Father of Lights

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. (James 1:16-18)

Perspective and process is what we discussed in verses 12-15.  God’s perspective is heavenly and we can have confidence in what He is doing and has promised to do.  Jesus says in John 15 to “Abide in Me” and to faithfully serve Him despite the highs and lows of our life and the result is eternal life…the crown of life.  That is the process.

In that, the devil will try to mix all that up, sow lies, cause confusion.  But we read here to not be deceived.  To remember that all good gifts and things that come into our lives are from Heaven.  If something is not good, we know it is not from God and we can work to avoid it, flee from it or otherwise escape and resist.

Specifically, God is the God of light and there is no darkness in Him.  Again, a standard we can measure the things in our life by.  God is the God of light and there is no variation or shadow.  God is solid in that He does not move and that He is not empty but is and represents His supreme and awesome power and nature which is fully focused on our restoration and salvation.  He works to build up.  The devil works to tear down.  We can know that God has and is working to restore us…bringing us into the light as He is light.  Our objective is to stay there and remain faithful and we will prevail.

Let me close with a passage from Paul’s letter to Timothy and encourage all of us to move to the light and stay in the light no matter how hard the devil works to yank us back.

11 But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, 15 which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords16 who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:11-16)

House of Mourning

1 A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one’s birth; Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart3 Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better.  The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools. (Ecclesiastes 7:1-5; NKJV)

Today we will gather to celebrate the victory in Jesus of our dear sister.  It is indeed a celebration and that was what she asked we do today.  There will be sorrow to be sure because we miss her.  She lived a life that is amplified in the lives of the ones she influenced and participated in.  And today she will give once again as we reflect on her life in Jesus and draw encouragement and example in continuing to strive for the gospel.  Her name is a good name.  Her life wisely lived.  All of which echos in eternity.

The book of Ecclesiastes provides us a vertical and heavenly perspective as we view the horizontal nature of our lives on earth.  It is a lens that reassures us that all things matter because this life is not the end.  Our eternal life with God and the eternal nature of our relationships and actions here are earth are called into view.  Everything we do has an eternal impact and everything God is doing is about the salvation of souls.  Life.  Death.  All of it demonstrates a patient and loving God who is singularly focused on saving.

The house of mourning is not a place that we, by nature, would prefer to be but our Father says different and that we should go there and take to heart the eternal nature of our existence.  There is salvation in Jesus and destruction without.  It is the center theme to our lives here and in eternity.  It is what will be before us today and worthy of our consideration.  It is an opportunity to draw closer to our Savior, celebrate victory in Him and be encouraged as we leave and go back into the world knowing that everything we face is worth it when our race is run with Jesus and we go home to a loving God.

Finally, I want to share these passages as they were shared with me.  They are offered to help us as we work to understand God’s perspective for things that happen here, deal with the resulting emotions and search for peace and trust in God’s power.

Psalm 13:1-3; Romans 8:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 14:12-13; John 14:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:7-5:10; Philippians 1:20-30; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

Trouble Free Heart

1 Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”  Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”  Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:1-6; NKJV)

There are several passages in John that remind me that Jesus has already done, is continually doing, and will most certainly do all the work required for my salvation.  In John 15, Jesus says to “abide” in Him.  He tells us that He has already saved us and what we need to do is put our whole life in Him and we will be safe now and in eternity.

Here, Jesus says “believe” and if we believe then we will not be troubled in our heart.  What do we believe?  We believe that Jesus came as a man, lived a perfect life and died on the cross without sin and as a sacrifice for all of our sin.  That perfect sacrifice was required and accepted by God for forgiveness of all the sin ever committed.  God the Father and Jesus the Son took away that what separates them from us.  In obedience to the gospel, we are saved so we do not need to be troubled.

Jesus came and He went…and because that is true we can be confident He will come again and when He does He will rescue those who faithfully believe in Him.

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and if we make Him our way, our truth, and our life then He will comfort us today and rescue us from the second death.  We will live with Him, the Father, and all our brothers and sisters in heaven for eternity.  I hope this lightens all of our burdens and puts a spring in all of our steps today.

Worse Things Than Death

There are worse things than death.

We are studying the book of Revelation in our congregation right now. There are a couple of examples we found showing folks wishing for death because they feared something much worse. Specifically, we saw that people feared facing the wrath of God and His punishment more than they feared death.

Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
(Revelation 6:15-17)

And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them.
(Revelation 9:6)

In fact, the book of Revelation talks about a “second death” that is far worse than dying the first time. The Christian will face death like every other person on this earth, but God delivers His people from the second death, which is eternal punishment. Again, there are worse things than dying.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’
(Revelation 2:11)

Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
(Revelation 20:14-15)

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!
(Luke 12:4-5)

For today, remember that death is not the end, nor is it the worst thing that could ever happen. The Christian has hope and a promise of eternal life with Jesus. Dying is just the beginning for the one not in Christ. Dying is as bad as it gets for the Christian, after that we are with Jesus.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.
(Philippians 1:21-23)

Jesus and Smyrna

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.'”
(Revelation 2:8-11)

Here are some things I see Jesus saying in this short but powerful note to the church in Smyrna.

  • You are in poverty, but you are rich, because in Me you have everything.
  • You will suffer, maybe even die for your faith, but you will rise again, because I died and came to life.
  • You will be thrown into prison, but I will give you a crown of life. In Me you are free and reign as kings and priests. The world will try to take everything away from you, but I give you eternal rewards.
  •  You will face great fear, but remember that this time of persecution is short, and I will be with you through it. I know your tribulation. The Devil and those who follow him only have limited power for a limited time. I am the First and the Last.

Let’s take this encouragement from Jesus with us today.

What has God given you?

If you are a Christian, what has God given you?

A Spirit of Power, Love, Self-Control…NOT FEAR

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
(2 Timothy 1:6-7)

A Spirit of Adoption…NOT FEAR

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
(Romans 8:12-17)

Confidence, Love Perfected, Eternal Life…NOT FEAR

By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
(1 John 4:17-18)

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
(1 John 5:11-12)

What does God want for me? Look at what God has given us and that should answer it. It will also tell you what He doesn’t want for us. He wants us to have a life without fear, specifically our fear of facing Him on the Judgment Day. God wants security for us, He has adopted us into His family. We are not enslaved to a horrible taskmaster where we always live in fear and uncertainty. God, the loving Father, adopted us through the blood of Jesus, and we are now His children forever.

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.

Psalm 90

I encourage you to read Psalm 90 today. The text is below at the end of this post. What I see in this Psalm, this prayer of Moses, is a contemplation on the eternal nature of God in contrast to the fleeting life of a human being. We are but dust, like grass, and we soon fly away. God, however, is from everlasting to everlasting. For us 70-80 years is a long time, but 1,000 years is like “yesterday when it is past” to God.

Since this is a prayer of Moses, Moses makes certain requests of God. Take note of what he is asking God.

Show us goodness in our lives, not just the bad things. We know that God’s wrath is real, and light of His holiness exposes our secret sins. Moses asks for God to show us not only His wrath and justice but also His goodness in our lives. He also requests for God to “establish” the work of his hands. Help us accomplish our plans and purposes and dreams. I like the specific request in verse 15 for God to “make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.”

He wants God to help him “number” his days, so that he would gain a heart of wisdom. Lord, help us appreciate how fleeting life is, and to cherish every moment we have here on the planet. I have talked to several men and women in my age group recently, and I’m hearing the same things. You have kids growing up, graduating, going to college, thinking of finding a spouse, etc. On the other hand your parents are aging, and you are seeking to help them in that stage of their lives. But then you are seeing your own life really racing by. You begin to see what those older folks told you decades ago about how life just blows right by you, while you were thinking at the time, “Yeah, yeah, I know….” Well, life does really just scream right passed you like an Indy car. So, Moses as an old man is keenly aware of how fast life goes by, and he shows us the wisdom of asking God to help us cherish each day, each moment.

 

A Prayer of Moses, the man of God. Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!
(Psa 90:1-17)

What is your life?

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”–yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
(James 4:13-17)

Today’s passage is a reminder for us that life is short, we are but a mist that will soon vanish away. God is eternal, so as we look to the temporary work here under the sun, we need to look to Him who is beyond the sun. We must look to things eternal for our perspective as we deal with things temporal.

My business pursuits may seem so important and pressing, but my integrity and character and my eternal soul will last far longer than whatever business I am engaged in today. God wants us to work, have jobs, make business plans, and go out and try to make a living. He’s not against that at all, just read Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. What He is warning us against constantly in Scripture is to keep our head in heaven while we are taking care of matters here on earth.

My choices and plans are constantly to be run through the filter of the Lord’s will and His purposes. As we plan and look to the future of our business and our jobs, we need to line up our business plans with God’s plans. “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will do this or that.'”

The Power of An Indestructible Life

who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life.
(Hebrews 7:16)

We are studying Hebrews in our congregation, and we are currently looking at how Jesus’ priesthood is compared to that of Melchizedek’s. Lots to study and discuss, but today I just want to focus on the fact that Jesus’ priesthood is eternal. He has the power of an indestructible life.

He came to save us from the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15), that through him we might live eternally after we die. But He also came, died, and rose from the dead so that we can live with full hope and confidence in this life (Hebrews 6:11). Jesus is indestructible, and the cord of our soul is securely tied to Him. He is a sure and steadfast anchor to our soul, because He is indestructible (Hebrews 6:19). Jesus isn’t going anywhere.

With all the change and decay around us and within us, we can lift up our spirits and be assured each moment that Jesus has the power of an endless life, and He promised to be with us always. If we are walking with Him and abiding in His word, then that indestructible life dwells within us and works in us.

but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.
(Hebrews 7:24)

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
(Hebrews 13:8)

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)