Tag Archives: eternity

Help my Unbelief

Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” ~ Mark 9:24

Have you ever felt this way? You know God is real, you know the only way to salvation is through His Son, Jesus Christ, you know anything is possible through Him – but that nagging doubt rears its ugly head at the most inopportune time. You doubt your belief even as you believe it. I have; I’m sure we all have.

This encounter with Jesus really struck me as I read it the other day. A man brings his son, who suffers from seizures, to Jesus and asks Him to drive out the demon that causes the seizures. The man explains that Jesus’ disciples could not drive out the demon and says to the Lord, “If you can do anything [there’s that nagging doubt at the inopportune time], take pity on us and help us!” (Mark 9:22) Jesus seems rightfully indignant as He repeats the man’s words back to him, “IF you can?” and tells the man that all things are possible for those who believe in Him. The man then pleads his case, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

What does Jesus do in response? After all, the man’s weak faith was bared for all to see; Jesus could simply let him wallow in his doubt. But, notice what the man did. He confessed his weakness and asked the Source of faith to strengthen his faith, to help his unbelief. Jesus honored the man’s prayer for help and drove out the demon, thus healing the boy.

This, my friends, is our Savior – the One who loves us so much that He sacrificed Himself on the cross to bear all of our sins; even the sin of doubtful faith. Jesus knows our imperfections and our shortcomings, yet He promises to love us in spite of those things. He demonstrated His love on the cross of Calvary.

The Lenten season is upon us. Let us use this time to reflect on our sins and lay them at the feet of our Savior. Let us boldly approach Him and ask Him to help us with those nagging sins that we just can’t seem to shake on our own. And, once we’ve done so, let us trust Him to keep His promise; after all, He already has.

Here is the complete passage from the Gospel according to Mark:

14 When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. 15 Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him. 16 And He asked them, “What are you discussing with them?” 17 And one of the crowd answered Him, “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; 18 and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.” 19 And He answered them and said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!” 20 They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. 21 And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 “It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” 23 And Jesus said to him, ” ‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.” 26 After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, “He is dead!” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up. 28 When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately , “Why could we not drive it out?” 29 And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.” ~ Mark 9:14-29 [NAS]

Happy New Year 2014

January 1, New Years Day, is one of my favorite days of the year. This day, more than any of the other 364, represents a chance at a fresh start, a clean slate. New Years Day offers an opportunity to draw a line in the sand of time, letting the past be the past as we look forward to 2014 with eager anticipation of what God has in store.

My reflecting on 2013 yields positive feelings on the year that is most recently spent; my family and I had a great year. Of course, not everybody reading this will share that sentiment. As I write this, I consider friends for whom 2013 in the rearview mirror is a welcome sight. Some suffered the untimely loss of a loved one as others dealt (and continue to deal) with serious medical diagnoses. Some faced trials within their families as others lost their jobs. I lift them in prayer now, even as I count my blessings.

Whether 2013 was a banner year or a year of trials, we all begin today with the same opportunity for a renewed enthusiasm for life. At 52 years of age, I’ve chosen to embrace this opportunity. Rather than spew a list of resolutions that will mean little to anybody but me, I offer this bit of wisdom and encouragement from God’s Word:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil–this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-14

Wise King Solomon recognized that the things of this life, of their own accord, are meaningless. In contemplating this fact, he concluded that it is only through God, who “set eternity in the hearts of men” (verse 12), that the meaningless becomes meaningful. My prayer for myself, my family, my friends, and all who read this is that 2014 is a year during which that which is truly meaningful, the eternity God has planted in each of our hearts, becomes the true object of our desire.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16

Happy New Year!!

Confetti

No Guarantees? Not So Fast…

Yesterday evening, as I learned of a friend who passed away due to complications from the flu, I was reminded that life offers no guarantees. Alan leaves behind a loving wife and two lovely daughters of high school age. As I lift his family and friends in prayer, I can’t help but think about my own family and how they would feel if God called me home at a young age.

Goofing off, Thanksgiving 2012

Goofing off, Thanksgiving 2012

As I write this, several other people dear to me also come to mind: a pastor friend battling metastasized cancer, a coworker recovering from major surgery, and another business friend & colleague who passed away suddenly while on vacation over Thanksgiving weekend. Each of these people woke up one day expecting a normal day; by the end of that day things had drastically changed. They all have jobs and they all have family and friends who love them, and they are all about my age.

At times like this I am compelled to reflect on my own life. I tend to live my life as if none of these things could happen to me. I go to work, I watch my football, I enjoy my family and I count my blessings. I don’t eat as well as I should, I occasionally drink a bit too much wine, and I rarely exercise. I sometimes stress over circumstances, which compared to the trials these friends are facing, are really nothing more than short-term inconveniences. My family, friends and coworkers are precious to me also. I pray for those in need of healing and those facing trials, but I don’t pray enough. I live my life as if I have forever during which to live it, when in reality, my “normal” could change just as quickly as it did for my four friends. As I take my allotment of time for granted, I realize that I sometimes take the people God has placed in my life for granted, too. For these transgressions I ask God’s forgiveness.

Naples, FL Sunset - July 2012

Naples, FL Sunset – July 2012

I’m sad today for those whom my friends Alan and Bob left behind. As I contemplate my own life I realize it’s not too late to change some things, and I will prayerfully seek God’s guidance in this respect. But more than that, I thank God for the hope He offers – real hope that each and every one of us can grab ahold of and celebrate every day no matter what circumstances we face:

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. ~ John 3:16

Whether I live one more day or many more decades, my life on Earth will come to an end one day. So will yours. If I place my trust in the things of this world, it all ends the moment I take my last breath; I have no hope for eternity. God offers us so much more than that. He offers His Son as the perfect sacrifice to pay the price for my sins – and yours, too. God’s promise of eternal life comes only through faith in Jesus. While I enjoy life and the blessings God has bestowed on me, my hope for eternity is not in the things of this world. My hope is planted firmly in my faith in Jesus Christ. With that hope, even if my “normal” should change drastically today, I can live my life with no worries, for I know my eternity will be with my Lord. And with that hope, my last breath on Earth will not be the end; it will be the beginning of my eternal life in His presence.

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Until He calls me home, I resolve to live out my remaining days on Earth, whether one or thousands, with my eyes focused squarely on the Prize. I will breath more deeply, observe more thoroughly, and care more thoughtfully. I will be more diligent in prayer, more concerned about others, and more faithful to my Lord and Savior. Truly, I can do none of this on my own; but through Him I can succeed.

My Prayer for Today: Heavenly Father, as I go about my routine today, there are people dear to me who struggle with loss, illness, job transition, and so many other things. I pray for those who need comfort, those who need healing, and those in need of work. I pray that You would provide what they need. I also pray for those who don’t know Your Son, Jesus Christ. According to Your will, Lord, let me be a witness to this world that so desperately needs to know You. In Jesus’ name – AMEN.

Calm in the Raging Storm

Have you ever wondered what true contentment feels like? How do we find the proverbial calm in the midst of the storm? Does such calm even exist?

Naples, FL Sunset - July 2012

Naples, FL Sunset – July 2012

Over the past week or so, I’ve been very agitated over events currently facing our country. In observing the behavior of our government officials, those whom we elected to office, my anger often supersedes the attitude and outlook that I, as a Christian, know I should have. My anger and frustration is fueled even more when I see how we Americans treat each other with disrespect, anger, and disdain that seems to draw, at times, dangerously close to downright hatred. I worry about the future of our country. I worry about the condition in which my generation is leaving our country for our children and grandchildren. Worry, worry, worry! Out of the genuine concern I feel for my country comes emotions and words that, at times, I wish had never manifested.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 8:38-39

Amidst my storm of worry, I open God’s Word. Therein resides the eternal calm in the midst of the temporal storm in which I find myself living day after day. Yes, our nation is in crisis; I truly believe that. But even in crisis, God reigns supreme. You see, my human frailty – the sinful nature that resides in each of us – causes me to say and do things that I know I shouldn’t do. Sin has that effect on each of us. When I say and do those things, not only do I help advance the problem at hand, I lose sight of the real prize that has already been won in my behalf through Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. When I lose sight of the prize, I try to fight the storm on my own and I lose my way in the process. Thank God for His love, His mercy, and His Holy Word! Through His Word, I am reminded that, no matter what happens in government and no matter what the future holds for our country, I have eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus and nothing can take that away.

Hollywood Beach, outside of Ocean Pub 101, Hollywood, FL ~ July 24, 2013

Hollywood Beach, outside of Ocean Pub 101, Hollywood, FL ~ July 24, 2013

Through Christ, I am equipped to respond appropriately when crisis rears its ugly head. Rather than stir the pot and contribute to the problem, I am equipped to rise above the fray and offer a voice of calm reason in the midst of the raging storm. The sinful nature that resides within me, and in all of us, will sometimes cause me to stumble. The Holy Spirit will convict me of those times, compel me to confess them, and help me to repent so I can get back to the work that God has called me to do.

The love of God, manifested in Christ Jesus our Lord, is the calm in the midst of the storm. If you don’t know Him, contact me or reach out to a Christian friend – we’ll be glad to introduce you. If you do know Him and find yourself overwhelmed by the storms of this life, go into God’s Word and be reminded of your salvation; stop trying to fight the storm on your own! Then join me as I renew my commitment to being a positive influence, with my foundation in God’s Word, on my nation and all with whom I come into contact.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, As I review some of my posts and communiqués over the past several days I realize that I have not honored You as I know I should. In doing so, I am part of the problem. Forgive me of this and all of my sins and guide me to true repentance. In so doing, help me to be an effective witness for You, that through my words and actions, others would see You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Light Piercing the Darkness ~ Jeremiah 25:1-14

“And the LORD has sent to you all His servants the prophets again and again, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear, saying, ‘Turn now everyone from his evil way and from the evil of your deeds, and dwell on the land which the LORD has given to you and your forefathers forever and ever; ~ Jeremiah 25:4-5

English: Okienko Zbójnickie Cave in Kraków, Po...

English: Okienko Zbójnickie Cave in Kraków, Poland Polski: Okienko Zbójnickie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember as a Boy Scout we went spelunking on one of our weekend camping trips. We entered this narrow, wet cave in groups of eight. Each of us had a flashlight, and I had the map. As we entered the cave and rounded the first bend the outside light from the entrance quickly gave way to complete darkness. At one point along the way we all turned off our flashlights and experienced a scary, overcoming darkness. Within a few seconds we felt completely disoriented and scared. We quickly turned our lights back on and held tightly to them as we completed our journey.

In this passage, God’s words through the prophet Jeremiah are words of anger and warning of consequence for sin. For 23 years, Jeremiah has proclaimed God’s wrath to Israel and for 23 years Israel has chosen not to listen. In this passage, God’s sovereignty is on full display as He lays out the consequences for Israel’s sin. (Read on, though; there is a Light to come!)

Note that God refers to King Nebuchadnezzar as “servant” in describing how this foreign king will come against Israel and bring them into exile in Babylon. They will be in exile for 70 years. At the end of the exile period, God says He will punish Babylon for its deeds. After all, even in His anger, Israel is still God’s chosen people.

Human wisdom says this is unfair. However, we must always remember that God is completely sovereign over His creation. He can use whomever he wants, even those who do not acknowledge Him, to carry out His good and perfect will. This is a tough pill to swallow. We all sin and the message here is that God is angered by that, and sin bears its consequence. For Israel, the consequence was to be a successful invasion by a foreign power.

There is no good news in today’s Jeremiah passage. But in order to understand where we humans stand in relationship to our sovereign God, we must understand His wrath over sin. Is God as angered by our sin as He was over the sins of Israel in Jeremiah’s day? The Bible tells us He is. In fact, the Bible tells us that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and the punishment for sin is death. What hope do we have? Where do we turn?

Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 6:21-23

Cross & Clouds

Cross & Clouds (Photo credit: John H Wright Photo)

In ourselves there is no hope. If we rely on our efforts, our knowledge, our works, to appease God’s righteous anger with our sin we become like a group of boy scouts trying to find our way through a dark, wet cave with no flashlight; we will get nowhere. Recognizing that fact, God paid the price in full for our sins. Justification for sin comes through the shedding of blood, and Jesus shed His blood on the cross in our behalf. The Light of the World has overcome the wet darkness of that cave of sin. Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords humbled Himself to die, that we who believe in Him would be forgiven and spared the punishment we deserve. That is Good News, indeed!

Ponder this: At we read about God’s wrath we must never forget that God shows His love and mercy through Jesus. Isn’t it comforting to know that through Jesus we are forgiven? Who in your world needs to hear this Good News?

 My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, I know I sin every day. I ask Your forgiveness as I seek to turn away from my sins and live a life that glorifies You. Thank you for Jesus’ sacrifice in my behalf for I know it is through Him and Him alone that I am reconciled to You. In His name I pray, AMEN.

Redefining “Seeker Sensitive” ~ Jeremiah 28:9-40

“The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, but let him who has My word speak My word in truth. What does straw have in common with grain?” declares the LORD. ~ Jeremiah 23:28

I carry a burden for the American church-at-large. Many churches today proclaim they are “seeker sensitive” – an honorable mission on the surface, but in reality a mission that too often results in a message tailor-made for a people who want nothing to do with a sovereign God. My burden for the American church is cast in the mold of false and watered-down teachings.

Dilution-grenadine

As I read Jeremiah, there can be no question as to how God feels about sin. But I also see a repeated theme that talks about those who prophesy falsely – those who claim to speak for God when they do not. In doing so, they mislead His people. God’s anger is stoked against them as well:

“For both prophet and priest are polluted; Even in My house I have found their wickedness,” declares the LORD. “Therefore their way will be like slippery paths to them, They will be driven away into the gloom and fall down in it; For I will bring calamity upon them, The year of their punishment,” declares the LORD. “Moreover, among the prophets of Samaria I saw an offensive thing: They prophesied by Baal and led My people Israel astray. Also among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: The committing of adultery and walking in falsehood; And they strengthen the hands of evildoers, So that no one has turned back from his wickedness. All of them have become to Me like Sodom, And her inhabitants like Gomorrah.” (Jeremiah 28:11-14)

Today, many churches refuse to discuss sin or God’s anger with sin. They don’t talk about God’s sovereignty over His creation, of which we are an integral part. Yes, they talk about forgiveness and love – but forgiveness from what? If one who does not know God shows up Sunday morning, what does she hear? Does she hear about her sin, her need for redemption, and the redemption our sovereign God offers only through Jesus Christ? Or is she told that she should seek to live her best life now because God wants her to feel happy, fulfilled, and pleased with herself? Is the unbeliever introduced to the sovereign Lord of Creation who wants so badly to be in relationship with His people, even though we sin in every way imaginable, that He sent His Son to save us from the eternal damnation we rightfully deserve? Or is he introduced to a casual, fun-loving god who is only out to make new friends as he grants our wishes for happiness and prosperity?

Without a full understanding of our sovereign God, and absent a complete understanding of how our sin positions us before God, a discussion of forgiveness is meaningless. When the church changes the message to appease the crowd, the unbeliever may walk away feeling darn good about himself and thinking all is well when, in reality, he is unprepared to face his holy and righteous judge. As the passage above says, “…they (those communicating false teachings) strengthen the hands of evildoers, So that no one has turned back from his wickedness” (verse 14). When the church conducts itself in this manner, it is not serving God and God is not pleased.

English: 4 days of Evangelism Training in Sout...

English: 4 days of Evangelism Training in Southern California provided by LivingWaters Ministry. Obeying the great commission of Jesus Christ. “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to everyone” Mark 16:15 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The primary purpose of the church is to offer worship to God while equipping believers to go out into the world and witness to the Gospel as Jesus commanded. The church was not intended to be a religious Field of Dreams (“If you build it, they will come”). Want to be truly “seeker sensitive”? The first step is to be honest. Help the unbeliever understand who God is – His awesome power, His sovereignty, and His love. Speak in love, not Pharisaical condemnation. Talk about the fact that we are all sinners, deserving of God’s wrath and eternal punishment. Once they understand that, share the sweet fruit of the Gospel and trust the Holy Spirit to grant the gift of faith. The Truth will set them free; anything less than God’s Truth only serves to tighten the binds of sin.

Ponder this: I take great comfort in the fact that God is completely sovereign over His creation. I treasure the fact that His Word is eternally true; I can build my life upon it with confidence, knowing that my destination for eternity is set through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those who don’t yet know Him deserve to know the truth. Are you ready to share it? Is your church sharing it?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, You have placed this burden on my heart for a reason. Help me to respond to You according to Your will. I lift up Your church and all who preach, teach, worship and learn there. Expose false teachings, Lord, and cause a holy reawakening to take place based on Your Word and Your Word alone. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN.

Eternal Truth Eternally ~ Acts 17:16-33

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. ~ Acts 17:22-23

Engraved plaque containing Apostle Paul's serm...

Engraved plaque containing Apostle Paul’s sermon, at the Areopagus, Athens, Greece. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have always enjoyed this passage, which describes Paul’s first visit to Athens. The Scripture describes Athens as a “city full of idols” and says that this greatly distressed Paul (verse 16). Athens was a city of philosophers, seeking the latest and greatest ideas. Seemingly leaving nothing to chance, they even erected an altar dedicated “to an unknown God” (verse 23). Paul declares that the god they worship as unknown is, indeed, knowable. Paul’s speech to the philosophers at the Areopagus is one of his most eloquent. He beautifully describes the nature of God and His desire for relationship with us. Falling largely on skeptical ears, we are told that “some” believed and became followers of Paul while others said they would like to hear more.

The Athens described in this passage reminds me in many ways of the United States today. We consider ourselves a “progressive” nation – a nation that accepts a diverse group of religious beliefs and cultures into its borders. Sadly, many in our nation also accept the notion of relative truth: what is true for me is only true for you if you accept it as true; in the same way your truth is completely true if you believe it to be so, even if it is not true for me. For many in the United States nothing is true of its own volition, including Scripture. I suspect that most of the philosophers whom Paul visited in Athens would have agreed with this philosophy of relative truth. This is very dangerous ground indeed, and it opens the door to sin, which in turn can destroy a society as it destroys us individually.

We Christians must read and study Scripture. We must seek God’s truth – which, by the way, is eternally true for both the believer and the unbeliever. We must lovingly convey God’s Truth to our neighbors and, just as Paul tailored his message to his audience at Athens, we must witness to the Truth in a manner that resonates with our audience while preserving the wholeness of God’s Truth – just as Paul did.

It sounds daunting, but we are in good company: When God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, one of Moses’ greatest concerns was that he would not have the words to convey to Pharaoh why he must let God’s people go. God said to Moses, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (Exodus 4:11-12). If we are doing God’s Will and if we are speaking God’s Truth – God’s Universal Truth – this promise extends to us as well.

Ponder this: Have I fallen into the trap of accepting relative truth? How would God have me address this in my world?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, there are so many falsehoods proclaimed as truth today. It’s easy to ignore those and go about my business, and for the times I’ve done that I ask Your forgiveness. Tune me into these falsehoods, Lord, and guide me in lovingly responding to them according to Your will. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

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