Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

 

Jesus, the Great Physician 

Unfortunately, and fortunately, I have been around some excellent doctors in my life. You do not want to go to the doctor, but if you do, you want it to be a good one. As you know, all people get sick, and doctors exist to help sick people.

In Mark chapter 2, Jesus makes a very simple, yet profound statement. He says, “The healthy do not need a doctor, only the sick. I have come not for the healthy, but for the sick.” What was Jesus saying? What point was He making?

If you read Mark 2:13-17, you will see that Jesus had just called a man named Levi to follow Him. This man had an evil profession. He was a tax collector and grew rich off the exploitation of others. In Jesus’ day, tax collectors could tax people on just about anything they wanted to and get away with it. They were some of the most hated people of the day.

 Jesus was passing by Levi’s tax booth one day and said to him, “Follow Me.” The Bible tells us that Levi left all things and began following Jesus. Later than evening, Levi invited some of his friends to meet Jesus and tell them how Jesus changed his life. At this gathering were all types of sinful people. Tax collector hung around thieves, prostitutes, liars, and other kinds of wicked people. These were Levi’s friends.

While Jesus was dining with them, some religious leaders observed this and asked His disciples, “Why does Jesus eat with such people?” It would have been considered a very bad thing for a religious person to associate themselves with such people. Jesus was different. He was not like the religious people. He did not care about how it appeared, because He came to seek and save the lost.

Jesus overheard their question and responded, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. And it is for the sick I have come, not for the healthy.” In a very simple statement, Jesus summarized His mission. His mission was to make spiritually sick people well. How was He to do that? By giving them a new heart! This is what Jesus did for Levi. He completely changed his life. He gave him a new heart. Jesus is the Great Physician.

But what did He mean when He said that He did not come for the healthy? After all, are not all people spiritually sick and in need of a new heart? The answer is yes. All people need a new heart and all people need Jesus. What Jesus was saying was directed to the religious leaders. They were sick, but thought they were healthy. Doctors cannot help people who will not admit they are sick. This was the case with the religious leaders. They were just as sick as the people they condemned, but they did not know it. They were not healthy and they desperately needed Jesus, but they thought they were okay on their own.

My friends, Jesus offers nothing to the person who thinks they are fine without Him, but to the one who knows they are nothing and have nothing apart from Him, to him or her He offers everything. The religious condemned the tax collectors and sinners and they judged Jesus for eating with them, when in reality, they were just like them. As I have said before, “Sometimes the one who appears to be the most righteous externally is actually the most corrupt internally.” This was the case with the religious leaders. They were wicked on the inside, but refused to admit it. 

This week, remember that Jesus came for sinners, which we all are, but only those who admit it, and recognize it, receive a new heart. Come to Jesus and be changed by the Great Physician. He is all you need.

Our Adoption Story: Grief, Faith, and Joy

As many of you know, my seven-year-old son, Trey, stepped into eternity with His Savior, after a yearlong battle with cancer in 2012-2013. September 1, 2016 will be Trey’s three-year anniversary in heaven. Needless to say, these past 3-4 years have been very difficult for our family.

In the weeks and months following Trey’s death, our family began a unique journey. It was a journey mixed with grief, faith, and joy. There were, and continue to be, days where the grief was and is overwhelming, but there were, and continue to be, days where our joy was and is inexpressible. We have learned how to live with pain, as we trust, hope, and rejoice in the goodness of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I cannot remember when it happened exactly, but one day at church, I noticed a little boy that I did not ever remember seeing. This young boy was full of life and energy, and for whatever reason, had taken a serious interest in Trey’s story. He would come up to me each week and say things like, “I can’t wait to meet Trey one day,” or “Trey is my hero.” He loved Trey, even though he never met him.

I began to ask about this child and quickly came to find out that his name was Andrew, and that a woman in our church was fostering him. To make a long story short, my wife and I began to pray about adopting him. He was about Trey’s age and my family was growing to love and care for him. All my children became very connected to Andrew as well, and were in agreement that we should pursue adoption.

My wife and I began the process of Department of Human Services (DHS) approval. From paperwork, to home inspections, to 27 hours of training, etc., we were finally approved. We were excited and expecting to be able to adopt Andrew. Unfortunately, shortly after our approval, DHS informed us that we would not be able to adopt him. That, in and of itself, is a long story, but simply put, there were certain regulations in place that did not allow for us to move forward with adoption. We were heartbroken. The good news was that the lady fostering Andrew in our church was able to adopt him, and she did. We rejoiced greatly in that.

Several months after all this happened, my wife and I got a phone call from DHS letting us know that Andrew’s birth mother had recently delivered a baby boy. Due to our relationship and connection to Andrew, DHS said we could be considered for non-related kinship adoption. We did not have to pray long about this and let them know that we were willing. Right around Christmas day in 2014, we brought a little four-month-old baby boy into our home. We named him Luke. We all quickly fell in love with him and began the process of moving forward with adoption.

As you might assume, we quickly ran into some challenges and were made aware that we may not be able to adopt Luke. We began praying very hard about this situation and sought to trust the Lord. We were not sure what would happen, but as we did with our son Trey, we laid this precious little boy before the Lord and simply said, “God, Your will be done.”

About ten months after we took Luke into our home, I received another phone call from DHS. They informed me that both Andrew and Luke’s birthmother had recently had another baby. This time it was a little girl and she was only four days old. They wanted to know if we would be willing to take her in and pursue adoption with her as well. My wife and I said, “Yes,” and in just a couple of hours after receiving the phone call, found ourselves taking this sweet little baby girl home. We named her Addi. In this process, our family prayed, waited, and simply trusted the Lord with these two precious children that God had brought into our lives.

While our family was on vacation in June of this year, we got the official word that we would be able to adopt both Luke and Addi (who are half brother and sister with each other and Andrew, by the way) in August! When we got the news, tears of joy streamed down our faces. We were so happy and relieved. On August 9, 2016, the Freeman family added two new members, Luke Kenneth and Adele (Addi) Joy! It was an incredible day of celebration and thanksgiving to God for allowing us the privilege of having these two children in our lives forever.

When I look at my life, I could have never imagined it looking the way it does. I miss Trey every second of every day, and cannot wait for him to meet his new brother and sister. But, because of Trey and how God used him in our lives, our hearts were opened to take in these two wonderful children. We like to say that Trey sent these children to us because he knew we needed them. I know that is probably not true, but I could see Trey saying, “Jesus, do you think you could send my family these two children? They miss me so much and they need a little help.” Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, but whatever the case, God has used these children in our lives in ways I never thought possible. To Him be the glory!

God’s Plan A

Joni Eareckson Tada is a hero to me. She has been the best example to me of how to handle suffering and difficult things for the glory of God. Joni was paralyzed in a diving accident as a teenage girl and has spent the last 40+ plus years as a quadriplegic. To make matters worse, she was diagnosed with stage three cancer just a few years ago. She has faced and endured more difficulty than nearly any person I know, yet she has done so with tremendous faith. 

In a recent article I read by Joni she said, “I thought when I became disabled I had missed God’s best for me, and that the Lord was then forced to go with some divine plan B for my life.” She went on to say that she thinks this is the case with many people. She said, “Many people assume that Satan’s schemes throw a monkey wrench into God’s plans, catching Him off-guard, and presenting God with problems He wishes would have never happened.” This could not be further from the truth. The Bible teaches that God is infinitely more powerful than Satan and God is in complete control of every single thing that happens in our lives and in this world. Therefore, nothing passes into our life that does not first go through the hands of God! Joni said, “While the devil’s motive in my disability was to shipwreck by faith by throwing a wheelchair in my way, I’m convinced that God’s motive was to thwart the devil and use the wheelchair to change me and make me more like Christ through it all.” That is why I love Joni Eareckson Tada. Her perspective on pain and suffering always points back to Jesus Christ!

As Christians, we must understand that God is determined to have us share in His joy, peace, and power. But there’s a catch. God only shares His joy on His terms, and those terms call for us, in some measure, to suffer as His precious Son did while on earth. As 1 Peter 2:21 says, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps.” Those steps lead us into the fellowship of Christ’s suffering where we become “like Him in His death”: that is, we daily take up our cross and die to the sins He died for on His cross!

I love what Joni has said, “While suffering sandblasts us to the core, the true stuff of which we are made is revealed. Suffering lobs a hand-grenade into our self-centeredness, blasting our soul bare, so we can be better bonded to the Savior.” God uses afflictions to make us holy, and we are never more like Christ, never more filled with His joy, peace, and power, than when sin is uprooted from our lives. Does this mean that God delights in our suffering? Absolutely not. In fact, in John 11:35, right before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He is found weeping. He is weeping over the grief He sees that death brings, even though He knew that He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. The same thing goes for our suffering. God permits all sorts of things He hates, in order to accomplish what He loves. Just as God permitted Satan to thwart Job’s life, so He often allows hard things into our lives, not because He doesn’t love us, but because He does love us. As someone has wisely said, “Satan may power the ship of evil, but God steers it to serve His own ends and purposes.”

The reality for Christians is that pain and discomfort are not God’s ultimate focus for us. He cares about these things, but they are merely symptoms of the real problem. God cares most, not about making our lives happy, healthy, and free of trouble, but about teaching us how to hate sin and to keep growing into the likeness of our Savior, Jesus Christ. As Joni says, “God lets me continue to feel sin’s sting through suffering while I’m heading for heaven, constantly reminding me of what I am being delivered from, exposing sin for the poison it is.” As I said earlier, “God permits what He hates, to accomplish what He loves.” As Joni so beautifully said it, “One form of evil, suffering, is turned on its head to defeat another form of evil, sin!” Therefore, Christian, in your suffering, you can smile, because you know that God is accomplishing what He loves in your life, uprooting sin in your heart and making you more like Christ! This is no “Plan B” for your life, but His good and loving Plan A!

The Gift of Pain

I recently read an article that spoke of a doctor named, Dr. Paul Brand. This doctor is a missionary surgeon who heads a rehabilitation branch of America’s only leprosarium. He said, “If I had one gift which I could give to people with leprosy, it would be the gift of pain.” In this article, he said that, “After years of working with leprosy patients, I learned to exult in the sensation of cutting a finger, turning an ankle, or stepping into a too-hot bath.” He went on to say, “Thank God for pain!” Dr. Brand believes that pain itself, the hurt of pain, is a gift. But what does he mean?

Doctors once believed the disease of leprosy caused the ulcers on hands and feet and face which eventually led to rotting flesh and the gradual loss of limbs. Mainly through Dr. Brand’s research, it has been established that in ninety-nine percent of the cases, leprosy only numbs the extremities. The decay of flesh occurs because the warning system of pain is absent. How does the decay happen though?

Visitors to rural villages in Africa and Asia have sometimes observed a horrible sight, a person with leprosy standing by the heavy iron cooking pot watching the potatoes. As they are done, without flinching he thrusts his arm deep into the scolding water and recovers the cooked potatoes. Dr. Brand found that abusive acts such as this were the chief cause of body deterioration. The potato-watching leprosy victim had felt no pain, but his skin blistered, his cells were destroyed and laid open to infection. Leprosy had not destroyed the tissue; it had merely removed the warning sensors that alerted him to danger. To a person with leprosy, the sensation of sticking their arm into scalding hot water was no different that picking up a stone or putting their hand in their pocket. They simply have no warning system for pain. It was this reality that caused Dr. Brand to see physical pain as a gift to the body, for without it, horrible consequences occur.

Just a physical pain is an early warning system to the brain, other types of pain can be warnings to the soul. As theologian C.S. Lewis once said, “Pain is a megaphone of God which, sometimes murmuring, sometimes shouting, reminds us that something is wrong.” Lewis went on to say that, “Pain reminds us that the entire human condition is out of whack. We, on earth, are a rebel fortress, and every sting and every ache reminds us.” Pain, seen in that light, is a gift from God that reminds us we are built from something more, for eternity. If we see pain from this perspective, in some sense, we, too, can declare, “Thank God for pain.”

Pain, suffering, trial, heartache, etc., does many things, but there are three things I have learned that allow me to see pain as a gift:

First, pain reminds me over and over that this world is not my home. As the Apostle Paul said, “For my light and momentary afflictions are producing for me an eternal weight of glory.” Every heartache and trial must be seen through that lens. Every time I grieve, I simply remember that my trial, when embraced by faith, is working and producing something of eternal significance. That reality allows me to endure the difficulties I experience in this life.

Second, pain keeps me desperate for Jesus! I often say that God does not want to “be a part” of our lives, He wants and deserves to “be” our entire life. Suffering has a way of keeping Jesus right at the center of our lives. When things are going well, we have a tendency to forget the Lord and begin living for ourselves. Pain is one of God’s ways of getting and keeping our attention.

Finally, pain and suffering make me more like Christ. The Apostle Peter said, “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. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.” When we suffer, we are never more like Christ. If He was perfect, and He suffered, why would we expect anything different? Our suffering connects us to Christ, but our suffering is not the end. As the Scripture says, “We who share in His suffering will also share in His glory.” What a glorious promise that is for Christians.

Dear Christian, pain is a gift from God. It reminds us we are not meant to live here forever, it keeps us desperate for Jesus, and it makes us more like our Savior. One day, our faith will be made sight. Until then, we walk by faith knowing that no tear we ever shed will be wasted, and one day, every tear will be wiped away. Press on!

Choosing to Trust

Psalm 56:3 states, “When I am afraid, I will trust in You.” This was one of my son’s favorite verses when he was in the hospital. I will never forget when he wrote it down and my wife took a picture of it and sent it to me. That verse was great for our son, Trey, but little would I know how much I would need that verse in my own life. There were times I was so afraid when he was in the hospital, and there are still times I get afraid now, even though I know he is with the Lord. When I get afraid, or have fear in my heart, I remember that I must choose to trust the only One who can remove my fear. I like what Psalm 16:8 says, “I have set the Lord before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” I have learned and continue to learn that to set the Lord before me is to recognize God’s presence and His constant help, but this is something I must choose to do. Trust is a choice, but it is often a difficult choice to make.

 Why is that? Why is it so difficult to trust God? Deep down we know that God knows best and His ways are best, but yet we often struggle to trust Him in and through all things. As I have reflected on my own journey of learning to trust God, I have identified three things that often keep me from placing my trust fully in the Lord. These things must be combated with deep faith in God. As the famous quote goes, “Faith is not knowing what the future holds, but knowing who holds the future.” Even though Christians do know that all things will work out in eternity, we do not know how things will always work out on this earth. As we wait for eternity to unfold, what are the things we must combat on this earth that often attack our faith?

 The first thing to combat is our feelings. Many people are prisoners to their feelings. As their feelings go, so goes their life. We all know that we cannot trust our feelings. Feelings can change like the weather and they are often so very fickle. When we are afraid, hurting, discouraged, sad, etc., we cannot let our feelings be in the driver’s seat of our lives. Instead, a real, deep, abiding faith in the Living God must be in control of our lives. This is a choice though. We must choose to trust in God instead of how we feel. Psalm 56:11 says, “In God I will trust, I shall not be afraid.” Remember this, trusting God is a matter of the will, and is not dependent on our feelings. As we choose to trust God, our feelings will eventually follow.

 The second thing to combat is circumstances. It is hard to trust God, whom you cannot see, when things are falling apart in your life, which you can see. Like feelings, circumstances cannot be in the driver’s seat in your life. Why? Because things change all the time. This is why my favorite verse is 2 Corinthians 4:18 which says, “So we fix our eyes, not on what we CAN see, but on what we CANNOT see. For what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal.” As Christians, we must choose to see the unseen, which is only possible by faith. Remember, your world may feel like it is falling apart, but as you trust God, He will provide peace and strength in the midst of your storm.

 The third thing to combat is people. You have to be careful whom you listen to. When you are in a storm, the voice you need to hear most is God’s voice. Yes, God can use people to speak truth into your life, but if you are not careful, you will begin looking to people, instead of to God, and sometimes people can lead you astray. Only the truth keeps you grounded, centered, and hopeful. When you are suffering or hurting, what you need most is the truth. Get in God’s Word and rest in the promises He gives. God is 100% faithful and every one of His promises is true. He, and He alone, can be trusted, but you must choose to trust Him.

 Never forget that trust is not a passive state of mind. Trust is a vigorous act of the soul by which we choose to embrace the promises of God and cling to them, in spite of the adversity that at times seeks to overwhelm us. This week, choose to trust God. He will never fail or forsake you.

Dying Well

Psalm 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” There was a time when Christians were known as people who knew how to die well. It was part of Christian concern to be known as people who know how to live and die well. As the Apostle Paul said, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” Christians for centuries actually believed that and lived that way. Today, the situation is very much different, especially for Western Christians. Not only are many Christians in America not living for the Lord like they should, but many also shudder at the thought of death. For many, death is a very unsettling subject.

I am convinced that the church needs to do a better job at preparing its members to face death and meet God. I am not talking about living morbidly, or with a “doom and gloom” attitude, but rather with an understanding that our days are numbered and that we are all going to die and stand before God. As one pastor wisely said, “You cannot live faithfully in this life unless you are ready for the next. You can’t preserve morality or spirituality or doctrinal purity or faithfulness unless you are living in light of eternity.” When we live in fear of death, we will not have the confidence needed to be effective for the Lord in our life. The Apostle John said, “Abide in Christ, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming.” Christians are to face eternity with faith and confidence, not with fear and shame.

In order to get us ready for eternity, the Lord allows difficult things in our lives. God uses suffering, pain, and sorrow in this life to make us homesick for heaven, to detach us from this world, to prepare us for heaven, and to draw our attention to Himself. The reality is that God does not want us too comfortable in this world, because the more at home we become here, the more we want to stay. The Apostle Peter said that we are “aliens and strangers in this world.” In other words, this world is not our home or final destination.

The point is that we are all under sentence of death. We are all terminal cases. Full acceptance of this truth removes a fair bit of unnecessary shock and rebellion and allows us to escape the modern Western mind-set that refuses to look at death, to plan for death, to live in light of death, and to expect death. For the believer, the time of death becomes far less daunting a factor when seen in the light of eternity. As theologian D.A. Carson says, “Although death remains an enemy, an outrage, a sign of judgment, a reminder of sin, and a formidable opponent, it is, from another perspective, the portal through which we pass to consummated life. We pass through death, and death dies. And the more a Christian lives in the consciousness of God’s presence here, the easier it is to anticipate the unqualified delight that will be experienced in God’s presence there.”

Christians, let us live in light of eternity, so that we are better prepared to die well. When death comes to me, I want there to be a glorious celebration that I am home, that I am finally free! Titus 2:11-14 sums it all up best, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.” Living like this will help you prepare to die well. See you next week!

A Frustrated, but Blessed Life

Perspective. It is an interesting word isn’t it? The word means “a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.” Much of this life for the Christian comes down to perspective. We cannot control many of the things that come into our lives, but we can control how we respond to them. For instance, we can choose to see obstacles and problems, or opportunities and possibilities. It all comes down to perspective, but not just any perspective. We need God’s point of view.

One of the biggest things I have learned in my Christian life is that God enjoys frustrating my plans. He does not do this because He is mean, cruel, or manipulative, but because He loves me, sees the big picture, and knows what is absolutely best for me. He wants me to learn to trust Him, so He often frustrates my plans to get me in a place of complete dependence on Him. Even though I know this about God, it is still difficult to embrace at times.

Recently I was thinking about some of the challenging things I have been through in the past, as well as some of the difficult things I am currently dealing with presently. When I look at these things from a human, earthly perspective, I sometimes get frustrated. There are things that happen that I simply do not understand and that make no sense to me. My finite human mind is limited in understanding, and when things happen outside of my control, even things that I know God is allowing into my life, I do not always respond like I should. However, when I set my mind on God and the truth of His Word, I find myself seeing things much more clearly.

As I reflected on all of this, a thought hit me. Yes, God frustrates many of my plans, but He does this for a purpose, a much bigger purpose than I can see. Because of that, my frustrations are actually blessings. Therefore, I am living a frustrated, but blessed life. Romans 8:28 says, “For God caused ALL things to work together for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose.” In other words, nothing passes into my life except which God allows, and what He allows is for my good and for His glory. What He wants me to do is trust Him completely.

One of God’s greatest blessings in our life is His Word. His Word is full of promises, and each promise is guaranteed, because it comes from a God who is 100% faithful. God can never go back on His promise because He cannot violate who He is. He is God and He is perfect. Therefore, we can take His promises to the bank. Yes, trials and tribulations will come, but they do not have the final say on our life, God does. God is greater than anything that happens in our lives, and even if He allows things into our lives that frustrate us, with His perspective, we can actually see frustrations as blessings. Christian, be encouraged. You are living a frustrated, but blessed life because the God who loves you is in control and He can be fully trusted. As the Scripture says, “Our light and momentary afflictions are producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comprehension.” That is a promise that is 100% guaranteed.

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