When Life Troubles You

The wise king, Solomon, in the Proverbs asks these questions –

“Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?”

We understand that he is speaking of one who tarries long at the wine and imbibes in strong drink. The warning is decidedly present to avoid that which causes you to lose your self-control.

But did these questions ever come to Solomon’s heart when he simply lived out his life from day to day? Were there days when he gazed upon his face, like his father before him, and wonder why his pillow was wet with his tears through the night?

Yet, there are days when the struggles are so real that you do not know what to say to another. Your heart is pained and the woe and sorrow seems to multiply to the point where you feel as though you would be overwhelmed like the banks of the Jordan during its peak season.

The words of Solomon reflect that these words must have meant more to him when we find him at the end of life’s battles. Listen to the words of The Preacher found in Ecclesiastes 2:3; 5:18, and in 6:12.

“3 I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine–my heart still guiding me with wisdom–and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life.”

“18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.”

“12 For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?”

Can you feel his pain? Here is a man who had anything and everything a human could need or want in life, but it was all vanity. Life was coming to a close for him and he realized that his struggles were very real. How many days and nights must he have recognized strife or seen the redness in his eyes from weeping? Must he have wondered if such struggles were even necessary? Surely, there could have been no thought in his mind that he was the only one who ever faced struggles. But the struggles he had were peculiar to him and the only person who ever fully understood Solomon was the God who created him.

But, were there days he looked deep within his soul and found, as Martin Luther called it, the black dog of depression staring back at him? He faced, just as we do, the face of reality and sometimes it produces wounds that seem as though they are without cause. Ultimately, we know that the wounds are caused because of sin and having to deal with the remnants of the old nature, but that does not make going through them any easier. Human beings are fickle and we like to know we are loved, cared for, and surrounded by others who can understand our struggles.

What of those times when it seems as though the heart will shatter in pieces? Yes, we can even find ourselves not knowing how or what we should pray. At those times, the apostle Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf when there is nothing but groans coming from the heart.

The daily battles are real though. We are forced to deal with people who do not have God at the center of their lives. This becomes painfully apparent when you take the time to listen to the words and music that pours from their lips and the speakers of your workplace. Brothers and sisters, it is mind-numbing. Then, we must gather the pieces of our soul and go home to find a family that wants to be loved. They want to know that you are there to help protect them, but the task can seem overwhelming and even, at times, impossible.

Words and thoughts that are grieving to the Holy Spirit rise unbidden. It is all you can do to swallow the bile in your throat as you realize again and again and again that if it was not for the grace of God that you would be right where others are. Lost, apart from the tender mercies of God, and even more bereft of hope.

The 21st century is a ponderous time, and this is certainly true for those who are true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. We face an uncertain future in a world that hates Christ and His followers. The followers of which I speak are those who have been given the ability to be overcomers as we find in 1 John 5.

True Christians struggle to even find hope in their fellowship with other believers for it has been demeaned to match the pop culture so prevalent in America. Scattered among the heathen found in the pews of Sunday worshipers are those whose hearts wonder if there is more. Is there more to life? Is there more to our worship? Must we engage with the forces of evil all through the week only to have to deal with the same mundane fluff that is called worship every Sunday?

Our churches are to be hospitals for the wounded and dying, but we have reduced them to places where we can get our “God” fix for the next week or two. The ears are filled with the praise of man and not the praise of God. Trivial worship has made for trivial lives. Trivial messages have built the self-esteem of man to the point where we think we are invincible and have little need of God. We are thinking of ourselves so highly that when our world crashes down around us that we first turn inward for truth and find nothing but the sad strain of more woes, strife, and contentions.

Life is a journey of battles and as Job stated, “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble (14:1).”

Is there any wonder that we who know Christ long for more than what we find? Our eyes are red because the hope we have in what we thought we could produce or find in life has been nothing but vanity of vanities. The corporate ladder we sought to climb is built with straw rungs. The closeness of family has become little more than a dream as disrespect for parents has been the new calling card of the Millennial generation.

Children of the 21st century think they are owed the world on a platter. Sadly, like Solomon, we may find that we have been raising a Rehoboam, or that we have one who is like an Absalom to his parents.

Sometimes, the fellowship of friendships can drift apart through no reason than that life has gotten in the way. For those who are true believers, we can be assured that God brings people into our lives to be a blessing and so that we can be a blessing to them. But what happens when we depend on the friendship more than we seem to depend on the One Who alone will never leave us or forsake us?

All of these things can cause redness of eyes and wounds to the heart because life is troubling. Life deals out blows and they can even cause us to buckle. But is that such a bad thing? When we have finally come to our senses and realize that the only way we can look is up then we are in the right place. Overcoming wounds of the heart will never be easy in this life, but we can grow stronger through those wounds.

When the wounds are deep and the nights are long, those are the times that we must look to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is upon Him that we must cast our burdens because He is the One Who cares for us. The troubles of life will come and they will go like the tides of the ocean, but we must cry to the Master of the Sea when we feel that our ship is sinking.

My prayer is that these words are an encouragement to needy hearts. You are not alone in this world. Other brothers and sisters face their own battles. The contentions of their life may not be what you struggle with, but they are just as real. However, this life will soon be over and only what is done for Christ will last. If you are down, allow your eyes to gaze upon the sweet face of the Savior. Allow your heart and mind to be lost in the wonder that He loves you with an infinite love and there is nothing that can separate you from that love – EVER!

That last paragraph is enough to help me refocus my thoughts, even when I do not understand what is happening or why it is happening. Ultimately, when I regain my focus on that which is eternal, I will remember the joy that will belong to every believer as one day we bow the knee before the King of all the ages on His throne. We will bow with adoration and simply proclaim that these were but light afflictions.

Brokenness of Heartache

In the post called If You Love Me…Part 2, I mentioned heartache and how there are times we sorrow over certain events. Let me remind you, dear reader, what a tender heart the Lord has for His beloved.

Isaiah 42:3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.

Matthew 12:20 A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.

1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon Him for He careth for you.

As we look around at life and the things that are happening, our hearts groan with the sorrow of it all. Everything seems to be falling apart, even within our own hearts. I wonder, sometimes, how people can go forward when it seems like even myself, as a believer fails so much. How can I expect anyone else to follow the Lord when I can’t seem make it at times?

Even in the darkest hours when we struggle to make it through another sorrow, or wake up another day wondering what will happen next and who will hurt us, when our hearts are torn apart because someone we care about refuses to have anything to do with us due to us following the Lord, a deep depression breaks over our soul and we can’t pinpoint just why, or pain (mental, spiritual or physical) keeps us awake through the night and we can’t sleep; just remember the Lord cares and hears.

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Yet, the whole of sorrow is something we must endure at some point or another. How can we get through those times? What kind of responses should we have? It’s so easy to fret and fume, to be restless and uneasy because of what we have to deal with in the midst of that trial or tribulation. Sorrow is something that is good for us and we must sorrow at times but not as those of this world. We can still have peace and rest in the midst of our sorrows.

God is still in control and our sorrows didn’t take Him by surprise so let us learn to be still. Let us remember that the Lord works all things out for His glory and our, those who love Him and are called according to His purposes, good. Let us learn to cast our cares on our Lord and leave them with Him no matter how difficult the path or long the road. He is there and has promised He will “never leave us nor forsake us.” He will pour out His grace upon us and give us strength for the next step.

So, dear friend, trust Him because He alone is trustworthy!

Fruit of the Spirit (Part 2): Joy

I have several friends who are battling depression right now so I know it is no coincidence that the next Fruit of the Spirit is Joy.

It was only a few years ago that I went through a long period of depression. Prior to that time, I saw depression as a spiritual issue, and I still believe it is.  I saw another side, however, and that is that no matter how much I made myself look at the positive, it did not make me feel better inside. I fervently prayed for God to restore my joy or take me Home. Thankfully He answered that prayer by filling me once again with joy and a sense of His presence. Sure, there are still bad times but God’s grace is there, walking with me every step of the way.

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I do not know how people who don’t have the Lord get through life because truly it is often the joy of the Lord which is my strength. If you do not have that joy right now, don’t stop asking for it and fighting to receive this important fruit. Once you receive this joy unspeakable and full of glory, you will be able to share it with others.

In closing, let me remind you that tears may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning. Don’t give up hope. Everything happens for a purpose to those who love God. He will complete the work He’s begun in you if you will surrender and allow Him to do so.

Is Suicide Ever an Option?

There is a great deal of words that have been written about the suicide of a recent celebrity. This blog does not intend to readdress this sad loss for his family and friends. The fact is that depression has seen another life go out into eternity. However, before I address the question at hand, I do want to make a few preliminary comments.

1) Eternity is real and each one of us will face that reality. The Scriptures remind us that “as it is appointed unto man once to die and after this will come the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). This means that no matter when we die or how we die, we will stand before God. He alone is the Judge of man.

While we can make judgment calls against another, the truth is that the Bible does give us the answer to what will happen next after death. It is our responsibility to tell others the dangers of what will come. There are only two choices. If our salvation is placed by grace through faith alone in Christ alone, then His Holy Spirit will have brought us to the point of repentance and we become a new creation in Christ Jesus. If not, then the price that will be paid is eternal damnation apart from Christ.

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2) It is a sad day when people get angry when a subject matter like suicide is spoken about. People tend to follow their emotions rather than the dictates of a clear conscience. What is worse is when Christians become so divisive that the world cannot clearly see Jesus Christ working in and through us. He alone is our hope and our guide, and it is to His Word that we must seek to find our answers.

3) This post is not intended to denigrate the reality of suicide, nor the causes of what brings a person to suicide. Further, it is not meant to belittle the pain of what a family goes through when suicide has been committed. Death is a tragic part of life but it is because of the fall in the Garden of Eden that death is a reality.

4) Suicide is a reality in just about every culture around the world. The church should be stepping up with help instead of hiding behind rocks and pretending it does not happen. Sadly, pastors are not prepared to offer help, guidance, and counsel because many do not have a solid view of Biblical principles. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us that the Scriptures are good for all that pertains to life and godliness. Therefore, we must correctly believe that depression and suicide can be addressed from a biblical perspective.

Now, let me address suicide and it is our desire to do so from a Biblical perspective. Tragically, there is a great deal of misunderstanding among true believers about the matter of suicide. While I do not expect our readers to totally agree with me, it is my prayer that you will give my thoughts prayerful consideration. I do not want needless rants, but you are welcome to comment or share your thoughts. As always, we ask that if you do so that you follow our rules of engagement.

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1) Suicide is mentioned in the Bible. We are told of seven different people who took their own lives (Judges 9:54; 16:29-31; 1 Sam. 31:3-6; 2 Sam. 17:23; 1 Kings 16:18; and Matt. 27:5). Of course, the two most famous were King Saul in the Old Testament and then Judas Iscariot in the New Testament. The why and how is not relevant to this blog post.

2) Any time that we act in a manner that is contrary to what God desires, it is sin. Therefore, we must conclude that suicide is sin. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin, and suicide is not a step of faith.

3) Because suicide is a sin, we must address what the Bible says about sin. Sin is a reality of the Fall. We are fallen creatures and our hearts and minds are totally set in contradiction to the holiness of God, unless we have been made a new creation in Christ.

4) Sadly, in the church, we have become very adept at classifying our sin according to our own perspectives instead of how God sees sin. It has become far too fashionable in Christendom to categorize sin into certain tiers. Lying on your tax return is not as bad as adultery. Lying to your kids about Santa Claus is not as bad as the couple who got divorced and remarried. Hating somebody who writes a blog is not as bad as the person who actually took their own life.

The biblical answer to life is that we must turn to Jesus Christ. We must see sin as He does and the penalty that must be endured for that sin. If He paid it all, then it is all to Him I owe because sin had left a crimson stain, but He washed it white as snow. The sobering alternative is that those who reject Christ will pay the ultimate penalty in everlasting punishment.

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5) Thus we must address another question. Can a murderer become a true believer in Christ? Further, can a true believer who takes his or her eyes off Christ respond in anger in such a way that murder is the result? Let’s go further. Christ said that if we even have hatred in our hearts, it is the same as murder.

If we had the opportunity to speak to somebody on death row, do we share with them the truth of God’s Word and His grace and forgiveness offered freely to all who will believe, or do we ask them first what type of murder they perpetrated and how they did it? Of course, any true bearer of good news would share the reality of grace and what Christ paid so we would not have to suffer the wrath of God the Father.

So, in order to share this truth we must ask another question. Is the sin of murder one of the sins that nailed Christ to the cross? The answer is unquestionably yes it was. Although, suicide is considered by many to be self-murder, it is still sin and it was still a sin nailed to the cross of Christ for all who believe.

6) Logically, we must then ask two more questions. 1) Can a person who is a Christian commit suicide? 2) Will a person who commits suicide go to heaven when they die?

The answer to both of these lay in what Christ did and not in what we have done, nor in what we deserve. Christ died for our sins almost 2,000 years ago and that means that all of our sins were in His future. Further, from before the foundations of the world, God set His love upon all who would believe and who would be brought to repent and confess their sin. This means that if you have ever truly come to Christ, every sin you have ever committed was PAID IN FULL on the cross of Calvary.

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We have biblical injunction to assume that we can ever undo the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When He cried, “It is finished”, he meant that it was finished for all time. There would never be the need for another sacrifice for all who come by grace through faith alone to Him.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” This is important to correctly understand. A person who is TRULY a new creation in Christ cannot uncreate what God has created.

While I believe in eternal security of the believer, I do NOT believe that a person can do what they want, when they want, and remain in that sin if they are a true believer. If they are a brand new creation, they will be changed into the image of Jesus Christ. However, this does not mean that we cannot succumb to a particular sin with the exception of unbelief. I do not find any leeway in Scripture that shows a person who belongs to Christ can truly come to the point of unbelief in the saving work of Christ. This means that a person can be discouraged or in complete despair of their situation, but that never negates what Christ accomplished on Calvary.

7) The only sin that will ever take a person to hell is the sin of unbelief. God will not bring down the hammer of condemnation because a person is a drunkard, or a cheater, or a liar, or an adulterer, or even a murderer. Nobody will ever be able to say that God is unfair and He does not judge rightly, and the ultimate sin that brings that condemnation will be the rejection of Jesus Christ. Suicide is not a rejection of Jesus Christ, but a rejection of the life and circumstances that God has sovereignly placed in my path. Thus, if a person chooses to end their life, they have sinned but not a sin that I believe brings damnation to hell.

Let us consider a few more thoughts about suicide.

1) More times than not, suicide is the end result of depression. While we could address depression at length, let it be sufficient to say that one of the results of the fall is that our mind is not what God originally designed and created. DNA does not grow better, but it decreases with each person that is born.

This means there is a Biblical reason for mental illnesses no matter what kind it is. Our understanding of mental illness can often be skewed because we (the church) too often looks to worldly psychology instead of to the Word of God for appropriate answers.

2) Suicide is never to be an option. It is the ultimate act of selfishness against God and against those we love. Speak to a family who has gone through this and you will see the pain, grief, and shame that never goes away. Speak to the police officers, EMT workers, and funeral workers that grieve alone after the work of dealing with a suicide has been finished. Speak to the pastors and church members who struggle to know how to help a family pick up the pieces of the puzzle that have been irreversibly shattered.

3) The two greatest commandments given by Jesus Christ reiterate all that is found in the law and the prophets. First, we must love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind. Second, we must love our neighbor as ourselves. There is not a third command that we must learn to love ourselves. It is automatically assumed and we do that very well.

By this simple understanding of the law, it is easy to follow that doing anything in our life that does not reflect these two commands must be sin and the result of sin. Therefore, because it does not reflect a love for God or for our neighbor, suicide is sin no matter why it is done.

So, what is the answer we can present to others or how do we help those who are weak in mind and body?

1) Suicidal thoughts can inhabit the mind, but Romans 12 reminds us that we are to renew our minds by being transformed. To be transformed, we cannot conform to the standards and precepts of the world. Further, in order to keep from conforming to the world, we must present our bodies a living sacrifice that is holy and acceptable to Jesus Christ.

2) The church needs to wake up to the reality that people’s mind are not being renewed. Thus, the church and pastors are failing to help provide care and love to those who are depressed or suffering from ailments that are the end result of the Fall. We must love those who are in our midst and recognize that it is not drugs that will give them freedom. It is not self-help or self-awareness classes that will bring ultimate relief. It is Jesus Christ. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith and it is to Him that we must point others who are helpless and hopeless.

3) When tragedy strikes within the ranks of true believers, the true Church must be willing to render prayer and loving support. We must follow the dictates of Galatians 6 and help to bear one another’s burdens, for in so doing, we fulfill the law of Christ.

4) It is not up to us to second-guess what the state of a person’s mind may or may not have been when they took their own life. Only God knows both their heart and their mind. While we do not condone this or any other sin, we must use this to reinforce the reality of Christ and what He has done so that we will ultimately be free from the ravages of all sin.

5) In almost 8 years in the funeral industry, I also served as a chaplain in four different funeral homes. I conducted 272 funerals. I only knew two of these individuals. It was not my responsibility to preach people into hell who did not belong there, nor did I preach anybody into heaven who had not been forgiven for their sins. That was the responsibility of the Judge of the Universe. However, in times of grief, I was able to share the truths that I did here in this post. There is room at the cross for all who will but come and plead to God for mercy.

A passage to consider is 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” On the surface, this paints a very bad picture for anybody who has practiced or indulged in such sins.

But Paul gives hope to the reader in the very next verse 11, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” This is worth rejoicing over. Such people who committed such sins have been washed, sanctified, and justified. The power of salvation is not based on us or our reactions to emotions, feelings, or circumstances. As Jonah stated, Salvation belongs unto God. It is of Him, through Him, and because of Him alone.

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We want to make one thing abundantly clear. This blog post, nor my beliefs, are to be construed in any way that a person is free to take their own lives when God allows them to go through turmoil and discouragement. I am NOT, nor would I ever say that. Suicide is ALWAYS wrong and is always sin. The power of life and death must be left in the hands of God alone. Despair can bring a person to make decisions that are regrettable.

While I do believe a true believer may come to the point where they despair completely of life and choose to end that life, I also believe that such an action would bring loss of reward when standing before God. Ultimately, we must see our lives as Job did when his world crashed down around him in Job 23:10, “When he has tried me, I will come forth as gold.”

Suicide happens and will continue to happen because we are fallen creatures in a fallen world. Until Satan is completely destroyed and all things are made right, sin will reign in the hearts and lives of individuals all around the world. However, we are assured that by His death, burial, and resurrection that Christ is the ultimate victor over death, hell, sin, and the grave.

May our hearts be filled with love and understanding toward those who are hurting. May we not make assumptions about what the Scriptures give us no leeway to make. May we show Christ to a world that is in utter darkness. May we be a light to that dark world so that those in the world will see God in our lives and will ultimately glorify our Father who is in heaven.

May we have compassion and grace toward what we do not, may not, or cannot comprehend. And finally, may we be ever thankful for the forgiveness that is offered by Christ to all who will come by faith and realize that if it was not for grace – many of us would find ourselves doomed and lost in hell.

I want to conclude with one final thought. If you are considering taking your life, seek out somebody who knows and loves Christ. Don’t look to somebody who has no answers or wants to fill your head with the Oprah Winfrey or Joel Osteen type of drivel that sends people to hell. Let them share with you the joy that comes from being found in Christ alone. There is life after despair. There is hope after discouragement. There is love where you may only know hate.

The answer is found in Christ alone!

Are You Resisting Sanctification?

sadness-man-in-the-shadow-1368461366ES7 I have been noticing a pattern of sin in my life that I know has always been there, but I never really recognized it for what it was. When God redeemed and made me a new creation almost 13 years ago, He gave me a new nature. As part of that nature, God made me aware of my sin, not in a generic sense, but in a very specific one. No longer did I feel bad about coveting, lusting, lying or hating just because bad consequences occurred. I actually began to hate my sin because I saw it for what it was, a rebellious act toward a kind and loving God. A God who mercifully redeemed me by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. And instead of just trying to find someway to justify my sin, I now wanted to repent of those things because I loved my Savior.

That battle to repent from my sins and to live a life that is pleasing to God has never been an easy one. In fact, one besetting sin stuck with me for over three years before God helped me to see just how wicked it was. Today I struggle with that sin, but I no longer dive head long into it. I make great efforts to never again set my feet anywhere near the path that leads me there. I rejoice when God gives me victory over sin, but I am ever aware that this wicked flesh is always waiting to find reason to transgress God’s law for its own satisfaction.

However, as of lately, I have become aware of multiple areas of sin in my life. Perhaps it is because my family and I have been going through many trials that I am more sensitive to His working in me. We certainly have had to rely on the Lord far more than ever before. As a result of that, I am becoming more aware of His working in our lives. And perhaps that is what has opened my own eyes to the sins I had previously ignored. Yet, it is my reaction to these areas of sin that is an even greater problem than the sins themselves. It is this area that I desire to share with you in hopes you can be edified and strengthened.

I have noticed that whenever I have begun to see an area of sin in my life that God is exposing, my first reaction, almost without fail, is to become upset, despondent, sad or depressed. I will practically shut down and begin to focus solely on myself and my failure to live up to the perceived standard I am supposed to live up to. I then complain about what a terrible Christian I am. I begin to seek comfort with family and friends, telling them about how bad I realize I am in the eyes of God. When they console me and tell me I am being too hard on myself, I feel refreshed, thinking I clearly have misunderstood what God was showing me. I then proceed on with my life as if nothing had ever happened.

Did you catch the sin? I see that God is showing me an area, or even areas, of sin, but rather than admit it and repent, I become introspective and complain to others. That is the sin. As a Christian, I am one time sanctified, made righteous in the eyes of God through the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In other words, my rebellion and wickedness is placed on Jesus at the cross, His perfect righteousness is accounted to me through repentance and faith. From that moment on, I am seen in God’s eyes as perfect, because all my sin – past, present and future – was punished at the cross. So no matter how often I stumble into sin, I am secure in the Father because I was purchased by the Son.

However, it does not stop there. Throughout my walk as a Christian, I am sanctified by God. That means that He is continually working to make me more like His Son. He is ever growing me through the reading of His word, expanding my understanding of the richness of His grace. He leads me in deeper prayer and worship, causing me to love Him more, and in turn, loving others around me. He causes me to care less about myself and to desire to serve Him alone. And He is also constantly exposing areas of sin in my life, leading me to repentance. God is purging me of my sins so that I may reflect my Savior in my thoughts, words and deeds. This process of sanctification is ongoing, never ending, right up until the day God calls me home. On that day, I will be glorified. I will be made perfect and will sin no more. But until that day, God sanctifies me and every other Christian He has redeemed in Christ. So the process of sanctification should be welcome in the life of every Christian. After all, God is refining us in the fire, removing the dross which is the sin for which Christ died. Yet, I find that rather than embrace sanctification, I am actually resisting it.

When I become morose over an area of sin in my life I am actually doing a couple of things. First, I am actually denying my own sinfulness. By acting shocked that God has revealed more sin in my life, I am claiming I should be able to not sin. If I am in fact, as the Bible describes me, a wretched sinner deserving nothing but judgment from God, then I should not be surprised that everything I do is tainted by sin. I should expect, daily, God to be showing me areas from which I need to repent. I should express concern over sin in my life, because sin is wickedness against God; however, I should not become distraught over it. By succumbing to emotional turmoil, I am actually stating that I believe I am capable of not sinning. I am ascribing to myself a kind of sinless perfection that exists only in God Himself.

Secondly, when I become this despondent over my sin, my inclination is to seek comfort in the eyes of others. By seeking their comfort, rather than repenting before God, I am actually trying to deny that sin which God has revealed. As I described above, I have personally complained to family and friends when I start seeing new sins in my life. I seek their comfort because I secretly believe that they will dull the edge of the sword which God used to expose me. When we run to others, asking them to reaffirm our personal image of ourselves, we are asking them to actually act in God’s stead as our judge. We value their opinion over God’s word because we believe their personal relationship with us will prevent them from saying anything too harsh about us, even if it is true. We are further sinning because we are setting up men in the place of God to judge us. And if you doubt this, check your reaction when a loved one doesn’t affirm you, but rather points out that sin God is revealing. If you are even more hurt by what they say, then you know that you were not asking for the truth from them, but a lie which would make you feel better.

So by ascribing to ourselves a kind of pseudo-perfectionism and getting others to affirm it, we are actively resisting God’s work of sanctification. We are denying that we need to repent before the Lord and submit to His holy work in us. This is utterly sinful, yet we can submit to it so easily. We can justify this mindset because we know that we should not sin, especially because we have a new understanding of how evil sin is. So we make the mistake of setting up personal, legalistic standards that we can then judge the progress of our Christian growth by. In doing so, we actually are falling back on idolatry because we become the judges of ourselves rather than God. In God’s eyes we are completely sinful and only the blood of Christ makes us righteous. In our own eyes, if we can reach certain benchmarks, we can declare we are righteous by what we do. When God exposes sins that we were previously unaware of, it deals a serious blow to the idolatrous view of ourselves. Wanting to reassert that view, we can easily fall into the trap of resisting God’s work of sanctification.

So what are we to do? The first thing is to remember who we are in Christ. Before we were redeemed, we were rebellious and wicked sinners bound for Hell. There was absolutely nothing good about us. By recognizing this, we can do away with the absurd notion that we are capable of not sinning at all. We will sin, even as new creations in Christ. But because we have been bought by His precious blood and have been made new by the Holy Spirit, we have been set free from the bondage of sin. We no longer have to sin. We will be tempted because our flesh is weak and longs to be satisfied. Because of that, we will fall into sin. Yet, because the power of the Holy Spirit resides in us, we can trust in God, being slaves to Him, to give us a way of escape when temptation comes. So we recognize that we are not capable of perfection of our own accord, but only in the power of Christ can we resist temptation and sin.

The other thing we can do is embrace sanctification. Rather than retreating into ourselves and grumbling over newly discovered sins (or the discovery that we are still struggling with the same ones) we should rejoice that our heavenly Father is at work in us. By revealing this area of wickedness, God is seeking to make us more like His Son. He is refining us into a tool fit for His use. If I am overly concerned that I am still sinning, yet I do not repent, it is like I am refusing to sharpen the blade on a dull axe. Instead of making the tool fit for use, I am demanding that God use the tool in its busted condition. It is a ridiculous notion to think that I am already a tool that is perfect in design and will never fail. But if I yield to the sanctification of God, He takes me as that busted and worthless tool and makes me into one that is perfectly designed for the job He has in store.

My encouragement to my brethren is to examine your own heart when it comes to sanctification. If you are angry at your sins, depressed and begging for affirmation, then you are denying the need for God’s perfect work in your life. If this is happening, repent, turn from that wickedness and yield to God. It is part of His perfect plan and will that you be made into a tool fit for His use and His glory. Therefore, I urge you to submit to and rejoice in His sanctifying work in you.

You Versus God: Who’s View is More Important?

What is more important? What you think of yourself, or what God thinks of you? In our current culture, how we view ourselves is considered of the utmost importance. In fact, many believe that the single greatest thing that we can do for ourselves is to perfect our self image. The greater and more positively we view ourselves, the more likely we will be successful in life. The more negatively we view ourselves, the less likely we will be able to cope with life’s difficulties. On the surface this sounds very compelling. When there are so many people and events that attempt to make us feel like we are worthless or failures, thinking positively seems to make sense so that we can avoid the inevitable depression that would come. Looking at all the positive aspects of our lives, seeing ourselves as good people in the midst of difficult circumstances, would seem to help us because we are not dwelling on the negatives. We are not being drug down emotionally, but we are able to keep our minds free and clear. Thus, it is argued, self image is far more important that anything else.

However, there is an aspect to this that is rarely considered. Self image addresses our perceived needs in the here and now. It concerns itself with how we feel at this moment, how we perceive ourselves in the present. While self image does claim to look back at past mistakes to learn from, and makes the additional claim that it benefits for future life decisions, it primarily concerns itself with our life in this world, at this moment in time. It does not, in fact cannot, deal with what comes after. It can only address how we exist in this life. So, if there is a life yet to come, one which God has much to say about, does it not conclude that solely concerning ourselves with how we feel about ourselves excludes a major aspect of our existence? And if it is how God perceives us that determines our eternal existence, then focusing solely on how we feel in the here and now could well prove detrimental to us. For if we concern ourselves with only how we view our life, then we could well neglect God’s view of us and, by natural extension, live in such a way that brings us into conflict with Him.

We are God’s creation. When God made the universe (see Genesis 1-2) He designed it to declare His glory and majesty (Psalm 19:1). But to whom did it declare? On day 6, God made man. Man was created in God’s image. He was created with the unique breath of life, the awareness of himself, the ability think and perceive outside of basic animal instinct. Man was created with the unique opportunity to understand he was created by God, to be in fellowship with God, to worship and obey God. Man, being God’s unique creation in the universe, finds his being and purpose in loving and worshipping his Creator alone. However, it was in chapter 3 of the book of Genesis where man turned that purpose on its head. At that time, man chose to seek his own purpose, to determine for himself what was right and wrong. In that moment, when man ate of the forbidden fruit, he actively chose to place his desires, his own feelings, over that which God had designed man for. In that moment, man chose how he felt about himself and forever changed his standing before God.

SInce that time, mankind has lived in a state of rebellion against God. Every thought, every word and deed, has been tainted by this desire to satisfy one’s self. And while man does often demonstrate an ability to show mercy, kindness and even love, it is all affected ultimately by the self centered sinfulness that first manifested itself in the garden. If you doubt it, then ask yourself this: who among us can ever say that they have never lied? How about theft, and the value of the stolen item is not the issue. The willful taking of that which is not yours, the depriving of another’s property, ideas or livelihood is theft. What about lust? Some may say that lust is what drives mankind’s ability to reproduce. But is also a demonstration of one’s inability to control the emotional and hormonal drives that God gave us to be used for our spouses alone. The inability to simply bring our thoughts under control when we look at another person again demonstrates how far we are in bondage to sin. What about how we view God? All one must do is look around at the various world religions to realize mankind has failed to acknowledge God as He truly is. From Buddhism to Islam to Catholicism and all points in between, mankind has designed “gods” that resemble the desires of its own heart. Every world religion establishes as system of “good works” that can appease its “god,” hopefully to the point of atoning for the very sins we just looked at. Yet, this demonstrates the fallen nature of man for it demonstrates a “god” that can somehow be bribed or cajoled into ignoring the guilt men have when they sin.

The point of all this is to say that God designed us to be in loving fellowship with Him, yet we have rebelled against Him. Our Creator is now not just the loving God who made us, but He is also the righteous judge who must hold us accountable for the sins we have committed against Him. Where we were once to be ushered into a beautiful, eternal existence with God, we are now barred from such a paradise. Where we were once in a state of being children of the King, we are now condemned criminals, traitors against our sovereign Lord. God cannot view us as positively as we hope to view ourselves. We were created to worship Him, but we have chosen a life of sin against Him.

So we come back to our original question: what is more important, our view of ourselves, or God’s view? If we only were ever to exist in this life, we could say that how we viewed ourselves was very important. But we were created by a being who exists outside of all space and time. We were created to love, honor and worship Him alone, yet we have sinned against Him. The end result is that, when this life ends, we will stand before that Creator, and he will be our Judge. The books of our lives will be opened and every sin we have ever committed will be judged. And like any good judge, God will find us guilty, condemning us to an eternal torment that justly fits our crimes. So the answer is simple, yet very profound, it is God’s view of us that has the greatest importance. And no matter how positively we view our own life, God sees it as utter rebellion. It is not a positive ending we are headed for, but one of eternal suffering.

So, we now ask, if man cannot appease God, cannot atone for himself, what do we do? Should we just “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die?” If we are honest, we have to admit it would seem that if we are to be condemned, should we not just “live it up?” If that were the end of the story, perhaps that would be the answer. But it is not. Remember, God made us to be in fellowship with Him. It is our sinful nature that keeps that from happening, Therefore, God made the way for that fellowship to be restored. We cannot make ourselves “un-guilty” of our sins, Nor can we convince God to simply “forget about it.” So, the only possible means of addressing the consequences of sin was for God to pay the price for it Himself!

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, second Person of the triune God, fully God and fully Man, came to this world approximately 2,000 years ago and did what we could never do. He lived a perfect life, free of sin in every aspect. He perfectly obeyed the will of His Father in every single moment of His life. Then, despite His being innocent of any offense, He willingly, voluntarily placed Himself in the hands of sinful man, endured an unfair trial, was humiliated, beaten and tortured. All the while, He could have called down legions of angels to rescue Him, yet He remained silent and received it all. Then Jesus allowed Himself to be placed on the cross, an instrument of cruel execution. He suffered and died, all the while being reviled by those He came to save. In doing so, He took upon Himself the punishment due for all our sins. The perfect, sinless Son of God took on the righteous and holy wrath of the Father so that the perfect law could be satisfied. We have earned eternal death from God, but the eternal Son died in our place. Then, on the third day after His death, Christ rose Himself from the grave. In doing so, Jesus proved that He had defeated sin and death. His own death paid the price for us, His resurrection secured life for us.

Today, that forgiveness of sins and promise of eternal life is available to us, but there is only one means by which it is obtained. We must acknowledge our that our life is one of wretched sinfulness, and is deserving of the judgment of God. We must turn away from that life of sin and commit ourselves to a life that is pleasing to the Lord. We must trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ alone, knowing that no work we could ever do would satisfy the law of God. Having total and complete faith that Christ has paid that price and devoting our lives to Him alone.

The question was who’s view of us was more important, our’s or God’s. Clearly, God’s view is the supreme view we must submit to. Yet, God’s view of His own Son is one of perfection and righteousness. If we will humble ourselves, repent of our sins and trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus, then God’s view of Christ is placed on us, rather than his view of of our sins. Place yourself in the hands of Christ. Trust not in your view of who you are, but trust in the holy and righteous God alone for salvation.

Original article posted here.

Is a collapse coming?

I consider the subject of economics to be as fascinating as watching paint dry or watching a round of golf, but recently I’ve taken notice of an economic storm brewing on the horizon of our nation that is getting very little attention and very few seem to be talking about, even though it will affect every single American and the way we live.

You simply cannot pay off trillions of dollars in debt by printing more money without drastic ramifications, and these ramifications could very well be the collapse of the American dollar resulting in this nation plummeting into Third-world status overnight.

Here are just a few of the headlines I’ve taken from the Drudge Report over the past month; headlines that are often glossed over because we’ve  been distracted with the Casey Anthony murder trial, the war in Iraq, American Idol, and our sports:

Dollar losing global reserve status

China: USA’s Already Defaulting

China Warns on Risks of Dollar Holdings...

PAPER: Global order fractures as US power declines...

Carville: 2012 could be 'very rough'; Civil unrest 'imminently possible'...

PAPER: USA has record $61.6 TRILLION in unfunded obligations; $534,000 per household...

Daily economic briefings disappear from Obama's White House schedule...

REPORT: Gold headed for $5K an ounce...

Housing Crisis Now Worse Than Great Depression...

IMF cuts U.S. growth forecast, warns of crisis...

Trades reveal China shift from dollar

There’s no doubt that we are on the brink of total economic collapse, but this collapse can be brought on even faster if China or OPEC stops accepting the American dollar as the global reserve, or if we suffer another terrorist attack like 9/11, or if a devastating earthquake hits a major metropolitan area like Seattle, San Francisco, or Los Angeles. When the dollar finally loses its status in the global market we will see the end of our American way of life virtually overnight.

As Christians, our hope and trust is not in politics, economics, money, might, armies, presidents, or kings, but with our nation facing inevitable financial collapse it may be wise and prudent for us to prepare to be able to take care of our families, friends, neighbors, and even strangers if/when this event takes place. If a foreign entity moves in after our collapse, will we be ready to face the possible outlawing of Christianity and the fierce persecution that could come with it?

We need to be prepared to boldly proclaim the gospel to a mass of people who will be dumbfounded at what just took place; a nation of people who never thought they’d see empty grocery store shelves and never imagined that clean drinking water would ever stop flowing from their taps.

An event such as the total collapse of the U.S. economy will cause many to turn away from the false idols that have consumed their lives for so long, but will you and I be ready to point them to the One who can reconcile them to God, or will we be too preoccupied with finding food and water?

We must not keep our head in the sand and expect that our way of life will continue, it simply can’t. Democracies have a shelf-life, and God will not allow us to continue as a nation in our current ways forever. 

Here are just a few videos (there are many more out there) to help you better understand what is likely about to happen. You can do more research for yourself via the internet, and I encourage you to do so.

A dramatization of what could happen very soon in this nation:

How quickly we can run out of food:

More information on our precarious economy in light of Japan’s economic status:

Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, Which, having no chief, Officer or ruler, Prepares her food in the summer And gathers her provision in the harvest. Proverbs 6:6-8