RIP or LITF

RIP . . . you see this attached to a social media post almost every day. The sentiment is there, but do we really know what RIP means? Do we know what we are saying? What’s its origin? Is it a blanket statement for all deaths?

Wikipedia says, “’Rest in peace’ (Latin: Requiescat in pace) is a short epitaph or idiomatic expression wishing eternal rest and peace to someone who has died. The expression typically appears on headstones, often abbreviated as R.I.P. or RIP. The phrase was not found on tombstones before the eighth century. It became ubiquitous on the tombs of Christians in the 18th century, and for High Church Anglicans, as well as Roman Catholics in particular, it was a prayerful request that their soul should find peace in the afterlife.”

Of the questions in the first paragraph, I think the last one is the most important one. 

Can we say RIP for every death? 

For all who die in Christ as a true born again believer, yes; for all who choose to reject Christ’s offer of salvation; no.

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus give us a good answer (Luke 16:19-31).  For the rich man, he is in the place of torment, apart from God, as is the current state of all unbelievers.  For Lazarus, he is in Paradise just as Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “Today, you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Another comforting truth for believers is found in 2 Corinthians 5:8 which assures us that we are immediately in the presence of the Lord upon death.

So, do unbelievers rest in peace?  Peace nor rest can be found in a place of torment.  Furthermore, to randomly attach RIP to someone that you are uncertain of their eternal state is careless.

The worst tragedy today is that unsaved people around the world died and entered into eternal torment. The greatest blessing for believers today is that many around the world entered into eternal rest, joy, and peace in the presence of Christ.

So, could RIP be placed on your tombstone with complete certainty? 

If you are not truly born again, a genuine follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, would you take time to watch the following video?  It will mean the difference between RIP or LITF (Living in Torment Forever).

Please don’t take death and eternity lightly!

According To Your Word

My soul melts from heaviness (Psalm 119:28a). This describes my heart since Sunday afternoon.

The heaviness that has come over me because of the effects of sin.

The grief that has gripped me due to the deep deceitfulness of our wicked hearts.

Wednesday around 2:00 a.m. I was abruptly awakened out of my sleep, praying out loud for the many drowning in sorrow in Uvalde, Texas as well as those picking up the pieces from the SBC/Guidepost report released Sunday afternoon. As I thought of those precious elementary children, I thought also of my dear grandsons.

Oh Lord, strengthen me according to Your Word!!!

As I rolled out of bed, I grabbed my phone on the night stand and went to Wednesday’s scripture reading from Psalm 119:41-48. I needed strength! I needed to hear from the Lord! I needed my heart to be calmed!

Let Your mercies (lovingkindness, steadfast love) come also to me, O Lord— Your salvation according to Your word. (Psalm 119:41)

These were the first words I read. How marvelous to know that God has extended mercy and grace to me as a poor, lost, hell-bound sinner and has rescued me according to the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Romans 1:16; Ephesians 2:1-9; 1 Timothy 1:12-17) . . . according to Your word.

You see, for true salvation and assurance of eternal life in heaven, for our wicked hearts to be changed, for sin to be correctly and adequately dealt with, for quietness in our soul in the midst of such wickedness and sorrow, for an understanding of perilous times, to have “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,” . . . it can only and always be . . . according to Your Word.

Remember the word to Your servant, upon which You have caused me to hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life (Psalm 119:49-50).

According to Your word!

P.S. Take some time to read Revelation 21

It’s Friday . . . and Sunday’s Coming!

Preacher, are you ready?

May I share three things to encourage you toward Sunday?

1. Prepare your heart

In this atomic age when forces are being released that stagger the thought and imagi­nation of man it is well to remember that prayer transcends all other forces. (F. J. Huegel)

Men, Jesus said, Without me, you can do nothing (John 15:5)! Preparing your heart through prayer is more important than delivering your sermon. Passionate, dependent, scripture-filled prayer says, “Lord, You are able, I am not!”

2. Prepare your message

Men, we have been challenged to Preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2) since the day we sensed God’s call to the ministry. Those folks who gather to hear you Sunday need hope and to see Christ. Therefore, preach the Word under the control of the Holy Spirit from a heart set on fire by God!

Give the sheep good grain, a message from God’s Word, not just a sermon.

3. Prepare your family

Saturday evening, gather your family together and share what the Lord has taught you and what you will deliver in the message on Sunday. Have them pray for you and with you.

Make your family a vital part of the ministry team!

Preacher, will you be ready?

To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. (Colossians 1:27-29)

A Dark Room: My Heart & Abortion

Having held my lifeless stillborn daughter in my arms almost 35 years ago can bring a rising level of emotions to my heart when I consider the current scenario being played out in the SCOTUS Roe v. Wade “leak” and upcoming ruling.

My heart. Yes, . . . that’s the key word in the previous sentence. Years ago, I heard someone say, “The heart of every issue is an issue of the heart.” What gives that principle gravity is the words of the Lord Jesus Christ when He said, For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person (Mark 7:21-23). What Jesus describes here is the fallen condition of our heart.

Described in Jeremiah 17:9, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

The heart, as referred to in the Word of God, is not the vital human organ that pumps blood throughout our bodies; that keeps us going, moving, breathing. The heart is summed up in all that we are . . . our emotions, our will, our mind. Proverbs 4:23 reminds us that the heart determines the course of your life (NLT).

The whole of the abortion issue is one of the heart. Man by his very fallen nature has a heart that is selfish, short-sighted, manipulative, greedy, lazy, hedonistic, irrational, unreasonable, murderous, wicked, covetous, sensual, proud, corrupt, deceitful, faithless, ruthless, confused and much more.

Romans 1 describes the heart that refuses to acknowledge God as “foolish” and “darkened” (1:21).

The world’s response to abortion, those who perform abortions and those who have an abortion are simply . . . following their heart. Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead (Ecclesiastes 9:3).

Now, I have just described my own heart. All of the above characteristics dwell within me, too. The only difference . . . at the age of five, based upon the truths of God’s Word and by His grace alone, Christ came to live in my heart, took up residency within me, and now I do not live the Christian life, Christ lives His life through me (Romans 3:23; 5:8; 6:23; 10:9-13; John 14:17-23; Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:21; Colossians 1:27).

As a disciple of the Lord Christ Jesus, the worst decision I can make each day and throughout the day is to follow my heart, to go my own way. Man left to himself destroys himself and those around him.

The only way to overcome the battle that rages within me, my heart wanting to have its own way, is to surrender to Christ within me. He is life and has the words of life (John 6:68-69; 14:6; Matthew 11:28-30).

The answer to the abortion issue and the downward spiral of my heart is the gospel, the person of Jesus Christ.

As I think back to those days after the stillbirth of Ashley Marie, I am oft reminded of the dear lady who Denise visited in the hospital three months later who had experienced the same. When my wife walked into that room filled with sorrow and pain, she entered into the darkness of that dear mom’s heart when she said, “I just went through the same thing three months ago.” Then and there, Denise was able to share Christ with her.

Because of the condition of my heart, I can empathize with all in this world who are for abortion at any level. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4). Each of these need Christ. Each of these need someone to share the message of the gospel with them.

Especially needed is the dear mom who now lives with a broken heart, the painful scars of her decision to have an abortion. For you dear lady, there is forgiveness at the cross of Jesus Christ. To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He [God] made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:6-7).

Today, may we have an opportunity to enter into that dark room of a heart filled with sin, sorrow, pain, and brokenness and share the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.

Today, will you turn to the light in Christ alone and be set free from the dark room of your heart?

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry #11

Two marriage failures. One sexual abuse. One suicide.

I heard about these four tragedies in a two day period. These were all ministry leaders.

Only the Lord knows all the facts about each of these scenarios, but the following is for certain:

  1. These sins could have been prevented.
  2. The heart of every issue is an issue of the heart.
  3. Men in ministry are not above temptation.
  4. The root cause is unbelief in God which leads to discontentment which leads to discouragement which leads to despondency/depression which leads to despair.

This is why I have written these several recent blog posts about overcoming discouragement in ministry. As I heard of the aforementioned moral failures, my heart ached. I wept. I realized again how susceptible I am in my own heart to fail. Everyone of us is one decision away from bringing reproach on the name of Christ, destroying our testimony, marriage, family and ministry.

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

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:12-14)

Ministry is made up of two worlds, public and private. Public ministry life has its share of hurts and struggles which brings the temptation to deal with it in a sinful way in the private world, where there is no accountability.

Will you read the following from Paul Tripp and soak your soul in the grace of God, the Lord Jesus Christ Who has brought deliverance and rescue to us all?

“Why do I struggle with the same sin over and over again, and how can I break the cycle?”

Someone submitted this question not too long ago. I could feel their discouragement through the email. Have you ever felt stuck in a cycle of sin, seemingly unable to break a pattern that dishonors the Lord and reaps a harmful harvest?

I know I have, and when I do, my mind immediately jumps to Romans 7. “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (vv. 18-19)

So what do we do when we hit that wall? I think Romans 7 provides us with some practical steps and encouragement to break the cycle of sin.

The first is this: Don’t sign a premature armistice agreement with our sinful nature.

As believers, the Bible declares that our heart of stone has been removed and replaced with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Yes, we are new creatures, and yes, the controlling power of sin over us has been broken … but the presence of sin remains.

I think many of us have seriously underestimated the drama, the power, and the depth of remaining sin—how deep it is inside of us and how it infiltrates every aspect of our being. There is a tremendous moral and spiritual war still raging on within us.

I am surprised by how many Christians, myself included, live with a peacetime mentality. While we might be active fighting our culture or protesting outside evil, some of us seem to expect the luxuries and leisure of peace in our heart—where the war rages most fiercely.

And then suddenly, we get surprised or discouraged when sin starts winning!

Don’t misunderstand: because of the wonderful atoning work of the Prince of Peace, the war between God and us has ended. And when Christ returns, our struggle with sin and the Enemy will be complete. But until then, a battle of hostility inside us still rages. Perhaps the problem is that we think that the adversary within—remaining sin— has been conquered long before it actually has.

In the middle of this spiritual war, there’s a second thing you must do: Don’t argue for your own righteousness.

Perhaps the biggest and most tempting lie that all of us tend to embrace is that our most significant problems exist somewhere outside. This is partially true because, in a fallen world, people sin against us and we experience bodily pain and suffering. The Apostle Paul experienced both of these and doesn’t minimize them by writing about them elsewhere in Scripture, but in this particular passage, he’s only concerned about his own sin and heart. He doesn’t argue for his righteousness.

On the contrary, in Romans 7, Paul locates his struggle inside himself. He knows that when you argue for your righteousness, you convince yourself that you don’t need the grace of God—the only thing that can protect you from sin.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)

Are you feeling discouraged in your battle with sin? At first glance, Romans 7 can be a pretty discouraging passage! Paul exclaims, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

But the passage doesn’t end there: “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Eternal rescue has been supplied, but rescuing grace is still necessary every day. What we have received in Christ, we still desperately need. Romans 7 calls us to be aware and serious; the war for our hearts is not over. Our need for a conquering Savior has not ended.

Reflection Questions

  1. What sin have you conquered or left behind by God’s grace since becoming a believer? How have you become a new creation by being in Christ?
  2. What sins or weaknesses do you find yourself still struggling with? When was the last time you wrestled with the flesh because of it? What was the outcome? Do others know of this consistent battle?
  3. Are you more committed to fighting the sins of the culture than you are fighting remaining sin in your heart? Why is the latter more of a danger to you?
  4. Consider a recent time when you deceived yourself by arguing for your own righteousness. Who, or what, did you blame? How did you justify your selfishness or sin?
  5. What does the daily rescuing grace of Christ look like in your life? How can you pursue it today? Be specific.

Ministry friend, if I can be a listening ear for you with a heart of compassion and truth, please contact me at bcbcpastor@comcast.net. Let me help you before you become a statistic.

From a pastor’s heart!

dale

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry (#3)

So you have completed a full day of ministry. You have proclaimed and taught the Word of God, perhaps as many as three to four times. You have praised the Lord with all your heart! You have listened to many burdens, heard maybe a complaint or two, and sought to encourage and edify many. You have worked through a power point failure during your third point, a crying baby, and on the way home, a flat tire. As you ease into your chair in the family room and take a deep breath, you can still hear all the “noise” of the day in your mind, even if you are catching up on Sunday night football and Facebook.

Be careful! Your mind and body are worn out! You are reliving the day. Thoughts of “what if” and “if only” and “I should have” start to permeate your mind. You are a prime target for the flesh and the devil to lie to you. It’s a set up, friend!

May I encourage you . . . and remind myself?

First of all, instead of listening to yourself, preach the Truth to yourself . . . instead of just to those who gathered to hear the message. You proclaimed the Truth with passion and conviction all day. Now, believe and live out what you preached! Rest in it. Lean hard into it. His Word never returns void (Isaiah 55:11). Your failures of the day are a good reminder that you are frail and totally dependent on God’s grace and mercy all the time. Your successes, and only God determines that, are what they because Christ worked through you to build His Church, to do His work, not yours. So rejoice in Him! Praise Him! Thank Him!

Second, start counting your blessings from the day and record them in a journal or on your phone . . . even if it might have been a difficult Sunday! Satan doesn’t want you to remember the goodness of God that you experienced through the day. Most of all, remember your position and identification in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14). You are accepted in the Beloved (1:6).

Third, track your thinking and what you usually do on Sunday nights. Make sure it does not feed your discouragements. Perhaps a good idea would be to put the kids to bed, and you and your wife enjoy some time alone! Act like you’re newlyweds! Hold hands, kiss, cuddle, and enjoy the wife your youth (Proverbs 5:18). Encourage each other. And, just like Saturday night, hold hands and pray before drifting off to sleep. You need her, she needs you and you both need the Lord!!

Sleep well, friend, and . . . let’s pray for one another to choose what’s right by God’s grace.

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
(Isaiah 26:3)

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, . . . and be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry (#1)

“I’m tired of letting mean people (in church) determine when we move.” These words were spoken to me by a pastor quoting his wife as they and their family are preparing to relocate once again due conflict, hurt, sorrow and discouragement in ministry.

Soul Shepherding Ministry posted “over half of ministry leaders are discouraged.”

When you consider the events of the last two years brought on by Covid such as shut-downs, divided congregations over politics and masks, and now the economy and the fear of war, no wonder this can be said of pastors (as well as thousands of others).

These are discouraging days. Pastors have battled discouragement for many years. Our day is not unique nor is the trial of discouragement (1 Corinthians 10:12-14). Ask King David (1 Samuel 21:15-22:2). I fight discouragement and have done so off-and-on for years.

What does it mean to be discouraged? What does it look like? What causes it?

Discouragement is defined by the Britannica Dictionary as “a feeling of having lost hope or confidence; something (such as a failure or difficulty) that discourages someone.” The FreeDictionary says it is “the feeling of despair in the face of obstacles.” Webster’s Dictionary gives it as “depression or weakening of confidence; dejection.”

If you want to know what it looks like, go home with your pastor on Sunday night or spend time with him on Monday . . . or Tuesday or . . . Wednesday . . . . The look and frame of discouragement is one of down-heartedness, lack of motivation, loss of joy and zeal, slumped shoulders, slower pace, procrastination, apathy, critical spirit, a spirit of Eeyore, mood swings, and more. Now, I’m not saying that every pastor is this way, but as noted above and from history, discouragement is a force that must be dealt with.

Discouragement comes from a fear of failure, “mean people,” lack of success, fatigue, not knowing how to rest or “turn off” the ministry demands, lack of exercise, unhealthy eating habits and subsequent weight issues, health events, financial woes, focusing on people rather than Christ, acting like you are the “Messiah” of your ministry, a sense of not meeting up to other’s expectations, competition and comparison in ministry, reading other “successful” pastor’s Twitter feeds, frustration with people, feeling like you are never doing enough, not getting everything done, believing you have to be on your “A game” every Sunday, the attacks of Satan, wrong thinking, feeling forsaken by God and others, being misunderstood, always on the front lines, personal marriage and/or family issues, etc.

In the next few blogs, I want to be a genuine source of encouragement like a cold drink on a hot, humid day after reaching a mountain summit on the AT (Appalachian Trail) or a refreshing dip at the base of a 125 foot western North Carolina waterfall or the expectation of a multi-colored beach sunrise. I want to help you, my friend in ministry, with handling discouragement and rising up out of the despair!

I’ll end this post with Psalm 42:5 (NLT), a passage I have quoted so often over the years when my heart has been disquieted within me.

Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!

The Oasis

So, how does a pastor fight through the battle that wages a war in his mind on Mondays after giving his all on Sunday? How do you move on through the rest of the week? You go to the Oasis. (If you read my post from Tuesday entitled A Monday, you understand.)

As in all of life, the answer is in the Word of God, the very Word we proclaim to gathered folks every Sunday and during the week. This is the very Word that I need to preach to my own heart rather than listening to my heart. The very Word that set us free from our lost, sinful condition and has placed us secure in Christ. The very Word that reveals the character of God to us. The very Word that is the light in the darkness of our thoughts.

The Word this week has been so penetrating and encouraging to my heart and life. Here’s a sample of the scriptures of which I speak:

This I know, because God is for me.
10 In God (I will praise His word),
In the Lord (I will praise His word),
11 In God I have put my trust;
I will not be afraid.
(Psalm 56:9-11)

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:20-23)

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me!
For my soul trusts in You;
And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge,
Until these calamities have passed by.

2 I will cry out to God Most High,
To God who performs all things for me.
3 He shall send from heaven and save me; . . .
God shall send forth His mercy and His truth.

7 My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and give praise.
8 Awake, my glory!
Awake, lute and harp!
I will awaken the dawn.

9 I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing to You among the nations.
10 For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens,
And Your truth unto the clouds.

11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
Let Your glory be above all the earth
. (Psalm 57:1-3, 7-11)

God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He said, and will He not do?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

It now must be said of Jacob
And of Israel, ‘Oh, what God has done!’
(Numbers 23:19, 23)

Each of these passages found their way into my heart and into my journal. They have been my meditation and fresh air; my oasis!

Preachers, may we find that the Word we preach is the same Word that we embrace in our minds, love with our hearts, and soak in our souls!

The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
(Psalm 19:9)

Bob Saget, Covid & Bronx Fire

On the last day of 2021, Bob Saget reflected on the passing of 99 year-old Betty White by saying, “She always said the love of her life was her husband, Allen Ludden, who she lost in 1981. Well, if things work out by Betty’s design — in the afterlife, they are reunited. I don’t know what happens when we die, but if Betty says you get to be with the love of your life, then I happily defer to Betty on this.”

According to worldomenters.info, as of Monday, January 10, 2022, Covid has been the cause of death of 861, 021 people in the USA and 5,511,396 in the world.

Sunday morning, fire broke out in a Bronx, NY, apartment complex killing 17 people. Eight of them were children. “It was absolutely horrific,” Firefighters Association President Andrew Ansbro said. “I talked to many veteran firefighters who said it was the worst fire they had seen in their lives. They were doing CPR on people outside. It was absolutely horrific. Members operated with upmost heroism. Unfortunately, not all fires have a positive outcome. It’s horrible. This fire will be with these members forever.” (abc7ny.com)

This world is filled with suffering and sorrow. It is not supposed to be that way.

Then why so much agony, angst, fear, disappointment, and death?

As God created the universe, He saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day (Genesis 1:31). Upon creating man and woman in His own image (Genesis 1:26) and from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7), He placed them in the Garden of Eden, blessed them, and . . . said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28).

What went wrong?

Sin. God gave man a freewill to choose and being tempted by Satan, he chose to go his own way and plunged the whole world into sin (Genesis 2:8-3:24). Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world (Romans 5:12-13a). You see, the world is totally broken because of sin.

Is there any hope for us? Is there anyone who can forever correct the sin problem? Will it always be this way? My friend, just as the world is completely broken by sin, Jesus is the complete answer for every sin, every wrong, every heartache, and every act of unrighteousness (Romans 5:14-21).

Covid constantly produces fear and reminds us of death. Man, even in his God-given mental capacity, has not figured out how to eradicate this pandemic. Yet, in the midst of it all, I hear these hope-filled words of truth at the tomb of death, Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live (John 11:25).

Sadly, mankind will continue to face fatalities due to such things as faulty space heaters and apartment doors that are designed to close in case of fire. Remember, the world is broken. Man cannot produce a perfect environment because we are imperfect creatures due to our sin. But there is hope! For where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:20b-21). The answer is the perfect Son of God (John 3:16-17; Ephesians 2:1-10).

Yes, there is immense pain and suffering in this world, and Jesus experienced it all (Isaiah 53; Hebrews 4:14-16). He bore the sin of the whole world, yours and mine (2 Corinthians 5:21), and He rose from the tomb to conquer sin and death (Matthew 28:1-10; Acts 2:24; Revelation 1:18). God wants you to have the security and assurance of eternity in His presence in Heaven (John 14:1-6).

My heart ached as I read Bob Saget’s statement about the afterlife. My friend, you can absolutely know where you are going. You do not need to hope that “things will work out by Betty’s design — in the afterlife.” You must not “happily defer to Betty on this.”

This sinful, broken world won’t always be this way. Please take time to read the scripture passages given above. There is eternal hope (confident expectation based on the promises of God in His Word); there is eternal assurance all found in the person of Jesus Christ. Please defer to Him!

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

The Season That Stole Christmas

The lights went out on the top and the bottom this year!!

There I sat with my car backed into the parking lot at Target in observation mode. Still in quarantine, my wife made her trek into Target to purchase a gift.

What did I observe? A steady of stream of shoppers entering and exiting their cars and the stores with sad, frowning, hardened faces. Some were walking briskly, some on a mission, others at a snail’s pace. And, what season of the year is this?

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”—Go ahead; sing it! You are hearing it in your head anyway!

It’s the celebration of good news of great joy that will be for all the people (Luke 2:11)!

Isn’t Christmas all about joy, cheer, good news, giving, laughter, family traditions, get-togethers, etc.?

As I watched, my finite mind could not fathom all the stories in front of me in this “season of joy.” Perhaps sudden job loss, death of a dear loved one, disappointment in not finding the right gift, the general frustrations of life, cancer diagnosis, home life issues, heart-crushing memories, failing marriages, brokenness, fear, rejection, dread, chaos, thoughts of suicide, sorrow, discontentment, etc.

In the midst of these stories of life, many hoping that this season might bring a little good news, a little cheer, a little “Tender Tennessee Christmas” to take off the edge of the pain, my mind considered my own current “covidness” and was once again reminded that this season is only a mere shadow of the Realty. If my heart is fixed on all the ingredients of the season, I miss the preeminent, transcendent Person of this day, this season, this year, and this life. At that point, I have fallen into idolatry; worshiping the creature (and what the creature creates here) more than the Creator (Romans 1:18-25).

You see, the only Story that can completely deal with the root cause of all “the fears of all the years,” which began in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), is the Reality of the living Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ Who stepped into your life to be your substitute on the cross (Isaiah 53:3-5; 1 Peter 3:18). Life is the Eternal Story, not a temporal season.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9 ESV).

Today, tomorrow, on Christmas Day, and the days to follow, listen to and meditate on the Story of hope and redemption, the salvation of your souls, in exchange for the shadows of the season. No matter how good they may be for now, they are only shadows.

Don’t let the season steal what Jesus came to give and restore!

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).

Additional links for your encouragement today: