Stand Firm. Be Sure. Shine Light

This week we have thought about the fact that we can stand firm and secure if we are faithful and hold onto our Abba Father and Savior Jesus.  From here, we can live a bold confidence that when our time is over here we will be with our Father and Elder Brother in Heaven for all eternity.  These thoughts are awesome and life changing…for our own lives and the lives of those around us…especially your families.

Living this way, however, will certainly stand out in the world we live in and will be a light shining into the darkness many of the people we meet are experiencing in their own lives.  We can and do shine the light of Christ into other people’s lives if we are standing with Him and living for Him.  A light that we hope will illuminate or even expose so that people we interact with will see Jesus and see themselves and understand that sin is keeping them from being reconciled to the Father and Jesus can remedy that with His blood.  This shining of light is a powerful thing, but it comes from a power source we do not directly possess and can only have through Jesus.  For us to be fully charged we have to continue to be in contact with the power source and we do that through God’s word, prayer, meditation, fellowship…by staying plugged in or said another way abiding (John 15).

There is so much encouragement in God’s word and God has given us all we need to be charged and to emit.  We just have to stay connected.  I know many of you have your own way of doing this but today I am going to invite you to read Revelation 21-22 and consider what God has told us about Heaven, what Jesus is doing…today…and how that can translate to a great hope that is infectious even if every indication we are getting from others is that it repels.

Here are some highlights from chapters 21 and 22 that I find awesome and encouraging in terms of our home and how active and involved and interests our Savior is in ensuring we get there.

3…“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 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.” (Rev 21)

 6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. 7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

 4 They shall see His face

 5 There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.

 7 “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

 12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”

 14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.

 16I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”

 20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.”  Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Let that be your response today.  Be filled.  Shine your light.  Be ready when someone can’t help but ask “why”…and start with “Have you heard about my Jesus?”

I am going to Heaven!

Another lesson from Benjamin Lee’s meeting with us was titled “I’m going to Heaven”.  In teaching the lesson, he referenced a sister in Christ and how she lived with this attitude.  If you asked her…she would tell you and because she believed it she lived it and that made a difference on others.  The same is true for us as fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers…as men influencing children in our home, community, church…in our lives.  If we live with this faith, that we are going to heaven, then our children will see it and it will give them encouragement, confidence, and belief in their own lives.

In order to live this way, there are some questions we must keep working through our minds and help our children work through their minds.  These questions are good checks for us as we work toward our goal of Heaven.

1.  What will we need to get to Heaven?

We will get to Heaven through salvation and that salvation comes from God’s grace.

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:23-26; NKJV)

And though there are many things that demand our attention, we need to be in God’s word (Psalm 119:105) which is a lamp to our feet and we need to be obedient to it and God’s commandments (John 8:31-32—Truth makes us free; Galatians 5:4—But we can fall so we need to stay obedient).

2.  What help might we need to make our goal of Heaven?

In addition to God’s grace, His word and our obedience; we will need the edification, fellowship and help of our brethren.  The local church is a source of help as we make our way from earth to Heaven.  We see many examples of being joined to and strengthened by local brethren in the first century church.  (Acts 2:42-47; 9:19, 26; Philippians 1:1)

3.  How long will it take us to reach Heaven?

The rest of our lives!  Our journey is a marathon, not a sprint and it won’t always be on even ground.  Which is why we need God, we need our brethren and we need constant reminders.  We need to take time daily and think about Heaven and how awesome it will to be home.  How often do we truly do that?  We need it just like we need God’s grace, Word, and His people.  There are going to be challenges (Galatians 2:1-14) and we have to remember that our journey is about progress and not perfection.  We are perfected in Jesus Christ and that takes time and will take the rest of our lives.  But we can confidence in our end goal just as Paul did (2 Tim 4:6-8) no matter what phase of our life we are in.

4.  Finally, why do we want to this goal? Why do we want to go to Heaven?

I will leave you with that question but let me encourage you by the words of my nine year old daughter.  She answered this question before Ben did…and she leaned over to her mom and her answer was “Because that is where God is!”  Amen.

Live Like You Are Dying

Tim McGraw is a famous country singer and a few years back he had a hit song titled “Live Like You Are Dying”. The song is about a man who receives a life-changing health diagnosis and how it changes his perspective, priorities, and lifestyle. His point is simple…live today like you are dying…don’t take life for granted. To be honest, I often changed the station when this song came on because it was hard to hear…it pricked my heart…frankly it convicted me as I looked at my life and wondered just how much I was squandering, especially with what God has taught me from His word on the frailty of life, the importance of my spirituality and the fact I am a sojourner here and my real home and hope is in Heaven. The bottom-line…to my shame, I wasn’t living like I was dying and more than that…I wasn’t living like Jesus died for my sins.

I bring this up because we started our meeting with Benjamin Lee yesterday and the series is titled just like the song…“Live Like You Are Dying”. Just like with the song, my heart was pricked as Ben brought the first lesson, “Facts of Life” with Ecclesiastes 9 as its foundational scripture.

His points were simple but the implications are soul shaking, life changing, and echo in eternity. The points are this…we are all going to die, time and circumstance happen to all, and we may die today.

I know as Ben was teaching that everyone in the room who was really listening was going through their own significant emotional response. I mean come on…he is hitting home right? We are doing to die, we aren’t in control and we might just die today. How does that not give you pause and what do we do about it?

The answer is Jesus. He had to die too…and He did…just as God purposed for Him to do and in doing so provided us hope through the saving power of His blood. We all have to die and it might happen today but as a disciple of Jesus we do not have to fear that. We can stand confident in God’ mercy, grace, and love. We can know for certain that our bodies will return to the ground (dust) but our spirit will return to God who created it and if we live a life where we revere Him and keep His commandments…He will welcome us home and we will enter into an eternal rest. That is not scary. That is awesomely hopeful!

So if you don’t feel hopeful…what is the problem? Well, if you are anything like me, dread instead of hope is a result of or symptom of a life not lived the way God has prescribed. Living in such a way that we are without God makes a death of like manner terrifying. But that is the point. God wants us to feel that so we will turn back to Him and run and get back to Him as fast as we can…while we are alive…because there will not be time or opportunity for that after we are dead.

God might let bad things happen to us if that means it will either bring us back to Him or keep us close to Him. He wants us to live like we are dying because we are all going to die and we don’t know when…but He does. So if you are struggling, don’t blame God but ask Him to give you an understanding heart and allow Him to turn your discomfort into a restful peace as you return to Him. Do it now…because we are all dying…and there is a point when it is too late.

Don’t change the station when you hear this song…turn up the volume to what God is telling you, take the action He is calling you to and live forever in His love and life.

Note: The Live Like You are Dying sermons will be provided on the South Macomb Church of Christ website (https://www.southmacombchurchofchrist.org/). Take a listen and follow along in your Bibles…a lot of great material and discussion on what God’s word says about this important topic.

Fear Not and Share Jesus

13 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:13-17; NKJV)

There are a lot of reasons we might not take an opportunity to share Jesus with others.  It is a very real challenge for all of us who are followers of Jesus.  We put up walls for not sharing with others who have yet to hear or obey the Gospel.  I think if we are honest, fear of rejection or fear of harm can be very real reasons for this.  An opportunity presents itself and we find different reasons for why we didn’t have the courage to act and a lot of times it can be that we are afraid of what others will think of us.

We all want others to think well of us and I believe this is a natural emotion and/or desire and is not inherently bad.  What becomes troublesome is when we put that desire over the desire of God for us to share with others the good news of His Son regardless of the negative outcomes it might create in our relationships or lives.

This letting what others think or fear of harm are not new stumbling blocks for those who follow Jesus.  Peter denied knowing Jesus because of those around him (Matthew 26:69-75). Several followed Jesus while he was on earth, but they did so secretly for fear of others (John 19:38). However, our salvation comes through our willingness to take a public stand for our Lord (Romans 10:9-10). It is unfortunate that some people value their position with men more than their position with God.

When you take stock of your evangelism in the workplace, your neighborhood, with strangers or any other aspect of your life, do you see more missed opportunities than opportunities taken advantage of?  Have you considered why this is?  Could it be you are worrying more about what others might think of you or a temporary discomfort (physically or emotionally) you will face if you share Jesus with them?  I know that I am guilty of these things.  I know that I have missed opportunities because my perspective was on me rather than the soul of another and eternal hope provided by Jesus.

Jesus was severely mistreated and still He fulfilled all His Father gave Him to do.  We, too, will be mistreated for continuing the work Jesus has given us to do but we should not fear man because God is watching over us (Matthew 10:24-31).

Be ready to give an account and a defense for the hope of Jesus in your life.  Know that God is ready to stand with you in this.  God is for us.  God is for them.  Lets focus on God and maybe we can get of our own way and give others the opportunity to get out their own way too.

Don’t be Afraid to Forgive Your Kids

Did you ask God yesterday or today to forgive you for something you knew you shouldn’t have done or have been admonished for doing in the past?  Did you really mean it?  Were your really sorry for what you did and committed to not doing it again?  I know I did.  I know we all find ourselves before our loving, merciful, longsuffering Father knowing we have violated His rules, hurt Him, or strayed from the straight path He has laid out for us.  So what?  Why start here?

I start here because I am not providing this same blessing to my children.  There are probably a lot of reasons for that but as we have been talking about…a lot of times my own insecurity or fear of the trajectory of my kids’ life is taking when considering their actions or decisions.  I want them to be safe…first and foremost spiritually and when I see them going or catch them in the far country, I am guilty of going straight to angry and sometimes that takes away any opportunity for them to say “I’m sorry” or ask for my help.  Certainly, I am expected to discipline my children, but I am not talking about constructively leading my children.  I am talking about being for them what I find in my Abba Father and Elder Brother…graceful, merciful, longsuffering, forgiving, loving, providing security, help…all of the tremendous blessings I have in Jesus.

So that is the thought for today.  How can we better forgive our children so that we can be a positive part of the solution?  Again, we should all endeavor to get ahead of trouble and teach our children to avoid it…but when they don’t…can we forgive them, love them, and take them by the hand as they stand up and get themselves back on the path they should be on?

Jesus demonstrated it.   (I Pet. 2:21; Phil. 2:3-5; Luke 23:34).  Jesus gave us the example.  Our Father forgives us daily.  We have our examples and they are worth following for our own sake and the sake of our children.

We have been forgiven. God, in Christ, has forgiven the sins of the Christian (Eph. 4:32). As Christ has forgiven us, then we should forgive others (Col. 3:13) and our kids need it so that they can feel safe and we might find opportunity to teach them and model a forgiving heart.

We must pattern our forgiveness after the forgiveness God has granted to us. It must be accompanied by actions which befit true forgiveness.  Forgiveness involves a kind attitude—abandoning all animosity and hatred. All bitterness, anger, wrath, clamor and evil speaking should be put away (Eph. 4:31). We can’t hold grudges.  We are the adult.  We have to act it.

We are going to have to forget.  Of course, we are not able to just erase it from our mind, but we can avoid holding our children accountable to something if they have come to use for forgiveness and with a true heart toward not doing it again.  Our forgiveness granted should be the end of the matter and we should assume the best of our kids to do their best moving forward.  God is for us.   He is for them.  We are in this together with our kids and I know forgiving isn’t always the first thing I think to do but when I can get that right I see a softened heart looking for my leadership and that is an awesome opportunity.

Like you, I have spent my children’s entire lives protecting them and providing them every advantage.  In the end, the best advantage they have is a life lived with Jesus.  That is our best advantage and if we are freed up in that security we can stand to forgive and love…just like our Abba Father forgives and loves us.

H-O-P-E

How much of a difference would I make if I demonstrated “hopeful living” in my home?  There are a lot of things I can do as a dad to help my kids but there are a lot of things I can do to hurt them too.

I wonder sometimes…am I hurting them more than helping them?  I say that because sometimes I am led by selfishness…and in that the mistakes or bad choices and emotions associated with them can feel like a burden…and unfortunately my kids might be getting that message.

Or sometimes I am afraid…and that fear comes out in anger…and so my kids think that I am mad at them when really I am just scared of something bad happening to them.

Neither of these are positive and they certainly don’t represent the kind of person I want them to become…selfish or afraid.  So what do I do?

What I should do is live with hope…which is the favorable and confident expectation…having to do with the unseen and the future.  Vine’s defines it as a verb meaning “to trust”.

Hope describes a happy anticipation of good.

God tells us we can live “in hope of eternal life” (Titus 1:2)  But what is that hope based on?

Christ in you the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).  Jesus is the object upon which our “hope” is fixed…“the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope” (1 Timothy 1:1).

Isn’t this kind of hope the best of things?  And if this kind of hope is the best of things, perhaps hopelessness is the worst of things…“having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12)

With God..in Jesus…there is hope and we are not alone.  In that, we have to take the focus off ourselves and put it on God.  We have to trust that He will not forsake us and will be there for those who search after Him…that means He is there fore our kids too so we don’t have to be afraid but have a hopeful outlook for them in Christ Jesus.

Live with hope and it will make a difference in your life and the lives of your kids.

Take this little memory aid with you…live with hope…and make a difference for Jesus in your home.

HOPE:  Helping – Others – Prepare for – Eternity

Disappointment

Disappointment is inevitable in a sin-cursed world.  Disappointment is all around each of us in our own lives or in the lives of others.  Why is this so?  Why is there such a thing as a “sin-cursed world” and is the disappointment in it necessary?

We see how this all came to be as a result of Adam and Eve rebelling against God and sinned, there were consequences.

To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”

Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”  (Genesis 3:16-19; NKJV).

And it is not just man and woman that is affected but creation in its entirety.

For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. (Romans 8:19-22; NKJV).

 Sorrow.  Pain and Suffering.  Sweat or Tears.  Physical Death.  These are the results of sin.  These all certainly sound disappointing if you don’t understand the why of them.  But in understanding the why we know that all of this is intended to drive us to God and His Son.

In doing so, we live today in the context of eternity and we understand that what is going on here is but a moment and the disappointment of this life does not measure up to the tremendous eternal rest and gain in Heaven.

But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”  (Hebrews 11:16; NKJV)

God is in His country which is Heaven.  Heaven is the country to which those who believe and obey the Gospel of Jesus go. We get to see His face!  What we will not see is deception, lies, temptation, sin, suffering, or death.  These things do not exist there!

In knowing this, we can then bring encouragement into the lives around us as they might be experiencing disappointment in this world.  We can demonstrate the great hope we have in Jesus and in our expectant Heavenly home.  We can live in such a way that clearly articulates “there is no disappointment in Heaven” and “I sure would like to help you get there”!

This will shine a light into someone’s life and if they let you help will lighten their load as they go.

Is anything too hard for Me?

In Jeremiah, 32 we find Jeremiah sitting in prison. He has been preaching and warning Judah and her kings for decades. Babylon, led by Nebuchadnezzar, is once again surrounding Jerusalem. This is the third wave of attack brought about by God through the hands of Babylon. During this siege, the whole city and Solomon’s temple will be destroyed and burned to the ground.

While Jeremiah sits in prison for preaching the words of God, he is told by God to buy his relative’s field in Anathoth, bury the purchase agreement and deed in an earthen vessel that it may stay there a long time. Why? Because God was foretelling through a sign that the people of God will one day come back from captivity and buy and sell land in Israel.

This must have sounded like the most impossible thing, especially considering the circumstances in which Jeremiah and the people found themselves. Jeremiah follows with a prayer of praise as he recounts the character and merciful works of God in contrast to Judah’s faithlessness.

But we can see the challenge of faith that Jeremiah is having in this prayer. He admits readily that “nothing is too hard for God” (a statement which God turns around and repeats to him). However, at the end of his prayer, his is really struggling with the concept that God’s people will actually come back to this land.

Yet you, O Lord GOD, have said to me, “Buy the field for money and get witnesses”–though the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans.'”
(Jeremiah 32:25)

Jeremiah is like, I know you said this Lord, but that sounds like hope and light, and this is the most hopeless and darkest situations we could be in. It is at this point that God takes over the conversation, and replies with:

The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?
(Jeremiah 32:26-27)

God told Jeremiah that yes, Judah will be destroyed and rightly so because of their sins and rejection of God. But God will “restore their fortunes” (vs. 44). “For thus says the LORD: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them” (vs. 42).

Trust me, Jeremiah, God is saying. Just as I will bring certain punishment, I will also bring certain hope, restoration and life! Nothing is too hard for God. And this is the the same God we serve today. God is a just God and will punish sinfulness, but He also a God of mercy who seeks to reconcile us to Himself and pour out upon us His blessings (Romans 5). When we are at our most hopeless and darkest places in life we need to remember that.

Nothing is too hard for God.

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.