If Only For This Life…

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My Musings – “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20, NIV 1984).  What if there was no “but?”

Our Faith Is Futile – Incapable of producing any useful result; pointless.

We Are Lost – Beyond recovery or redemption.

We Are Hopeless – Having no hope or chance of changing or improving.

We Are To Be Pitied – To feel sadness or sympathy for someone’s unhappiness or bad situation.

The all-seeing eye of God beheld our deplorable state; infinite pity touched the heart of the Father of mercies; and infinite wisdom laid the plan of our recovery. – David Brainerd.

We are not to be pitied, because God took pity on us.  The death of His Son on the cross gave us a chance at improving our hopeless situation.  He recovered the unrecoverable.  He redeemed the unredeemable.  What we were incapable of, He was more than capable.

My Advice – If you live “only for this life,” “you are still in yours sins,” and “are to be pitied,” for your life is “futile.”  This need not be.  Turn to Christ.  Live for the life to come.  Your faith will not be in vain.

 

 

 

No Disappointment

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My Musings – There’s a lot packed into these few verses.  Today, I want to focus on the linkage between peace and suffering.  How is it that some people can be subjected to so much suffering and yet still experience a “peace that surpasses all understanding?

Like a good mystery novel, you need to unravel the clues.  Follow the trail of evidence to wherever it leads.

Faith – We gain access to faith through God’s good graces.  Without faith it is impossible to please God, and yet we only have it because He gives (a gift) it to us.

Justification – Only by exercising the faith that God has given us, through His grace (also given), can we be justified (by grace we are saved – justified – through faith).  While exercising our faith is an action, it is not a work, because we know we are not saved by works.  It (salvation) is a gift.  Yet we do not have the gift just because it is offered.  We have to accept it.

Peace – We can only have peace (not as the world gives peace) if we have been justified (reconciled to God).  Genuine peace with God can only happen through reconciliation, which means eliminating the differences that separate us.  These differences would otherwise be irreconcilable if Jesus had not died to satisfy (eliminate) what caused the differences in the first place.  Caused by us (our action), eliminated by the cross (God’s action through HIs Son), offered to us as a free gift (God’s grace), and accepted through faith (our action).

Hope – Hope in the hereafter, where “we shall be like Him,” (“of the glory of God“).  Hope is desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment.  Just like peace is not as the world give peace, hope is likewise not as the world experiences hope.  For the world, hope is a desire for something but no assurance.  For the believer, there is belief and expectation (assurance) because of Him who made the promise.  A “hope that does not disappoint us” because of Him who pours it out in love.

Suffering – Curiously linked to both peace and hope.  For the world, peace and suffering rarely coexist.  And hope seems almost futile.  For the Christian, suffering need not destroy hope.  If often magnifies it.  And while suffering does not bring peace, the Christian can experience peace while suffering.  That is what we can rejoice about.  Not that we are experiencing it, but that it magnifies hope and need not rob us of our peace.  Something that truly surpassing understanding.

And All The Rest – A Christian’s hope and peace are not merely intangible feelings.   They have tangible results – perseverance, character and (more) hope.

Another Gift – The Holy Spirit, who lives (and so much more) within us.

And where does the trail of evidence lead? To God. The faith we have is from God.  It is His grace that justifies us through the gift of HIs Son’s death and resurrection.  It is Him who gives us peace and backs up our hope.  The trail of evidence clearly points to Him.

My Advice – Don’t give up hope.

In My Life, I Loved Him So

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My Musings – The above picture was taken three years ago today.  We had gotten dad into DeKalb County rehab for what we thought would be a short stint to get his strength back.  His heart condition had been worsening, but we had no idea how near the end was.  He looked pretty good that day, but my dad died from heart failure on September 15th, less than three weeks later.  The man who used to carry me on his shoulders, was carried away by the Angels to his reward.

In My Life
The Beatles

There are places I’ll remember
All my life though some have changed.
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain.

All these places had their moments
With [family] and friends I still can recall.
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all.

But of all these friends and [family]
There [are few who] compares with you.
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new.

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before.
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you [still].

Songwriters: John Lennon, Paul McCartney
© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
For non-commercial use only.

One of my favorite Beatles’ songs.  The lyrics move me.  “In my life” I can recall many male roles models that have helped shape my life.  But Dad, there is no male role model that “compares with you.”  We often “stop and think about” you.  The void left by your passing can never be filled. Gone, but never forgotten, and we’ll “never lose affection.”

Time has allowed the grief to dull a bit, but not completely.  But we do not “grieve like the rest of men who have no hope.”  For “according to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15–18, NIV 1984).

My Advice – We are encouraged by these words. My wish for you is that you share the same hope.  If so, be encouraged.  If not, you can share in this blessed hope by believing and receiving Jesus Christ as you personal Savior.  My series of musings on “The Born Again Experience” (see archives) can show you how.

For an inspiring version of the above song, google  “In My Life” by Selah.  It will give you chills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Return of the King

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My Musings – “We who have lived long under the Shadow may surely listen to echoes from a land untroubled by it?” (From “The Return of the King,” J. R. R. Tolkien). The shadow we live under grows longer and the darkness and distress spreads. For “immediately after the distress of those days ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’” (Matthew 24:29, NIV 1984).  But once again, “the people living in darkness [will see] a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light [will] dawn.” (Matthew 4:16, NIV 1984).  “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:27, NIV 1984).

Afterwards the “distress of those days” will be no more than “echoes from a land untroubled by it.”  For “now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:3-5, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Just try to imagine it. The “great glory.”   What John saw was so unimaginable, that the best way he could describe it was what was not there.  The things (tears, death, mourning, crying, pain) that we will be “untroubled by.”  For “the old order of things has passed away.”  Yes, in this world we will have trouble that we have to live under.  But take heart, He has overcome the world!

 

Who Are You Really?

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My Musings – We are not born with character.  It is borne from our experiences.  Usually difficult experiences.  However, while many people experience difficulties, and even persevere in spite of them, character is not produced in all of us.  While suffering and perseverance are almost always a prerequisite for building character, it does not always result in character. “Character does not suddenly appear when we reach the mountain peak. It is something we develop on the journey up. The sometimes long, sometimes arduous journey.” (Adapted from “Leaders Eat Last,” Simon Sinek).

Many people may appear (have a reputation) to have character, but under the surface (who they really are) they do not.  Our true character is revealed in a variety of ways.  Here are a few:

George Orwell – “The real test of character is how you treat someone who has no possibility of doing you any good.”

Abraham Lincoln – “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

John Wooden – “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

J. K. Rowling – “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a look at how he treats his ‘inferiors,’ not his ‘equals.'”

Stephen Covey – “A moment of choice is a moment of truth.  It’s the testing point of our character and competence.”

Unknown – “Everyone tries to define this thing called Character. It’s not hard. Character is doing what’s right when nobody’s looking.”

My Advice – Character is the only thing you can take out of this life.  A treasure to store up that moths and rust cannot corrupt. Only we can do that.  Quick, while no one is looking, what choice will you make?  Your reputation may not suffer from your choice, but what about your character?  Choose wisely, it might just be your defining moment.

The Real Prosperity Gospel

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My Musings – The context of this verse is the Babylonian captivity that would last seventy years.  A captivity brought on by a rebellious and sinful nation.  God has always had plans for His people.  Good plans.  But somehow, sin always seemed to get in the way.

God never intended for mankind to ever have to leave the garden, but sin got in the way. God never intended to have to wipe out mankind (except Noah and his family) by a flood, but sin got in the way.  God never intended to have to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, but sin got in the way.  God never intended to need to send His chosen people into exile, but sin got in the way.  God never intended for His creation to result in the crucifixion of His Son, but sin got in the way.  Yet despite all this, and more, God continues to have plans for us.

The word “prosper” in today’s text is the translation of the Hebrew word šālōm, a term denoting well-being, wholeness, harmony, and peace. (Martens, E. A., 1995. Jeremiah. In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, Vol. 3, p. 540. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.)  It has nothing to do with riches, wealth or treasures.  God’s concern goes much deeper (into the soul of mankind – the hope) and much further (into all eternity – the future).  It always has.

Before the fall, even before the creation, God knew His plans to prosper those He made in His image would require the ultimate sacrifice on His part.  It was not His intention, but it was His plan.  His plan not to harm us, resulted in the severest harm to His Son.  In the process, He “bankrupted” Heaven in order to prosper us.

My Advice – Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.  You’ll not have to seek any further.

Stand Firm or Not At All

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My Musings – “Stand for something or you will fall for anything. Today’s mighty oak is yesterday’s nut that held its ground.” Probably said by Rosa Parks (Rosa Louise McCauley Parks, 1913 – 2005, African American civil rights activist).  Variations of the first part of this quote have been attributed to many different people, with the true origin of the quote unknown.  I think we might be safe in attributing it to Isaiah.

The Biblical definition of faith, is found in Hebrews 11:1:  “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (NIV 1984).” In other words, a firm belief in something for which there is no proof.   Another version states that it is the substance (what’s tangible) of hope (what’s intangible), the evidence (proof) of what cannot be seen (unprovable).  You may end up being called a nut.  But if you don’t stand firm, you’ll never become a might oak.  in fact, if you do not stand firm, you will not stand at all.

My Advice – Don’t just stand for something.  Stand for someone.  Stand for a firm belief in Jesus Christ.  If you do, though you cannot see it, you can be certain that you will never fall.  You’d be nuts not to.