Speaking Truth, Removing Fear, Restoring Hope – A Biblical Response to Global Disasters

Speaking Truth, Removing Fear, Restoring Hope

A Biblical Response to Global Disasters

Unbelievable is the first word that comes to mind.  Like me, I am sure  most of you never expected to find ourselves in such a time as this—staying home more than we want, washing our hands and wiping down things we touch, and social distancing when we do venture out.

Also like many of you, I have been and continue praying for those affected by this disaster caused by global spreading of the COVID-19 virus.  Praying God intervenes directly by stopping it supernaturally.  Praying people pray rather than panic and do what the experts tell us to help mitigate the spread of so virulent an enemy.  Then we will come out on the other side of this sooner rather than later.

I am also struck by the events of just the last seven or eight weeks leading up to this current crisis.  The most publicized tragedy in recent memory occurred when the helicopter carrying nine people crashed and killed all on board, including one of the greatest basketball players of all time.  There was a global outpouring of grief.

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Subsequent to that tragic loss, I wrote a message and recorded a video and series of podcasts on dealing with tragedy focusing on how people respond.  Many respond in anger or despair and immediately begin blaming God.  And without fail, two questions surface:

(1) Where was God when this happened?

(2) Why would a good God allow bad things to happen to good people?

Rather than go deeper into that message here, following are links where you can find them.  [The two-part video is still being edited.]

When Tragedy Strikes – How People Respond (Blaming God) (written message)

When Tragedy Strikes – How People Respond (Parts 1-5)  (Podcasts)

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Just three weeks ago here in Nashville and middle Tennessee, a deadly tornado claimed many lives, left hundreds homeless, and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in destruction. Many are still trying to dig out of the rubble and get a life again.  (The local response has been great, but the need is also great and will be for some time to come.  Keep praying and giving.)

Now this viral pandemic.  COVID-19 is a disaster of global proportion that has infected much of the world we live in—claiming thousands of lives and infecting many more. Experts remain uncertain of the extent of the reach and impact it will have due to its unmatched virulence.

Disasters most frequently come in one of two forms: natural (earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, floods) and man-made (the holocaust, nuclear accidents, financial).  I guess we could consider this viral pandemic a combination of both, i.e., natural origin, spread by man.

Regardless of origin, disasters are hard to process. When our minds are finally able to do so, one of the most common reactions is fear.  Fear is a natural response and can be a healthy one except when people let it become a stronghold over them.

One of the biggest fear drivers is loss of control.  Most of us do not like to find ourselves in positions or places where we have no control over the situation or outcome.  Disasters, or the threat of them, put many in such places.

Just as tragedy of great personal, unexpected loss raises questions people struggle to answer, so too does fear brought on by disasters like this one.  But it brings a different set of questions for which people also struggle to find answers.

The rest of this message is given to that end.  I add, as I always do, the “disclaimer” that as a Christian and teacher of the Word of God I do so from a biblical world view.  That is welcomed by some and repulsed by many.  So be it.

Following are five questions that can haunt people taken captive by fear and uncertainty from the thought and threat of disasters or the reality of this COVID-19 viral pandemic—questions that often are not verbalized, just internalized.

  • I wonder if I will contract this virus?
  • I wonder if I will die from it?
  • I wonder if this kind of disaster will happen again? (Some wonder, not if but when?)
  • I wonder if this is the end of the world?
  • I wonder how I can prepare for the worst?

Questions 1 & 2:

What does the Bible have to say about all of this, or does it even speak to any of it?  To give a straight answer to the first two questions, you do not need the Bible.  As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, following the guidance put forth by the experts is the best way to avoid contracting this virus and dying from it.

To date there are significantly fewer cases and deaths from COVID-19 than the annual run of flus we have experienced.  HOWEVER, since this one is different (novel), there is much more concern and caution because it is so virulent in nature.  So please err on the side of caution and prevention.  We do not know what toll it will ultimately take on human life.  We do know it is already devastating global economies.

Question 3:

Like many Christians, when disasters such as this occur—especially on such a global scale, our minds begin to think about the area known in “bible-speak” as eschatology.  It means “last study” or the study of end times.  Recently, I did another study in Matthew 24 and Luke 21.  In these chapters, Jesus answered questions from His disciples, “when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming and the end of the age?”  I suggest you read them.  Here are a few things Jesus pointed to.

“…you will hear of wars and rumors of wars…nation will rise against nation…and there will be great earthquakes, plagues, famines, terrors from the heavens.

Like most, I am amazed one small viral organism can pass into one man in China eating something odd and within weeks contaminate much of the world creating havoc, even panic, in some parts. (Assuming that is how this began.)  All this despite our great advances in medicine and technology over the last century.

So the answer to this question is yes. There will continue to be plagues, pestilences, and more of the things Jesus said.  They are cause for great concern, but not giving in to the stronghold of fear, and not necessarily concern for the reasons most think.  I will explain why shortly.

Question 4:

Jesus said a lot in this time with His disciples because He wanted them to be informed and prepared.  As we continue reading both texts, He spoke of many false Christs and prophets who would come and deceive people with a version of the truth that they want to hear (tickle their ears) just as in the days of Isaiah and today.  People want the truth as they define it.

Jesus told them they would witness the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem (which occurred about forty years later in 70AD).  He spoke of the tribulation to come and the persecution.  He said lawlessness would increase, and even some who said they believe would grow cold and turn away.  But even then, He added, “that is not yet the end.”

Most people want to know when the end of the world will come.

Jesus plainly told us when the end of the world will come.

In Matthew 24: 14, He said,

“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

There are learned expositors who say this use of “end” applies only to Jerusalem’s pending destruction described in subsequent verses.  However, the Great Commission language Jesus used means we are to take His Gospel to all known people groups throughout the world we live in today—not just His world. This, we are safe believing, as did many former expositors (including my favorite, Spurgeon), that once accomplished, then the end will come.  That end is the sign of Jesus’ return (the Second Coming) for His people.  That will not be the end of the world as we know it yet.  That comes at the end of the great and horrible Tribulation period.

Question 5:

For those struggling through times like these, my heart goes out to you.  If we are honest, all of us have, at some point, wrestled with fear, even anxiety, during times not even as serious as this. We filled our mind and thoughts with that question about “preparing for the worst.”

Friend, I have a suggestion for you straight from the heart of God Himself.

Why not ask this question instead? How can prepare I for the best that is to come?

Too often fear and its allies become strongholds because we have been overtaken by the deadliest virus man ever created.  It came out of the perfection of God’s paradise through the willful disobedience of His first creatures—Adam and Eve.

That virus is sin.  Some will come down hard on me for using this analogy during such a time as this in our world.  But truthfully, there is no better analogy because this sin virus is worse than any natural or other man-made one that will ever infect mankind.  There is no cure for this virus.  It cannot run its course as most viruses do. No vaccine can ever be created.  It is to be grieved over and feared more than any other.

Yet most consider it a minor affliction if at all.  Believe me when I repeat what God told His chosen people, the prophets repeated, and Jesus made His mission statement:

 Sin kills. 

I know this is hard reading and may make you feel worse before you feel better.  But I have Good News that will bring you comfort, assuage your fears, and dry your tears.

Man can never discover or create a cure for the sin virus.  But God loves you more than you can imagine—no matter where you are in life or what you have done in the past.  Sin is the only thing keeping you from Him and all that He has for you that is greater than anything you can imagine.  Because of His love, God made the Cure available to all who will hear Him out and respond to His word.  Jesus is the Cure.  And He laid it out for us.

As Jesus began His ministry, His message was clear and concise,

“Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4: 16

Repent simply means we confess our sins and turn from them.  It literally means to turn around and go the other way.  Leave that lifestyle behind.  God has better plans ahead.

Jesus told the important Jewish leader, Nicodemus, that we must be born-again.  He did not understand that either, so Jesus explained it this way.

“”For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Believe. We must believe that Jesus is Who He said He is and about whom John the Baptist testified, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.”

The blood of Jesus is the only cure for the lethal sin virus.  So His blood wipes away all past, present, and future sins for those who believe in Him.

Receive.  Who would understand the need to repent of his sins and believe Christ came to die for us – His blood cleansing us – and not receive Him as our Savior and Lord?  The Apostle John (who was the closest disciple to Jesus) wrote these words in his gospel account.

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, John 1:12 (NASB)

Now ask yourself how you can prepare yourself for the BEST that is yet to come because for all who are in Christ, that is life from this point forward.  Whether or not our lives get easier, or we become infected with this or future viruses, we know with certainty life is eternal, and we will spend it with our Lord no matter what happens this side of Heaven!  Clearly the best is yet to come.

That is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God!

Walter Spires

Desperate Men Ministries

www.desperatemen.org




When Tragedy Strikes…(How People Respond)

When Tragedy Strikes…(How People Respond)

Once again, a terrible tragedy befell the families and friends of nine people who lost their lives recently in a helicopter crash.  Many other families and people around the world also mourn their loss.  Much of the attention centered on Kobe Bryant the famous former basketball player – certainly among the greatest who ever played the game and his daughter Gigi whose basketball team he helped coach.  Of course, the other seven people who lost their lives are mourned with no less profound sorrow and grief.  It is a very hard time.

Like some of you, Gigi and I also experienced the personal loss of a child in a tragic way.   I once spoke at the memorial service of a child who had drowned.  Many of us lived thru presidential and political assassinations, 9/11, among other local national and even international tragedies.  Yet, the truth of the matter is that most tragedies are personal without notoriety or press that happen to people like you and me – just as grievous and devastating though world does not know or those who mourn with us are few.

As I was flying home last night, the Holy Spirit put on my heart to devote this week’s podcasts my next blog and video – not to this tragedy specifically – but how people process tragedy in our lives.  As a Christian teacher, minister, and author, my words come from God’s Word that comfort some yet annoy or even anger others.  But it is in such times, above all others, the truth needs to be shared because more people are leaning in to listen.

In my forty plus years of ministering in the lives of people of all ages and from all walks of life, two responses to tragedies are more prominent than the rest.  The first is

People blame God and ask the WRONG questions.

Blaming God goes back to the book of Genesis.

“The man said, “the woman You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.””   Genesis 3: 12

Clearly the easiest place to lay the blame, point the finger, or direct our anger and defiance is at God.  He does not strike us dead for doing so or yell back.  We generally do not see or experience any repercussions from such an affront to His character.  The truth is most people who blame God do not know Him and many do not really even believe in Him to begin with.  They just need someone or something to blame because they are profoundly overwhelmed and hurt.  God understands that.

Polls today suggest that most believe in “god”.   I used a lower case ‘g’ because the god most people say they believe in is not Jehovah God of the Bible.  Many argue He is, but you do not have to drill down very far in a conversation with them to understand their god is one created in their minds.  Their god is loving, kind, and shows up when they need him.  He is a good God full of grace and mercy on demand.  But “goodness” is defined on their terms depending on their circumstances or place in life.

So when life is fun, the party is rocking, and job and relationships are going well, this god stays in the background as he should.  But when something goes wrong, and they need for him to step in and fix something, they throw up a prayer and expect him to show up and do something.  This is more akin to rubbing a lamp and a god more like a genie than God of the Bible.

Sadly, the god most people imagine or conjure up in their minds is just that—a figment of their imaginations who cannot satisfy the longing abyss in the heart or soul of man and is sure to disappoint during such hard times.  King Solomon wrote,

“(God) has made everything beautiful in its time…He has put eternity into man’s heart….”   Ecclesiastes 3: 11

As human spirit beings, we have a sense of eternity in our souls—an innate knowledge that there is something more to life than what we can see and experience in this life.

With that as our background, I will use the rest of the time to help answer the two questions that most frequently arise when tragedies happen as they have from the fall of man and will until Christ returns to claim His people and throne.

The first question is this:

Where was God when this happened?

Where was God when that helicopter went down, the twin towers fell in New York killing thousands, the assassins’ bullets took the lives of JFK and MLKJr, Hitler murdered millions of Jews, and many other human atrocities?

The answer will satisfy some and make others even angrier.  The theological answer completely based on the Bible in which God speaks to man is this—He is omnipresent.  Ever present, all-powerful, all-knowing, unchanging Jehovah God.  Everywhere at once.  Near and far.  Fully present in time and space. Never absent, never late.  Present in and having all-power over His creation, yet distinct from it. He exists outside time and space that He created.  Pantheists and other religions believe god is in or part of everything. That is not biblical.

Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, said this about God of the Bible in John 4:24,

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

The Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 1: 17,

“And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

Then why doesn’t God step in and do something before terrible things happen?  Do what?  Do what you would do? Do what you think is right or wrong, good or bad in that moment?  This mindset goes back to what I said above—people say they believe in God, but, in reality, create a form of god in their minds based what they think he should do and when.

Despite the fact that some would like to have Him perform this way, God is not a vending machine into which we insert a prayer when we need something quickly expecting our answer to fall out of the bottom.  He is not a slot machine that occasionally pays off giving us what we want, maybe even a lottery winner.

My friends, I am very sorry if that is what you believe or how you think, but that is not Jehovah God of the Bible—Who He is or how He works.  But here is good news, no matter what happens – good or bad in your mind – God is near and loves you.  And He wants you to know Him for Who He really is as He tells us in His Word…the only written place He does so.

Now let’s address the hardest and most often asked question:

Why do bad things happen to good people?

That begs the question who is good or bad?  Who decides?  You?  History has shown that even some considered among the good and famous people had issues others consider bad – extramarital affairs, divorced-some numerous times, issues with alcohol or drugs, forms of violence, abusive or foul language when the camera isn’t rolling or even when it is.  And that is where human reasoning comes into play – relativism and comparison.  Not the wisdom of God.

Most people answer this question by becoming “the judge” based on “the scales of justice” they create that determine what should or should not happen and to whom it should or should not happen.  And bad things simply should not happen to good people (as they see it).

The sad truth many will not accept is that we live in a fallen, sinful world.  In Bible-speak it is referred to as the “Genesis 3” world.  Sin entered the world through Adam and Eve and, from that point forward, bad things (humanly speaking) happen randomly and intentionally and there is nothing we can do about it.  “Being good” will not stop natural disasters any more than it will keep evil or evil people from impacting our lives.

But let’s go back to good people for a few minutes.  I have more bad news.  According to God, we are all guilty of sin in our lives no matter how good you think you are or bad you consider someone else.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory (perfection) of God.”  Romans 3:23

No exceptions. No good and bad people. Just sinners lost and without hope—all of whom will die at some point. To pile on here, you must know that sin is sin in the eyes of God.  This biblical truth is reinforced by Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  There are no big and little sins.  No one is better or worse than you or me as God sees people with one exception.  We will come back to that.

The “lost  world” struggles with relativism in their view of justice and evil which makes perfect sense.  So the sin is sin truth is very difficult for people who do not understand the God of the Bible and what it means to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  The world is full of cynical, unbelieving people who use tragedies as fodder to support their notion there is no God. Or they may say if He does exist, He isn’t good if He lets bad stuff happen.  He is a crutch for weak-minded Christian fools who lean on Him when we need help.

One of the main reasons people respond as they do is because when tragedies strike, whether natural or manmade, is because they feel helpless – helpless to have prevented it and helpless to change the results.  We are out of control, and we hate that.  We have no human power or control over nature or evil.  That leads people back to those wrong questions.

We frequently hear people say all things happen for a reason.  Christians say this because of the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 8: 28.  But I think we are safe to say things happen for a reason because God is completely intentional in His purposes.

And His intention is to get your attention…whatever it takes.

Now the Good News.  God created a perfect world with perfect people and perfect intentions. The sinful decisions of man, then and now, have nearly destroyed the paradise that was. Despite the fact that all of us are sinners—none “good” in the eyes of God, He loves us unconditionally.   No matter what you have done or where you are in life, God loves you.

That begs the final question:  What about my sin?  If I cannot do enough good things or be good enough to get to earn God’s favor and get to Heaven, am I condemned to die and go to Hell?  What kind of loving good God is that?  Great question and the right one!

God our creator and Father loves us so much He would not leave us without a way out of this muck and mire of our world today no matter where you are in life – good place or bad.  He made a way out when there was no way out.  He gave us hope when there was none. And this hope no one can steal or take away – not even death whether tragic or expected.

The greatest tragedy in history is one that man caused—this death sentence for our sins.  Yet the love of God through Jesus Christ stepped in and made a way to prevent the eternal consequences it brings.  Jesus did this to make a way of salvation—to save your soul.  Yet up to this point some neither recognize nor receive it as the only way out of death and Hell.

It went down like this.  Jesus Christ, God and man, bloody death on the cross and buried.  But it did not end there.  That was just the beginning.  On the third day, just as prophets and Jesus Himself said, He conquered death through His resurrection so that you can have eternal life without the fear or pain and despair of more tragedies in your life.

This is great news!  The great tragedy of God removed fear and hopelessness our impending death brings, IF you receive Jesus as your Savior.  When you do, on the other side of your death—no matter how it comes,

the best is yet to come.

If you continue to reject God and His love through Jesus, then your death will indeed be a tragedy because on the other side of it,

the worst is yet to come.

I cannot make this any plainer because this is how Jesus Himself spoke it in the Bible.  Heaven is real – in glory forever with your Father and all the family of God in Christ.  Hell is real – a place of unspeakable torment forever.  I hope you understand this now in a way you never have before.  I pray you choose Jesus and eternal life that alone bring hope and assuage fear.

For Christ’s sake Who alone is our comforter,

 

This Page is for Christians Only

 The final question is this:  How should Christians respond to tragedy?  Our initial response probably looks a lot like that of our fellow humans –  full of emotions, hurt, anger, disbelief, profound grief and uncontrollable tears.  Jesus wept over the death of his friend Lazarus.  David grieved and mourned the loss the death of his child and again cried out to God in anger over the destruction of thousands of his people because of his sin.

But after we recover from the natural emotional responses which God embraces, the differences are profound.  As I said before, God’s intention in all things is to get our attention and focus it on Him.  And those who know the God of the Bible do that.  We turn our thoughts and prayers to Him because we know He is our refuge and strength in times of trouble.  We have the Holy Spirit in our lives Whom Jesus sent to be our Comforter in and thru such times.  We hurt and mourn with others over their losses as part of Paul’s admonition in Galatians 6 to bear one another’s burdens.

 

Jesus – the author and perfecter of our faith – even in times like these.

The memorial service for a born-again Christian often looks like a worship service and Homegoing celebration because it is.  Despite the sorrow and tears from the loss of life and the temporary feeling of emptiness, there is joy and comfort in knowing our brother or sister made it Home before we did – safe in the arms of our Savior.  No more sins and griefs to bear because He did all of that for us.  So, we rejoice and praise God our loving Father Whose very kindness led us to repentance and that to salvation in Christ alone.

With that said, why are so many Christians silent in their witness to those who are lost and hurting desperate and without hope – in need of the Savior Who alone can fill their void just as He has ours.  Why do so many withhold the good news – the only news that can bring real comfort?  I am not suggesting we confront people in such times with untimely or unwanted words.  But it is always the right time to ask someone if you can pray for them. Don’t just say one of the tritest phrases in Christendom, “I’ll be praying for you.”  Stop, put your arm around them or hold their hand, and pray.  You will be amazed at how the Holy Spirit uses that.

My dear brothers, we have hope that lost hurting people seek. We have comfort they can’t find.  Point them to the outstretched arms of Jesus Who awaits their sorrows and tears.  He alone can dry them and breathe life and eternal hope into those groping around in the darkness hoping to find a way out.  Jesus is the Light and the only Way out!

Our foremost responsibility this side of Heaven is to guide the lost and hurting to our Savior.  I hope this message disturbs you so much you fall on your knees confessing this sin of omission and get on with His command we call the Great Commission.

For Christ’s sake Who alone is our comforter,




The Comforter

The Comforter

Key Verses:  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.”  2 Corinthians 1: 3-5

Her life was hard from the day she was born.  Babies born into poverty seldom find their ways into the comfort most of us, and our children, have known and, quite frankly, take for granted.  Her dad was seldom around.  When he was, she often wished he was not.  Her mother did the best she could, but they barely got by.  Her only real possession was a used comforter she received as a gift one Christmas from her mother.  She treasured it as if it was woven from the finest silk, though the label read  “100% polyester”.  She had no idea what that meant and did not care.  

Eventually the young girl and her mother found themselves on the street with just the clothes on their backs…and, of course, the comforter.  It was now beginning to show some wear and tear, much like the lives of this woman and her daughter.  They found shelter at the local mission and other places that offered temporary housing, but never a home.  God not only made little children very huggable, He also made them very resilient and trusting.  No matter what happened, she felt safe as long as her mother was around, and she could wrap herself in that fraying comforter.   

Street life eventually takes its toll on even the hardiest of people.   Her mother began to have health issues that went too long unattended.  That happens more than it needs to with people on the street.  Sadly, the illness took her life leaving the girl, now approaching her teen years, alone – except of course for the comforter.

It grieves the heart of God that our affluent churches and society are too often MIA when it comes to these young “ladies” left to fend for themselves on the streets.  The outcomes are almost never good, often leading to lives of drugs or prostitution and eventually incarceration.  Such was the plight of our young “lady”.  Perhaps the saddest thing was when she went through the booking process into the holding cell, they took away her only possession…the comforter.

Sitting alone in a cell, she wept bitterly. And,as so many people do when bad things overwhelm them, she blamed God for all that happened in her life—an abusive dad, her mother’s death, and now they took away the only thing that mattered in her life—that ragged old comforter.  It was only gift she ever remembered receiving and last memory of her mother’s love.  Now even that was beginning to fade.  

The Comforters of this World

At times, all of us have sought comfort from the world.  We often begin with other people who we hope can at least sympathize, but in the end little real comfort.  Consider these words from Job, David, and Solomon.

“Then Job answered and said, “I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all.”  Job 16: 1-2

“Reproach has broken my heart and I am so sick. And I looked for sympathy, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none.”  Psalm 69: 20

“Then I looked again at all the acts of oppression which were being done under the sun and behold I saw the tears of the oppressed and that they had no one to comfort them; and on the side of their oppressors was power, but they had no one to comfort them.”  Ecclesiastes 4:1

When people feel rejected, they often take one of two bad paths.   The first is substances—alcohol, drugs, anything that brings immediate or short-term relief that takes pain away or at least makes us numb to it.  I have been among many hundreds of men (and women) who sought comfort there.  So tragic.  That is the first step in Satan’s clever schemes to entrap us then lead us into the chains of addiction—bondage God never intended for His free people.

The second untoward path is when people who feel strong rejection turn to anyone who will accept them as did the girl in the story.  That often puts them in worst places, i.e., the wrong crowds or in dangerous relationships that imprison or lead them to do things they never intended.  AND they never found the comfort sought.

God our Comforter

Let’s look to David again for the best verse in the Old Testament about the comfort of God.  In the best-known of all Psalms, 23rd, David said this in verse 4,

“Your rod and staff, they comfort me.”

The meaning may surprise some.  The rod is for authority, protection, and discipline.  Knowing someone loves us enough to speak biblical truth and exercise authority – at times by setting boundaries – is a great expression of love.  The rod was used for discipline to get sheep back in line and keep them there.  Doubtful any of us would argue we need that at times.  I found over the years, many i minister to wish they had it when they did not.  God said He “disciplines those He loves as a father does his children.”  (Proverbs 3: 12; Hebrews 12: 6) 

The shepherd’s staff was there for guidance, safety, protection, and rescue.   Again, the love of God is demonstrated in every aspect of these tools of the shepherd.

Jesus Our Comforter

it is both painful and joyful to remember this.  God did not comfort Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane or on the Cross!  The Father did not take the cup of death away as Jesus prayed.  Neither did He send angels to destroy evil and save Jesus from the cross.  Rather He allowed Jesus to go through the most uncomfortable period of suffering and abuse the world has ever known—crucifixion.  

Jesus knew no comfort, so we would be comforted in knowing He died for our sins and rose again.  (Read again the key verses above.)  From God’s indescribable acts of love, we draw our hope eternal and the kind of comfort the world will never know apart from Him.

The Holy Spirit – Our Comforter

Jesus did HIs best to comfort His disciples.  They were getting more and more anxious about all His talk of leaving them.  Would He really abandon them?  Of course not.  Neither does He abandon us.  Here is the promise He made to His disciples that we can stand on today.

And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.   I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”  John 14: 16 – 18  KJV

So by now many want to know what happened to the young lady in the story?  When we left her, she was entering prison for drugs and prostitution – without her comforter, full of anger and bitterness.

The Rest of the Story

Strange things happen behind prison walls.  God does some of His most amazing work in those confines.  Don’t misunderstand.  Most enter and leave without ever finding any comfort at all.  Statistics bare that out.  But for some who realize their desperate place in life, and that they have nowhere else to turn, the name of God is known to pop up in some circles of conversation.  By God’s grace, our friend was incarcerated in a prison where the chaplain was a Christian and a local church with a prison ministry was engaged.

Because she had arrived at such a place in life, she attended a service one night with below zero expectations.  Her mind simply could not escape the thoughts of all that had happened to her and her mom.  Anger and bitterness can fill even the tender heart of a child and render it hard as stone as it had done in hers.  But God…

The speaker passed out some old worn King James Bibles.  When he returned to the podium, he asked them to a certain page.  He read that passage in John 14 on the Holy Spirit.  But the only word she heard was “comforter”.  That got her complete, undivided attention.  She had heard a little about God and Jesus as a child – who hasn’t?  But she never felt His presence or saw Him in action.  No one ever told her how much God loved her or showed the compassion of Jesus to her or her mom in a meaningful way.  All she heard and knew were just empty words.

Now something quickened a lifeless spirit within her.  She hungered for something or someone to fill that empty void in her life she filled in every way possible from drugs and evil men.   Prison life had isolated her even more.  But now someone said the magic word—Comforter.  She wanted to hear more about this Comforter that promised love and life and offered hope she never knew.

As the weeks and months went by while she served out her term, she became alive again and soaked up all the Truth she was taught.  Finally, completely broken, she fell into the arms of the only Comforter Who could wrap His arms around her and never let her go.  She gave her life to Christ and found the comfort she had longed for since losing her mother…and the comforter.

One final note.  When she was paroled and on the way out of the prison, they gave her a bag that contained what she was wearing when she entered.  It contained some dirty old clothes and one ragged old comforter.  She embraced and buried her face in it.  She wept as she sniffed it hoping for a familiar smell that would remind her of her mother.  But it only smelled of must and dust.

As she walked out of the prison into a world where she was really free for the first time, she thought about throwing the old comforter in the trash.  After standing by the can for a few minutes, she decided to keep it as a reminder—a reminder that once she found her only comfort in this ragged old piece of fabric.  Now she had lasting comfort from the One Who turned her heart of stone back into flesh replacing anger and bitterness with love and hope.  Jesus Christ, her risen Savior and Lord.

You and Me as Comforters

My dear sisters and  brothers, if you have found any comfort in these words the Lord shared tonight through me, use them to comfort someone else.  I call your attention again to the Apostle Paul’s words in verse 4 above.  The Lord did not give us His comfort simply to wrap ourselves up in it as a comforter like the one in the story.  No.  Like any gift from God the Holy Spirit, He intends for us to use it for ourselves for the purpose He intended, then give it away. 

Our greatest moments of comfort come from the comfort we ourselves have received in Christ then sharing it with so many others who, like the girl in our story, seek comfort the world cannot give.  In Christ alone, we have hope and comfort that bears us up no matter what human condition or place we find ourselves.

Walter

 

 

 

 

 

 




Three Encouraging Ways to Remember the H-O-P-E We Have in Christ Alone

“but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence”  (1 Peter 2: 15)

Acronyms help us remember what a word means or just a funny play on the letters in a word.  For example, LOL – laugh out loud or AWOL – absent without leave.    And most everyone has heard of the KISS principle – Keep It Simple Stupid.

One human need that all share is the need for hope. Once hope is gone, only bad things happen. There is not a more lonely or desperate feeling than hopelessness.  Hope may be defined as to long for, expect, or trust that something we want to happen will.

What are you hoping for?  Some hope for fortune and fame. They want to win the lottery or be on TV or in the movies.  Others hope for a good job, so they can make money and feel fulfilled. Still others hope for health.

Christians always have hope. Perhaps I should say that Christians should always have hope.  The word ‘hope’ is used more than 140 times in the Bible.  Whether or not we have anything else this side of Heaven, we have hope. For us, it is eternal hope.  But for some, that does not seem like enough.  We want hope now!

Every time I teach, one of my goals is to always bring hope to the hearer.  When you teach from the Bible as I do, finding messages of hope is not difficult.  What can be difficult is teaching the hard truths of God’s Word which can be frightening to those who are lost and without hope.  But hopeful if you are honestly and humbly looking for real HOPE.  When we do that—read and look hard enough, we will always find His message of Hope – Jesus.

Tonight I am bringing you a message of HOPE in acronym fashion—actually three messages of HOPE.

  • He Offers Pardon Everyday  –

(Jesus speaking to the Pharisees)  “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to (pardon) sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.”  And he got up and went home. But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God  Matthew 9: 6

 “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against (pardoning our sins) them.”    2 Corinthians 5: 18-19

Have you sought and received the pardon from your sins only Jesus can give?  If not, why not?  Jesus is the only way to salvation (John 14:6) for the lost.  And if you are in Christ, seeking His pardon restores our broken relationship when we fall back into sin.  

  • He Offers Peace  Everyday

(Jesus) “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid.”  John 14:27

“(God) will keep in perfect peace all who trust in Him, all whose thoughts are fixed on Him!”  Isaiah 26: 3

You may have seen the bumper sticker:

Know Jesus…Know Peace   No Jesus…No peace.

Finally as Christians we know the third fruit of the Spirit Paul teaches us is PEACE.  This is the kind of peace he later told us is the kind that “passes all understanding”.

  • He Offers Power  Everyday

“He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.”   v 29 from Isaiah 40: 27 – 31

In the New Testament, Jesus promised Power to His disciples (and that includes us).

“but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”  Acts 1: 8

As Christians, our power to live in this world – full of all its temptations and troubles – comes from one Source – the Holy Spirit.  Why do we keep trying to do things in our own power when we have His?  For some of us, it is a control issue.  We surrender part of our lives to Jesus but hold onto other areas.

We get the most power from God when give up control.  Our surrender brings His power. The Apostle Paul said, “when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:10

My dear brothers, take heart.  No matter how difficult your situation—no matter how desperate your need, there is One who knows and understands where you are right now as I am teaching here tonight.  He alone can bring hope to what you may believe is hopeless.  My strong admonition to you tonight is to bow before Him and ask Him to restore your hope.  Jesus never ever turns away a man with a humble, repentant heart.

He is our Hope today and forever.  Amen.




A Father’s Day to Remember

For a number of years as my father-in-law’s health declined and his Homegoing drew closer, I felt compelled to have our families spend ‘my’ Father’s Day honoring him by traveling to his nursing home in the Memphis area to love on him because we never know when it’s going to be the last time.  As Spurgeon said so well. “Our duty is our delight…”  

My last act as the next senior dad in our families was to gather all of us around Dadaw, as he is known to his grands, lay hands on him, and pray.  The most important part of my prayer was answered this morning.  Dadaw was ushered gently Home – his spirit safely in the presence the Savior he loved so much. 

We are so blessed our entire family was able to make the trip to be with him one more time this side of Heaven.  My daughter was very excited to take our new grandson to meet his great grandfather.  He seemed alert enough to know we were there.  His quips slowed over the years, but he still had the occasional one that defined his wry sense of humor. 

My dear brothers, do not take such days and times for granted.  We have no promise of a next day or even our next breath.  But if you are in Christ, you have the most important promise of all – eternal life spent in Heaven with Jesus and all the saints who have gone before and those who will follow us Home.  It was a… 

Happy Father’s Day indeed, 

 

 




Fathers and Sons

Another Father’s Day is upon us, and, honestly, I am not sure what else can be said on the subject.  Many books have been written and sermons preached.  Having grown up in the church, I have literally heard them all my life.  With multiple teaching times just ahead, I had no intention of adding more to that.  My journal is full of other thoughts and verses written down believing one day they will encourage and equip men in our walks with the Lord.  But today my focus was turned to this timely subject—fathers and sons.

I have been a son since the day I was born and a father more than thirty years.  I recently became a “grand”-father.  Being a father is a great honor and privilege, yet our high office is not without trials and tribulations.  The responsibilities can be intimidating—sometimes overwhelming.  Most of us men do not want to let cracks in the armor of our manhood become exposed.  But at some point in our lives as fathers, they are.

The Bible contains many examples of fathers and sons.  My mind was taken to three that give us much to read, chew on, and digest as we consider them in the context of our own experiences as fathers and sons.

Abraham and Isaac. The faith of a father—the love and trust of a son.

The story of Abraham spans Genesis 12 – 25.  Much of that covers the twenty-five years from God’s promise he would have an heir and descendants “as numerous as the stars”.  Abram was 75 when he received the promise—100 when he received his son, Isaac.

While his age is a great conversation among biblical apologists, Isaac was young man when God gave his father the most incredible order in biblical history.  God commanded Abraham to “take his son, his only son whom you love (and had waited on for 25 years) and sacrifice him” (Genesis 22:2) – a burnt offering at that!

In the next verse we read the most amazing act of obedience in all of Scripture apart from Jesus Himself.  Abraham packed up what he needed, got Isaac, and headed for Mount Moriah to sacrifice his son.  The most incredible thing that is easy to miss (because it is not there) is this—no argument from Abraham.  As fathers, we would have been screaming, crying, and begging God to relent on such a ridiculous command.

It is probably safe to say no father ever loved his son more than Abraham loved Isaac.  Yet in complete and swift obedience, he prepared to kill him.  But do not forget about Isaac.  We know he questioned his father about where the sacrifice was.  Abraham simply told him God would provide (Jehovah Jireh).  The love and trust of Isaac for his father is obvious in his obedience.  He was old enough to have resisted being placed on a pile of wood to be the sacrifice.  Abraham was old.  Isaac probably could have taken away the knife.  But he did not.

We know how the story turned out.  God stayed the hand of Abraham, sparing the life of Isaac and immeasurable grief for his father.  What did we learn?

  • As fathers, we must also be men of faith, believing God, taking Him at His word, communicating (ongoing process) that to our sons in words and actions.

David and Solomon. A Portrait of Contradiction and Consistency

That is an odd way to position this part of our lesson.  But the Bible clearly teaches that David was indeed both.  He was an amazing young man who began writing worship songs watching sheep and continued throughout his life.  He believed God completely and stepped in to kill a giant who defied Him as the ‘real’ Israeli soldiers cowered in fear.  He loved His Lord God with all his heart.  He is the only man in the Bible that God Himself called, “a man after My own Heart”.  (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22)

But O did David have issues!!!  Lust surrendered to that led to adultery and murder.  That followed by the death of his child.  Too many wives and too many dysfunctional sons.  One who raped his sister.  Another killed him for that.  Later he led a rebellion against his father.

Much of what befell David were consequences of his sin.  Yet we know from the most powerful Psalm of all (Psalm 51), David was broken and repentant before the Lord in all of this.  When confronted by the prophet of God attending him, he was accountable for his sins.

And who grew up in all of this?  Solomon.  Solomon was not in line to be David’s heir, but God selected him, and David honored that despite major ramifications from the “rightful heir” son.

David wanted most of all to build God a house – temple – worthy of His magnificence and made all the plans and preparations to do so.  But God halted that; instead giving that honor to Solomon.  Once again, as with Abraham, we do not read that David complained.  Instead he wrote a psalm of praise to God.

When David was about to go Home to be with His Lord, he called Solomon to him and spoke these words.

“So be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to Him, and keep His decrees and commands, His laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go…”  1 Kings 2: 2-3

What do we learn from such a relationship filled with contradiction on one hand and consistency on the other? 

  • As fathers, our lives mirror David’s more than we readily admit—as least in public.  We all fail miserably and often.  The question is what do you do when confronted with your sin?  Get defensive and deny it?  Or get humble and confess it, accepting responsibilities for your sins against your Creator and our Lord Jesus Christ?
  • Despite his failures as a father, David’s lasting impression on Solomon was he chose the latter.  And for that he is hailed by His Father God as “a man after My own heart”.  As fathers, let us strive to be known, like David, as “forgiven failures” who model the same humble and contrite hearts to our sons. That is a legacy worth leaving!

The Father and the Son

God the Father and Jesus the Son.  This might seem the more challenging and unusual of the three parts of this lesson.  It turned out to be the easiest to write, but perhaps the most difficult for us fathers to apply.  In the three examples that follow, it is not His Son that benefits.  It is you and me!  Consider,

– Sacrificial love.  Most of the time when we think of this concept, the sacrificial love of Christ, the Son, for us comes to mind.  That is supported by many scriptures.  But in the best-known verse in the Bible, John 3: 16, Jesus speaks of the sacrificial love of God.  He gave His Son to die as a sacrifice.

– Tough love.  This concept was introduced to me through a book on parenting by James Dobson, PhD.  It has since been applied to other areas of life including marriage.  Reduced to a sentence,

Tough love means holding firm to (biblical) truths and convictions in relationships even when the impact on others may be painful and not seem “loving” in the cultural sense.

It was “tough love” of God that stayed His hand from bringing His Son down from that cross because it should have been you and me there.  What He should have done was brought on mankind the judgement due after thousands of years of second chances and failed covenant relationships (on man’s part).

But He did not. Instead He listened as His Son cried out, “My God, My God why have you forsaken Me?”  (Matthew 27: 46)  That, my dear brothers, is the toughest love ever applied which brings us to the third love that is the result of the first two.

– Saving love.   Every Christian knows what this means.  It is the saving love of God that the Apostle Paul talked about in Romans 5: 8.

“…God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

 It is the saving love of Jesus that Paul again described in Galatians 2: 20

“…but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

As fathers, lovers of our children (and their mothers), let us strongly take to heart these examples.

  • Sacrificial Love – when it costs me something or I do not benefit from its expression.
  • Tough Love – when it hurts me and the one on the other end of this biblical love.
  • Saving love – we cannot offer, but one of the greatest demonstrations of our love for others is when we point them to the only One Who can save them – Christ our Risen Savior.

Yours for Christ’s sake,




Standing on the Promises of God

Beauty and the Beast – a promise kept.  I recall when my daughter was a little girl, she came downstairs and asked me a loaded question. “Daddy, why do kids have to keep their promises, but grown-ups don’t?  I knew where this was going.  I asked what that might be, to which she replied, “You promised to take me to the movie, and you didn’t.  We saw it that afternoon.     

Most of us do not make promises we do not intend to keep.  Circumstances may arise that prevent us, but the promisee is not always understanding—even if s/he is not a child.  Breaking a promise you can keep insures one thing.  You are a liar.  That is a strong indictment, but it comes from a strong source—the Word of God.  I could list more than a dozen verses in both OT and NT that speak to the subject.

What about God?  What was said above about us holds even more true for God.  If every promise of God is not true—

if He does keep even one of them, then He is a liar, our faith should crumble, and we are simply back depending on ourselves or others. 

But, indeed, God is not a liar and all His promises are true.  Biblical Christians believe the Bible is the true Word of God, i.e., it contains no errors or inaccuracies (in its original form).  He is Truth (Jesus words in John 17), and we can take God at His Word.   The question is “Do we?”

 Three Promises of God that “stand out” so we can “stand on” them

1.  Promised to be God to His People (that includes us)

Let’s begin by letting God speak for Himself regarding His promises.  The first example is fascinating because the words are spoken by a profit-seeking prophet named Balaam.  His story may be read in Numbers 22-25.

This so-called prophet was hired by the king of Moab to curse God’s people—instead he ended up blessing them.  It may be hired to understand, but God speaks to and through whomever He chooses.  BUT only to accomplish His purposes, i.e., bless or punish His people.  Here is part of Balaam’s response to the pagan king.

 “God is not human, that He should lie, not a human being, that He should change His mind.  Does He speak and then not act?  Does He promise and not fulfill?” Numbers 23:19

From Abraham to Jacob to Moses to David and throughout the Old Testament, God made and kept His promises.  Joshua summed it up best (Joshua 23: 14)

“Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth, and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words the LORD your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed.”

2. Promised to send a Savior (Messiah) – From Genesis to Malachi, there are many prophecies about this Promised One:

  • Genesis 3: 15 God’s words to Satan; 12: 1-3  God’s promise to Abraham
  • Isaiah 9: 6-7 wonderful counselor, prince of peace mighty God; 53 suffering servant
  • Micah 5: 2 born in Bethlehem
  • Zechariah 9: 9 rode into Jerusalem on a donkey – righteous and having salvation
  • Malachi 4: 2 Sun of Righteousness rises with healing in His wings

If His promise was not kept, we are all as Paul said,

“For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”   1 Corinthians 15: 16-18

3. Personal Promise to all who are in Christ

“…being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,so that we confidently say, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?””  Heb. 13: 5-6

The part of verse 5 in caps is quoted from Deuteronomy 31:6 when Moses was about to die and passing the baton to Joshua.  He said those words to encourage their hearts as I do now to encourage yours.

And one more. Perhaps the most important promise of all—eternal security.  The Apostle Paul taught the following to the church to reassure them (us) that God keeps His promises and our salvation is secure because He does.

“For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us. Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God,  who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.”  2 Corinthians 1: 20-22

 Closing

I know some of you are still not convinced.  You look at your circumstances and question why you are here or why God would let the bad things happen in your life that have?  The first question we have to ask ourselves is what is my part?  Did my bad choices or decisions bring me to this point?  That can be the hardest truth for men to face—looking first in the mirror.

Or perhaps it is someone else’s fault.  “They are to blame.   I am a victim.”  Brothers, no matter how you arrived at this point, God promised all I have covered tonight with one condition – that you take Him at His Word that Jesus is His provision for our sins and receive Him as Savior.  The Apostle Paul told us “we can do all things through Christ.  But perhaps the words of Jesus bring more truth to this lesson.  Jesus Himself said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”

So let us trust the Lord our God and take Him at His Word.  Let is be said of us as it was of Moses by the writer of Hebrews,

“By faith (Moses) he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king (Pharaoh); for he endured, as seeing Him who is invisible (unseen).”  Hebrews 11: 27




Your “Saturday Evening Post” – A Message to Challenge and Encourage the Hearts of Christian Men

Opposites That Do NOT Attract

Understanding This Spiritual Law Will Profoundly Change Your Life

You may (or may not) recall from science and chemistry classes how the phrase “Opposites attract” was derived.  That principle helps things move, open or close, and even causes certain chemical compounds to form, like salt.

However moving from the physical laws of science and chemistry to God’s spiritual laws taught in His holy Word, we encounter a most amazing discovery. Not only do opposites not attract, they represent stark contrasts between how our lives, as biblical Christian men, should look to those who are lost—deny Christ thereby living apart from any relationship with God.

Following are two sets of opposites that clearly do not attract (chosen from many) that are simple, straightforward, and appear throughout the Bible straight from the mouth of God or Jesus.  They serve to teach, correct, reprove, rebuke when required, and training (2 Timothy 3:16).  My goal is to encourage you to examine your heart and life before Christ with a close eye or, if necessary, the higher power of magnifying glass to see what the evidence suggests.

Hot and Cold

HOT – The Bible often uses fire as a means of expressing the presence and power of God. Here are a few examples:

God’s presence before Moses was in a burning bush.  When He had Moses’ attention, God spoke to him through the fire as the bush burned but was not consumed.   (Exodus 3: 1-4)

“The angel of the LORD appeared to (Moses) in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed.”

We read in Leviticus about burnt offerings God demanded from His people.  We know that “fire came out from the presence of God” and consumed the offerings.  (Leviticus 9: 24)

We also learn another key point that has been the text of many sermons over the years.  In Leviticus 6:13, God instructed them to NEVER let the fire go out.   We will come back to that.

COLD – The Bible uses the word cold in some contexts we do today, e.g., temperature. However the analogies move to a more foreboding application when find the word used to describe that heart of man.  It is particularly troubling when applied to someone who once had a fiery love for Jesus that has grown cold.  Breaks the heart of God to when cares, concerns, bad things that happen, or even demonic attacks from our fierce enemy, cause that love to diminish and, in some hearts, grow altogether cold.

Jesus spoke on this subject, noting that as the end of time approaches it will become more prevalent and evident.

“And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”  Matthew 24: 12-13

Pretenders and cultural Christians will fall away and grow cold toward God because of all that happens around them.  Many desert Him now as they did in the before and during His crucifixion.  True believers endure to the end.

The “Why does a good God allow bad things to happen” question will cloud their minds and chill hearts toward a Father Who loves them through it all.   We see this today every time a natural or man-made disaster occurs and God does not act as people think He should.

As blood-bought, born-again, biblical Christian men, we know and cling to the truth of God’s Word.  In the OT, God supplied the fire He never wanted to see extinguished—a sign that His people must always recognize and confess our sins to stand and walk before Him.

In the NT, Jesus did the same by sending the Holy Spirit (fire).  He supplies the never-ending fire – fuel, power, energy – we need to live and love like Christ all the way Home.  Without Him, we only exist, and our lives are powerless and fruitless.  Let Him have His way in your life and I promise the fire – though it wanes or flickers – will never go out.  Rest in that and be at peace.

Light and Dark

This duo is the easiest couplet to comprehend for most people—saved or lost.  Before any other sense are experienced in life, we are pushed or pulled from the security of our mothers’ wombs into the (sometimes) bright lights of the delivery room—that and someone whacking our buttocks for no apparent reason make for a rude awakening and arrival in this world.

Going back to science class, we learned darkness is the absence of light.  (The converse is not true, by the way.)  Light and dark cannot co-exist.  We may argue we are able to see to some degree at night or in a dark room, but that is not real darkness.  Partial darkness exists in that sense, but not in the Word of God.  And that darkness is intolerable.

The Apostle John used this analogy on numerous occasions as well as quoting Jesus. In John 9:5, Jesus proclaimed what seemed bold and bodacious to those listening.

“While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.”

The crowd must have thought He was incredibly arrogant or a lunatic.  The religious leaders knew what He meant and hated Him for it.  Nowhere in the Bible is this analogy better explained or made clearer than in John’s first letter.

 “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”   1 John 1: 5-6 (NASB)

To walk in darkness meant then what it does now—the person is lost and without hope.  If you have ever been enclosed in a room of complete darkness where you cannot see your hand in front of your face, you know it can be very scary. Some even have panic attacks.  Jesus talked about those who die apart from Him being cast into Hell and utter darkness for eternity.

Jesus’ words were meant to literally ”scare the Hell out of people”.  Worked about as well then as it does now.  Some listen receive Christ.  Many mock Him and His words as they march right into such an ending.

Passing the Torch.  In this verse, Jesus changed the narrative away from He is the Light of the world to you and me as biblical Christian men.

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.”  Matthew 5: 14

This could read, We are light to the world to show others the way to the Cross of Christ.

My dear brothers, remember Whose you are and, therefore, who you are.

The Apostle Peter said it best.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”  1 Peter 2: 9

I close this discussion with one more vital lesson concerning light and darkness clearly expounded in God’s Word and so important to read, receive, and apply in our lives.

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”  2 Corinthians 6: 14 (NIV)

The answer to this rhetorical question is clear—NONE!  There are many arguments over this verse and its application in marriage (and some business relationships).  We can clearly cite the ridiculously sad and disturbingly high divorce rate as a reason this verse is irrelevant today.  Some will also note the successes of many marriages and other relationships between people who are not believers, and the very popular trend of living together among many millennials.

Gigi and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary this week. We both held this verse closely before we became seriously involved and taught our children to do the same.  You may argue the above all you like, but one thing I can say with certainty.  There is never any downside to obedience to Christ and His Word.

Missionary and Minister to Men




Five-Star Athletes – God’s Process for Building Men (Learning to “Trust the Process”)

 Athletes – God’s Process for Building Men

Learning to “Trust the Process”

“…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  (Hebrews 12: 1)

Out of the gate, I may lose part of my audience due to comments on what has become, in the last decade or so, a time-consuming area for men in the months leading up to the next major sport season, especially football, the draft.  The amount of hyperbole surrounding star ratings of young men for their athletic prowess is (in my humble opinion) over the top.  In some circles (not all), there is more concern for developing performance over the personcompetitiveness over character.

That said, do not think for one second God is not interested in building high-performance men.  He absolutely is!  He just defines them differently.  On the surface, His process (compared to those above) seems doomed to fail.  God does not care how fast we run the 40, how many reps we bench press 225 lbs, or how high we jump.  We will not run through cones, but we may run through fire!

Biblical and modern history have demonstrated God’s process can be widely successful.  But many find it troubling.  The reason is simple.  His methods are not natural—they are supernatural.  They do not build on the physical man, but the spiritual one.  God builds His men inside-out.  

God does not care what we look like or the physical attributes we bring to the field when we join His team.  I hope this has piqued your curiosity.  Throughout this study, you will be given the opportunity to peak into His playbook.  But first, The Process. 

Following are five facets of God’s process for building biblical Christian men.  This overview is neither exhaustive nor original­—just a humble attempt to call attention to another aspect of our Father’s love for you and me.  He invests heavily in His boys with hope that we become godly, young men, and, ultimately, maturing men after His own heart—soldiers of the Cross fit for our King.  I chose present participles because God never stops the process this side of Heaven.

 Providing   

The first, and best, provision is obvious—Jesus our Savior, Who redeemed us from our sins because He alone could, and did, satisfy the mandatory death penalty that accompanied them.  Neither our fathers nor we, ourselves, had any chance of doing that.  Neither can we do it for our children.   The best Old Testament foreshadowing of this provision is the very familiar story of Abraham and Isaac.

Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”  Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”  (Genesis 22: 7-8 NASB)

Jesus often spoke in parables to His disciples.  As His crucifixion drew nearer, He spoke directly that He was God’s provision (the Lamb the takes away the sin of the world as John the Baptist called Him).

“From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, be killed, and be raised up on the third day.” (Matthew 16: 21)

That satisfies the most important provision, but God did not stop there.  He knows all our needs and delights to make provision for them throughout His process.  These two verses give me great assurance of that—one from David; the other the Apostle Paul.

“I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken Or his descendants begging bread.”  (Psalm 37: 25)

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 19 NASB)

 Protecting

God is not about to let our enemies, especially Satan, score early victories over His men in process.  We are safe under His wings, the sanctuary of His Word, and fellowship with other brothers also in the process and older men of God, mostly on the other side of it.  Consider two verses citing God’s protection. Many believe Moses wrote Psalm 91, as he did Psalm 90, though it is not confirmed.  King Solomon wrote the second.  God does not want us to think He bails on us when the going gets tough (which we know it does).  He reminds and reassures He is our Protector Who goes before and after us.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!” For it is He who delivers you…He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.” (Psalm 91: 1-4)

 “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.”  (Proverbs 18: 10)

 Purifying

Now the process gets harder and hotter!  

“Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.”  (Isaiah 48: 10 ESV)

I chose the following powerful verse from the Apostle Peter because he went through as visible a purification process as any man in the Bible.  Boastfully zealous and outspoken at times.  Swore to his willingness to die for or with Jesus.  Slept on His command in the garden.  Ran away when the soldiers came.  Denied Him three times.  Somewhere weeping and hiding as Jesus was crucified.  Wow!

But Jesus, loving, forgiving Lord that He is, restored Peter.  On the other side of his intense purification process fell out a man useful for Christ’s service—one of the key leaders of the early church.

 “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”   (1 Peter 4: 12 ESV)

So take heart, brothers.  For we have in our own ways slept on Jesus’ commands to us in Scripture, run away during tough times, denied Him with our words, and, more so, our lives for which we have wept bitterly in the shadows hoping no one would see us.

But there is great news and encouragement!  The same loving, forgiving Jesus meets us where we are and restores us to Himself to put us back in His service—a more purified and useful vessel.

  Pruning

Late Winter or early Spring (depending on where you live) is a time many prune trees and shrubs to prepare them for the new growth of Spring and Summer and fruit in late Summer or Fall .  Cutting back select branches on a fruit tree to make them more fruitful is not painful to the tree, but it sure is for men.   Horticulturists tell us pruning directs more of the trees energy into producing fruit.  So does God’s pruning!

God prunes the tree (man) to see who is a genuine disciple of Christ, grafted into the vine, versus those simply holding onto it (like kudzu) for the sake of convenience and appearance.  Jesus’ words:

“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15: 2 ESV)

He also prunes the forest (the church) as well—again to separate out the real from the pretender.

“Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire…”  (Matthew 3: 10-11 ESV)

(I feel it is important to interject a quick note on these verses.  These verses can be misinterpreted to mean one can lose his salvation if you are not bearing fruit.  The reality is Jesus is calling men out to examine our hearts to see if we are born-again in the first place.

The issue is not losing your salvation.  The compelling issue is whether you ever had it!  Jesus made perfectly clear the consequences.  So be sure to examine your hearts, brothers!

  Perfecting

Most are familiar with the adage, “Practice makes perfect.”  That was one-upped by someone else who said, “Perfect practice makes perfect.”  Perhaps the most glaring difference between this athletic analogy and real life is this.  There is no practice field in the Kingdom walk.

If you have been born-again into the army of the Lord, you are in the fray.  You do not get to sit on the sidelines and wait your turn or sit behind a veteran to learn the ropes.  It could be argued our churches and discipleship ministries serve that end for “rookie” Christians.  They can/should serve that purpose,

 but at no time is the Christian man not in the battle—it is not a game.

“Trust the Process.”  I attempted to trace the origin of this oft used expression in sports.  It has been used by winning schools and organizations that took a very process-oriented approach to all aspects of building their respective programs.  One recent use that is now deemed “successful” is a pro team that lost for years so they could get the best draft picks—the most five-star athletes.  Interesting, but painful and expensive for the season tickets holders to watch during those years.  I thought the object was to compete as hard as one can to win; not lose to get better the next year.  Silly me!

I do have the answer to the question, “Who first said that?”  The most important thing to note is this.  It was the second phrase spoken because it paled in comparison to the first.

The Lord God said to man in the beginning and throughout His-story.  “Trust Me.”

From Adam to Noah to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his sons, Moses, all the subsequent judges, prophets, kings, and the rest of the boys in the band, God kept saying, “TRUST ME!  Good things happen when you do.  Bad things happen when you do not.”

God’s process is about perfecting you and me.  I know that sounds crazy to some, but if you will not believe me, believe Jesus.  He commanded us to be perfect. The following was not a suggestion.

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5: 48)

That is as impossible an assignment for us as obeying all those laws was for the Israelites in the OT.  God is always giving His men impossible assignments.  Is He setting us up to fail?  Of course not.  He does that so that we come to the end of ourselves (my definition of a desperate man) and have no choice but to turn to Him in complete dependence.  Then, and only then, can Holy Spirit power, wisdom, and guidance take control of our lives and this seemingly ridiculous assignment.

One key to success was given to us by James, the half-brother of Jesus, and leader of the new and very fragile Christian church.

“And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  (James 1: 4)

 If we trust God first and best, then we can learn to “trust His process” and stay the course.  On the other side, you will look in the mirror and see a man who looks more like Christ than we ever thought possible—more fit for war than we ever imagined or hoped.

Performing

My dear brothers, if we endure God’s “five-star” process, we are ready to perform for Christ’s sake and His glory.  The Apostle Paul must have had some athletic skill and experience as he used numerous analogies to things like I discussed above and the Christian life.  Consider these two passages.

“…Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable (one).  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”  (1 Corinthians 9: 24-27 ESV)

 “But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.  Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus…that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ”   (1 Timothy 6: 11-14  NASB)

The only stars you and I should be concerned with are those that will bejewel our crowns when we have kept the faith, fought the good fight, and finished the race He assigned to us.  Our race does not end at a finish line.  It ends at the Beginning Line we call the entrance to Heaven—finally Home.  Hallelujah!




From a Donkey Ride to an Empty Tomb – Four Lessons from the Most Important Week in His-Story

The King of Kings on a Donkey’s Colt – The “Un-triumphal” Entry

First, I should write that I looked long and hard for the origin of the phrase “triumphal entry” used to refer to Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem on a donkey of all things.  I could not find any specific references other than the words were assigned based on the response of many Jews to Jesus riding into Jerusalem accompanied by a crowd.

His arrival seemed “triumphal” to observers.  These people (not their leaders or the Romans) were shouting and singing—praising God and calling on Jesus to “save them now” (Hosanna in the highest”).  They threw palm branches in His path.

But Jesus and the crowd had very different agendas. The Jews wanted a political Messiah who would throw off Roman rule and return Israel to them—not at all what Jesus had in mind.  He came to save them (us) from their sins—not the Romans! (Luke 5: 32)

The importance of this event and amazing scene is underscored in that it appears in all four gospels.  What lessons can we learn from our own observations on what we now refer to as Palm Sunday?  Two things stand out regarding Jesus’ ride—a small donkey.

  • Jesus’ abject humility. It is both interesting and exciting that this humble (and probably uncomfortable) means of travel also fulfilled OT prophecy.

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”  Zechariah 9: 9 ESV

  • Beast of Burden. Donkeys carried loads for their owners that would be too burdensome, if not impossible, for them to bear. Jesus carried our sins to the Cross, and there bore our burden “once for all” who repent of sins and receive Him as Savior.

What a great start to the most difficult week in His-story!


The First Streaker Recorded in the Bible

“Then all the disciples forsook him and fled.  Matthew 26: 56 KJV/ Mark 14: 50

“Every man for himself” may have been what the disciples and others who followed Jesus were thinking or screaming as they literally ran for their lives.  All deserted Him—every man who swore they would stand by Him to the end, walked with Him three years—the men Whom He referred to as friends!

Mark shares in his gospel that one young man (himself) was grabbed by the cloak and ran out from under it—naked and very afraid, escaping with his life (v. 52).  Only John, is accounted for at the Cross. We know Peter was hiding – crying bitterly at having denied Jesus three times.  And a distraught Judas hung himself.

Honest Christian men will admit to times we also ran away when standing up for Christ got tough, or we were afraid it could cost us our standing with others; perhaps even our jobs.

Like His disciples, whose feet Jesus’ knelt and washed during the Last Supper, we have experienced His humility, drank from His cup of grace, yet withheld it from others whose needs were no more than our own.

Peter’s denial offends no more than ours as we stand nervously in silence or curse Him, not with words, with deeds that reflect our true nature, not His.

The first half of Holy Week was all good for these devoted followers of Christ.  It brought popularity and fanfare.  The second half brought fear and failure.

Yet out of despair and defeat looms forgiveness and victory.  Jesus is heading to the Cross for your sin and mine.  We just have to make it ‘til Sunday.  Happy days lay ahead.

As we approach Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, let’s do some introspection that will lead surely to confession as the desperate men we are apart from Christ.


The “King of the Jews” is Dead – Long Live the King!

When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour (12-3  pm) …And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last.” (from Mark 15: 33, 34 37).

Only John recorded His words, “It is finished.”  (John 19: 30)

Luke recorded these as His last spoken words before dying.

And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, INTO THY HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.” And having said this, He breathed His last.””  (Luke 23: 46)

Imagine the defeated and hopeless feelings of Jesus’ followers, who despite being with Him three years – listening to and living with Him – still did not get it.  All they knew was the man who was supposed to save them was dead.  How many times did He tell them He had to die to accomplish His purpose.  Now He had.

Even nature could not bear to watch, so the sun turned away and darkness covered the earth for three hours.  God turned His back on our sin as Jesus became sin.  Only now could God’s holy demand for justice be satisfied.

When Jesus breathed His last and yielded His spirit back to God, strange physical manifestations occurred in response.  (Matthew 27: 50-53)

  • First, the veil of the temple was torn in half from top to bottom – an unimaginable feat. The veil was ~ 60 ft high x 30 feet wide x 4” thick.  Only God could rip it in half.  He did!
  • The earth shook, and rocks split.
  • Graves opened, and the bodies of saints came alive again. After Jesus resurrection, they came out and walked around the city.

That’s the Good News, brothers, but what a price!  Deserving death, Jesus bought us life.  So, as you spend this Good Friday and the Saturday Jesus spent in the grave, I challenge you to consider your life in lieu of His death.  Ask yourself this question,

“Has His death made an eternal and obvious change in my life?”


 He is Risen Indeed!

He is risen indeed! – the greatest expression in history.  Jesus had risen from the grace as promised.  Those words of confirmation were first used by eye witnesses and spoken to disbelieving disciples to whom Jesus had not yet appeared.  All four Gospels give resurrection accounts, but the Apostle Paul cut to the heart of the matter in terms of its significance in 1 Corinthians 15.

“if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain…and you are still in your sins…If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (from verses 16-19)

But Hallelujah, He is risen.  Only fools will pity us as we celebrate and share this Good News.  If you are in Christ, He lives in you.  This is Resurrection Sunday – a day set aside by the Christian church long ago to celebrate His resurrection and the future hope with certainty of ours as well.

My prayer for true believers is that our lives are filled with such undying gratitude and joy that all whom the Lord puts in our paths will want to know the reason for the Hope we have.  Our response?  HE IS RISEN INDEED!

 

 

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Celebrating our risen Messiah with everyone who has received Him as Savior,