the testimony we may give is like that of Paul, in that we glorify God in the weaknesses, trials and setbacks of life. Paul’s “testimony” was that he was “content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.
(Luke 18:1, ESV)

God sends a brother

A brother recently was struggling at work with his attitude. It is a second job, and it is physically demanding on top of dealing with ornery customers. He was really having a hard time with his attitude the other night, so he told his manager he needed to take his 10-minute break. He sat in the break room by himself and prayed hard for God to change his attitude. He went back to work, and within minutes another brother in Christ showed up at his workplace just to say hello and to see how he was doing.

Instant attitude change. Instant smile. Instant prayer of “Thank you, God!” for answering prayer.

Coincidence?

What did God promise?

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:19)

God will supply our needs richly! Sometimes that just may mean a person shows up to encourage and refresh us.

Here are a few verses for us to meditate upon today about how God filled that need in the days of the early church. May we be instruments of God’s encouragement today for others. And remember, God will answer your prayers for encouragement.

Another part of the story is that the brother who stopped by the workplace of the other brother also needed some encouragement. He was down and struggling with his own attitude and decided to look for his good friend. They both greatly benefited that night, didn’t they?

Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you, when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.
(2 Corinthians 7:6-7)

I am glad about the coming of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, for what was lacking on your part they supplied. For they refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men.
(1 Corinthians 16:17-18)

…and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith,
(1 Thessalonians 3:2)

The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day–and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus.
(2 Timothy 1:16-18)

Why the Church: Looking Up

Why the Church: Looking Up

Today is a sermon for you to take time to listen to / watch over the weekend, entitled “Why the Church: Looking Up” by Ralph Walker, Jr.

Please also read and meditate upon the passage below from Ephesians 3 and what the Holy Spirit through Paul wrote about the church.


To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
(Ephesians 3:8-21)

Chesed

Yesterday we considered several passages of Scripture that demonstrate the faithfulness of God and His unfailing love and presence in our lives. Today I would like for you to consider the word “chesed” which is often translated as lovingkindness.

Here are some notes from A Theological Word Book of the Bible on the word “chesed.”

It is important to realize that though the Hebrew chesed can be translated by loving-kindness and mercy without doing violence to the context, yet we must always beware lest we think that God is content with less than righteousness. There is no reference to any sentimental kindness, and no suggestion of mercy apart from repentance, in any case where the Hebrew original is chesed. His demand for righteousness is insistent, and it is always at the maximum intensity. The loving-kindness of God means that his mercy is greater even than that. The word chesed stands for the wonder of his unfailing love for the people of his choice, and the solving of the problem of the relation between his righteousness and his loving-kindness passes beyond human comprehension.

The word is used to contrast man and God.

  • Isaiah 40:6 – Isaiah used chesed (“loveliness”) in the context of man’s lack of steadfastness or strength. The prophet is contrasting man’s frailty with God’s steadfast reliability.
  • Hosea 6:4 – Israel’s chesed was like the morning cloud which goes away. ‘as the morning cloud, and as the dew that goeth early away,’ a regular feature of the Palestinian climate when once the spring rains are past.

God’s loving-kindness is that sure love which will not let Israel go. Not all Israel’s persistent waywardness could ever destroy it. Though Israel be faithless, yet God remains faithful still. This steady, persistent refusal of God to wash his hands of wayward Israel is the essential meaning of the Hebrew word which is translated loving-kindness.

In light of these thoughts about the “chesed,” the unfailing lovingkindness God, let us pray for God’s “chesed” to be a part of our marriages. May we as men love our wives “just as” Jesus loved us, and may that unfailing lovingkindness flow from our hearts and souls toward our wives.

Interesting thought, when I type “lovingkindness,” it gets underlined in red because it is not part of the dictionary on this program. This term lovingkindness is not familiar to it, but may that not be the case for us in our marriages. Hopefully lovingkindness is part of our “program,” deeply embedded within our souls.

God is Faithful

Let’s look today at several passages in Scripture that speak of God’s faithfulness. Our God is faithful at all times, even when we are not.

Before we sin, while we are being tempted

1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

2 Thessalonians 3:3  But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.

While we are sinning

2 Timothy 2:11-13 – This is a faithful saying:  For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.

While we are seeking to come back

1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Hebrews 2:17 – Jesus is a merciful and faithful High Priest

Even when we are standing in the wake of the consequences

Lamentations 3:18-24 – And I said, “My strength and my hope Have perished from the LORD.” Remember my affliction and roaming, the wormwood and the gall. My soul still remembers and sinks within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”

Until Jesus comes again

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 – Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.

God Does Not Change

Malachi 3:6 – I am the Lord I do not change

Hebrews 13:8 – Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

Plumbing the Depths of God’s Love – God and You

This week the MDB articles will be written by my dear friend, Shane Blackmer. Thanks Shane!


17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—  19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:17-19 NKJV)

The depth of God’s love is that it can receive and cover the sins of EVERY repentant sinner EVERY time!  What does this realization do to how we handle our relationships?

Over the past several months I have been challenged in my relationships at home and at work.  I know I am not alone is this.  All of us are challenged as husbands, fathers, brothers, neighbors, professionals…to fulfill our responsibilities, to love unconditionally despite disappointment and sorrow.  It seems we often view people for how they hurt us.  We have trouble getting past it.  We can’t forgive, forget, trust, grow…this seems like a natural response and challenge.  Further, what seems natural to us men is to “fix it”.  We try to go after the relationship problems and either fix the “issue” or even worse “the other person”.  This is a trap…and a lot of times everyone loses.  So what should we do?

I have learned that in my life I have spent a great deal of time thinking and worrying about what other people think and feel.  Don’t get me wrong…having a genuine concern for others and humbling ourselves in relationships is not a bad thing.  The trouble starts when we become solely focused on the other person or lose perspective on the relationship.  If we have an outward perspective, we are missing the most important relationship…our relationship with God.

Do you believe that this relationship is the most important?  Do you believe that if this relationship is broken all other relationships suffer?  Do you believe we can completely miss this and spend all of our time working on the wrong relationships?  I do.  I have!  What I should do is come to the realization David did:

4Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight—That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge. (Psa. 51:4 NKJV)

In doing this, I can first get my most fundamental and important relationship right…be reconciled with my Heavenly Father so that I am in a position to be reconciled to my wife, children, brethren, colleagues, etc.  What this does is takes all the judgment, condemnation, resentment I feel for others and turns it inward.  I acknowledge first and foremost I am a sinner…we all are!  Yet, when we sin, come to ourselves, confess, and repent…God forgives us!  And a life forgiven is a life worth living and an empowered life in which we can forgive and love others.

And here is the kicker…God forgives me every time I ask Him with a repentant heart.  Think about that for a minute.  Think about all times you sin in a day.  Think about how many people there are on this planet.  Think about all the times we sin in a day…billions of times…and God is ready to forgive every one of them.  Is that not a deep love?

If we think about that…about how God is the first person rejected in every relationship that is in err…and He is willing and able to forgive every time…won’t that change the way we see conflict in our relationships.  Won’t we come to understand that no matter how much another person hurts us…it is no more than how much we hurt our Father every day.  Won’t we see the grace, mercy, love, and hope we have with our Father despite this terrible wrong we have committed…and think about how we might have that same kind of heart for others?

If we do, we can go from being hurt “because of” someone else and go to being hurt “for” someone else.  We realize that we are all struggling to make our way through this life and we are all rejecting our Father and bringing great grief upon ourselves.  So let’s do our part to bring Him back to the center of our relationships by ensuring He is in the center of our individual lives.

With this in mind, let’s spend the week looking at Psalm 32 (read Psalm 51 too…they go great together) and consider how David figured this out…because he didn’t get it right at first.  He struggled with trying to deal with his sin alone…the influence this had on his relationships…and how he came to repentance, confession and forgiveness and how much more effective he could be as a husband, father…as a man in the world.

We can’t expect our relationships to improve if we haven’t worked on our first relationship…with God.  Once I come to that realization, that we have first sinned against our Father and He is faithful to forgive me, I am well positioned to work on other relationships and demonstrate the same love, grace, mercy, forgiveness and hope…so let’s start with us and get that right first.  Looking forward to a great week with you.