Tag Archives: Hope

The Examined Life

Sharing another post that is worthy of consideration. Living the unexamined life leads to Image result for looking through a magnifying glassmaking the same mistakes over and over but still expecting different results. Some would refer to that as insanity, but then, that would mean there are a lot of insane people in this world. My belief is that many of us live our lives without looking at cause and effect, or looking for help in those areas where we are weak. Today’s post was written by Jason Helopoulos, an associate pastor in East Lansing, MI. He challenges us to consider things that are of eternal consequence.

Living without thought is one of the greatest errors men make. As Socrates once stated, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Christ could have uttered the same words as an introduction to the parable in Luke 16 concerning the rich man and Lazarus. If we would live for God, we must consider our living.

In the parable, the rich man simply goes about his day. It is easy to do. We busily engage in our work, families, recreation, rest, and duties. And all the while, we are distracted. None of these things are bad; in fact, they are quite good. But subtly and simply, our adversary has distracted us with the cares of the world. The immediate takes priority. We live for the moment.

The peril of such living manifests itself as the rich man loses everything, even his very life, for lack of considering it. This rich man is enjoying himself. There is nothing wrong with a good meal and some nice clothes in moderation. The problem is that he lives for these things. They have taken over. The rich man lives for self. And he doesn’t see it. Sin often makes us blind to our own folly.

So here is the question: Have you examined your life? Some will go months, years, even a lifetime without examining their lives. They will never ask, “What have I been living for?” And ultimately, they never consider, “What will be the final destination of my soul?”

Yet, if a lawsuit were brought against us, we would ask our lawyer, “Will we win this case?” If we stood as a defendant and the death penalty was a possible sentence, we would anxiously desire to know whether guilty or not guilty was a likelier verdict. If we are sick, we ask our doctor what the likelihood of recovery is. If we are scheduled for invasive surgery, we ask the surgeon about the chances of survival. And yet, some of us think little to nothing of our eternal soul. Why? Because we live in the moment. Eternity is not in view. And the awful truth is that we will lose everything because of it.

This parable is clear—everyone dies. It is not a matter of if, but when. Everyone will suffer death. Some will retire. Some will have kids. But all, every single person, will die. All must face it. It is the great equalizer. There is nothing like it. It unites us all and strips us all bare. We can’t use our influence, power, position, or riches to avoid it. It comes.

And when it comes, our destination is immediate. Notice what Jesus says in Luke 16:22–23: “The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment.” There is no in-between, no holding ground, not a hair’s breadth between “he died” and “he went.” When they die, they go. Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (23:43).

Death is not only immediate, it is fixed. Death seals our fate. There is no purgatory, no second chance, no further opportunity. May we not let another minute pass without examining the state of our soul. Eternity truly hangs in the balance.

Hard Truths from Jesus

This is not going to be a popular post because it has little to do with the junk that is filling social media, but everything to do with things that are of lasting importance. As I’ve Sunday Truth: Hope In The Hard Days - Julie Lefeburestudied the Scriptures and the life of Jesus, I find that he rarely mentions what is going on with the Roman governors. He had no comment on the horrific way they treated people or the good things they did. Those issues were not why He came to this world. He came to this world to help us see God and to provide a way for us to receive the gift of salvation.

I believe that there are believers with a variety of perspectives because of the environments in which we were raised. Still, God’s word is faithful and true. If we could only press ourselves to pursue God’s perspective in all aspects of life we would not be swayed by this pastor or that pastor who are so easily led by public opinion. He tells us to love our neighbors and our enemies. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (Matt 5:44-45) Our goal in life is not only to have faith that secures eternal life for ourselves but to live in such a way as to give light to others who are also looking for that relationship with the One True God.

Jesus talks about the anger that is being expressed in our world this way, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matt 5:22) To be sure, Jesus got exasperated with people who were desecrating His Father’s house by selling trinkets in the temple courtyard. He was so angry that He overturned the tables containing their merchandise and threw them out of the temple. (Matt 21:12-16) That was an anger that was righteously motivated and proved that God, Himself, does get angry.

The anger we are experiencing in our world is far from such a holy anger. We tend to get angry over things with which we disagree. We need to learn to contain and reserve our anger for those things that matter to God. We should be constantly seeking to avoid the judgment of an angry God. In our colloquialisms, we sometimes infer that we have put the “fear of God” into someone. Our society would do well to have a healthy dose of the fear of the God they have banished from our schools and are banishing from our government. The kind of fear that is a reverent respect and awe for His sovereign power and righteous holiness.

The apostle Peter penned these straightforward words as given to him by the Holy Spirit, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:13-17)

This gives me pause as I reflect on the rhetoric of today by some of our Christian leaders who want so desperately to be relevant. In so doing they never have the opportunity to share, what John wrote about in the book of Revelation as, the eternal gospel. (Rev 14:6) This gospel is of utmost importance to every man, woman, and child and contains the Truth all men are seeking.

Some may scoff at this simplified perspective but, as Christians, we have to learn to keep the main thing the main thing. We have to remember that our purpose here on this earth is to spread the eternal gospel in such a way that it is magnetic and facilitates rather than hinders God’s work of drawing all men to Himself.

Just a few thoughts for the day.

Victory Over Sin Isn’t An Event

One of the blessings of being part of a community of bloggers is that I get to read some thoughts and reflections that are expressed with crystal clarity on topics that need to be brought to our attention. God is very big on remembering. On many occasions throughout the journeys of the children of Israel, God would tell His people to have feasts and erect monuments for the purpose of remembering. In the same way, reading purposefully what God has put into the hearts of others, is a helpful way of calling our attention to the truths of His word, to take back to the Scriptures which help us remember who God is.

This issue of victory over sin is a reminder of God’s grace and never ending love for us. The apostle Paul lamented that sometimes he did the things he didn’t want to do and didn’t do the things he wanted to do. (Romans 7:7 ff)

Today I’m sharing the story of a woman who is deeply committed to following Jesus. Her thoughts about the journey here on earth are worth sharing with my readers. A helpful reminder of the grace and patience of our God.

While the original post can be found at Growing4Life, I’ve posted her comments here.   The words of Leslie …

When I was a young married woman, I had a big problem. Without going into details, worry was something I battled on an almost daily basis and it was strangling the life out of me. At least that is how it felt. I was able to function normally so I truly doubt most people knew the battle I faced every day.

But God graciously rescued me and He used two verses to help me–

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)

and

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. (Proverbs 29:25)

He used the first verse to show me that I needed to take every thought captive in obedience to my Savior. This included all of my fretful thoughts that started with “but what if…” and I had a lot of those. And He used the second verse to remind me that my fear was a hopeless trap and that I could instead turn to the Lord, trust in Him, and be safe in His sovereign care.

It wasn’t instant and it took a lot of hard work (Philippians 2:12) but it was so worth it! I begged God to give me victory over this sin and He answered! I walked out of my prison of worry and into the bright light of freedom and trust in my sovereign, heavenly Father.

I very naively thought I had beat that horrible sin in my life. But I was wrong.

Fast forward many years. Life slowed down and, suddenly, I had that very precious commodity of time on my hands. My life that had basically been the same for so many years started changing… and changing… and changing. Questions and quandaries I had never really prepared for abounded. And, quite without warning, this terrible sin reared its ugly head and viciously attacked me. Well, let me rephrase that– as that makes me sound like the victim. In reality, I gave it an opening and it rushed in and almost ate me alive.

I am on my way to victory once again but it has been rough. I have struggled to not let the fear and worry control me but it has been quite a battle. And I have tried to understand why this sin came back without warning and with such a vengeance.

As I have thought about it (I know, I know–I just think wayyyy too much), I wonder if it isn’t for three reasons–

First, I believe I may have been so distracted during my very busy years of raising kids and running the business that I forgot I had this struggle. I had few moments to myself during that time and when a rare solitary half hour came I was too excited about it to spend even a precious second of it on worrying. Now that I have so much time alone– which leaves me with far too much time to think–I have found my mind wondering in the sinful directions of anxiety and worry.

Second, I naively (and perhaps proudly) believed that my battle with this particular sin was over. The return of this sin in my life has been a good and hard lesson for me. It has taught me that no sin is ever “conquered”, showing me that I must always be on guard since even “conquered” sins can sneak their way back into our lives if we aren’t careful. Victory over sin is not an event but is carefully maintained through humble examination throughout our lives.

Third, I am quite sure I didn’t (probably still don’t) have a proper view of God’s Sovereignty. This is really the root of almost all anxiety, fear, and worry. Every day we hear of the most horrible things that happen to people. Stories hit the news and we talk about them with our family and friends, reeling at the awfulness of them, knowing that the same thing could happen to us. Something I read by John Newton a month or two ago was instrumental in reminding me of one very important fact: Nothing can happen to me outside of God’s plan. Here is what he wrote–

“When believers die–whatever the accident or the illness may be–they are only the means, but not properly the cause of their death. They die because the time has come when He who loves them best, will have them with Him to behold His glory!

Until then, they are immortal. They recover from sickness, however threatening, and are preserved unhurt–in defiance of the greatest dangers! But when His appointed hour arrives–then they must depart. When He will have them with Him–we cannot detain them; nor ought we to wish it, though the flesh will feel the parting stroke.

None of us can be perfectly happy in this poor fleeting world. It is a state in which sin and sorrow will hunt us and pain us to the last step of life! Therefore, though we wish to keep those whom we love with us as long as we can–it is well both for us and them, that we cannot live here always. We are in the Lord’s hands–and He does all things wisely and well, at the right time and in the right manner.

Death is but a temporary separation. Those who are gone before us, are waiting for us. Oh! It will be a happy meeting before the throne of the Lamb–out of the reach of sin and sorrow, to meet and part no more!”

Oh, this is so true!

And as I have reflected on this sin that I thought had disappeared from my life forever, I realized that it had only lay dormant for many years, while I faced many battles with other sins, and then rushed back just when I least suspected.

And so I am back in the Word, re-memorizing the verses that were so helpful to me many years ago and finding new verses to memorize that will help me. And I am working very hard to take my thoughts captive–determinedly turning my brain from the worrisome, anxious thoughts before they spiral downward and out of control.

This is very personal to share this morning. But I share it here because I hope that this will encourage you, my readers, in several ways–

1. I hope it will remind you that our battles with sin are never over. They ebb and flow but we should never think we have beaten something completely. Knowing this will keep us on our guard against it and help us to maintain victory. Victory over sin is not an event but rather a lifetime of watchful maintenance.

2. If you are fighting against worry or anxiety–or any other sin, for that matter–I hope this encourages you, too, to take your thoughts captive. I hope that you will realize that you can win your battle with sin, through the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and prayer. And I hope that God may use this post to keep you from throwing your hands up in despair and just giving up.

3. I hope this will remind you of the power of God’s Word in our lives as believers.  God’s Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) and it is profitable for reproof and for correction (2 Timothy 3:16-17)–which is exactly what we need sometimes! The Bible is our sword (Ephesians 6:17) and without it, we are defenseless. May we remember this always but particularly in our fiercest battles.

Now go fight your personal battle with the sin that threatens to overtake you, relying on God’s Word and the Holy Spirit for the strength and the wisdom you so desperately need. And stay watchful, because although the sin may disappear for awhile, it remains there waiting to pounce on you just when you least suspect it. We can stay spiritually strong and be prepared to fight by staying in the Word and walking closely with our heavenly Father–which is always our safest place.

A Window Into Eternity

These days virtual reality (VR) is an emerging technology. With this technology, we can enter another reality by wearing devices that cover our eyes and ears to deliver sights and sounds Image result for virtual realitythat make it seem that we are in a different setting or another world. It is designed for our enjoyment in experiencing an amazing sense of being in an environment that is more pleasing or more challenging. While some use in gaming, the concept is that of being in a place other than the world in which we live, another reality.

What is the desire within us to be transplanted into another reality? On one hand, some would call it escapism, others might view this desire as a continuing dissatisfaction with the status quo or with life as this world provides it. At the core of our beings we long for a world we don’t see today.

The true, not virtual, reality is that we humans were made for a very different world. The ancient prophet Isaiah wrote “But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” (Is 43:1) Isaiah is writing that the God of the universe created and formed us and has called us by name to be his. This means that we were created and designed to be with him. The Apostle Peter writes that we are aliens and strangers here in this world. (1 Peter 2:11) 

And so it is that in the depth of our being, we long for the world for which we were made. We know intuitively that life in this world is not as it should be. If we were called by name and declared to belong to God, our longing is to be with him. The Scriptures inform us that Jesus died, rose from the grave and ascended into heaven. He has gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us so that where he is, we may be there with him as well. (John 14:2-3) Our longing is to be with him for eternity.

From time to time we as believers find ourselves in places, without the assistance of VR, when we feel connected with Jesus and our place in eternity. We have a window, it seems, into the Image result for window to heavenhalls of heaven and into the place of quiet rest. Jesus invited his disciples to come away with him to a place of quiet so that they could get some rest. (Matt 6:31) These are times when we can actually sense the Presence and feel very connected with our Lord.

For me, it happens in the grand cathedrals of Europe as I sit and marvel at how the centuries-old architecture and artistry focus my attention on God, the creation, and the stories God has used to help us see him more clearly. It happens in my own church in the moment of participating in communion. It happens when I’m doing the work I was made to do. It happens when I speak with others about the hope we have of spending eternity with Christ in the new heaven and new earth. As I read the words of King David in the Psalms, I can envision Christ leading me beside the still waters in green pastures, restoring my soul.

How about you? Are you longing for that view into the world for which you were made? What are your windows into eternity? These windows require no special technology or rose colored glasses. Christ invites you to connect with him. He told us, “Come to me, all who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest … learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28) This rest will come as you place your faith and trust in Christ. He will give you that view into eternity with him.

He wants you to have the peace and confidence of the hope he has planted in each one of us. Join me … and then share that hope with someone else! Help them see the truth of the desires of their hearts as Christ has shared with us in the Scriptures.

Never Better

Our pastor has the license plate NVRBTR and if you ask how he is doing, his response is consistently, “Never better.” These two words describe a world view. It is a view that Displaying 20170202_130217.jpgconfidently proclaims that the day of Christ’s return is closer today than it was yesterday, so without a doubt, we have never been in better position. Many, if not most of us could learn from that perspective. We could learn that no matter what is going on in our personal worlds, keeping in mind that Christ’s return is one day closer, should be an encouragement to us. As men and women of faith, this is our ultimate hope … the Day of Christ, the Day of His return, when we will be caught up with him in the clouds into a glorious eternity that God has promised for us.

God told Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden that because they followed the lies of the serpent (Satan), life would be hard. It would be much harder than just caring for the garden. Weeds would begin to grow, there would now be a conflict in marriage that would be a struggle for leadership for the rest of man’s days on this earth, there would be incredible pain in childbirth, and our children would be in conflict with one another. The challenges of family are not new to our society or our culture. Yes, some of the things we do, like pushing God out of our lives, exacerbate the problems, but the problems we see today, began with the first man and woman on this earth, the real first family.

This did not catch God by surprise and God told Adam and Eve that he had a plan to make a way for us to have eternal life. This was first told when God confronted Satan, Eve, and Adam after the fall and that is found in Genesis 3:15. From the beginning of time, God had a plan. This is in line with my previous blog referencing Isaiah 44-46, Be Strong and Courageous. God created everyone of us with a plan for each of us. Some of us have chosen to identify with “The Way” and others are still looking to define our own way. Those who have taken God’s Way, are in a position to live rewarding lives fulfilling God’s plan for us. I can promise you that nothing is more satisfying than to watch how God guides us in his steps and helps us fulfill our mission here on earth.

All to say that for those who are following “The Way” and are filled with the hope that really is eternal, this life is always better today than it was yesterday, because we’re one day closer to The Day!

Here’s hoping and praying that you have never been better and are experiencing the blessing of living the life God had planned for you!

Be Strong and Courageous

I am the Lord and beside me there is no other …

Image result for strong and courageousThis phrase is repeated ten times over three chapters of Isaiah 44 – 46. To be repeated this often, perhaps God has a message for us? What is he saying? What are the implications of this saying?

It is interesting to note that there are also five instances of “I made you, and formed you in the womb!”

He’s telling us that he has things under control. He put the king of Persia in place to serve his purposes in rebuilding Jerusalem. Just as he made us he also made the king of Persia and just as he has a purpose for us he has a purpose for the king, even though his people had abandoned the God who created this world.

There are many messages in these three chapters, but a consistent theme is God’s confirmation that He alone is God and there are no other gods like him. He has things under control to the point where he made us and formed us in the womb with a purpose that serves his greater purpose.

If God is in control, we should not be shaken by the events taking place in this world, such as terrorist attacks or changes in leadership. We should not be shaken when our personal worlds are shaken by financial instability or sickness. I have friends who have come through cancer, and other debilitating illnesses. I have friends who are currently going through treatments for illnesses. I have recently lost a friend to a sudden heart attack. There are many in my life who are going through a period of financial hardship. Indeed my own world is shaken in the mighty winds that blow.

There is a two word phrase often repeated in the scriptures, “but God …” Those two words give us hope. God has a larger plan, he sees the larger picture and tells us that all things work together for the good of those who love him and follow him. He also has a plan for this world that will not be thwarted. One only has to look at the book of Revelation to read about the end of the story. It ends with God and everything that is good and right in his eyes surviving and finally bringing the peace that we all seek.

We can have a sense of that peace even today. By placing our faith in the Son of God, we can have peace in the middle of the storm. We can have the hope of an eternity with God. Four times in the first chapter of Joshua, God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous. In verse 9 he says, be strong and courageous because the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

He is the Lord who made us, named us, and formed us in the womb. He is the Lord who made this world and everything in it? There is nothing in this world big enough to disrupt God’s plans for us and for this world. God’s purposes will be done and our job as believers is to be strong and courageous salt and light in our world. Be an encouragement and tower of strength for those who don’t know the God who made them. He said in verse 7 of Isaiah 45, “I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me.”

We have a God who made us to be salt and light for him in this world. Each with a purpose and each with access to the hope that he has offered us free of any obligatory behavior. There is nothing we can do to curry favor with him besides believe in his Son whom he sent. Through faith we are all children of Abraham.

Rather than buying into all the fear, uncertainty and doubt in this world, know that he said, “my peace I leave with you.” It is the peace that passes all understanding.

Carpe diem, seize the day, the Lord your God goes with you, it is he who has made you to overcome the world. Be strong and courageous! Let’s have hope and peace even in the face of fear, uncertainty and doubt.

God has told us “My counsel will stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” Have faith. Have hope. Love God first, then love your neighbor.

A Little Wobbly?

We are in times of transition … in our lives … isn’t the aging process fun? This month the Image result for wobblyleadership of our country will make a shift not only in leaders, but also in philosophical direction. This is unsettling to many, especially when we hear more about the unhappy souls than about those who believe the shift will take us in the right direction. Turning on the TV or radio is akin to turning one’s stomach into a churning mass that begs for a handle bar to stabilize us.

Hebrews 10:23 tells us, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

Are you feeling a little wobbly? Let’s not lose sight of the real hope that we have. Let’s take a step back and keep our eyes focused on the hope of life with the only one who can and will deliver on promises. There is only one whose promises will be delivered at the end of our time here on this earth.

Use his promises to keep you from wobbling and wavering back and forth. Remember where your help comes from. King David said, “I will lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Ps 121:1-2)

Let’s take the assurance of the only One who will deliver on the hope He has given us. This world will come to an end. The doomsday prognosticators  are right on that point.

But for those of us who have laid hold of the Hope, it will be a glorious ending, for he who promised is faithful. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth … He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Rev 21:1 ff) I would add an exclamation point to that  What a fantastic future we have if we’ve taken hold of His promises!

Have a blessed day and stand firm!