Faith & Courage

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Wow!  What a world we live in today!

  • Rebellion towards authority.
  • Fake news.
  • The threat of nuclear war.
  • Disrespect for our flag and our country.
  • Hatred poured out on the gospel.
  • Natural disasters.
  • And on and on and on and on…..

But, are we surprised?  Since the Garden of Eden, sin has had its tentacles sunk into the heart of man and its curse on this earth (Genesis 3).  Jesus said, These things I have spoken to you, . . . . In the world you will have tribulation [trouble] (John 16:33).

Yesterday morning, needing an encouraging boost from the Lord, I read the following words:

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:1-8).

Did you note the repeated phrase, So we are always of good courage (5:6, 8)?  How can I have good courage in a world of sin and trouble?

  1. Remember, as a born again believer, you are not Home yet!
  2. When your body groans because of pain, accident, old age, etc., remember God said it would. Hang on, a new body is coming!  The groaning is a constant reminder of that new house!
  3. God has prepared us for this. We are equipped to endure to the end by His grace.
  4. Faith gives courage because faith is based upon the character of God Who is holy and cannot lie. You look around, and you are tempted to fret and despair.  What does faith say?  Who is God?  Wow! What courage that brings!

How are you walking today?  What has your attention?  What are you meditating on?  Living by faith or fear?  Courageous or cowering?

By the way, Christ has the final, authoritative word on all of life.  Meditate on the rest of John 16:33, These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Press on, believer!

Eclipsed

As I opened the door of the Activity Center, I was greeted with wall-to-wall people! Finding a bit of space to enter, I said to a couple of ladies, “Have mercy! What’s going on?” Their reply, “It’s the eclipse. Have you not heard about it?”

How could I have not heard about it? It has been the buzz for the past two months and rightly so. Social media and the internet have been lit up. The Weather Channel, schools, law enforcement, employers, resort areas, motels and families, to name just a few, have been in major planning mode for this historical event.

When my family reserved our get-away for August 21st, I seriously did not know about the eclipse. Nevertheless, Wyndham Resorts in the Smokies made sure we did. That was the reason for the crowd I mentioned above. We were treated to free viewing glasses, goodie bags with Moon Pies, Eclipse gum, glow sticks, and other items as well as a finger-food buffet in the social room which included chocolate glazed Krispy Kreme donuts to help us celebrate.

As the time drew near, the crowd increased as people with their viewing glasses made preparation for this phenomenon. As I looked all around me, I saw what I would expect, but it said so much to me. Everyone with glasses in place were looking up.

Soon the sky drew dark, the pools lights kicked-on, and an eerie stillness came over the crowd.   The eclipse here was not total but very, very close.

After two minutes plus, the sky started to lighten again. Within minutes, we were back to a bright sunshiny day, life moved forward in post-eclipse form. Of course there was more food to be had, so the upstairs gathering continued, I promise you!

So many thoughts coursed their way through my mind leading up to the eclipse and afterwards.

  • An event like this in such precise order, timing, and fulfillment once again proves the awesome work of the Creator and Sustainer of this whole, vast universe (Genesis 1:1; Psalm 19:1-4; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17).
  • How interesting that man was able to pinpoint its direction and timing, and make plans to be in its path, even willing to set for hours on the interstates to not miss such a sight.
  • As I watched the upward gaze of so many, I could not help but think of Titus 2:13, Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ. We have been given a promise that Christ will come back in the clouds to receive His Church (John 14:3; Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). This event will happen because God cannot lie, yet He has not told us when it will occur. There are no signs for the rapture of the Church, only for Christ’s second coming. Believers, we need to be ever looking up because the Rapture could occur today! His imminent return should always have immediate effects upon our lives.
  • Man calculated the timing and track of the eclipse and man, although blessed by God with great intelligence, is fallible. God is infallible. Oh, that we would put more trust in our faithful Creator (Psalm 33:4; Lamentations 3:23; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; Hebrews 10:23) than man whom God created.

“Oh, yes, ma’am, I’ve heard about the eclipse, but do you know about the greatest eclipse that has ever happened? That was on the day when Jesus Christ died on the cross and the whole world was dark for three hours” (Matthew 27:45-50).

With that, I received a smirk from her face and a shrug of her shoulders.

My friend, do not let your thinking eclipse God’s truth and promises.

Been There . . . Sustained

 

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Memory flashback.  Aware that the potential was before them, the truth of her passing yesterday afternoon hit my heart with an aching pain of grief for them.

Yesterday, dear friends of ours held their 26-week-old daughter in their arms and watched as she slowly enter Heaven into the presence of the One Who had created her.  She, along with her twin sister, were born at 25 weeks and 2 days.

This family has been down this road before having seen their first son born at 22 weeks.  The only difference, after many, many weeks in the children’s hospital, he came home. Today he is an active, healthy little man . . . a trophy of God’s grace.  His younger brother was full-term and likewise is doing very well.

Why a memory flashback?  July 2, 2017, will mark 30 years that my wife and I held the precious lifeless body of our second daughter in our arms.  She was stillborn.  I so well remember her little rosy cheeks, head of hair, and tender lips.  My, how it hurt that night, just like I’m sure our friends hurt yesterday, and do today.

What sustains you in a time like this?  In spite of the tremendous grief and pain, these truths hold you together.  These were our rock in the midst of our storm.  These held us together as we departed from the hospital with an empty car seat, and then arrived home to see a vacant nursery.

Psalm 91:1-4       He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

2 Samuel 12:22-23            And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.

2 Corinthians 1:3               Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.

Psalm 73:22-26, 28           Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever. But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.

Romans 8:26-31                Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

Memory flashback?  Yes.  Tears, hurt, grief, and a hurting heart? Yes! Marvelous, unexplainable, sustaining grace?  YES!!!  A grand reunion awaits us and for our dear friends, too? YES!!!

 

Encouraging resources to offer further help:

Grief – Finding Hope in the Darkness

Blessings – Laura Story

I Will Rise

That Dimmed Look

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There she sat, all prettied up, seated in her comfy chair, and a silent stare etched on her sweet face and a dimmed look in her eye.  The TV was playing on old rerun of Gunsmoke. When I entered the room, she lifted her clouded eyes and smiled a bit, but she did not recognize me.

I knelt down on one knee beside her, greeted her warmly, and began a conversation that was mostly one-sided.  She handed me something that was very real to her but only imaginary to me. That dimmed look was one of struggle as she tried to put words together to form a sentence, but she could only mumble a few recognizable words at best.  She called me by another name, “Mr. Gilbert,” which reminded me of the many years of hearing her say, “Well, there’s my pastor!”

That dimmed look, eyes a bit foggy, soon was changed.  As I began to quote Psalm 23, she joined me word-for-word and her countenance was lifted.  Then I began to sing How Great Thou Art to which she chimed in.  Her precious, melodic soprano voice was clear and precise. Our duet continued through two stanzas of Amazing Grace and one verse of In the Garden.

When we finished our mini-concert of praise, I had prayer with her.  She hugged me, kissed my cheek, and thanked me for coming to see her, once again struggling to put words together. As I headed for the door, she returned to her dimmed look with that bit of a silent stare.

As I walked down the hallway, I couldn’t help but think about what came to her mind so readily and caused her dimmed look to be one of hope-filled anticipation. She probably learned Psalm 23 as a child and has sung those songs for years because of her personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ alone.

If I were in her shoes . . . would I have the same response?  Have I filled my mind with whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praise-worthy (Philippians 4:8)?  Have the praises of God and His Word been my meditation (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 19:14; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16) while I still have the capability to do so?  Or is my mind filled with worry, fretting, anxiety, fear, lies, lust, bitterness, useless trivia, and “breaking news”?

In time her memory will totally fade unless the Lord calls her Home before then.  But in the meantime, that dimmed looked is brightened when the chords of her heart are reminded of what really matters . . . the eternal things, the Eternal One  . . . the One she will see and know forever when her faith becomes complete sight.  No more dimmed look.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

 

My Savior First of All

When my lifework is ended and I cross the swelling tide,
When the bright and glorious morning I shall see;
I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side,
And His smile will be the first to welcome me.

Chorus:
I shall know Him, (I shall know Him,) I shall know Him,
And redeemed by His side I shall stand;
I shall know Him, (I shall know Him,) I shall know Him
By the print of the nails in His hand.

2 Oh, the soul-thrilling rapture when I view His blessed face,
And the luster of His kindly beaming eye;
How my full heart will praise Him for the mercy, love and grace,
That prepared for me a mansion in the sky.

—- Fanny Crosby

The Greatest Tragedy

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Almost every day, I scan through the headlines, Latest News and Watch Now sections of foxnews.com. Here are some of what made yesterday afternoon’s news:

  • An Execution: Hunt for criminal after sheriff’s deputy killed
  • At least 2 dead after magnitude-7.8 earthquake hits New Zealand
  • France remembers 130 killed in Paris attacks 1 year ago
  • Georgia prepares to execute man who killed ex-girlfriend 15 years ago
  • Pennsylvania inmate arrested in 2008 murder of New York teenager
  • 18-year-old charged with murder in road-rage beating
  • Father and son die in hiking accident near Northern California lake
  • Rocker Leon Russell dies in Nashville at 74
  • Four Americans killed by suicide bombing in Afghanistan

Wow! Deaths, killings, murders, . . . one tragedy after another.  The Word of God addresses these scenarios and gives us the root cause of them all.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man. (Matthew 15:19-20a)

You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. (John 8:44)

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:1-4)

The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23a)

And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment. (Hebrews 9:27).

How sad to see an innocent life snuffed out because of a selfish, wicked heart.  How painful to see the effects of sin! How awful to watch men and women play out the defilement of their hearts.  And we say, “How tragic!”  My friend, none of things in the aforementioned news headlines rank as the greatest tragedy.  And before I go any further, I am not heartless nor belittling the agony or pain described in those headlines.  Nevertheless, the greatest tragedy occurs every day on earth when a man or woman dies in their sins, rejecting the person of the Lord Jesus Christ Who paid for their sins, and therefore slips into eternity never again having the opportunity to accept the free-pardon of sin through Christ.  In short, the greatest tragedy today is when someone dies and goes to hell . . . and they do so by their own choosing.  Jesus Christ came to earth, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins as our substitute, and rose from the tomb to prove He is Who He said He was and is, and . . . He did it all for you. No one needs to die in his sins and go to hell, a place reserved for Satan and his demons, because God so loved you, my friend, that He gave His only Son, the only one like Him, to die in your place so you would not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

The greatest tragedy . . . an eternity in hell.

The greatest triumph . . . eternity in heaven.

If this post today has piqued your interest, has created within you a desire to know more, would you take 17 minutes to consider just Five Questions and their answers.

17 minutes vs. eternity?  Please take time to watch it now.

Running to Heaven

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I love to run!  There is something special about being outdoors, the scenery of the mountains or farm lands, pushing your body beyond what you think it can do, running alone or with others or a crowd, and then the exhilarating rush of accomplishment!

Kingsport, TN, hosts an annual race that has intimidated me due to its Saturday, 9:58 p.m. start time. I have never run in a race beyond 7:00 p.m. and the thought of its effect upon my “Sunday life” left me a bit concerned. I missed it last year, but had set my sights on conquering this Crazy 8s 8K this time around!  Wow!  What a race!   2,287 participants lined up on Ft. Henry Drive for the start.  After prayer that included the gospel and ended with a note of thanks for Christ’s death on the cross as well as a stirring rendition of the National Anthem, it was time for the start!  Obviously, it is a bit slow for the wave of runners to get up to speed, but as we turned the corner onto Eastman Road, we were well up to our pace.  All the way, folks were gathered on the sidewalks to watch, cheer, hold up signs, spray us with water, and give us a boosts of mental energy.  The highlight was finishing the race by entering J. Fred Johnson Stadium with the festive fanfare of multiplied cheers of encouragement.  What a run!

Crazy 8 8K

Scripture reminds us that the Christian life is like running a race:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians  9:24-27).

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1).

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).

May I encourage all believers today in the Christian race to:

  • “Stay the course” – Be faithful in your daily spiritual preparation of the Word, prayer, memorization, memorization, and the use of 1 John 1:9.
  • Don’t run aimlessly – Just as you choose the races to run, have a plan and set goals for your spiritual growth. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
  • Exercise self-control – Begin your day in surrender to Christ. Don’t listen to yourself . . . preach the Truth to yourself . . . and do it all day! (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
  • Be encouraged by all who have finished – Just when you think you will not make it through another day, look to the Captain of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10), our Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16) as well as all who have finished well. (Hebrews 12:1; Isaiah 40:31)
  • Edify and encourage other runners — This race is an eternal one with an eternal reward. We are running the best race.  Let’s help the fallen, encourage the weak, hand them a cup of water, and run alongside at times.
  • Keep pressing on toward the goal – We are to be forward-looking believers. In a race, I may look back to see who’s behind me for safety sake as I move right or left in the road, but my mind is not on the start line but the finish line.
  • Finish well – As I turned right onto Indian Drive and up the hill for the stadium, I could hear the crowd cheering, the music playing, Tom Taylor making comments over the PA system, and it gave me a boost of energy to quicken my pace. For a runner, coming into that stadium and running to the 50 yard line with folks on both sides cheering; that was one awesome entrance!!  I’ve got tears in my eyes right now thinking about it.  I can only imagine what Heaven will be like with the saints of God praising, singing, worshipping, enthralled in the presence of Christ, and knowing . . . we are finally Home!

As I said earlier, we are running the best race now with the Bema as the finish line and Christ the Perfect Judge to hand out the rewards.  In the meantime, let’s run spiritually and physically well for God’s glory.  By the way, “When’s the next race?  I’m ready!”

Give a listen:  Finish Well

Where Were You?

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Twice a year, the boys of NASCAR bring their rides to the fastest half mile on the circuit.  Having been a racing fan since the days of Fireball Roberts, David Pearson, and Junior Johnson, watching a race at Bristol is the ultimate as far as I’m concerned.  I remember the track in the mid-70’s before it became a colossal venue.  I also remember attending races where every seat was packed and a Bristol ticket was hard to come by.  The pre-race events, the racing itself, and the “circus” outside the track was something you didn’t want to miss.  For years, fans have come for days ahead to get their favorite RV spot.

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Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful day with full sun and perfect temperatures.  Albeit the race was on Sunday, you could say it was a perfect day for racing.  Halfway through the race, I turned on the TV to see what was happening.  For the short while I viewed the competition, the racing didn’t get my attention . . . the crowd did.  Where was everybody?  The stands almost looked like a ghost town.  I mean, this is “Bristol Baby!”

Yesterday in the morning service, I preached from Revelation 6:9-11 concerning those believers who will be martyred for the Word of God and their testimony during the first half of the Tribulation.  Oh, the powerful, solemn, convicting, yet encouraging truths to be mined out of that passage led us to see that every believer should be preparing for martyrdom. Then we watched a video about a young lady who chose to die for her faith in Christ at the hands of her family.  The testimony video was followed by observing the Lord’s Supper with the partaking of the emblems in view of being a possible martyr for Christ.  The challenge was to exchange our weak following of Christ for an all-out surrender to and for Him!   We sat at Jesus’ feet, learned of Him, and were stirred by eternal truths!  As I looked around at the crowd . . . where was everybody?

Since I have a bit of an allegiance to and for Bristol Raceway, I’m sorry to see such a small attendance.  But, what occurred yesterday is so fleeting and temporal.  In eternity, what will it matter that Carl Edwards went from the pole to the win?  How will lives be changed for eternity because Bristol hosted three days of racing?  So, if you didn’t attend, you did not miss anything.

If you chose to stay away from your Bible-believing, preaching church yesterday, you did miss something.  You missed eternal truths that change lives, exalt Christ, present the Gospel, and prepare us for the future.  You missed what really mattered.

I love racing and love attending the August night race, but the Bema Seat (2 Corinthians 5:9-11) far outweighs Bristol.  So, where were you?