“Abraham breathed his last and he died at a good old age, an old man who had lived a full life.” How is it that Moses could say this about the patriarch? He could because Abraham “believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” He had obeyed God and “went out without understanding and by faith, he lived as he looked forward to the city with firm foundations whose architect and builder is God.” [Heb 11] By faith, when tested, he offered up Isaac as his one and only son. And so when the end came Abraham knew that he had done as God had said and God now would let him join his ancestors. And centuries later, Dietrich Bonhoeffer would say “This is the end—for me the beginning of life.” We who believe God know that our preference is to “be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” for this is just a step on our journey into life with our Lord forever.
When your end comes will you be satisfied that you have been faithful to God? Today you are one step closer to eternity. Are you ready?
I have spent the better part of the morning crying and not just crying but grieving deeply. It matters not for the “what” but it does matter that I grieve with Paul over the loss of loved ones that refuse the gospel message. So here’s my question: What brings grief to your heart? Is it the loss of a loved one to death without hope? How about the loss of a job? How about the loss of a home due to flooding? How about the loss of a nation or a people group? Grief is a very real and present emotion. We are even now watching from the sidelines as Syria is a battle zone. But, Paul is speaking in the first century and his heart grieves for the loss of his people as they continue to deny Christ and salvation. “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.” Is this my grief too?
Temporal losses of a job are tough but there is always hope to find another. You can lose a home and its contents but you can build a new one. But you cannot bring back a loved one or restore a nation to wholeness. Grief takes its toll and some never recover. But, the deepest grief is when those you love die and enter a Christless eternity. Paul is grieving and we too should also grieve when this occurs.
It is because of that we must earnestly contend for the faith. We must “go and make disciples.” We must pray for our loved ones who do not know Christ. Paul was willing, just as Moses, to forgo his eternal salvation so that the lost might be saved.
Life seems so short. This week seeing the children I taught now with their own children growing up so fast was a wake – up call as to the fleeting life I now live in contrast to the permanence of God. I am just like a rose in God’s garden, I need tending but eventually the rose will fade and so will I. That is why I must redeem each day for Him as I was reminded recently when a young family’s life was cut short and all 5 entered eternity from the 2 mos. old infant to the 5 yr old child, the 3 yr old child along with their parents. We never know when God will call us home. Do I want to hear well done thou good and faithful servant? My answer is yes. .
Before God created the world as we know it, God was eternal and He still is so. A 24 hr day to us is like a thousand years in God’s sight. This is the true meaning of God being omniscient, omnipotent.
As God created me he placed eternity in my heart [Eccl 3] that I might know and seek the eternal significance of what I do. And like a beautifully crafted tapestry, each thread I weave creates a picture of my life from birth to death.
And so with these thoughts I turned to Psalm 90 where these thoughts were ever before me: Life is fleeting; enjoy now but invest wisely in that which will count for eternity. Vs 3 reminds us that God makes mankind return to dust. Only our tombstone will recall the life we have lived. James says we are frail and like grass, we grow and we wither with the heat of the sun. The woman who came to King David spoke of life and death in 2Sam 14. She gave King David a visual illustration of life: we shall surely die and be like water spilled out on the ground. But too she saw beyond the grave to see that God does not take away life as our eternal end but rather has made plans so that we may not be cast from Him. It is called salvation and the price has been paid by His Beloved Son so that we might live eternally with Him.
“people are appointed to die once, and then to face judgment,”[Heb 9]. Our question is: are you prepared for your entry into eternity? In Luke 23, we are presented with three candidates for us to observe and determine ours.
First on our list is Barabbas, an insurrectionist and a murderer. He is incarcerated in a prison awaiting his sure sentence of death. As he sat waiting could he hear the crowd led by the religious leaders calling for his release? Did he know that his life would soon take an abrupt turn? Did he know that the religious leaders and the crowd offered an innocent man named Jesus to face the cross that was slated for him? We wonder and only in eternity will we know his thoughts, his actions before and after. Only God knows his destiny.
Second, are the two criminals who were also led with Jesus to the Golgotha hill and there nails would pierce their bones. They both heard Jesus cry out “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Yet only one would enter eternity forgiven for he cried out remember me when you enter your kingdom. Jesus heard and promised that would be true. His forgiveness for his sins was washed away on that day. The other would enter a Christ-less eternity. He neither feared God or man.
Your destiny is assured—either heaven or hell. If you are like Barabbas, bow the knee now for life is uncertain. If you are like the thief on the cross who railed on Jesus, think what lays ahead for you. If you are like the thief that sought forgiveness you can be assured of this promise: you will be with Christ in heaven/paradise. What is your destiny?
Perhaps you know of someone, like I do, who shared his kidney “just because” it was as he said.,..the right thing to do. He stepped up and offered a kidney to save another whose life hung in the balance. But here is the question: what if God said you could give your salvation to someone who is in need—would you like Paul be willing to spend eternity in hell so they could spend eternity in heaven?
Thankfully we know that for certain that we are redeemed and sealed and our salvation is secure–and this would not be a possibility but there still is that question: would we be willing? What does our response say about our heart?
As Paul continues to pour out his heart to the unbelieving Jew his heart is literally broken as he knows what lies before them if they do not repent. So it is with us who have unbelieving loved ones, friends and those across the world that are following false religions seeking to earn their place in paradise/heaven. But, is our heart as broken as Paul’s? Does it send us to our knees praying diligently for them daily because we know they are seeking eternity on their own terms and they will with all certainty fail? One day they will only hear “I never knew you” from the lips of the Savior because “they pursued it not by faith but (as if it were possible) by works.” In contrast “the one who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
May we earnestly not only contend for the faith but pray for those who are walking in darkness.
Zacchaeus never joined a tree climbing club nor knew what constituted the safe way to climb or the equipment to use. He simply climbed a tree like a child.
Dr. Luke with the artistry of his pen paints a vivid illustration of this scene beginning with a tree set in the city of Jericho. Zacchaeus the “wee little man” and Jesus had a divine appointment unbeknownst to the crowd loyally following and praising God for the healing of the blind man. This “wee little man” ran ahead, climbed the sycamore tree and waited. How often do we equate incidents as just coincidence when Jesus in eternity past has orchestrated our meeting with him and pre-arranges to meet us where we are. Zacchaeus was that man “today.” Is today your day to meet Jesus?
Jesus knew of Zacchaeus even if Zacchaeus did not know him. He had one component that would open his introduction and that was he was curiosity. Although the city dwellers held the “wee little man” in contempt and morally despised this did not stop him. He had heard but not seen the Healer who had just touched a blind man and wanted like the disciples to understand “who is this man that can cure blindness?”
As Jesus passed by he looked up into the tree into the eyes of this despised tax collector. Imagine the scene with Zacchaeus looking down and Jesus looking up while the crowd looks on. Their eyes meet and then the words are spoken just like on the TV Show “come on down!” Instantly the sweet tenor of the people who are accompanying Jesus changes from acceptance to icy stares and glares. It is then that their hearts are revealed. Doesn’t Jesus know Zacchaeus is a sinner! But, Jesus has not come to heal the righteous but the sinner. Just as the elite religious leaders hear words of compassion but they do not change so it is here. Their hearts are hardened to the needy. They are incensed that he would not only welcome Zacchaeus but accompany him to his home!
How like the onlookers we are! We see ourselves as perfect pious believers when in reality we are as black in our sin as Zacchaeus was. The crowd reacted with grumbling but Zacchaeus reacted with joy! Jesus ignored the gossip of the crowd and touched the heart of one man for eternity. Has Jesus touched your heart this day? Have you welcomed him with joy and a changed heart and focus?
In the last days blatant scoffers will come into our midst proclaiming that which is contrary to the Word of God. They say time marches on just as it always has from creation but choose to deny the effects of sin upon this earth and mankind. They heap unto themselves treasures of silver and clothes which moths and decay will turn to dust or to be given to charity for another. [Job 27]. Yet, we who believe in the power of the risen Christ are commanded to be heaping treasures which will last for eternity. In reality Peter is telling us what we really already know but need reminding: the only things we can carry into eternity are holiness and godliness for riches are uncertain but good deeds, generosity to others and sharing of the truth of the gospel are untouched by the taint of this world.
In addition the scoffers of this world fail to see the mercy and grace of God’s patience in waiting for them to repent and turn to Him. Sadly one day they will stand before God and will hear “depart from me, I never knew you.” May we yearn instead to hear “well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord.”
Beloved, where your heart is are your treasures. Are you sending your treasures on ahead to eternity or heaping them up here in a world of rust and decay?
How do you handle interruptions when you are late, on your way, ready to go to church or prayer meeting, Bible study? If we all would stop and investigate our responses we would more than often see them as just that; interruptions but not as divine appointments. Peter and John teach us some valuable lessons as they are on their way to prayer.
First, these two disciples were on their way just as they have always done, three times a day. It was their regular walk to the temple at specified times, morning, noon and at 3 pm. They had passed this gate many times and probably took note of the many alms beggars there. But, why this one day did their gaze fall upon this one beggar out of all the rest? Why did they stop and talk to him? Why this day, why not yesterday or why not wait until tomorrow? Why did Jesus only heal the one infirmed man at the Pool of Siloam when there were many there? The answer lies in this: Joh 14:31 “but I amdoing just what the Father commanded me,” It was the Father’s will for that man at the pool to be healed “that” day and not another, and it was the Father’s will that this beggar out of all the others be healed on “this day.” Only in eternity can we know the answers to the “why’s.” For now it is that the Father reached down from heaven this one day and chose to place His favor upon this one man.
So when God sends you an “interruption—appointment” remember that it was the Father’s will and His plan. You may just be meeting a beggar in need of redemption, in fact a beggar not even looking for eternal life. But if your faith is strong and you are willing to be used, God will give you the privilege as he gave Peter and John to offer the cup of living water, the bread of consolation and healing in the name of Jesus so that the words spoken by Peter would bear fruit: “And on the basis of faith in Jesus’ name, his very name has made this man – whom you see and know – strong. The faith that is through Jesus has given him this complete health in the presence of you all.”
Are you looking for a divine appointment? It often does not come as roaring thunder to stop us in our tracks but instead the still quiet voice that Elijah heard as he waited in the cave. 1Ki 19:12 After the earthquake, there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire, there was a soft whisper.
How do you handle overwhelming and profound sadness? How do you respond when another responds to you with not with words that edify but words that are like swords? Are we a confronter or do we love from a distance? Do we step aside or do we confront? Do we forgive or do we withhold that gift? We can learn much about how this affects but better yet how to handle these situations from Paul’s responses to the church in Corinth where he had personally experienced this firsthand However, in light of eternity he has chosen not for us to know the person nor the situation but only the ramifications and the cure.
There will be times when others offend and we are the recipients of that offense. As hard as it is, we have the choice of what to do in those situations. We can forgive and restore that relationship or we can withhold it. We can learn from Paul what steps to take and why. Paul essentially is telling the church at Corinth that although a person has offended him he has forgiven him. Thus they are to follow in his footsteps and also forgive.
Forgiveness seems to be one of the hardest steps we are called to take. Why is that? Is it pride? Is it because we want the offender to feel the pain we are feeling? We often reject taking this step and in fact we feed on the reasons why we don’t have to. Beloved this only leads to a root of bitterness. But Paul uses the word “charizomai” which means to freely forgive as Christ has forgiven you. To not take this step is not only is sinful but childish. Paul reminded us in 1Cor 13:11 “When I was a child, I talked like a child; I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways.” There is a principle we can employ here: Christian love includes both discipline but also forgiveness.
What is the consequence of withholding forgiveness? First and foremost Mat 6:15 But if youdo not forgive others, your Father will not forgiveyou your sins. Secondly, a lack of forgiveness leads to a root of bitterness. Thirdly, we open the door to the work of the enemy. Beware lest we allow the enemy who roams about seeking whom he can devour an open door to divide and conquer the Body of Christ. “Satan has many plans to deceive, and knows how to make a bad use of our mistakes.” [M. Henry]
We are left with some questions: What weak point is Satan seeking to exploit in our life? Where is he seeking to gain a foothold? Are we wise or ignorant of the schemes of the enemy? Are we employing forgiveness to those who have offended us whether they seek it or not? Forgiveness truly is the balm that heals a wound.
In our pm church service our new pastor shared his vision for the next few months ahead. One thing came across both sincerely and repeatedly: there are at least 58,000 people within a 3 mile radius of our church. Some may be saved, some are definitely unsaved, and some are open to hearing the news of the gospel message. His question back to the audience was: Are we willing to sit idly by while hundreds are marching to hell or are we willing to step up and get involved in witnessing, serving, learning evangelism tools? Paul had the same heart and vision for his readers.
It is “God’s grace” and men’s destinies that should propel one’s heart from couch potato to active Christian. The questions that arise from Romans 9 are: Do I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart for the lost? Do I have such a heart that I would wish like Paul and Moses to release my ation to anther as my gift and spend eternity in their place in hell? , Messiah did for us. Do I see others as much a countrymen as I am or am I so prejudiced that I cling to my “race huddle.” Where is my heart? Where is your heart?
The second point is “God’s mercy” which is offered freely to all. This too should propel us into active service for the kingdom. God calls all but only those who respond to his call are descendants of Abraham because they choose to believe by faith.
Thirdly, as we said a few days ago, appearances can be deceiving. Things are not always as they appear to be for as Paul said, we see through a glass dimly but one day will see clearly God’s sovereign plan. Dr. Keith Krell writes regarding Paul’s question: Has God failed? “This is one of the greatest principles in the entire Bible. Things are not always as they appear to be. When it looks like God’s Word has failed us, we should repeat this verse with personal application. “Even though this situation has happened, it’s not as though God’s Word has failed me.” Always remember: God’s promises and plans never fail.”