Three Anchor Truths In the Middle of the Storm

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Lately I have found myself repeatedly singing,

In the eye of the storm, You remain in control
In the middle of the war, You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me, in the eye of the storm.  (Ryan Stevenson)

The trials and hardships of life, others and mine, at times seem to be so burdensome, numerous, and troubling.

How do we press on in the eye of the storm?  How do we stay afloat?  As I pondered these things, three anchor truths came to mind that can be your stay in the middle of the storm.

#1 Christ suffered, bled and died for me and my sins.

The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).

Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18).

When I consider the pain of my trial, I must look to Christ Who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself (Hebrews 12:3) to save me from my greatest crisis.  What is my greatest crisis?  The answer: How do I save myself from going to hell because I am a sinner?  Since Jesus Christ took care of my greatest crisis and the tomb is empty, He will enable me to make it through any other crisis.

#2 Christ’s resurrection gives me blazing hope

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Hope in the New Testament is a…

  • blessed hope (Titus 2:13)
  • joyful hope (1 Thess. 2:19; Rom. 12:12)
  • comforting hope (1Thess. 4:13-18)
  • hope of glory (Col. 1:27)
  • anchoring hope (Heb. 6:19)

“When a Christian truly understands the hope he has in Christ, it results in a steadfast sense of security and stability.” (Gene Getz) 

#3 Being in Christ promises me an awesome future!

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18)

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 20:1-4)

Jesus, being God and having been in a boat in the eye of a storm (Mark 4:35-41), is the only true Anchor for life, trouble, sorrow, persecution, misunderstanding, questions, death, pain, sin, etc.

Been There . . . Sustained

 

Paige and Ruby (2)

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

Better Be Ready!

A winter storm is coming!  Frigid temps, deep snow and ice are on their way.  Quick, get to the store!!  Gotta buy milk and bread! (Personally, I’ve never eaten a milk and bread sandwich, but when the snow flies, I guess it might be good.)  Nevertheless, I am intrigued at how glued we are to the forecast when we receive a winter storm warning.  That announcement has a controlling affect upon businesses, homes, churches, government, schools, highway crews and many others. Look at Facebook!  Try to shop in the grocery store.

How many times in your life have you heard, “There’s a winter storm warning in effect for . . . ,” or something similar?  And when you do, what is your response to such a predicted event?  What kind of planning begins to take place in your life?  Do you shrug your shoulders, run to the grocery story, look up in the skies, check your phone updates, begin to think of “Plan B,” and/or complain?

Seriously, there are two events that should grab our attention every day of our lives.  We were reminded of these in our “I Love Missions” Conference this past weekend.

1)  The promised return of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

2)  The greatest tragedy of this life—a lost soul going to hell (Hebrews 9:27)

This most blessed event and the most tragic event could occur today!!!  What’s your response?  Are you moved more by the prediction of a weather forecast or the promises in God’s Word?  Something more eventful than a winter storm is coming.  Better be ready!

If you have never received Christ as your personal Savior and Lord; if you are not sure that heaven is your home, please go to the following link: The Exchange Message. Scroll down the page and watch the video entitled, “You Can Have a Relationship with God.”

If you are interested in what Scripture says about death and hell, please check out this brief biblical study found here: What Does the Bible Say About Hell

Heavenly Sunshine!

Two years ago today at 6:30 p.m. my mother took her last earthly breath and entered into the celestial presence of her Savior and Lord!  My heart rejoices as she, my dad, my daughter and many, many other loved ones dwell in the land of heavenly, eternal sunshine!

Mom began playing the piano at the age of six.  She listened to the radio broadcast of the Old Fashioned Revival Hour and learned the style of pianist Rudy Atwood.  As a result, she played with the same gusto and passion as her unseen teacher on the radio until the last time she struck a chord in November 2012.  Many, many Sundays, Dad would open their church services with the chorus, “Heavenly Sunshine.” I can hear it now. Here’s a link of the OFRH Choir and Rudy Atwood playing the piano.   Great memories.  Great parents.  To God be the glory!!

Heavenly Sunshine

Three-Hundred-Million Years From Now

Monday, I began reading a book entitled One Thing You Can’t Do in Heaven by Mark Cahill.  The introduction contains a compelling question:  “Three-hundred-million years from now, what will be the only thing that will matter?”  Before you read on, please consider this question and give an answer.  (I’m waiting to type any further while you formulate your answer . . . . . . .)
The author goes on to say, “Will it matter what kind of car you drove?  Will it matter who won the NCAA football and basketball titles this year?  Will it matter who you took to the homecoming dance?
Cahill gives his answer in the next paragraph.  “Three-hundred-million years from now, the only thing that will matter is who is in heaven and who is in hell. And if that is the only thing that will matter then, that should be one of the greatest concerns now.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:11, The Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. If is of the utmost importance for Jesus to reach the lost, shouldn’t it be a major priority for you?”
What was your answer?
The author goes on to say, “The real question then is:  What are you doing of significance today that will matter three-hundred-million years from now?”
As I was typing this, I received a phone call from a dear man that attended our church a long time ago. We have kept up with him here and there. His life had recently spiraled out of control due to alcohol and drugs. The call was this dear man sharing the good news that he had just trusted in Christ as his personal Lord and Savior!  Three-hundred-million years from now, this dear brother will be in Heaven as will the man who cared for his soul!

Romans 10:9-15  That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.  For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.  How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

Wow!!

Recently, I have posted about the Home-going of pastor friend, Tom Craig, from Oak Ridge, TN.  One of his faithful church members and a former college classmate of mine, Brad Zockoll, has written some excellent posts on his own blog, zockollthoughts, that are a must share.  Today, here’s a post that is a true illustration of Psalm116:15, and as for me, eclipses some of the recent books that have been written.  Thanks, Brad, for sharing your heart and being intimate with all of us about something so precious, yet teaching us so much about the precious side of a believer’s death.

I had a conversation with Kim Craig, Tom’s wife, about the last days of our dear pastor’s life.  She had mentioned that he saw some wonderful things, and I received her permission to write about it and share it with you:

It was the last week of Tom’s life.   He would be gone by Wednesday evening.

The hospital room was quiet.  Tom, alone with his wife Kim, lay quietly gazing at the ceiling, fighting the pain and weakness brought on by the crush of pancreatic cancer.

1dHe was tired.  His energy was gone.  But he was alert… and Kim noticed that his eyes were fixed on a scene…

Tom stared at the ceiling, looking intently at something.

Kim, seated on the bed beside him, stroked his hair, “What is it, Tom? What do you see?”

His voice was weak but audible.  “Angels.”

Kim leaned closer.  Her heart skipped a beat.  “Angels?”

He nodded his head. Yes.

“How many of them are there?”

Tom moved his lips quietly as he lifted his two hands, counting his fingers softly.  He turned and gave a definitive answer:  “Twelve.”

Kim leaned in closer.  “What do they look like?” “Do they look like female angels?”

Tom, unable to talk freely, shook his head no.

“Are they male angels?”

He clearly nodded his head yes, then lay back exhausted, but enthusiastic.  Kim realized his fatigue, but was struck by his determination in what he was witnessing. No doubt about it; Tom knew he was seeing angels.

He lay quiet for a time, perking up upon greeting numerous friends and family as they stopped by, occasionally attempting to converse, but growing frustrated that he did not have the energy to utter more than a few words at a time.  However, he didn’t give up; three words he was able communicate: “I love you.”

Later on, Kim and daughter Allie told me, he grew excited and animated.  When they leaned in to hear, he exclaimed that he saw something new.  Something almost indescribable.  He saw colors.  New colors.   Incredible hues and shades. Colors not realized on this earth.  Possibly the colors of heaven?  Tom was adamant that they were unseen by him before.  Kim and the family pondered this.

He spent his last day with family around him, quietly adding a word here and there as he was able.  But then he’d stop and look at the ceiling.  His eyes were open, gazing above the group.  It was a different kind of look, as if … well, as if he were listening for something.  It became apparent that he was indeed hearing something, and he let them know through gesturing that this was something different …

“Do you hear … music?” Kim asked, drawing near as he nodded his head yes.

“What kind of music, Tom?”

“Beautiful,” he whispered.

“Are you familiar with it?  Do you recognize the song?” Kim asked quietly.

“No,” he replied.

“You’ve never heard it before? Is it a new song?”

“Yes,” he replied firmly.

And then another visit by the angels…

Tom saw the angels, as family members stood about him.  “How many do you see, Tom?”  He was weaker but he was determined to let them know.  Once again he counted with his fingers, One, two, three…

Five, he told them.

This got us all to considering what was occurring to Tom, aligning this with a Biblical account of Heavenly messengers.  When Jesus related the story of Lazarus, He made mention that when the beggar died, he was carried into glory by angels.  Think of it.

Stop and ponder this truth.  It was Tom’s time to have his load carried for him.

Pastor Tom had indeed been carrying a lot of burdens in his ministry, numerous responsibilities that would test the strength of any pastor.  His compassion loaded him with the responsibility of seeing folks who were in physical need.  His desire to show Jesus charged him with preparing messages saturated with Biblical truth.  His oversight of the church weighed on him the financial responsibility of the assembly.  His outreach vision added the burden of making sure missionaries were being supplied with their necessities.  Visiting, counseling, leading, speaking, praying, exhorting … being available 24 hours a day.

Tom carried a load.

Now it was time for the angels to carry him to the Father.

“It was so precious,” said Kim.  “The way he described it, well… I wanted to go myself!”

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants…

I used to get puzzled about that Psalm.   I mean, death is precious?

Yes, it is to the one who is heading to the Heavenly Reception.  The Portals of Real Life.  The Grand Celebration with the Author of Life.

The family told me that, one of the last words they heard escape from his lips was “Wow.”

I get the feeling that’s what we’ll all be saying as the angels come down to escort us to the Heavenly realm.

Wow.

—Written October 11, 2014

A Broken Down Shuttered House

Recently while visiting with a dear saint of God, I listened as she reminisced about her old home place and said, “The last time I was there, the house was run down and the grass had grown up around it.  Why, it didn’t even look like it used to.  Even the church I attended is not as pretty as it used to be, and they only have one or two services a month.”  As I sat there looking at what age and the curse of sin had done to this dear lady, pinching its wrinkles in her face, causing her to use a walker for stability, and making her wish for times of fellowship at church and in town with her friends, this passage of Scripture  came to my mind.

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, 3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:1-8)

While listening, I could not help but notice the twinkle in her eye accompanied by the precious smile etched on her face as she recounted days gone by.  Within moments, she said, “So many people are unhappy these days.  Me? I’m happy.  I’m content.  I’m ready to go Home whenever the Lord is ready to call me.”  It did my heart good to listen to the lilt in her voice and to see her God-prepared confidence that someday soon she would exchange the old broken down shuttered house for a glorified habitation not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Tom & Roger

March 18, 2007, I stood on the parcel of ground where Oak Ridge Baptist Church is now located.  There, Pastor Tom Craig, Pastor Gary Ledbetter and myself gathered in prayer for the future construction of their church building.  As we joined our expectant hearts together before the Throne of Grace, we asked God to do a mighty work for His glory.  God answered our prayers as well as the prayers of a host of others. Not only was the building constructed, but greater still, lives were and continue to be transformed and built for God’s glory.  Tom was sure that would happen.  He discipled, loved, cared, and ministered the Word of God with grace and balance.

Interesting enough, that March 18th morning, another individual who impacted Gary’s and my life through his music, Roger Bennett, passed into the presence of the Lord after a long bout with leukemia.  The connection with Roger and his ministry team, Legacy Five, was the primary purpose for Gary and I being in Oak Ridge that weekend.  I remember walking into the Hampton Inn to meet Gary and his family on that Friday afternoon.  There in the front lounge area was Tom and Bobby cheering on their UT Vols in the college basketball tournament!  How surprised he was to see us.  He thought he had missed some conference in the area.  🙂

Tom and Roger, two men from two completely different ministry orbits, but today in the presence of the Lord! Both involved in a journey with cancer now forever over. How thankful I am for those the Lord brings into our lives to edify, encourage, exhort, and enjoy!  Thank you, Tom, for being such a man.  Gary and I will continue to sing and preach the Word until we join you on the other side.  Until then, My Hope Is Jesus.