Posts tagged ‘death’

Faith Without Conditions

Faith. It is a fruit of the Spirit that is essential to our spiritual progress, and even our salvation. Much is said in the Scriptures about having faith enough to receive whatever we ask of The Lord. And it is correct to say that God rewards the faith of those who diligently seek Him.

But there is a deeper level of faith than the one required for receiving an affirmative answer to our requests. A question we all need to consider is this: “Do I have enough faith to get a ‘no’ from God?” Please let me illustrate what I mean.
If you are faced with a terminal illness, do you have enough trust and faith in God to continue to follow Him if you are not healed? Do you trust Him enough to die if that is His will? I submit to you that this takes more faith than receiving an instant healing.

That kind of faith was shown by the three Hebrew young men who refused to worship the golden statue of the king.

If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17, 18 NKJV)

Did you catch what they said? They believed that God could protect them, but were determined to follow His commandments even if their deliverance did not come. That is the kind of faith God is looking for — unconditional faith! I think it was there “no matter what” attitude that helped them to be delivered from the fiery furnace without even a hint of smoke on them. You see, faith is not belief without evidence; it is obedience without reservation.

In the Gospels, Jesus showed that same kind of faith in the Garden of Gethsemane.

He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will. ” (Matthew 26:39 NKJV)

Jesus’ depth of faith and trust was displayed by His willingness to receive form The Father whatever the divine will entailed. It involved subordinating His own will to that of the Father. It begs the question about our own faith. Am I willing to not shrink back in my faith if it means the will of God leads through the valley of the shadow of death? When it all comes down to it, will we be able to say what Job said? “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him (Job 13:15a).”

Too often today, the lost are told that they need to come to Christ because of all the things He will do to make life better for them. It’s a “me” centered message that is both harmful and unbiblical. Television preachers talk incessantly about how healing or deliverance hinges on how much faith they have. But salvation is not about having “our best life now” or being a success in business. It is about complete and utter surrender to the will of God, no matter where that leads us. That is why we need to be able to put aside what we desire and accept what He desires without reservation.

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Keeping It Simple

I like keeping things simple and easy to understand. There is a virtue in making sure we make things understandable for people, especially when it comes to salvation. We are not Gnostics with some special knowledge that is only for us. We have a life giving message that our Lord commissioned us to proclaim to everyone on earth. We don’t have time for a 1000 page dissertation on what it takes to become a Christian. So let’s break it down to three essential questions and answers we can give to someone who would ask us about what is required to be a Christian.

1. How much am I required to know?
You have to know something, but you don’t have to know everything. The Apostle Paul summarized it well in his letter to the church at Corinth.

“1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,”
(1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

You must believe that Christ died, was buried, and rose again. That is the Gospel message. But that leads to the next question,

2. What must I do about what I know?
You must participate in that death, burial, and resurrection, too. It’s called baptism. It sums up what you believe and shows that you have turned from your old way of life (called repentance). Again, Paul illustrates it for us, this time in Romans 6.

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, (Romans 6:3-5 NASB)

In effect, we are participating in what we know.

3. What happens after that?
We gather with other believers and remember that death, burial, and resurrection and encourage one another as we strive to follow Jesus.

Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16 NASB)

This walk of faith is not designed to be done alone. We gather to remember what Christ has done and to be equipped to share that message with others.

I realize this is very basic, but we must all begin somewhere. If we focus our evangelistic message on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, we also make sure that the message is not about us — it’s about Jesus. We are not commanded to convert people to us; we are commanded to make disciples of Jesus.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19, 20 NASB)

There are our marching orders. He tells us to make disciples and also tells us how to do it. Let us go forth in the simplicity of devotion to Christ with the truth of Jesus’ death burial and resurrection as our message. Amen.

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Being Terminal

I am terminal, and so are you. No, I don’t have some dreaded disease. Let me explain what I mean.

A few years ago, country singer Tim McGraw wrote a hit song that was inspired by his experience with his father who died from brain cancer. It was called “Live Like You Were Dying” and the message was one about how differently people live if they know the have a terminal disease. It certainly does provoke some deep thinking. What would we do differently? How would we treat others? What things would not be left unsaid?
Well I’ve got news for you. According to the Bible I’m terminal and so are you!

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, (Hebrews 9:27 ESV)

Well there you have it. Every one of us has an appointment with death that is certain to happen. If that’s not terminal, then what is? How long do you have? That is something none of us knows. It may be tomorrow, and it may be 90 years from now. But with this in mind, how should we live?

First off, make sure of your relationship with God. Look in the bible and find out what you must do to be saved. Don’t take someone else’s word for it, either. A dying man or woman needs to get the facts for themselves by doing their own research. You cannot afford to be wrong!

For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2 ESV)

Regarding salvation, you should also not delay telling someone about Jesus so that they can have faith in Him, too! Do not put it off until tomorrow. It could be your last chance to tell them, or their last chance to hear it. You are both terminal, so you can’t be sure. People’s eternal destiny hangs in the balance, so don’t withhold the Gospel because you don’t think they will receive it. Jesus could read men’s heart, not you. Plant the seed or water it, and let God provide the harvest!

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. (1 Corinthians 3:6, 7 NKJV)

Another thing to do is to walk in love and forgiveness. I have seen many people who made it their first order of business upon learning they were terminally ill, to make sure they had forgiven everyone, and asked for forgiveness where needed. Impending death has a way of clarifying what is important in life. I have also seen some weep with regret over things left unsaid. As our first verse said, we are all going to die, so make sure your relationships with others are right, with no thanks, or apologies left unsaid.

Lastly (although I am sure there could be more) do great things for God. Consider this for a moment. What would you do in service and love for God if you knew you would not fail? Would you learn a language and reach out to those from other cultures here or abroad with the Good News of Jesus? How far out of your comfort zone would you be willing to go to be a living epistle and show someone the love of God? Think about it! Jesus said He would be with us always, so you have nothing to fear and everything to gain.

When this life is over, wouldn’t it be wonderful to say along with the Apostle Paul:

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8 NKJV)

Time is running out. People are dying every day that don’t know Jesus. Do something! Live the adventure in Christ, and live like you were dying!

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Wanted: Dead & Alive!

Wanted: Dead & Alive!

No, that is what I meant to say. God is calling us to be in Christ, and to get there we have to be dead AND alive. What do I mean by that statement? Glad you asked. But what I would like to do is let the scriptures speak for themselves, with just a paragraph title.

We must be dead to sin and alive to righteousness.
“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” (Romans 6:3-8 NIV)

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:3-5 NIV)

We must be dead to our will and alive to do His will.
“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:19, 20 NIV)

We must die to our old life and be born again to a new life.
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. (John 3:3-5 NIV)

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB)

having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Colossians 2:12-14 NASB)

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The Crucible of Grief

“Why?”
It’s a question that leaps to the forefront of our thinking when we are confronted with a situation of pain and anguish. Especially when that situation involves the loss of a child. It’s difficult enough to bury your parents, but in the back of our minds we always knew we would someday. But it is totally unnatural to bury a child. There is a level of pain involved that never completely leaves us during this lifetime. We learn to cope and work through the pain, but the empty spot in our souls remains.
The songwriter Dana put it this way in a song about how Mary felt watching Jesus’ death:
I rocked him as a baby
I fed him as a child
I heard him call my name out in the night
I helped him take his first step
I cried when I heard his first words
I wish they all could see through a Mother’s eyes

There is no pain as acutely intense as that what a parent feels at the loss of their child. But our Heavenly Father knows how we feel at such a time, because he watched as his Son was illegally tried, falsely accused, and brutally murdered.

But we must never, not even for a little bit, think that the presence of pain is the absence of God. Jesus went to Bethany to comfort Martha and Mary after the death of their brother Lazarus. He came and wept with them, even though he knew he was going to resurrect Lazarus!
In Romans, Paul instructed Christians this way:
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15 NASB)

When ministering to someone who has lost a loved one, especially a child, there is nothing you can do or say that will make it all better. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, and will accomplish His mission. But sometimes it is very comforting to have someone who is there to weep with you, like Paul said to do. That is even more meaningful if you have been through a similar loss in your past.

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. (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4 NASB)

If you have suffered a loss in the past, don’t keep the comfort that was given to you all to yourself. Pass it on to another one who is suffering. Make sure they know that they are not alone. Just “be there” for them and take care of details so they can focus on the grieving process.

The sun will shine again, and life will go on. Know that you are not alone for you have brothers and sisters in Christ, and most of all, you are under the care of the Comforter. And when you feel like you have hit bottom, you are resting upon God!
“The eternal God is a dwelling place,
And underneath are the everlasting arms”
(Deuteronomy 33:27a NASB)

In memory of Sarah Elizabeth Reeves

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The Value Of Tears

There are a multitude of reasons to shed tears. I have wept hot tears of sorrow as I held my baby girl as her life slowly ebbed away in the newborn intensive care unit. I have seen many weep at the loss of a relationship or a treasured family pet. On the other hand, it is genuinely a pleasure to laugh so hard that you cry! And who would fault someone for getting misty-eyed at a tender and moving scene like a wedding or the birth of a baby?
It is normal for us to weep, and it is part of our human nature. Even Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus, even though He was about to raise him from the dead! (John 11:35) We are commanded to “weep with those who weep” and many times such weeping is more appreciated than words we could think to offer.
But tears are also a valuable addition to our individual ministry. As we pray for those with whom we share the Gospel, and weep over their lost condition, the Lord seems to use those tears to make the seeds of our prayers grow.
In Psalm 126 the psalmist wrote through inspiration, “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them. (Psalm 126:5, 6 NIV)
In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 NIV) Could it be that this comfort will be obtained as that for which we have wept before the Lord comes to fruition?

Elsewhere in Scripture, weeping is associated with repentance. David wrote this in Psalm 30:5,
“For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5 ESV)
This weeping, which Paul refers to as “godly sorrow”, is essential to our spiritual growth and progress. Paul explained it to the Corinthian Christians this way:
“As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.” (2 Corinthians 7:9-11 ESV)
Furthermore, this godly sorrow gets God’s attention. It is often referred to in the Bible as “a broken and contrite heart.” Let’s take a look at Isaiah 66. Jehovah is speaking and lets His people know that He is in need of nothing, and there is no building they could erect that He would find impressive. But look in verse 2 and see what DOES cause God to turn and look.
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?
All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word.'” (Isaiah 66:1, 2 ESV)
Wow! Do you want to get God’s attention and have Him look with favor on you? Be humble, contrite in heart, and be in awe of His Word such that you tremble at the thought of the value of it!

But tears and crying will not always be with us. There will surely come a day when death and tears and crying will be no more. I mentioned briefly the passing of my infant daughter. She was only with us for eight hours, but I know that she is not gone away, but rather she has gone ahead. When she was buried we put the reference to this verse on her gravestone.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 ESV)
Speaking of eternity together with the Lord can be an abstract theological discussion. But all of that changes when you face reality and no safety net, and faith in the Everlasting arms is all you’ve got to stand on. But rest assured, the God who spoke the universe into existence and sent His only begotten Son to redeem us cannot lie, and what he has promised will surely come to pass.
Weeping may last the night, but there will most definitely be joy in that eternal morning!

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