The Believer’s Hope and Joy

Have a walk worthy of the calling with which you were called (Ephesians 4:1).

Yesterday we learned of the death of Dr RC Sproul (1939-2017), a man who had a profound impact on both my beliefs and my preaching. Even at the end of his life, when he could no longer breathe, he made every effort to continue teaching the Bible. For a preacher, it’s all you can do!

The Bible says that for the believer, to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord in Heaven (2 Cor 5:8). Upon hearing the news of Dr Sproul’s entrance into the presence of God, I thought of Jesus calling His apostles.

In Matthew 4:18-22 we’re told Jesus found brothers Peter and Andrew hard at their job as fishermen. He said, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. The Bible says the two immediately left their nets and followed Him (Mt 4:20). A bit further on Jesus found two more brothers, James and John in the boat with Zebedee their father … and He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him (Mt 4:21, 22).

Imagine, in both instances, those whom Jesus called left everything to immediately be with Jesus. Without hesitation they left their employment. They abandoned their livelihood. They departed from their own families. Can you image what Zebedee said when his two sons left in the middle of the work day?

When Jesus called Dr Sproul, he didn’t linger. He didn’t say, “Lord, just give me a few more days with my family. Heal me so I can live a longer and more productive life.” No, when Jesus called, RC immediately left this world behind to be with Jesus. He lived to be worthy of the One who called him.

Suppose I was going to Disneyland. You wouldn’t be sad that I was going to California to be welcomed by Mickey Mouse into his Magic Kingdom. You would be glad. Your sadness would be that you’re not going along. So it is with God’s people whom He calls home.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (Ps 116:15). We should rejoice in what God rejoices. So we are reminded that in death we do not sorrow as others who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13). Death for the child of God is not a time to mourn like those with no hope, but a time for joy and personal longing to also be with Jesus.

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God’s Plans to Prosper You

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

There is a reason why some verses come before others and chapters precede others. Context dictates meaning and you can’t talk about Jeremiah 29:11 before pitching a tent on Jeremiah 29:8-9:

Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the Lord.

Humanly speaking, in the day when the prosperity gospel has preoccupied our lives, we find nothing good to smile about in Jeremiah 29:8-9 but we find everything to be glad about in Jeremiah 29:11 because of words like plan, prosper, hope, peace, and not evil. While some words and concepts take us captive because of the goodness they carry, we should held captive by accurate biblical interpretation.

Jeremiah 29 crushed the false hope the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon (Jeremiah 29:2). Their false hope was propagated by false prophets and dreamers who lied to them, saying that God was going to free them from the captivity in two years (Jeremiah 27:9). That didn’t happen; it was 70 years. A whopping difference of 68 years! That’s how colossal false prophets cross-stitch Scripture.

The Jews desperately wanted to return to Jerusalem, but God had taken them to exile as punishment for their disobedience. Yet He promised to return them after slavery in Babylon.

The context of Jeremiah 29:11 is Israel’s mantra of enduring pain for 70 years. God expected them to stay where they were, persevere, serve king Nebuchadnezzar, and help prosper the nation that enslaved them (Jeremiah 27:6-7). His plan wasn’t to escape trials but to persevere through trials.

The promise isn’t for you, but we can learn a thing from the passage about God’s character and our Christian living. God expects us to confidently say; Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4). Because in the world we will have tribulation (John 16:33).

Doubly Secure

My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me (Psalm 63:8).

My wife laughed uncontrollably as she watched the video of the grandson taking his first steps. Isaac stood on his own like a pro and then wobbled and hobbled a few steps before jerking and teetering like the toy tin robot I had as a child. Unable to control his speed, he finally fell.

Spiritually, I feel strong, but I know how truly weak and feeble I really am. I know the sin that so easily sits under the surface of every moment, ready to knock me to the ground and bloody my lip. I’m aware of the pride and self-sufficiency that follows me through my day, and the lusts and doubts that haunt my nights.

Jesus promised to give His sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand (John 10:28). He holds me securely in His hand, and if that isn’t enough, as if His strength could ever fail or falter, I’m also held in the hand of the Father. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand (John 10:29). I’m kept doubly secure.

My faith, my hope, and my eternal soul are not secure because of any strength in me. I have none. But I do trust and rejoice that I am kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:5).

The Perfect Man

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself … holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27c).

I’ve got the best wife in the world, at least the best for me. She is supportive when I lack faith, encourages me with hope in disappointments, listens when I need a friend, goes along with my spontaneous road trips to Wyoming, laughs even when I’m not trying to be funny, is my partner in ministry I can always count on, and loves me despite my every fault.

I admit that I’m not a perfect husband. Not. Even. Close. I continually pray that God provides in Himself what I lack toward my wife, and that He grows in me in the ways I need to be a better husband.

God never expects us to be perfect husbands, but He does expect us to love our wives. That means that I give up myself and my dreams and wants for what is best for her. It means that my highest priority in our marriage is not to make her happy, but to encourage her in holiness and godliness.

Husband, love your wife as Christ loves the Church.

We Wait for His Son

Photograph of the solar eclipse seen in Oregon, USA August 21, 2017

We wait for His Son from Heaven, who He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

I live within the path of the recent solar eclipse of the sun. Some Americans believed this passing of the moon between the sun and the earth was a sign of the end of the world. They were sure it would announce the return of Jesus or the advent of the Antichrist. They twisted together speculation and Scripture taken out of context for their strange doctrine. In doing so they created fear and raised money while maligning Jesus Christ and His holy Word.

As Christians, we eagerly await the return of Jesus from Heaven. We look for Him – who died for the Church and was raised from the dead for the Church – to return in the clouds and gather His Church unto Himself to forever be with Him. We anticipate Jesus Christ, not the Antichrist.

For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another (1 Thessalonians 5:9, 11). We have comfort, joy, hope, and demonstrate lives of godliness in Jesus, we don’t live in despair and fear over the future.

The Two Philosophies of Life

There are two simple, but opposite, philosophies of life.

The first explains that every person is conceived as morally perverted and sinful. No amount of nurturing, training, or money improves the thoughts, motives, or intentions of the person. That moral corruption alienates everyone from God and makes all pursuits selfish. A person’s only hope is to be reborn by the Spirit of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

The second philosophy teaches that everyone is born as a blank slate. Environment, nurture, and social and economic structures influence and improve the thoughts, motives, and intentions of the person. Morality is dictated by the social structure and support of family, friends, and government. Basically, humanity is good, and personal destiny is ultimately up to the individual.

The first is Christianity; the second is humanistic atheism.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. There is none righteous, no, not one … there is none who does good, no, not one. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked (Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:10, 12; Jeremiah 17:9).

Where does your philosophy of life come from? The Bible or humanism?

The Rock of My Salvation

dsc01260The Lord lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let God be exalted, the Rock of my salvation! (2 Samuel 22:47).

The older we grow, the more we look back at where we’ve been instead of forward to new adventures. Our weakened vision is offered as realistic wisdom and we effectively become discouragers of others following God’s path as they walk with Him in grace and by faith.

As David looked back upon his life, he knew God as his defender and help. It’s not that he wasn’t an able warrior or king, but that God was great. He had learned to trust Him in every victory and gave Him all glory.

A man told me that God had never tested him; that man didn’t know God. It’s the tests of life which reveal the genuineness of our faith and glorify God for His faithful and steadfast character. To say God is a rock, is a world of difference from saying that God is my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer.

David’s description of God as his rock doesn’t picture a stone or a boulder. The word refers to an entire mountainside; something immovable and unchanging with the winds of time or the moods of men. Jesus is the believer’s Rock and our Hope of eternal salvation. He is the firm foundation upon which we rest when weary, stand in times of uncertainty, and discover shelter in every stormy blast.

Auf Wiedersehen

auf-weidersehenMy great-grandfather Rudolph Losli died when I was 14 years old. One of the things I remember about him was that he never said “good-bye” at the end of a conversation. When he was finished talking on the phone, for example, he’d abruptly hang up.

His son (my grandfather) asked once why he didn’t end a conversation like everyone else by saying “good-bye.” He replied, “Why should I say good-bye when I know I’m going to see you later?

As Christians, the Bible says that we don’t sorrow at death as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Ephesians 2:12 describes those who are not born again as having no hope and without God in the world. For the unsaved, there is a terrible hopelessness when a loved one dies. It’s why they cling unmercifully to the memory of those who have died. They sorrow without thought or assurance of eternity.

For the unsaved, death is a permanent separation of relationship, but as Christians we do not despair at death. We will grieve, but we never truly say “farewell” to our family in Christ, but merely like the German phrase auf wiedersehen, “until we meet again.”

The resurrected Jesus has made our partings as believers temporary (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18). For those with faith in Christ Jesus as Saviour, death is but the blink of an eye in this world and immediate entrance into a hope-filled eternal bliss in the next as we see Jesus face-to-face in His glory and are made like Him (1 John 3:2-3).

The Sting of Death

coffinPeople seldom have interest in the hereafter until they feel the sting of eternity through a loved one in a coffin.

They hate Christianity, yet say they love God, but you cannot love Him and despise His people.

They reject the Bible, but it alone contains the words of life which feed and satisfy the hunger of the empty soul.

When a loved one dies, we are faced with one of two realities: he is gone forever except in the fleeting memories of grief, or there is the hope of eternal life.

If there is a life beyond the grave, what is the way to that life?

And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:40).