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Why God Matters During the Weeks from Hell

by on Nov.04, 2018, under Hope

It was our week from hell.  I was finishing up a weekend seminar for a church in Oklahoma and I got the call at 5:00AM.  One of my cousins had died and they wanted me to do the funeral in East Texas on Wednesday morning.  I was scheduled to preach for a church in West Texas Wednesday night but we believed we could drive in late Tuesday, do the funeral the next morning, then drive back just in time to preach that night. 

It was about 9:30 that night that our daughter called to let us know that my sister-in-law was on the way to the hospital with what was believed to be a heart attack.  So we spent most of that night getting updates and praying for her.

We were at the family lunch after the funeral on Wednesday getting ready to leave when we got the call that my Mom was on the way to the hospital with severe pain.

It was a horrible week.  Satan was determined to shake our world.  Death, pain, fear, and the helpless feeling of not being to be with everyone and take care of everything.  My cousin was dead, my sister-in-law could be in critical condition, and my Mom is almost 88 so any health issue could result in death.

And God took care of it.

My cousin’s funeral was a celebration of a life lived for Jesus.  Our family and his church family told stories, laughed through the tears, and clung to the hope that is found in Jesus.  He will live forever, and we will see him again.  Just like if my sister-in-law or my Mom had died.  Satan tried to use death and the fear of death as a weapon.  Jesus already disarmed him.

My daughter and one of my wife’s cousins took care of my sister-in-law.  Then my wife’s brother and his wife came to help with the sister and then with my Mom.  My daughter came back in the afternoon to help with my Mom.  A dear couple from church came to the hospital to help sit with everyone till we could get home.

My sister-in-law did not have a heart attack.  Pain from some other issues mimicked the symptoms but she was soon home.  It was a kidney stone for my Mom.

God turned the week from hell into a victory.

Because Jesus was raised from the dead. 

Prayer works.

And we have family that will gladly do what we could not.

You will have your week from hell sooner or later.

God can turn it into victory for you too.

All you need is faith and a family.

We can help you.   


Use all your strength

by on Oct.07, 2018, under Hope

A young boy was helping his father gather firewood. The boy attempted to hoist a log far too heavy and toppled to the ground. He tried time and again to lift the log, only to fail each time.

“I can’t do it, Dad,” the boy complained.

“That’s because you’re not using all your strength,” his father replied.

To prove his father wrong, the young lad gave one last mighty pull on the log. This time his father lifted the boy (and the log) high into the air, helping to place the log on the stack of wood.

“You weren’t using all your strength,” the dad explained. “You didn’t ask me for help.”

There are things in life that are far too big for us. Too many times, we try to tackle these problems by ourselves, falling on our faces like the young boy with the log.

What we really need to do is to learn to depend on God, to seek His help, to let Him fight our battles?

“‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.”
(Zechariah 4:6)

It’s not about “let go and let God.” It’s about letting God take our strength and multiply to be more than enough for any task.

Use all your strength. Including the help that God wants to give you.


Thinking about Your Death

by on Aug.26, 2018, under Hope

She is too young to be in Hospice but that is where she now finds herself.  Cancer.  She is very aware that her time here is drawing to a close.  She and her husband have had the talks about letting go, and what happens after she is gone.  She has faced the reality that she will not help her daughter plan her wedding.  She will not get to help with the grandbabies.

She is not unique.  People die every day.  Accidents, heart attacks, cancer, murder.  Death is a certainty for all us.  This life will end.  All of us know someone that has died.  Old and young, rich and poor, suddenly and over a matter of months.  I will die someday.  You will too. 

Some see death as an enemy to fight or a foe to vanquish.  Some rage against the reality of their own passing.  Others mourn.  Some try to deny it.  Don’t talk about it or acknowledge it.

But not my friend.  She is looking death square in the face and accepting it. 

Because of Jesus.

We Christians speak often of the death of Jesus on the cross for our sins.  But we also very much believe he was raised from the dead.  He defeated death.  Conquered it.  So believers view death differently.

We believe we too, just like Jesus, will be resurrected to live forever.  We believe we will see our loved ones again.  We believe that we will live forever in the presence of God.  There will be no more pain or suffering.  God himself will wipe away our tears.  We will see him face to face.

Do not misunderstand.  We grieve and mourn the death of our loved ones.  But we do not grieve like those with no hope.  We are hope grievers.

You can be also.  Jesus died for your sins.  You too can be raised from the dead to live forever with God. 

And that changes everything.


So Which of These Are You?

by on Jul.01, 2018, under Hope

I have heard it said that every person finds themselves in one of four places when it comes to their relationship to God.  They are saved and they know it.  They are saved but they do not know it.  They are lost and do not know it.  Or they are lost and know it. 

Saved and Certain.  God wants you to be in a relationship with Him forever.  He wants to save you.  Not only that, but He wants you to rejoice in that certainty.  That enables you to live for Jesus with confidence and courage.  Your life continues to look more and more like Jesus.  You can even face death with the assurance that life does not really end when you pass from this life.

Saved but Confused.  You have decided to give your life to Jesus, but you are not perfect.  So you worry if you are really good enough?  Are your sins really forgiven?  The answer to the first question is no, you are not good enough, but you do not have to be.  Jesus died precisely because we cannot be good enough.  His grace covers us as long as we are committed to walk in his light.  And yes, your sins are forgiven.  The ones in your past, the ones you struggle with now, and the ones you will commit in the future.

Lost but Unaware.  You may be one of those people who would say you believe in God and Jesus.  But there is no evidence of that in your life.  You live life on your terms.  You do what you want and no one can make you do anything you do not want to do.  You certainly do not love God with all your heart and you do not have a real faith in Jesus.  You may even be doing things that seem religious but your heart is not in it.  You are not really a disciple of Jesus.

Lost and Know it.  You are self-aware enough to realize that if there really is a God then you are not living like there is.  You are no hypocrite and you may even pride yourself on not succumbing to the myth of Jesus.  Except for those times when you wonder if it might be true.  You see lives that seem authentic in their religion.  You might even wish that you could have a faith like that.

So here is the good news.  You can know the real Jesus.  You can believe in him.  You can know that you are saved and will live forever.  You can move from lost and sure of it to saved and certain of it.

And we can help you with that.

Let us hear from you.

Blessings,

steve


Dead or alive?

by on Jun.03, 2018, under Hope

Constantin Reliu is dead. At least, that’s what the courts in Romania have declared. After spending 20 years in Turkey, he returned to his native country only to find out that his wife had him declared dead. In fact, according to the filing, Reliu has been dead for the last 15 years. The judge refused to overturn this declaration, saying that Reliu had made his appeal too late.

So Constantin Reliu is legally dead. And the court says it’s decision is final and can’t be changed.

When Jesus had the apostle John write a letter to the church in Sardis, He told that church: “I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” (Revelation 3:1) The congregation thought it was alive. Everyone around thought it was alive. But Jesus knew that the church was really dead.

So He instructed them:

“Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent.” (Revelation 3:2–3)

How about you? Have you lost the faith you once had? Are you still doing the things you did at first or have you allowed your faith to go to sleep? Are you dead or alive?

Turn back to God’s Word. Learn it. Live by it. Bring your faith back to life.

“If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.” (Revelation 3:3)

Jesus is coming back. We don’t know when. But I know that I want my faith to be alive when He comes.

Wake up. Come back to life. Come back to Jesus.


Don’t Torture Me Jesus!

by on May.06, 2018, under Hope

This has to be one of the oddest things ever said to Jesus.  After all, who really thinks the Son of God is going to torture someone?  Does someone think Jesus is going to water board them until they decide to follow him?  But a man really did ask this of Jesus. 

He had a hard life.  He was a social outcast, cried himself to sleep, and cut himself with stones.  He was battling so many demons that they called him Legion.  He met Jesus one day, and he is the one who asked Jesus not to torture him.  Jesus was calling on the demons to come out of Legion.  He was going to set him free.  And Legion’s answer was to ask Jesus not to torture him.

I wonder if someone had promised him things before.  Told him they would be his friend, promised to help, or assured him that they could help him change his life.  Only for Legion to find out they were empty promises.  He must have felt hopeless and helpless. 

But not Jesus.  He did what he promised.  He set the man free from his demons.  Changed his life forever.

Maybe you understand this story because you have lived parts of it yourself.  You may have battles and struggles in your life.  You may understand what it means to feel hopeless and helpless.  You may have even had people promise to help.  But all they offered was false hope.  Nothing changed and no one helped.

Jesus is not like that.  He does change lives.  He does not offer false hope.  He is not torturing you with empty promises.

The reason we Christians are so certain of this is because we have seen it.  He has changed our lives and we have seen him change lives in our communities of faith.

You can read about Legion in your Bible.  His story is in the book of Mark, chapter five.  Jesus helped then and he helps now. 

Hope for the hopeless and help for the helpless.

  steve


” ‘How weak-willed you are, declaraes the Sovereign Lord, when you do all these things, acting like a brazen prostitute! (Ezekiel 16:30)

by on Apr.27, 2018, under Hope

Why do we act exactly the opposite of who we say we want to be?  It is a matter of will.  Decide who you want to be and act on it.


Stand against death

by on Apr.01, 2018, under Hope

The Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge is one of the largest in the world. The upper deck of the bridge spans almost 3 miles across the river. When the bridge was completed in 1968, it was the longest such bridge in the world.

But the bridge has become famous for something else: suicides. A 2006 study showed that there had been over 2000 suicides since the opening of the bridge. That’s an average of about one per week!

One man has tried to do something about it. Chen Si is a manager in a transport company. He spends his free time walking the bridge, watching for the despondent, and trying to prevent them from jumping to their death.

He’s been successful more than 300 times. Yet he says that it’s not his successes he remembers, but the people he couldn’t save. Some people are so determined to end their lives that, even after Chen stops them, they insist on jumping when he is not watching.

Suicide is not the answer. We were born to live, not to die. Jesus came to this earth to eliminate despair and replace it with hope. The book of Hebrews says:

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Hebrews 2:14–15)

What Chen does is what we should all do: rescue others from death. More than that, we need to turn them toward life, eternal life. We need to help them to see that through Jesus, they can live forever.

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

Go toward life and not death. Give your life to Jesus. Put your faith in Him, turn your back on sin, be buried with Him in baptism, and live a new life for God.

Would you be like Chen? Would you save people from death? Would you dare to do even more: turn them to eternal life? Tell others the good news. There is hope. There is life.

Turn them back from death and destruction. There is life in Jesus and only in Jesus.


He Built a Robot and then He Married Her (It?)

by on Mar.04, 2018, under Hope

Zheng Jiajia is an artificial intelligence expert from Japan.  He was evidently unable to find a suitable mate (or could not find love) so he built a humanoid robot.  And then married her, or it.  Or whatever.  He programmed his robot so speak some rudimentary sentences and has plans to upgrade her eventually so she can walk and do basic household chores.  And the robot has a name — Yingying.  Or would that be Yingying Jiajia?

Maybe you understand some of the feelings that drive this story.  Life does not always turn out like you envisioned.  Broken relationships, economic hardships, addictions, and no meaning for your existence.  It is enough to make you wish you could create the life you want. 

But you may also have enough life experience to realize some of the problems with this approach.  Is it really a relationship if there is no free will involved?  What happens if Yingying becomes obsolete?  What if she breaks down and he cannot fix her?  If things do not go like he envisioned, does anyone do robot marriage counseling?

Has Mr. Jiajia really found the love that he did not find in the real world?

And if you have lived very long, you have learned that is not really possible to construct a life that will be exactly what you want.  Real life gets in the way.  You may realize that what you thought you wanted was not in fact what you really needed. 

I think I know the answer.  Someone created me.  He knows exactly how I work and what I need.  He not only wants what is best for me, but can help me have that life.  He is God the Creator, and He loves me. 

All He asks is that I love Him back.  My choice.  Free will.

You can choose to have the life you were made to live.

 


Out of the fog

by on Feb.04, 2018, under Hope

It was a Christmas Day soccer match between Charlton and Chelsea. Soon after the match began, a thick fog rolled in, making it impossible to play. The match was cancelled, and all of the players returned to the locker rooms.

All except Sam Bartram. The goalkeeper for Charlton stayed at his post, watching vigilantly for any balls that might come his way. He was happy as could be, supposing that the lack of activity on his end of the field meant that his teammates were having their way with their opponents.

Bartram noticed that the game was unusually quiet, but he kept waiting for someone to show up to let him know how the match was going. Finally, someone did. A policeman showed up out of the fog and asked, “What are you doing here? The game was called off 15 minutes ago!”

Do you know what’s going on? Are you really informed about what life is all about? Or are you standing in the fog, hoping that the lack of catastrophes signifies that all is well?

Jesus once said:

“For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” (John 9:39)

He also said,

“I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” (John 12:46)

There’s one way to be certain that you are seeing everything that needs to be seen: walk in the light. Walk in the light of Jesus. Let him show you the way. You’ve stood in the fog long enough. Come let him show you the light.



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