Longing for Eternity – September 24, 2021

Another funeral this week reminded me how great Heaven will be. This life indeed contains many joys. Family, the church, sports, and the like bring me a smile and genuine happiness. However, we also know struggle fills this life. Relational conflict, physical health, emotional fragility, and the like create a battle with anxiety and frustration. Sin stains everything in this world. But the day is coming when we will live in a place unstained by sin. There will be no relational conflict. We will all live in perfect harmony. There will be no physical struggles. Our bodies will be made perfect. There will be no emotional fragility. We will find perfect fulfillment and joy in God.

Revelation informs us that Heaven will be a place of perfect beauty. Dazzling construction, unique creatures, and God himself will overwhelm us with beauty. Heaven will be a place of peace. God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Heaven will be a place of perfect peace, for there will be no sorrow there.

All those in Christ who have gone before us enjoy that perfection today. Those of us left behind long for it. But until the day that God calls us home, we serve God in anticipation of that day. Through the way the church worships and interacts, we should seek to do our part to reveal Heaven to a lost and dying world. And we should seek to regularly share the gospel so that others might also experience that joy. And we long for that glorious day.

 

There is coming a day when no heartaches shall come,

No more clouds in the sky,

No more tears to dim the eye;

All is peace forevermore

On that happy golden shore,

What a day, glorious day, that will be.

 

There’ll be no sorrow there,

No more burdens to bear,

No more sickness, no pain, no parting over there;

And forever I will be

With the One who died for me;

What a day, glorious day, that will be.

 

~ Jim Hill



God will Help – September 17, 2021

Speaking with many of you and others around the country this week, I found that many are going through deep waters. Physical, financial, relational, and emotional troubles abound. Some have suffered the loss of loved ones. Some have suffered a loss of tangible items like homes and cars. Some have suffered the loss of physical health. Some face serious, relational conflict. In each case, each individual and I have felt overwhelmed. We feel frustrated, stuck, confused, hurt, and even angry. In preparation for Sunday’s message, I have spent some time meditating on Psalm 121. In the times that we are overwhelmed, frustrated, and angry, God remains faithful. Keep looking up! May it be a blessing and encouragement to you as it is for me:

 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.

God remains faithful. He has not lost control. Trust in His unfailing care, especially when you can’t see it. Maintain a proper view of God so that you can maintain a proper view of life.



20 Years Later – September 10, 2021

Twenty years ago, we went to bed with no idea the world would change forever. Perhaps you remember what you were thinking about that night. I watched the Broncos play a football game against the Giants. The Broncos star wide receiver suffered a gruesome broken leg, effectively ending any chance of a good season. I went to bed disappointed. No matter what you went to bed thinking about, the following day rearranged our priorities. Certain events serve as linchpin events in history. September 11, 2001, serves as one of those events. Now twenty years later, we are asking many of the same questions.

A primary question that we continue to ask is, “Why does tragedy happen?” Jesus was asked the same question in Luke 13. There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

A group of people informed Jesus about a bloody rebellion against Rome by a group of Galileans. The Roman curate Pilate quelled the uprising by massacring the rebels in the temple, causing their blood to mingle with the blood of the sacrifices. Jesus’ response is not one we would expect. Instead of declaring their innocence, He turned the situation into a lesson. It is not remarkable that tragedy happens because sin is prevalent. Instead, it is amazing that more tragedy does not occur. So, we must always take stock of our souls so that we are ready for death.

Tragedy serves as a gospel opportunity. These events cause individuals to be aware of their mortality. As a result, they begin to ask deep questions. And the gospel is always the answer. Jesus is our hope in life and death. He will ultimately conquer sin. He will redeem his people and all creation. The tragedy is not an argument against God but an argument for God.

Twenty years later, we will be reminded of the tragic events which took place. Conversations will occur about our various experiences that sad day. Some will shake their heads and then return to life. I would encourage you to take advantage of the gospel opportunities which present themselves. As Christ warned the crowd, so we must warn them. No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 



A Celebration of Labor – September 3, 2021

This weekend we celebrate labor. As a general rule, we don’t usually think of work as something to celebrate. With irony, we do celebrate it this weekend by not working. Yet, the holiday points to the importance of work. Our society seems to have lost any desire and priority for labor. Every business owner laments the challenge of finding employees. The average worker feels the strain of a smaller workforce. And even those who work hard work for the weekend and retirement.

As Christians, we must remember that work is a good creation of God. Work is not the result of the Fall. When we read Genesis 1 and 2, we discover that God created work in the Garden. God placed Adam in the Garden in absolute perfection. God created labor in the Garden as part of that absolute perfection. Therefore, we learn that work is not a result of sin. Genesis 3 informs us that the trials of work, the hardship of work, and the travails of work result from the Fall. From this reality, we must make two important conclusions.

First, work is an act of worship. Everything we do points to the God (or god) that we serve. Work is no different. Since God created work in the Garden, He made it as an act of worship. Our work ethic points to God. So, God has called you to your work. Just as God calls some men to the ministry, so also God calls you to your job. Martin Luther famously and rightly stated that the farmer shoveling manure and the maid milking her cow please God as much as the minister preaching and praying. Our work is also an act of worship. Your work is also evangelistic. The way you work says something about your God. Hard work, good attitudes, servant-mindedness, and faithful dedication demonstrate that God is sovereign, loving, and caring. Laziness, selfishness, and a lack of commitment indicate that God is not that great and that you are your god.

Second, this means that we should work hard and with the right attitude. We should not avoid the work to which God has called us. Instead of working for the weekend or counting the days to retirement, we should focus on pleasing God in the work to which He called us. Work hard, work well, work with integrity, and honor your authority. Ecclesiastes 9:10 reminds us, Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might ….”

So this weekend, as you celebrate labor by not laboring, remember the labor to which God called you. Don’t see work as a burden but as an act of worship. Please God with how you work. Work as a Christian.

 



Live in the Present – August 27, 2021

Yesterday my oldest went to High School. Today my youngest becomes a teenager. Days like today cause me to pause and consider life. It seems like yesterday that they were preschoolers terrorizing the house. As I think back on this, I consider the times that I took it all for granted. I became so busy working for the future that I forgot to live in and make the most of the present. Time is one thing that we can’t have back. Once used, it is gone forever.

How often do we fail to live in the present? When we are younger, we seem to live in the future. Everything is geared towards building our career, buying the house and toys, and working towards retirement. When we are older, we seem to live in the past. We long for the good old days (which seem to get better with every telling). In both situations we fail to recognize that God has placed us in a particular place today in which to accomplish his purposes. Perhaps this is why many seem so unhappy.

In Philippians 4 Paul stated that he learned in every state and stage of life to be content with God’s work in his life. He did this because of his focus on Christ who strengthened him. That change in life you are convinced will make you happy and content will not accomplish what you think it will accomplish. You will be the constant unhappy self. Instead recognize the gifts that God has granted you today and make the most of them. A statement I find myself saying to my boys regularly is, “Be where you are.” I say it often because I need that message as much as they do.

Instead of looking towards what we don’t have. Instead of focusing so much on the future or the past. Look at what God has for you today. Dad, stop the project you feel you have to accomplish or the hobby you just can’t get away from and spend some time with your children and wife. Mom, the house will always need cleaning, watch a movie with your kids and husband. Grandparent, the past was not as great as you remember. Instead of griping, encourage and invest in your family. Let’s take the time to get to know our neighbors. Let’s not put off to tomorrow what we should be doing today. Remember, time is something you never get back. Be content with what God has granted you. Live in the present and cherish the moment.



Pray for Afghanistan – August 20, 2021

Any who have followed current events have watched in horror the challenges in Afghanistan this week. It is certain that God will hold accountable those political leaders who made such disastrous decisions and fell asleep at the wheel. Yet, today, I do not want to focus on the political failures (although they are massive), but rather on the need to bring our brothers and sisters in Christ before the Throne of Grace.

Reports continue to come from Afghanistan that the Taliban is actively searching for and executing believers and committing gross atrocities against their families, specifically against the young women in their families. The borders to neighboring countries are guarded and closed, the cities are no refuge, so many of our fellow believers are taking to the mountains to hide. All the while, they are still doing their best to gather and worship.

All that is happening serves as an important reminder to us. First, this reminds us of the reality of persecution. In America we have been largely immune to it. Yet, as it draws ever nearer, we look to those who are now suffering it as an example to us of faithfulness. Second, it reminds us of the blessing we have to worship together in freedom. I have been saddened by the propensity in our nation and frankly our church for believers to use every excuse not to gather with their fellow believers on Sunday morning. Camping, seasonals, house chores, unnecessary events, and frankly just being tired have all replaced the desire to gather with God’s people. This ought not be the case. We should long to be together. We should do all we can to ensure that we are there. Be in church on Sunday. Don’t miss for something that can be avoided. Third, we should drop to our knees and pray desperately for our brothers and sisters around the globe who are suffering for the cause of Christ.

Hebrews 13:3 reminds us, “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” We cannot forget to bring these brothers and sisters in Afghanistan to God. We cannot allow the business of life to move our care for them to the background. Take some time right now to pray for them. Below are some links to help you in your prayers.

Lament and Hope: How to Pray for Afghanistan’s Women (thegospelcoalition.org)

Afghan Pastors Ask for Prayer : 9Marks



Run with Focus, Part 2 – August 13, 2021

While the Olympics are over, I would like to finish the conversation we started last week. Like the Olympic runners, we are also in an important race: the race of the Christian life. Today I would like to continue to draw our attention to the parallel found in Hebrews 12:1-3: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

Last week we examined the need to lay aside everything that slows us down in the race. Sin is included in this. But also included are things that are not necessarily wrong but steal our focus. Next, we learn that we must run with endurance. The race of the Christian life is long and hard. It will require endurance. Despite the message of many major preachers and churches, the Christian life is not always fun, easy, or painless. In fact, an honest examination of Scripture reveals that often, it is hard. So, we must learn to press forward with endurance.

The writer gives us the key to this endurance: our focus. In all of life, we are to focus on Christ. He is the one who authored this Christian life. The eternal plan of God called out you for this race. He planned every step of this race. So you can trust His sovereign care in the race. Further he perfected (or finished perfectly) the race. Earlier the writer of Hebrews reminded us that we have a savior who feels our struggles because he lived a human life perfectly. He will help us through this race.

Your life may feel overwhelming, and you may wonder how you can continue. You are tired and weary. Yet you need not quit. Consider Christ and all that he faced for your redemption. He saved you, he will not lose you. When we contemplate Christ, it will give us the strength to carry on. He awaits us at the other side of the finish line with the wreath of victory, ready to proclaim, “Well done!” See Christ and press forward. Don’t get distracted by the things of this world. 



Run with Focus – August 6, 2021

Perhaps like me you have spent time over the past few days watching the Olympics. We are fascinated by the amazing athletes accomplishing things we could never do. One aspect I particularly enjoy in the Olympic games is the track and field aspect. The speed, agility, and strength of these athletes is astounding. However, I am constantly reminded of the parallels the Scripture writers make between the Olympic races and the Christian life.

Today I would like to draw our attention to the parallel found in Hebrews 12:1-3: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

The writer of Hebrews has just concluded an amazing chapter regaling the faith of the Old Testament saints. All of them longed for the thing that we have: the knowledge of the cross. They had faith that God would redeem them; they just didn’t know the details. We do! As a result, the writer pictured these saints as the spectators in the crowd looking down on us running our race. They have finished their race and are waiting to see how we finish ours.

So, we are challenged to run this race in the most efficient and successful way possible. We are to set aside the things that will slow us down: weights and sin. Our Olympic athletes wear uniforms designed to weigh as little as possible and reduce as much drag as possible. We would be appalled to see an athlete show up in the starting blocks dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. That is not a bad outfit, we wear it all the time. But it is not the best outfit for running in a high-level race in which the athletes are separated by hundredths of a second. We each have many things in life we need to set aside to run our Christian race effectively. Things that are not necessarily bad, but do not help us advance towards Christ. The wise and effective Christian will regularly examine their life and eliminate the unnecessary items that are hindering their walk with God. Just because it is not sin is no reason to keep it.

Beyond these weights, we also are beset by ever-present sin. Too often we excuse and justify sin instead of eliminating it. We must recognize that these sins will always come with a cost. So, examine your life and eliminate that which is holding you back from being an effective Christian. Prepare for your Christian race like the athlete prepares for the Olympic race.



The Importance of the Family – July 30, 2021

I am so thankful for the time that I am able to spend with my family. In the busyness of life, it is easy to forgo these important times. At creation, God instituted the family. As a result, it stands as a bedrock of society. When a society devalues the family, the road to societal collapse begins. If we are to live differently as Christians, it is vital that we value the family.

First, we must value our immediate family. Husbands and wives, value one another. Ephesians 5 informs us that our marital relationship is a picture of the gospel. Husband, value your wife. Take an interest in her interests whether they are something you particularly enjoy or not. Date your wife. It saddens me to see so many Christian husbands who do not value their wives enough to set aside time to take them on a date. It doesn’t need to be somewhere expensive. Some of the best dates my wife and I have been on have been to McDonald’s or the local diner for pie and coffee. Help her with housework. It is not “the wife’s job.” It’s your job to serve her. Wives, gladly serve your husband. Don’t be a nag. Don’t harp on him. Don’t take your emotions out on him. Love him in spite of his mistakes. Value one another. Parents, value your children. The time is quickly coming when they will be out of the home. Value the fact that life is a little louder with them around. Value the times they ask you to “look at this.” Spend intentional time with them. Don’t see them as a distraction. That “distraction” will be gone soon enough.

Second, we must value our extended family. This can be harder at times but is no less important. The command to honor our parents does not have a time constraint to it. Take time to talk to them. Help them with their needs. Value their advice. Value your siblings and their families. We all know that family can be challenging. But it is the front lines for our gospel example. So don’t dread the family gatherings. Be thankful for them. Ask God to allow you to be a blessing to them and receive a blessing from them.

Society continues to devalue the family. Parents are encouraged to farm out the raising of their children to others. Husbands and wives are seen as the “old ball and chain” that weigh us down. Extended family is to be tolerated at best. Yet, without the family unit, society degrades. See your family as a gift from God to be valued and nurtured. And watch God work in your own life to grow you through your family. May we be known as different for our relationships with our family. 



As the Rain Falls – July 23, 2021

Sitting in my office, watching the rain falling outside, I think of God’s statement in Isaiah 55: For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” And as I think about this statement, I remember that I often underestimate the Word of God.

Just as the rain falling outside is essential for the growth of the fields, gardens, and grass, so the Word of God is essential for my growth in life. In times of drought, the world turns brown and dead. Crops fail, and gardens wilt. In those times, no one thinks that the answer is to plant more. Everyone understands that the problem is a lack of water. So often in life, we create a spiritual drought. Trials come, friends fail, money gets tight, bodies break down, and relationships suffer. Yet so often, we turn to all the wrong things for the answer to our discomfort. We look to the wrong things to provide us with direction, satisfaction, and happiness. Yet, time will reveal that these things cannot do what we are asking of them. Instead, we need the water of the Word.

Yet, this Word comes with a promise. As it leaves God’s mouth, it will not return without results. What God purposed with the Word will be accomplished. It will produce growth. At the beginning of Isaiah 55, God invites all who are thirsty to come to him to find water; all who are weary to come to him to find strength; all who are discouraged to come to him to find hope. We find him in his Word.

As you walk through the various valleys and struggles in life, look to the Word for hope and comfort. Discover in the Word the strength to carry on. It will not fail. Through faithful study and meditation of the Word, you will thrive in life regardless of the circumstances. When you are in the drought times of life, remember the rain and turn to the Word of God.