Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lessons from God and Benjamin

It was four years ago today that our son, Benjamin, was stillborn. While there is still sorrow, God has been very gracious and faithful in using his life. On Wednesday, April 21, I shared our story and some lessons that God has taught us at Immanuel Baptist. I called the testimony Lessons from God and Benjamin. I hope you are encouraged to hear how God works even through our pain. He never wastes a hurt.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Where Do You Find Assurance?

Perhaps someone has asked you, “If you died today, how do you know you would go to Heaven?” or “If you died tonight, where would you wake up?” I know I have had people from a few different religious groups ask this question. None of us delight in spending much time thinking about what will happen to us when we die, but the truth is that death is a reality that none escape. What if where you go when you die has an effect on the way you live? Notice, I didn’t ask what if the way you live has an effect on where you go when you die. I said it the other way around. I said it this way because the Bible makes this statement.

In 1 Peter 1, Peter says that those who place their faith in Jesus Christ have been born to a living hope with an inheritance that is stored in Heaven where it is imperishable and undefiled. He says this promise, then, should lead Christians to a life of obedience and holiness. So, a Christian’s belief that they will be in Heaven with Christ at the moment of death should have a great impact on their life.

Two questions come to mind. First, how do you know if you will be in Heaven with Christ when you die? Second, if you believe you will be in Heaven with Christ when you die, are you growing in obedience to His teaching and holy living?

To answer the first question, the Bible is clear that we cannot earn salvation. In Ephesians 2:8-10 we learn that God’s forgiveness and pardon is a gift of God’s grace and cannot be earned. You cannot be good enough or smart enough to earn God’s pardon. Forgiveness from Christ is given when we repent of our sins and turn to Christ for forgiveness and leadership in life. Jesus Christ is able to give this forgiveness because of His perfect life and substitutionary death on the cross. The Gospel is the promise that Christ has taken the punishment we deserve and it is a call for us to repent of our sins and make Him the Lord of our lives. It makes little difference that you grew up in the Bible belt or that you or your family has been in church for a long time. The only true peace with God comes from forgiveness from Jesus Christ.

This salvation should bring more than just the hope of Heaven though. The mercy of Jesus Christ causes Christians to live differently. Christians should turn away from selfishness and pride and be known for their love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. While Christians are not perfect in these areas, there should be real change. Perhaps you believe yourself to be a Christian, but do not see these changes. While the process is a slow one at times, if it is not present perhaps you should examine your basis of salvation. Why not talk today with someone you believe to be a true Christian? It is worth considering as life now and evermore rests upon it.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Lesson from Suffering

Suffering is something that no one can escape. I am often reminded when preaching a funeral that one day I’ll be mourning the loss of someone in my family. I will be the one seeking the comfort rather than simply trying to give it. I think we often overlook the great lesson of humility that should come with suffering. Suffering causes us to ask questions that we don’t like to face. These questions are usually very difficult for us to answer. Yet, rather than being angry when we are stumped, perhaps a better solution would be to learn humility.

Suffering is a great leveling force. When we are faced with a terminal illness or condition our money makes little difference. When people are suffering I haven’t heard them long for more accolades or prestige. No, the cry is the same for everyone – relief. Even the desire for relief is humbling. If we could deliver it to ourselves, we would. Wouldn’t you agree that it is humbling to long for relief and be unable to find it? We are devastated by the reality that we are not self-sufficient after all. We are left to realize that we are indeed finite. We are left to realize that the world keeps turning even when we are on the sick bed. Those are stark revelations for many of us. Our pride fuels us to think that everyone is need of our intellect, opinions or abilities. Suffering humbles us and teaches us this is not so.

Suffering also hurts our pride because we realize we need help from others. Often we will settle for something that is less than the best because we are protecting our pride. We are award-winning actors as we try to make others believe we can manage for ourselves. However, when real suffering comes we can’t help but call for help. When others have to bathe us or help us to the bathroom our pride can’t last. Suffering brings this humility.

I can’t help but think of how God uses this process. Suffering causes us to realize that we need others. And, how we need our Creator. We are reminded of how frail and needy we are. We believe our bodies to be strong, but they can be broken in a second. We believe our spirit to be persevering, but it can be brought low in an instant. We may go to extreme measures to hide it, but the truth is we are needy people.

Will you look for humility in suffering? Perhaps you’ve known it before, but have forgotten. Won’t you remember to serve others? One day you will need to be served by others. Won’t you comfort those who grieve? One day you will need to be comforted? Don’t waste the suffering God intends to use for good. Learn from it, help others and turn to Him for help.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

It Was Love

It was love that carried Him from the table to the cross.
It was love that caused Him to be betrayed by a kiss.
It was love that coped with the whip’s strong blow.
It was love.

It was love that relentlessly drove Him to the hill.
It was love that received the hammer’s blows.
It was love that restrained His cries for relief.
It was love.

It was love that offered up His life.
It was love that opened not His mouth.
It was love that overflowed as blood.
It was love.

It was love that sin was poured upon Him.
It was love that shame was worn as a robe.
It was love that sorrow was endured.
It was love.

It was love that salvation was accomplished.
It was love that sunset brought anguish.
It was love that sunrise brought resurrection.
It was love.