Monthly Archives: April 2017

Thoughts for the Hurting

My personality lends itself to being high and low. I have to work very hard at being steady. Some days I am better at this than others. So, you can imagine how living with an emotional hole in my heart can make things extra difficult. I recently read something from a woman whose daughter passed away and she said, “I gave a part of my heart to my daughter that she took with her when she died, and I won’t get that back this side of heaven.” That reality resonates very much with me. So, what am I to do?

The truth is, God gives and takes away. If you don’t believe me, just ask Job. But, if we were honest, we just want God to give, don’t we? We don’t want Him to take and we certainly don’t want Him to take away the things or the people we love. This life is hard…very hard…but God is most concerned about conforming His children into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

So, today, I’ve been struggling, and as I am, I look to the Cross and am reminded that the Cross is the ultimate example of God’s ability to work all things together for good, even the most wicked deed ever conceived. Though those who put Jesus on the Cross meant to do evil to against Him, God used it for good, in order to bring many to Himself. Truly, in death, there is life.

I’m reminded of this: if God would require such intense suffering of His own Son, whom He loved, to accomplish a holy purpose, He surely has a purpose for your pain and mine. And perhaps part of that purpose is to learn obedience from what we suffer.

Why has God allowed so much suffering in your life and mine? Well, ultimately the purpose is not to disfigure us for life, but to mold us into the people who thinks, acts, and looks like Jesus Christ…and oh how that process of molding can hurt. But again why? So that you and I can display the glory of God by living as a reflection of His Son! 

Remember when the disciples asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” The blind man’s suffering was allowed because that is how God would get most glory from his life.

Now, we can either shun suffering or embrace it. I’ve done both, and I can assure you, shunning it only adds to the pain. However, when we embrace it, something happens in our hearts…there’s an intimacy with God, a freedom in submission, a peace in the pain, and even at times, a joy in the journey. As Nancy Guthrie says, “Trusting God when the miracle does not come, when the urgent prayer gets no answer, when there is only darkness—this is the kind of faith God values perhaps most of all. This is the kind of faith that can only be developed and displayed in the midst of difficult circumstances. This is the kind of faith that cannot be shaken because it is the result of having been shaken.”

Today, in faith, I’m crying out to God: “Father, would You please accomplish Your will? Would you give me a willing heart to embrace Your plan and purpose? Would You mold me into a vessel that You can use to accomplish what You have in mind?” Oh that I would truly mean that prayer because I know that’s what I need…I know that’s what is right. 

The truth is, I have come to know God more fully because I’ve experienced Him more fully in my sorrow. Lord, help me believe and embrace Your will for my life. 

Easter is More than a Holiday!

This past Sunday was Resurrection Sunday, known to many as Easter Sunday. For one Sunday a year, people come out of the woodwork for church. I do not know of one church on Easter Sunday whose attendance is down. All churches seem to have great attendance on that special day. But, have you ever stopped to ask why?

As a pastor, I am always amazed at this phenomenon. In fact, we often see the same kind of attendance right around Christmas. We often say that in the church, there are “CEOs”: Christmas and Easter Only attendees. But again, why? Why do people feel compelled to come to church more on those two times of the year than any others? As I have reflected on that, here are three reasons I have observed.

First, many see church as the social thing to do. For these, church is simply a social component in their life. They look at the church like they do being a part of other social clubs, and they attend at times when they feel it is more socially acceptable and popular. To attend on Christmas and Easter is simply the social thing to do, so they feel compelled to be in church on those days.

Second, many see church as the parental thing to do. For these, they show up because they feel their kids or grandkids need it. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times, “We come because my kids need to be here.” For so many, having their families in church on Christmas and Easter is driven by a compulsion to make sure their kids have some good old fashioned religion in them. 

Finally, many see church as the religious thing to do. For these, church is just another box in their life, and as long as they check the box once or twice a year, they feel they are good to go. Many see going to church like they do their annual physical with their doctor, or an annual tune up for their car. They just want to come in, get out, and carry on with their lives.

However, all of these reasons, and I’m sure many others like them, are not why people should attend church. While I’m thankful for the many who attend on Christmas and Easter only, I also grieve for them, because they are missing out on so much more. Church was never designed to be a purely social, parental, or religious practice. 

What was church designed to be then? According to the Bible, the church is not a building, it is a people. The Greek word for church is ekklesia, which means “the called out ones of God.” In other words, the church are the people who have entered a saving relationship with Jesus Christ and gather together to worship, serve, minister, fellowship, pray, grow, and evangelize. According to the Bible, church is not a box you check, it is a way of life. 

True Christians do not attend church because it is the social, parental, or religious thing to do. They attend, and attend regularly, because the church is their family and they need one another in this life. Think of it like this, the church is simply an extension of our personal relationship with God. God saves us individually, but unites us collectively. The church is a beautiful thing, because it reflects those Jesus has purchased with His blood and how He has brought us together. 

Easter Sunday has come and gone, but Jesus is still alive. Until Jesus returns again, FBC Newcastle will be celebrating His Resurrection every Sunday. If you don’t have a regular church you attend, come and worship each week with us. Why? Because Easter is more than a holiday. 

There is HOPE because JESUS is ALIVE!

Tomorrow, April 13, my son and hero, Trey Robert Freeman, would have been 11 years old. As many of you know, he went to be with the Lord on September 1, 2013 as a seven-year old. Trey has impacted my life in ways I will never be able to fully express.

To me, Trey will always be a little boy. I will always remember him as a five or six-year old. It is strange thinking that he would be eleven this week. I can’t imagine what it will feel like when his birthday rolls around and he would have been twenty, or forty, or beyond that. I, of course, hope the Lord returns before then, so we can all be together again, but until then, we remember, we grieve, and we celebrate.

When Trey passed away, a pastor friend said something very helpful to me. He said, “Jeremy, it’s okay to grieve, Christians just grieve differently.” That was an encouragement to me. I think sometimes Christians feel they shouldn’t grieve. Some think if they grieve they are not showing faith. That could not be further from the truth. Christians grieve, but they just grieve differently.

The Bible says that Christians grieve with hope, and because of who Jesus is and what He has done, there is great hope. Romans 5:3-4 says this, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Hope is a wonderful gift and I am thankful that, because of Jesus Christ, there is joy in my tears and comfort in my despair. While the grief is deep, our hope is deeper and greater still.

This week, as my family remembers Trey, and thinks about his life, his impact, and all the precious memories we hold in our hearts, we grieve, but we also celebrate. I cannot wait to see him again and rejoice together in the presence of God. Yes, we would have had a birthday for Trey this week, and that would have been a fun celebration, but it pales in comparison to the eternal celebration we will enjoy one day. That is something I can hardly wait to experience. Because of Jesus, death has been swallowed up in victory, and one day, all we will know is victory, for there will be no such thing as loss.

I know there are many people experiencing grief on many different levels today. Some reading this have lost a spouse, a child, a friend, etc., and it hurts. Living with emotional pain is perhaps THE hardest thing to do on this earth. I, for one, know I cannot do it on my own. I could never carry the weight of my pain on my own. If you are hurting, I encourage you to look to Jesus today. The Bible tells us that He loves us and longs for us to lay our burdens down at His feet. Take comfort in the words of Jesus when He says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

As we approach Easter Sunday, there is hope because Jesus is alive. We do not have to fear anything because He has conquered sin, death, and hell. Every pain and sin we have, He took on Himself when He died on the Cross, but He showed His power over all things when He rose again. If you do not have a place to worship, I would like to invite you to our Good Friday service on April 14 at 7pm, and one of our three identical Easter Sunday morning worship services at 8, 9:30, or 11:00am. We hope to see you at First Baptist Church in Newcastle. Come celebrate the power of the Resurrection with us!

“…Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”‭‭ 1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:54-57‬


%d bloggers like this: