Are you pure in heart?

 

November 27, 2019 Nehemiah Zion

 

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

Only the pure in heart will see God. The heart filled with the lusts of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, cannot see nor begin to understand the goodness or purity of heaven.

God is Holy. Holiness is His standard. Purity is not attainable by man, on his own.

“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” ‭‭James‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭

When our hearts are purified, the work of our hands and the words of our mouth will be pure. God will be near. We will live without fear. What we express comes from the depth of our hearts (Mark 7:22,23). It will be well-pleasing to God.

How to purify our heart? By walking in the two commandments of love through the power of the Holy Spirit. Loving God, and loving everyone in our lives, specially brethren.

“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:” 1 Peter‬ ‭1:22‬ ‭

Purifying our heart requires daily exercise. All Word (scripture) based exercises sanctify the heart. When Jesus prayed for the disciples, He asked God to sanctify them by the truth. How does the truth sanctify a believer? Exercising the truth in our walk purifies our lives from all carnal, old natures that attack us during everyday spiritual warfare.

Obedience to the word of God produces heavenly natures in us. God creates in us a new heart and renews our mind daily. This new heart and fresh mindset, powered by love through the Holy Spirit produces a faith that overcomes all double minded behaviour.

How to stay pure in heart?

“Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;” 1 Peter‬ ‭1:13-15‬ ‭

Moses met the Father on mount Sinai, before that by the burning bush. This wasn’t the Moses of the palace. This was Moses who was humbled after 40 years herding sheep. This was Moses, the meekest man on the planet at that time. It takes a meek, poor in spirit and a pure person to get that kind of an audience with God. God made it possible for Moses. God is holy, we need to be covered by grace to be at his throne. In Jesus, we are covered like the shittim wood that was covered by brass, created for the ark of the covenant.

We are called to be examples as youth, and Paul cites 6 areas including purity when he writes to TimothyLet no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)

The two blind men were pure in their heart when they believed in Jesus. No matter who hindered them to meet Jesus, they cried out in all earnest. After they were forgiven and healed, they were able to see Jesus and follow Him.

Peter who denied Jesus, was a changed man after he started to walk according to the leading of the Holy Spirit. At the temple, Beautiful, the people around were shocked by the miraculous healing of a lame man. Peter clarified that it wasn’t he who performed the miracle, it wasn’t his holiness or power. But the power of the Holy Spirit that works in a believer. Where there is a purity of faith and belief, we will see the glory of God.

We cannot define purity however we want. God has a standard, and the Word of God is replete with instructions for us to abide by daily. May God heal our hearts from the corruption of the times and enable a Spirit led walk daily for us to enter into His eternal glory.

And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:1-5)

Original here

10 Years Later, The Manhattan Declaration’s Defense Of Marriage Is Even More Needed

The most fundamental duty of government toward marriage is to recognize its reality and enforce the legal contract at its heart. This is what the Manhattan Declaration called for 10 years ago.

10 Years Later, The Manhattan Declaration’s Defense Of Marriage Is Even More Needed

Nov 21, 2019 Jonathan G. Lange

The Manhattan Declaration, released ten years ago today, is an appeal to everyone who considers himself a Christian to recognize that the sacred nature of marriage is no reason to be silent about its public benefits. Rather, precisely because Christians know both the sacred and the secular value of marriage, they owe it to their secular neighbors to defend it. In so doing, they are not merely defending principles, they are defending millions of people who have been defrauded by government institutions.

For nearly 50 years millions of men, women and children have been robbed by state and federal governments. I am not referring to taxes, unfunded mandates, or to federally planned inflation. I am referring to the government’s dereliction of one of its most basic duties—to enforce marriage contracts.

Marriage, of course, is far more than a contract. It is a sacred covenant. But it is a covenant with an economic impact. Christians recognize that marriage signifies the holy bond between Jesus and His church. But anyone can see that it bestows tangible goods on husband, wife, and any children who are conceived in the conjugal union.

Those who reduce these tangible goods to tax privileges and social standing demonstrate an astonishingly deficient understanding. Tax benefits and social standing are not the content of marriage benefits, they are its results. Because of its intrinsically high value to society, governments support it and incentivize it. But the most fundamental duty of government toward marriage is to recognize its reality and enforce the legal contract at its heart.

Marriage Secures Children’s Rights

When a woman enters motherhood, (Latin: “matrimony,” French “marriage”), her energies are refocused in fundamental ways. The physical, psychological, and emotional demands of pregnancy and child rearing affect every area of her life. Marriage serves as a legal contract to guarantee her the support of the child’s father both during these affected years and beyond.

When a man enters fatherhood, his life changes as well. His chromosomal connection to the child creates a legal and social obligation that is enforceable by law, whether he is married to the mother or not. Marriage seals his obligations to the mother while obliging the mother to cooperate with him in raising the child.

Children are the greatest beneficiaries of these mutual obligations. When mother and father are cooperating on a child’s behalf, that child’s “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is protected. The more comprehensive the cooperation, the more beneficial it is to the children. Conversely, when parents refuse to cooperate it robs children of their birthright.

When a couple files for a marriage certificate, they have every expectation that those issuing the certificate will enforce the contract. But so-called “no-fault divorce” laws changed that. As governor of California, Ronald Reagan signed the first one in 1970. Years later, he counted it among his biggest regrets.

Before long, every state was reneging on its promise to enforce marriage contracts. Knee-jerk calls to “get the government out of people’s lives” resonated with libertarians and libertines alike. Free love culture reasoned: If they want to get a divorce, they should be free to get a divorce.

How No-Fault Creates an Imbalance of Power

The problem is that married couples never want a divorce—at least not initially. Rather, typically one party to the marriage wants a divorce while the other does not. “No-fault divorce” laws do not make the government neutral. They put it on the side of whoever values the marriage least.

The injustice is felt by the woman or man who accepted the up-front economic disadvantages of child-rearing relying on a promise of future fidelity. The person is defrauded when the promise is broken. A government that fails to hold people to their promises becomes party to that fraud.

Even worse, the children who ought to be protected from the loss of life, emotional support, education, and inheritance are completely disregarded. Divorce courts should admonish parents to work it out for the sake of their children. Instead, they usually rubber-stamp the breakup. All that remains is for the welfare state clumsily to micromanage the broken home and throw money at the child, as though that could substitute for losing a parent.

Connections Between Religion and Marriage

Forty years after the disaster of no-fault divorce, the late Chuck Colson recognized that anti-Christian religious forces often use the religious nature of marriage to delegitimize and silence Christians who speak about the public policy side of marriage. He and others connected the dots between government’s abdication of its duties toward marriage and its parallel abdication of its duty to protect the youngest and most vulnerable people—children, the unborn, and frozen embryos.

They also recognized that as public policy supporting marriage and human life spiraled downward, there was a corresponding growth in attacks upon religious liberty. This not only put Christians in legal jeopardy, more importantly, it caused many Christian voices to self-censor in a vain attempt to weather the storm.

Colson decided to do something bold. He asked Dr. Robert P. George of Princeton and Timothy George of Stamford to draft a document that recognized both the public and the churchly nature of marriage. It was called the Manhattan Declaration. Today, (November 20) marks ten years since 152 Christian leaders released it. Since then, more than a half-million others have signed it. I am one of them.

In Defense of the Children

Since marriage so deeply affects the welfare of children, the Manhattan Declaration also calls upon every Christian to speak in defense of the life of every child conceived. While faith informs Christian action, it does not limit it. The faithful do not do this primarily in self-defense, but in defense of all people. It is a duty of love to stand with any man, woman, or child who has been defrauded by a government derelict in its duties.

It is a duty of love to stand with any man, woman, or child who has been defrauded by a government derelict in its duties.

The Declaration states: “Because the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and the freedom of conscience and religion are foundational principles of justice and the common good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense… We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.”

Those trying to intimidate Christians into silence have only grown louder in the decade since these words were written. They have passed laws that strip infants of legal defense both before and after birth. They continue to press a radical agenda that allows embryonic children to be bought and sold on the open market, and do precious little to halt the trafficking of older children. All the while, there is a never-ending parade of government-sanctioned indoctrination aimed at destroying the marriages of generations to come.

To shield these anti-child and anti-marriage policies from criticism, they carelessly bludgeon fellow citizens with labels meant to intimidate and silence. They press for so-called “hate crime” laws that use the power of government to silence their opponents. Despite a string of losses at court, states and municipalities continue to pass such laws. They are valuable for intimidation even if unenforceable.

‘Only the Bravest Keep Standing’

The latest salvo has come from the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives. One of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s first orders of business was to push through the so-called “Equality Act” (H.R. 5). This radical legislation has nothing to do with equality. It is, rather, a toxic stew of laws that further erode federal support of marriage and legal protections for children of all ages and stages of development. Centered in its crosshairs are protections for professionals, social agencies, and individuals who live out their Christian understanding of marriage in word and deed.

‘It’s only the bravest who take a stand, and continue to bear witness even when others mock them.’

Measured by its effects on public policy, the Manhattan Declaration doesn’t seem to have done much to stem the tide. But public policy was never its chief aim. The Declaration was and remains a personal pledge. Signers promise to continue speaking and acting in defense of their neighbors no matter what the cultural or political costs. By that measure, its effectiveness can only be measured by you.

In commemoration of the Declaration’s tenth anniversary, the Colson Center for Christian Worldview published a collection of essays titled: “Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty: What Belongs to God, What Belongs to Caesar.” In it Frederica Matthewes-Green wrote, “[E]very generation faces an issue that draws a line between those who will stand up for what is right, and those who just go along. It’s only the bravest who take a stand, and continue to bear witness even when others mock them and misrepresent them; only the bravest keep standing when, from a worldly perspective, the cause looks lost. Only the most dedicated people are willing to keep working for change, when the struggle is all uphill and they reap nothing but rejection.”

She has aptly described our generation. Our grandchildren are watching to see how we respond.

Jonathan G. Lange is a pastor of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. He has raised his family in Wyoming for two decades, serving parishes in Evanston and Kemmerer. He is a leader of the Wyoming Pastors Network. Follow his blog at OnlyHuman-JL.blogspot.com.

How the Church Can Protect the Dignity of the Most Vulnerable
Among Us – segment 

http://www.breakpoint.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Tada-Chapter.pdf


I am a signer of the Manhattan Declaration

VIDEO Trees Replanted In Eden – God Is In Control

In Christ, we find our way home to paradise—not just in the future, but also right now.

There is no entry for “Christmas tree” in my field guide to trees of the eastern United States, and I cannot buy a table from a carpenter made with the wood of a Christmas tree. A Christmas tree becomes one only when we bring it into our home and dress it up with twinkle lights and tinsel. It is place and purpose, rather than species or variety, that identify an ordinary evergreen as a Christmas tree.

Through Christ, we have become rooted in a new and eternal place that is forever fresh like spring and fruitful like summer.

As a child, I helped choose our family Christmas tree from a field of Scotch pine in central Texas. Now that I am grown, I help my own children choose our annual tree from a field of Douglas fir in southeastern Pennsylvania, a practice we especially enjoy when there is snow on the ground and we can take turns pulling the tree back to our car on a sled. Whether we choose pine or fir, the lifespan of most Christmas trees is brief, but a friend recently introduced me to his family tradition of a “living Christmas tree.” For several years in a row, he and his wife have chosen an evergreen tree from a nearby garden center. This “living Christmas tree” includes a root ball well wrapped with burlap and twine. After a few days in the house, this tree can be replanted in the yard, and my friend now has a few transplanted Christmas trees flourishing around his home.

Followers of Jesus have something in common with Christmas trees. We, too, have been given a new place and a new purpose, and it is these that now identify us. No longer defined by categories like “slave or free” and “Greek or Jew,” we are, as Eugene Peterson writes so beautifully in his colloquial translation of Psalm 1, trees “replanted in Eden, bearing fresh fruit every month, never dropping a leaf, always in blossom” (Gal. 3:28 NASB; Psalm 1:3 MSG). Through Christ, we have become rooted in a new and eternal place that is forever fresh like spring and fruitful like summer. Our core identity as “replanted trees” stands in sharp contrast to those this version of Psalm 1 calls “the wicked, who are mere windblown dust” (Psalm 1:4).

Windblown dust is a troublesome thing, and when we feel its sting, we may be tempted to repeat a familiar cliché: “This is not our home. We are only passing through.” With these words, we claim a heavenly inheritance, but unfortunately, we claim it only for our future selves. Heaven becomes a place out there instead of near as Jesus promised when He preached, “‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matt. 4:17). The idea that we are “passing through” comforts only if we have forgotten where we stand: not in the kingdom of men or even Satan, but on firm ground reclaimed by the bountiful and beautiful kingdom of God.

Perhaps the notion of Christians as homeless wanderers persists because it echoes biblical imagery—for instance, in 1 Peter where we are described as “aliens” and “strangers” (1 Peter 2:11). However, in Ephesians we read, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household” (Eph. 2:19). Are we strangers merely passing through this place called Earth? Or have we traded the identity of stranger for citizen? If we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom, is that kingdom here and now? Or is it something we only anticipate?

In Hebrews, the heroes of our faith who preceded Jesus are those who believed they were “exiles on the earth” in search of a “better country” (Heb. 11:13Heb. 11:16). But we who live after Jesus are digging our toes into the dirt of that better place Abraham could only imagine. When I return to 1 Peter to trace the contours of that word stranger, I find a passage concerned with our rootedness. No longer wanderers, we are “living stones” being built up into a solid, spiritual house (1 Peter 2:4-5). With Christ as our cornerstone, we are already home. If we remain strangers in some sense, it is only that we are strangers to the dust-blown reality of which Peterson writes. That reality is passing away. One day it will disfigure the earth no longer and creation will be completely renewed.

If we acknowledge the mystery of this fulfilled kingdom—if we truly believe that the kingdom Jesus proclaimed did not depart with Him but has instead established itself on earth through a Spirit-filled church—we will live each day with a profound sense of freedom. Why is this not always our experience? Perhaps it is because, though our roots are growing in a place where spring and summer reign supreme, we still feel the chill of a wintery world. We must still remind ourselves, as we do this time of year, that the Light of God “shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5 NIV). Those twinkling lights on our Christmas trees testify to this truth.

With Christ as our cornerstone, we are already home.

With the help of God’s Spirit, we defy the world’s winter winds to offer our neighbors the heavenly fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And this fruit blesses not only our neighbors but all of earthly creation. For creation itself is groaning for the new world that is even now being revealed in us. Groaning as if in childbirth, even as we are being shown our true nature: We are children of the eternal king (Rom. 8:19Rom. 8:22).

Grafted into the true vine, laid like rocks on the most solid Rock of all, our transformed lives testify that heaven has drawn near and is reclaiming its rightful place on earth. If we ache, if we feel battered by the swiftly passing dust storms of the world, it is because we long for the kingdom soil beneath our feet to extend everywhere without boundaries. We feel that ache especially during the Advent season of Christmas anticipation. “Come, Lord Jesus,” we pray. “I am with you always,” Jesus answers (Matt. 28:20). Because Christ is with us, and because we are fruitful trees of Eden, every moment of our life is an opportunity to extend the reign of heaven on earth. Even our smallest offering, whether we bring a meal to a lonely neighbor or plant a tree in the ground, becomes one more resounding answer to an earth-shaking prayer: Thy kingdom come.

Illustration by Helen Musselwhite

https://www.intouch.org/read/magazine/faith-works/trees-replanted-in-eden/


God Is In Control, Habakkuk 1:2-4 – Pastor Chuck Smith – Topical Bible Study


 

Faithful to Finish His Work in You

 

Philippians 1:6

“The life of a Christian is a series of miracles.” So said Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great British preacher of the 19th century. If he is correct, why don’t we ever talk about those miracles? When a friend asked me that question several years ago, I asked several friends to tell me about the miracles they had personally experienced. All of the stories were inspiring, and some were very instructive. Here is one man’s story:

Tonight I read with interest your comments about miracles. I believe God is still in the miracle business. And the answers are still spectacular. But most of the answers don’t seem to me to be instantaneous.

We really are the immediate gratification generation. I think we read the New Testament and wonder why we don’t see God performing instantaneous, spectacular answers to prayer framed within peals of thunder and bolts of lightning. I think He does give spectacular answers, only in His time. I base this on my own experience. If I had asked a close friend 16 years ago to write down a description of me and then done the same today, here is the conclusion you would come to once you read them: These are two distinctly different people with very little in common.

What happened? Nothing short of a miracle!! I won’t go into all the circumstances, but 16 years ago I was at the end of my emotional and spiritual rope. One day I got down on my knees and told God to either change me or take me home because I didn’t want to live another minute if my life was going to be the same as it had been. That’s when I started to hear the faint sounds of hammering and sawing inside.

To jump to the end of the story, over the last 16 years God has created a whole new person inside this one. That’s not visible to most folks. And it wasn’t in the twinkling of an eye. But it is a miracle! It is spectacular! And it isn’t over yet! What God has done in my life is more miraculous than if He had grown a new arm or leg to replace an amputated one—because He has grown a whole new person. He still does miracles! They are spectacular! They are in His time! To God Be The Glory!!

Miracles All Around

As I read his story the thought occurred to me that there are miracles all around us if only we had eyes to see them. Our problem is that we look for outward, spectacular results when God’s work, like the tiny mustard seed, begins in a hidden place inside the human heart. As wonderful as reports of physical healing are—and I thank God that he still heals in answer to prayer today—the greater miracle is the transformation of a sinner into a saint by the grace of God.

I love one particular sentence in the last testimony: “That’s when I started to hear the faint sounds of hammering and sawing inside.” If you have been a believer for any length of time, you already know about that hammering and sawing inside your own life. Theologians have a big word for it. They call it “sanctification.” It’s the work God does inside the heart of a believer in order to make him into a brand-new person.

Here are five fast facts you need to know about sanctification:

It is the work of God.

It is a lifetime process.

It is never complete in this life.

God won’t stop until the job is done.

God uses everything that happens to us—the good and the bad—to make us like Jesus.

With this sermon I am coming near the end of the series called “The God You Can Trust.” Next week is the final message and then I will be on sabbatical for two months, a gift from the elders to mark my 10th anniversary as pastor of Calvary Memorial Church. I plan to say more about that next week, but for the moment I would simply remark that in these final two Sundays, I want to talk about some themes that have been important to me over the last ten years. If what I have to say sounds familiar, it’s because the promise of God to finish his work in us has become a precious theme in my heart. I believe it much more today than I did 10 years ago.

As a place to hang our thoughts, let’s take a quick look at four passages that speak of God’s determination to finish his work in us.

I. He starts the work in us.

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Note three things from this famous verse. First, God takes the initiative in starting his work in you. He is the one who “begins a good work” in us. Salvation always begins with God. He makes the first move, and if he didn’t make the first move, we would make no move at all. Perhaps you’ve heard of the country preacher who was being examined for ordination to the ministry. When asked how he had become a Christian, the preacher replied, “I did my part and God did his.” That sounded questionable, so the learned brethren on the council asked the preacher to explain “his part in salvation.” “My part was to run from God as fast as I could,” the preacher answered. “God’s part was to run after me and catch me and bring me into his family.” That’s a perfectly biblical answer because all of us were born running from God, and unless God took the initiative to find us, we would still be running away from him.

Second, God takes personal responsibility for completing his work in you. I find this a most comforting thought. God has a “good work” that he intends to accomplish in your life and in mine. God intends that all his children be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, and he will not rest until that “good work” is finally finished.

Perhaps you’ve seen those buttons that read PBPGIFWMY. Those cryptic letters stand for a most important truth: “Please be patient. God isn’t finished with me yet.” Thank God, it’s true. I may not look like much—but God isn’t finished with me yet. And when you look in the mirror—and even deeper into your own soul, you may not like what you see, but no matter. God isn’t finished with you yet.

There is good news and bad news in this truth. The good news is that since God isn’t finished yet, we have great hope for the future. The bad news is that since God isn’t finished yet, he won’t let us stay as we are today. He’s going to keep chipping away at us until we are conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Most of us have a long way to go—and some of us have an enormous distance to travel. But it doesn’t matter. If you find yourself in the muck and mire of personal defeat, be encouraged. Child of God, he’s not finished with you yet. Rise and walk, my Christian friend. God is not finished with you yet. If you’ve been sent to the bench for a personal foul, learn the lesson God has for you and then get back in the game.

Third, God guarantees the outcome of his work in you. Not only does God start the process, and continue the process, he also guarantees its ultimate outcome. He will “carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” This means that God won’t be turned aside by difficulties of any kind. He is so determined to make you like Jesus that even your own backsliding won’t ultimately hinder the accomplishment of his purpose. Someday you and I will stand before Jesus Christ as redeemed children of God—holy, blameless, and complete in every way. We’re a far sight from that today. But a better day is coming for the people of God. What is incomplete will be made complete. What is unfinished will be finished. What is lacking will be made full. What is partial will be made whole. What is less than enough will be far more than adequate. What is broken will be fixed. What is hurt will be healed. What is weak will be made strong. What is temporary will be made permanent.

God has promised to do it and he cannot lie. Has God begun a good work in your life? Do you feel incomplete and unfinished? Fear not, child of God. He will complete his work in you.

II. He keeps us from falling.

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—

First, there is the power of God: “To him who is able to keep you from falling.”

Second, there is the purpose of God: “To present you before his glorious presence.”

Third, there is the promise of God: “Without fault and with great joy.”

God has ordained that those whom he calls to salvation will be so preserved that though they stumble along the way, they will not utterly fall away. He guards his children by his Spirit and with the holy angels to insure that none are lost during their earthly pilgrimage. I love the way J. Vernon McGee used to put it. As many as God calls, that many will he one day receive in heaven. Dr. McGee pictured the Lord in heaven counting his sheep as they come into the fold: “…94…95…96…97…98…99…McGee, where’s McGee? I can’t find him!” No, he would say, it’s not like that. All of God’s sheep will make it. Not one will be lost in the process.

Jack Wyrtzen loved to put it this way: “I’m as sure of heaven as if I’d already been there 10,000 years.” How can a Christian say that? Because it doesn’t rest on me or you. It rests on the word of the eternal God. If God has said he’s going to do it, he will do it. You can take it to the bank. What God says he will do, he will do.

Jude says that God’s purpose is to present us before the Lord without a single blemish. The Greek word for “without fault” comes from the temple sacrifices. It describes a lamb that is free from all defects. No cuts, no broken bones, no spots, no diseases of any kind. God said, “Bring me a lamb without spot or don’t bring one at all.” He rejects defective sacrifice as unworthy of his holiness.

But if that is true, how then will any of us stand before the Lord? We all have spots, blemishes, secret faults, hidden sins, wrong attitudes, bad habits, and sin that hangs around our necks like a heavy weight. We’re all struggling to make it from one day to the next, and many of us live with a guilty conscience and a keen sense of our own failure.

It is precisely at this point that the words of Jude 24 become so important. God intends to present us before his own throne faultless, spotless, free from everything that in this life drags us down. In that great day the angels will hush their singing as one by one the saints of God are introduced to our Heavenly Father. I picture the Lord Jesus saying, “Father, this is Stan Utigard. He has just come from a hard struggle on the earth. By virtue of my blood, I present him to you perfect, spotless, and without any blemish.” And the Father will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.”

So it shall be for all of us. But what about our sins? They are covered by the blood of Jesus and judged at the Cross. All the failures of this life will be left far behind. All the undone work of a lifetime will be but a dim memory—if we remember it at all. In that great day we will be completely delivered from sin and all its devastation.

Don’t skip over the little phrase “with great joy.” In Greek it means something like “with unbridled exultation.” When the saints go marching in, it will be like one of those noisy parades in New Orleans (only without the bad stuff). We will enter heaven not with downcast eyes and somber faces, but singing and laughing and with shouts of eternal joy. “Hallelujah, by the grace of God, we made it.”

Last Friday night my dear friend Bob Briner passed through the eternal gates. His struggles are forever over, his day of rejoicing has come at last. He is now before the Father, without spot or blemish, healed and made complete forever.

When sin torments you this week, let this thought encourage you. Better days are coming. Days of victory. Days of rejoicing are not far away. Your present failure won’t last forever. One day the battle will be over and you will stand in God’s presence whole and complete, free from everything that drags you down in this life. You will enter heaven with a song on your lips. God has willed it so.

III. He equips us to do his will.

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen

The word “equip” means to restore to proper working condition. It was used for getting an army ready for battle or sewing up a hole in a fishing net or setting an arm that was broken. You equip something when you prepare it to be used for its proper purpose.

God is willing to equip us to do everything he wants us to do. Let me flip that over. God will never call us to do something without also and at the same time equipping us to do it. Never. He simply will not do it.

I know many people who today face difficult situations. You may be out of money. Some of you are out of a job. Some of you are facing surgery very soon. Others face debilitating illness. Some of you have very hard decisions you need to make this week and you don’t know what to do.

Take this word of cheer. Whatever you have to do this week, God will equip you to do it. No matter how hard the road ahead, God has already started mending your nets and arming you for battle. You don’t even have to ask him; he just does it because that’s the kind of God he is. He never, never, never calls you to any hard task without giving you what you need to get the job done.

Notice how he does it. He works in us from the inside out. “May he work in us what is pleasing to him.” If we need courage, he works that in us. If we need compassion, he gives it to us. If we need integrity, he builds it in. If we need wisdom, he imparts the wisdom we need. If we need common sense, he finds a way to give it to us.

So many of us look at a difficult situation and pray, “Lord, change my situation.” That’s not usually God’s will. Much more often the difficult situation has come as a means of making us grow spiritually. God often brings difficulty into our lives to deepen our total dependence on him. When that happens, we ought to pray, “Lord, change me so that I can face this situation.” That’s a prayer God is pleased to answer.

IV. He promises to complete his work in us.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

When Jesus returns, two great things will happen for the believer:

A. Our character will be revealed.

B. Our perfection will be complete.

We are so far from this now. We seem to make such slow progress. Do you ever get discouraged about your own life? I do. Do you ever stand in front of a mirror and say “What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you getting better?” Sometimes it seems as if the Christian life is three steps forward and two steps back.

I’m aware that spiritual growth can be very discouraging at times. It’s like climbing Mount Everest, the closer you get to the top, the farther away it seems. But God has a reason for all this. He wants us to depend on him for everything. He designed life so that it works only when he is in total charge of everything. When we try to run the show—which we often do—things begin to fall apart.

“The one who calls you is faithful.” This little phrase is all-important. It is the foundation for the doctrine of eternal security. We like to say that those who are saved are saved forever. How do we know this is true? We know it because God is faithful to keep his promises. Our entire hope—both in this life and in the life to come—rests on the faithfulness of God. His faithfulness bears the entire weight of our puny efforts.

What makes us think that God will ever finish the job? In my mind’s eye, I picture God as a sculptor working with a rough piece of marble. He’s working on a big chunk named “Ray Pritchard.” It’s a hard job because the chunk is badly marred, misshapen, discolored, and cracked in odd places. It’s about the worst piece of marble a sculptor could ever find. But God is undeterred and he’s working patiently at his job, chipping away the bad parts, chiseling an image into the hard stone, stopping occasionally to polish here and there. One day he finally finishes one section of the statue. The next morning when he returns to the studio that section is messed up. “I thought I finished that yesterday,” he says, “Who’s been messing with my statue?” With a guilty grin, I raise my hand. It turns out that I’m the culprit. I’m my own worst enemy. What I thought would improve things has only messed them up. But God is faithful. He patiently picks up his chisel and goes back to work. He won’t quit half-way through a project.

He Will Do It

Note the last four words of verse 24: “He will do it.” They are simple and direct. No qualification, no hesitation, no doubt of any kind. Just four simple words: He will do it. Not “He may do it” or “He might do it” or “He could do it” or “He will do it if he feels like it.” Not even “He will do it if we do our part.” Just a simple declarative statement that God will do it. Unqualified by even the slightest reference to anything on our part. When it’s all said and done, what matters is not my strong hold on God, but his strong hold on me.

Sometimes when I ask someone, How are you? the reply comes, “I’m doing all right.” That’s a conversational nicety, but it’s not accurate. If the truth be told, we’re not “all right.” Some of us feel “all right” and most of us feel “partly right and partly wrong.” But none of us are completely “all right” in every area of life. For the moment, we’re not “all right” but by God’s grace we’re moving in that direction and in the end, all God’s children are going to be “all right’ when we stand in his presence.

In that day we will be whole and complete. Perfect, pure, perfected. No more hammering, no more sawing, no more finish work. Why? Because God finishes what he starts.

Place Yourself in God’s Hands

We may chafe, doubt and despair of any progress at all. We may be angry and give up. But God does not change. He is faithful and he will do it.

What is left for us? Simply to place ourselves in God’s hands. To cooperate with the Master Designer as he shapes us into the image of Jesus. To say, “Lord, here am I. Make me what you want me to be.”

Take heart. God is at work in your life. He will not stop until the job is done.

 

Original here

America, We’ve Been Warned

 

God Blessing the Earth. Found in the collection of Nationalmuseum Stockholm. (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

By Sam Rohrer | November 21, 2019

 

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Don’t say you haven’t been warned”? In a day where false alarms, exaggerated warnings and intentional scare tactics are used by a deceptive culture, it’s sometimes difficult to separate true warnings from deceptive false alarms. So how do you know?

When God warns, it’s real, and we’d better sit up and take notice. In the Bible, the word “woe” or warning is used nearly 100 times—98 to be exact. The Old Testament prophets used it. Christ used it many times Himself. The word occurs in the Book of Revelation in final judgment. In nearly every case where a woe is given, the warning of judgment is certain, and God’s punishment imminent.

For example, Noah warned the people for 100 years of a coming flood. The people heard. They considered. They rejected. They died. God gives us warnings so that we might live.

Then in Isaiah Chapter 5, God’s prophet pronounced six specific warnings of imminent judgment against identified national sins. These woes were sobering, the sins specific and God’s judgment certain. The message was to Israel, but the application is for America.

The first woe identified the sin of materialism. After God blessed the nation with security, wealth, houses and productive land, the people turned their back on Him. The result? God withheld His blessings, removed His protection, allowed rebellion within and threats of attack from without. Does this sound anything like America today?

The second woe is found in Isaiah 5:11, identified the sin of hedonism. Consumed with an intoxicating addiction to alcohol, drugs, entertainment and partying, the nation willfully rejected God and the consequences of evil choices. Again, sound like America?

Thirdly, Isaiah 5:18 identifies the horrible practice of literally promoting sin and evil. Without regard for God or moral truth, the nation dreamed of evil, sinned without remorse and even belittled God by profaning His name and His truth.

Isaiah 5:20 tells of the fourth woe—the sin of moral relativism. Even more dangerous is when a nation redefines moral truth into moral evil. This is accomplished by discarding the Ten Commandments as dangerous, killing the unborn through abortion, redefining marriage between two men or two women, and much more. Have these redefinitions been made in America? Yes—all have!

The fifth woe outlined in Isaiah 5:21 is the sin of arrogance and corruption. God hates pride because it embodies the sin of satanic defiance against God. Through pride, mankind pronounces himself to be God, which results in the rejection of God and eternal life.

Lastly, Isaiah pronounced the sixth woe by identifying the sin of corrupted leadership that is fueled by dependence on alcohol and drug addictions. He warned: Woe unto the political and military leaders who through addiction become bribed and incapable of sound judgment.

What is the result of continually ignoring God’s true warnings? Isaiah 5:24 says that God’s love will be turned to anger, His blessings will turn to judgment, murder and death of the people will increase, enemy nations will threaten to attack—suddenly and overwhelmingly—and all trusted defenses will fail.

It happened to Israel. It will happen to America if we don’t soon change our ways. It’s past time to look to God, repent and beg His mercy.

The similarities of the six woes in Isaiah Chapter 5 and how they relate to America today are astounding. What will we do to heed God’s warnings? Will we claim ignorance and say we were never warned?

While God is full of mercy, His justice will prevail. When God warns, we’d better listen because time eventually runs out. God has been warning America. America doesn’t care. Do you?

(The Hon. Sam Rohrer is president of the American Pastors Network, a national network of pastors with constitutional and biblical teachings that discusses today’s pressing issues. He was a Pennsylvania lawmaker for 18 years and hosts the daily “Stand in the Gap Today” national radio program on more than 400 stations and Host of the “Stand in the Gap” national television program.)

https://cnsnews.com/commentary/sam-rohrer/america-weve-been-warned

China changes Bible characters to ancient Chinese in official church magazine

By Leah MarieAnn Klett, Christian Post Reporter

Heavenly Wind magazine is published monthly by the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the China Christian Council.  | Bitter Winter

The Chinese government is demanding the country’s state-sanctioned Protestant church to use artwork depicting biblical characters as ancient Chinese men and women.

According to Bitter Winter, Heavenly Wind magazine is published monthly by the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the China Christian Council. Since the beginning of the year, the magazine’s cover art has featured “sinicized” biblical illustrations with Jesus talking to ancient Chinese characters in Chinese landscapes, a move Bitter Winter warns “goes well beyond the iconographic ‘inculturation’ traditionally practiced by Catholic and some other missionaries.”

For example, Mary was “personified as an ancient Chinese woman,” and the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes shows Jesus feeding characters “portrayed with their hair tied in traditional Chinese buns.” Additionally, Jesus is shown wearing traditional Han attire.

A 70-year-old Christian from the province of Qinghai told Bitter Winter the Communist government “has always talked about de-Westernization” and “doesn’t allow Chinese people to believe in the God of foreigners.”

“But I never expected that the Lord Jesus and saints through the ages would be transformed into Chinese people,” the elderly Christian said.

“My eyes widened when I saw Mary with her hair tied in a bun like an ancient Chinese woman. It’s so bizarre.”

China’s sinicization of the Bible goes beyond imagery. The July edition of Heavenly Wind included charts comparing certain passages of Scripture with the teachings of a book written by Chinese philosopher Zhu Bolu (1617-1688).

For instance, the Bible verse, “It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor, but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy” (Proverbs 14:21), was said to be similar to the Confucian saying, “There is nothing more shameful than being jealous of the wealth and power of others; there is nothing lowlier than looking down on poor people.”

“This is like killing someone with an invisible knife,” one preacher told Bitter Winter. “During the Cultural Revolution, if you believed in Jesus, the Communist Party would arrest you and kill you in the open. Now, the regime is gradually distorting the Christian doctrine in secret.”

According to Bitter Winter, Heavenly Wind magazine “has always been a good indicator of the state of ‘official’ Christianity in China.” Christians in the country are concerned that the government is using traditional Chinese culture to “replace the Bible and distort biblical teachings,” it adds.

In 2016, President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping ordered the sinicization of all religions to ensure they are loyal to the officially atheistic party.

Since then, in efforts to free religion from perceived foreign influence, Chinese officials have shut down churches, arrested congregations, and reportedly attempted to rewrite the Bible.

In September, it was reported that Chinese government officials demanded that clergy affiliated with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement in Yuzhou city base their sermons on a book that blends biblical teachings with the teachings of Confucius.

A pastor from the Yuzhou area warned that some of the arguments in the book completely misrepresent some teachings in the Bible.

In June, multiple Three-Self churches in Qingdao city in the Shandong province were ordered by the Religious Affairs Bureau to sing new patriotic hymns written by the state-sanctioned Christian councils instead of traditional worship songs.

The chorus of one of the hymns included the lines: “China is beautiful; China is great; the sons and daughters of China love China. … Bless China, O Lord.”

Watchdog group Open Doors USA ranked China No. 27 on its World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most severe persecution for their faith.

Open Doors warned in its report that “the increased power of the government and the rule of President Xi Jinping continue to make open worship difficult in some parts of the country.”

https://www.christianpost.com/news/china-changes-bible-characters-to-ancient-chinese-in-official-church-magazine-its-so-bizarre.html

AUDIO What God Remembers That We Forget

Psalm 103:6-18

“He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14).

Have you wondered what God really thinks about you?

Our greatest barrier to knowing God better may be how much we know about how much God knows about us. We struggle with God because we feel so bad about ourselves, and if we know the truth about ourselves, think of how much more God knows us!

We can’t fool him.

Sometimes we don’t want to pray or read the Bible or think about God because when we look in the mirror, we feel like saying, “You’re a big disappointment” or “You ought to be a lot better by now.”

We’ve all felt that way from time to time, and I imagine that many people reading these words feel that way right now. It’s been a hard week, or a bad month, and now we’re near the end of what seems like a wasted year. Sam Storms captures the truth in one simple sentence:

I think we run from God rather than to him because we know our own hearts all too well and his barely at all.

I probably don’t need to spend any time convincing you that you are a sinner. You probably know the truth about yourself all too well. But it’s the other side that we need to talk about. We don’t know God’s heart very well.

You probably know the truth about yourself all too well.

That’s where Psalm 103 can help us tremendously. Perhaps no other chapter in the Bible so clearly reveals God’s compassion for his people. If you’re wondering what God thinks about you, let’s take a journey through Psalm 103 and discover seven liberating truths about God’s heart.

1. He Loves to Help the Needy.

“The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel” (vv. 6-7).

The “oppressed” are those who can’t help themselves. In the Old Testament the word especially referred to widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. When we are tempted to take advantage of others because we are strong and they are weak, God says, “Think about that first.” He takes the side of the weak. Our God keeps his eyes on the helpless, and when others hurt them, he moves to balance the scales of justice. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “The arm of the universe is long but it bends toward justice.” There are days and times when this is hard to believe, especially in light of events like the terrorist bombing in Mumbai. But this truth stands like a solid rock for the believer. If all of history is a book, we haven’t reached the final chapter yet. We’re somewhere near the end, but we’re not sure how far away we are. But we know this much. Eventually God will bring everything to light, and he will judge with impartiality. In that day there will be no hiding, no excuse-making, no bribes, and no way of escape.

Eventually God will bring everything to light, and he will judge with impartiality.

All those who labor for a better world and a more just society and those who stretch out a helping hand–you have to believe this or you can’t go on. The words of James Russell Lowell come to mind:

Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,-
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown, Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

Are you needy? The answer is yes whether you know it or not. You are needy and God is on your side. That’s a great place to start.

2. He Shows Mercy to Those Who Don’t Deserve It.

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (v. 8).

See the four great attributes of God in this verse:

1)      The Lord is compassionate-He pardons us.
2)      
The Lord is gracious-He gives us what we don’t deserve.
3)      
The Lord is slow to anger-He is patient with us when we fall.
4)      
The Lord abounds in love-He loves us more than we can imagine.

There’s no fishing like fishing in the sea.
There’s no eating like eating at the king’s table.
There’s no love like God’s love.

When he saves, he saves completely.
When he forgives, he forgives all my sins.
When he sets free, we are free forever.

The King James Version translates the last phrase of verse 8 by saying that God is “plenteous in mercy.” Spurgeon (in The Treasury of David) takes that phrase and offers this application (italics added):

All the world tastes of his sparing mercy,
those who hear the gospel partake of his inviting mercy,
the saints live by his saving mercy,
are preserved by his upholding mercy,
are cheered by his consoling mercy, and
will enter heaven through his infinite and everlasting mercy.

I like that! Six kinds of mercy in just one sentence. That’s plenteous mercy for anyone who needs it.

3. He Tempers His Wrath.

“He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever. He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities” (vv. 9- 10).

Have you ever known anyone who loved to argue? We all know people who love to keep a quarrel going because they are so angry. God is not like that. He is willing to end the quarrel and welcome us back home. Sometimes the real problem is that we want to keep fighting him.

He’s more ready to forgive than we are to be forgiven!

When we forget to pray, he remembers to feed us.
When we forge to give thanks, he sends us restful sleep.
When we idle in sin, he sends his Holy Spirit to convict us.
When we refuse to give, he keeps on giving still.
When we fall, he lifts us up.
When we disappoint ourselves and others, he still calls us his children.

God even blesses those who don’t believe in him.

He even blesses those who don’t believe in him. An unbeliever like Christopher Hitchens writes a book called “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,” and sells a boatload of copies, along the way merrily debating every religious-type person he can find. He is clever, witty, a gifted wordsmith, widely read, quick with a comeback, and completely committed to debunking religion of every type and even more committed to the concept that God is simply not necessary. But see the mercy of God. Instead of crushing him like an empty eggshell, the Lord feed him and nourishes him and gives him health and love and life. It is the longsuffering of God that allows Christopher Hitchens to deny him. And why would God show such kindness to someone utterly dedicated to eradicating his influence in the world? Because if there is a God at all, he is not in the least intimidated by Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris. If you think of them as part of the atheist artillery, they shoot at God on ground he provides from them. And the fact that God withholds punishment to his enemies, that too is evidence of his mercy for “God’s kindness leads you toward repentance” (Romans 2:4).

4. He Forgives All Our Sins.

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (vv. 11-12).

Consider the greatness of God’s love. Astronomers tell us that the farthest known light source from the earth is ten billion light years away. That means that light starting from that source (a quasar) would take ten billion years traveling at the speed to light to arrive at the earth.  By contrast the nearest star is “only” four light years away from us. That’s four years traveling at the speed of light, which is 186,000 miles per second. Light from the sun reaches the earth in a little over eight minutes. So even the nearest star is a vast distance from the earth. And using ion drive propulsion, you could reach the nearest star in a modern spaceship in “only” 81,000 years.  You can turn it around any way you like and we are left with two inescapable realities. First, we live in a tiny corner of the universe, and second, the universe is vast beyond our comprehension. But God’s love is greater, vaster, larger, deeper, longer, broader, and bigger in all dimensions that the universe itself. Get in a rocket equipped with any sort of sci-fi system you can imagine. Fly at warp speed if you like. Go as far as you can go, to the end of the known universe and beyond. And when you have gone as far as you can go, look up and smile because God’s love is still going. You will never reach the end of it.

Consider the magnitude of God’s love. Let’s suppose you want to go east until you finally reach the west. So you take off from Baltimore in a hot air balloon. When you land in Lisbon, you get in a Honda Civic and drive across Europe until you come to Varna, Bulgaria. There you hop on a freighter than takes you through the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, and on to the Gulf of Aden where you narrowly escape getting caught by the pirates, and on into the Indian Ocean where you finally put ashore in Colombo, Sri Lanka. From there you catch a flight to Singapore and then down south to Perth, Australia. There you hitchhike across the Outback, eventually arriving in Sydney where you join a passenger ship heading for Easter Island. You then fly to Santiago, Chile where you rent a beat-up Jeep and start driving north. It’s a long way but you eventually make it all the way to Nome, Alaska where you hire a dogsled team so that you can run the Iditarod Race in reverse, ending up in Anchorage so you hop on a cruise ship to Vancouver, BC, where you take the Trans-Canada Railway, ending up in Halifax, Nova Scotia. And there you buy a high-end road bike and start peddling through New Brunswick, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey and Delaware. Finally you make it back to Baltimore. Besides having circumnavigated the globe, what have you proved? Among other things, you have proved that no matter how far east you go, you will never find the west.

My sins can never come back to haunt me again.

Never the twain shall meet. The farther east you go, the farther you are from the west.

That’s the magnitude of God’s love. Here is great good news for all the sinners of the world. When God forgives, he removes our sins, he lifts them up, he takes them away, and he puts them so far away from us that we could never find them if we searched for them for a thousand years. They are gone forever.

My sins can never come back to haunt me again.
Even Satan can’t bring them back.

In his sermon on these verses Jim Nicodem says that God has . . .

A long fuse – “slow to anger” (v. 8),
A short memory-“does not harbor his anger forever” (v. 9),
A thick skin
-“does not treat us as our sins deserve” (v. 10), and
A great heart
-“so great is his love, so far has he removed our sins” (vv. 11-12).

I’m glad we have a God like that because that exactly the kind of God we need.

5. He Understands Our Weakness.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him” (v. 13).

I never understood that verse until I had children. When our boys were very young and would have trouble going to sleep, and when Marlene was tired and needed to sleep herself, I would carry the boys in my arms. Sometimes I would sing to them, sometimes (often) I would make up a song. I remember when Joshua was very young, I would sing Scripture verses to him, such as “The wicked they flee when no man pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion” (see Proverbs  28:1). I would sing it over and over again until he finally fell asleep in my arms. I just made the tune up, but as I typed the words, the tune came back to me as if I had last sung it yesterday and not 25 years ago.

When an earthly father has done his job well, he makes it easy for his children to believe in their Heavenly Father. 

Earthly fathers-however imperfect-point us upward to our Heavenly Father. When an earthly father has done his job well, he makes it easy for his children to believe in their Heavenly Father. Our children learn that we do not worship a god of stone or an empty idol or a remote deity or an impersonal machine in the sky. We serve a Father God who knows our weakness and loves us anyway.

When our son Mark was a young child, he developed a persistent ear infection that would not go away. After trying antibiotics for a time, our family physician told us we needed to see a specialist so he referred us to Dr. Culbertson, a highly respected specialist in Dallas. After examining him carefully, he announced that Mark needed to have tubes put in his ears to prevent further scarring from the infection. Even though the operation is quick and fairly simple, the doctor could see that Mark was scared. So he picked him up and carried him piggy-back to surgery. That was the last image we saw-the great physician carrying our son on his back so he wouldn’t be afraid.

So it is with our Heavenly Father. The Great Physician knows our weakness and understands our fears. And when we can’t go on, he carries us on his back.

6. He Remembers That We Are Dust.

“For he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more” (vv. 14-16).

Here is a truth we all understand, especially in this season of the year. Yesterday’s green leaves soon turn brown. It is an inexorable law of nature that the green leaves of spring end up in a pile on your lawn. In October Marlene and I spent a few days on Prince Edward Island, home of the famous “Anne of Green Gables” books. We happened to be there near the peak of the fall foliage season so as we traveled the narrow country roads, we saw leaves in every hue imaginable-scarlet, orange, pink, bright red, russet, maroon, bronze, yellow, purple, and every possible shade of brown. We especially noticed it in the evening, when the low angle of the sun seemed to backlight the entire forest and set it ablaze in a kaleidoscope of color. Why do the leaves lose their green? There is a scientific explanation having to do with the loss of green chlorophyll, but that simply means the leaves are slowly dying. Their beauty comes from their death.

Who remembers each leaf? Not the tree. One by one the leaves fall to the ground where they disintegrate and return to the soil from which they came. No one names them or numbers them or even thinks about them. And by now on Prince Edward Island most of the leaves are gone from the trees. It is the way of nature, the way God arranged the changing of the seasons.

Twenty years ago Marlene would sometimes tease me by saying, “There’s a little gray in your beard.” She stopped that a long time ago because the little has become a lot. Just this morning I realized that I hadn’t shaved in two days. And when I looked in the mirror I saw little bits of gray stubble all over my face. I think if I let my beard grow, it would be mostly gray. When God puts gray in your beard, it’s like the leaves turning brown in the fall. It’s God’s way of saying, “You won’t be here forever.”

Every now and then I’ll run across a bit of cemetery humor that makes me chuckle. I was driving down a major thoroughfare in Chicago next to one of those cemeteries that seems to go on forever. Because it is a long stretch of road with no stop lights, people tend to break the speed limit routinely. So I laughed when I saw a billboard sponsored by the cemetery that said, “Slow Down. We’ll save a place for you.” I’m sure they will.

If that’s all there is, if we are here today and gone tomorrow, if that’s the end of the story, then there isn’t much hope. But let me share something with you. If you don’t have anything else to be thankful for this year, here’s something you can hang your hat on. Our hope is not in man or in anything man can do.

Our hope is in the everlasting God!

7. He Links Us With Eternity By Linking Us With Himself.

“But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness  with their children’s children- with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts” (vv. 17-18).

Our hope is in the everlasting God!

There is nothing we can do about our frailty. We come from the hand of our Creator stamped, “Fragile: Handle with care.” We are like the dust devils that blow across the desert. We make a big scene and then suddenly we disappear. Try as we might, we can’t cancel our humanity. Nothing can change what we are. Vitamins and exercise and clean living may slow down the process. Positive thinking may improve our mood. But for all of us, the end is the same:

Ashes to ashes,
Dust to dust.

Psalm 103 offers us one strong ground of comfort that lifts us up above the transitory nature of this life. It is the “but” of verse 17, the blessed “but” that changes everything. That one word offers an eternal contrast between

The fading flower and the everlasting God,
Our mortality and God’s eternity.

That one word-that little “but”-stands at the demarcation between this life and the next. Here is our real hope of life that never ends.

God’s tender mercy.
His unfailing love.
His abounding grace.

Someone has said that life without Christ is a hopeless end, but life with Christ is an endless hope. And this endless hope is not only to us but to our children’s children. What will we leave our children? A vast estate? A large inheritance? A huge life insurance policy? Whatever we may say about earthly possessions, they pale next to the privilege of passing down a godly heritage, a tapestry of truth, and a pattern of believing that our children and grandchildren can claim as their own.

We are richer than we think, we are more blessed than we know, and we have more than we realize.

In a transient and passing world where everything fades away, we have the promise that we are linked to the future even after we are gone by the faithfulness of God to our children to our children’s children. This, too, is the mercy of God.

Take Me to the Cross

What is Psalm 103 telling us? We are richer than we think, we are more blessed than we know, and we have more than we realize. We frail, mortal sinners are rich in the mercy of God.

And we have found that mercy–or rather, that mercy has found us-i-n the cross of Jesus Christ. During one of his sermons Billy Graham told the story of a patrolman on night duty in a town in northern England.  As he walked the streets, he heard a quivering sob. Shining his flashlight into the darkness, he saw a little boy in the shadows sitting on a doorstep and tears were running down his cheek. The child said, “I’m lost. Please take me home.” And the policeman began naming street after street, trying to help the boy remember where he lived. He named the shops and the hotels in the area but the little boy could give him no clue.

Then he remembered that at the center of the town there was a church with a large white cross that towered above the rest of the city. The policeman pointed to the cross and said, “Do you live anywhere near that place?” The little boy’s face immediately brightened up. He said, “Yes, sir. Take me to the cross and I can find my way home.”

Go to the cross and you will find your way home to God.

All that we believe, all that we have, all that we hope for is found in the cross of Christ. Go to the cross and you will find your way home to God.

Are you weak? So am I.
Are you needy? So am I.
Are you guilty? So am I.
Are you frail? So am I.
Are you like dust? So am I.

And God says to us, his weak, needy, guilty, frail, dusty children, “I know you through and through, and I love you anyway. Come to me. Rest in me. Make me your Rock.” God’s mercy in Christ is more than enough for all of us. Amen.

 

 

Original here