Our world has always been full of trouble. Our lives have always been full of trouble. Sometimes we are more aware of this reality than others, but difficulty and brokenness have always been present. We cannot escape trouble in this life.
What is your response to trouble, then? How do you typically respond? What determines your response?
The world offers plenty of solutions to the troubles we face, the troubles we cause, and the troubles others cause. Time is far from sufficient to adequately cover the variations of self-helps and trouble-avoiding options.
What the world offers, though, is temporary solutions because the world is unable to solve the eternal problem of sin and brokenness. On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I plan on preaching how and why “Jesus Calls for a Better Response” (Hebrews 12:14-29). Continually in the book of Hebrews, and really throughout the Bible, we are reminded that endurance is the response of a genuine follower of God. Only those who endure until the end are true believers who will experience eternal life (i.e. see places like Matthew 10:22; 2 Timothy 2:12; Hebrews 3:14; 10:36; James 1:12).
How do we endure, though, when trouble and difficulty can be so overwhelming? That is what I hope to talk about Sunday morning – five requirements of Christian endurance. Simply put, though, lasting endurance requires God’s presence in our lives. We must have a saving relationship with Him. Otherwise, we will fall far short of what is necessary to endure. Left to ourselves and our own strength and the world’s solutions, we will give in and fail. We will not endure. Trouble will win.
What about you, then? When trouble comes your way, do you look to the world for answers, or do you look to the Word? Is it the world around you or the Word within you that guides your response to difficulty? Only the Word offers answers that will endure and enable us to endure.
What happened at our country’s Capitol Wednesday was sad, embarrassing, and tragic. Frankly, I was not overly surprised, and that further illustrates the discouraging state of our nation right now. What is especially frustrating to me is that the name of Jesus continues to be used wrongly and immorally for political purposes and for purposes of blatant evil.
Christ-followers are called to honor, respect, and pray for our government leaders, whether we agree with them or not (see, for example, 1 Peter 2:13-17 and Romans 13:1-7). What happened Wednesday was a disgrace. This is particularly true for those who claim the name of Jesus while also supporting sinful rebellion.
Followers of Jesus, let us be better. Let us set an example. Let us live according to the Word of God.
“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Those who stormed the U.S. Capitol Wednesday are not a cloud of witnesses, nor are the vast majority of our political leaders. The godly faithful referred to in Hebrews 11 (and those like them) – people who endure in the faith, no matter the cost – are the cloud of witnesses.
Our country’s leaders, whether great or not, are not the source and perfecter of our faith. Politics are not the source. Our government is not the source. Our country is not the source. Jesus is “the source and perfecter of our faith” and He, “who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.”
That cannot be said about anyone else. Jesus alone could do that and Jesus alone did do that.
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Hebrews 12:1-13 on how “Jesus Is the Better Reason.” He is the better Reason – the superior Reason – we press on and endure in the faith. He is the Reason we have hope, joy, peace, and contentment. He alone is the Reason who lasts because He alone is the the source and perfecter of our faith.
Politics are not the source, so please do not worship our country or any political leaders. Do not give in to the cult of personality idolatry, for no one but Jesus rules a kingdom that is eternal.
While I do not believe we should strive to become heroes, I do believe genuine faith in Jesus Christ (faith that endures to the end) will make us heroes. No, I do not mean the kind of heroes about which books are written (although that might happen to a few) or the kind of heroes after which national holidays are named. Rather, I am referring to the kind of heroes who impact people for eternity.
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Hebrews 11 on how “Jesus Is the Better Resurrection.” Faith in Him and in the resurrection life only He can give impacts people. That kind of faith is all over Hebrews 11, and the stories in Hebrews 11 are about heroes – not because of the amount of their faith but because of the object of their faith.
If people tried to summarize your life in just a couple of sentences, what would be said? Would they talk about all your great accomplishments, or would the emphasis be on something bigger and something more lasting?
The heroes of Hebrews 11 are heroes not because they “figured it out” or achieved success or won fleeting victories, but rather because they trusted the One with eternal victory.
What about you? Will you be a hero someday – a hero according to the standard of God’s Word? Only if your faith is in God and in His provision for your life.
“Without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Heroes are heroes – according to God – only when the greatest thing about them is the God they faithfully serve. Let us be heroes by our faith in God. Let our lives point people to Him. Let our stories be about Him. Then, like Abel, the impact will continue – “By faith he was approved as a righteous man, because God approved his gifts, and even though he is dead, he still speaks through his faith” (Hebrews 11:4).
Unfortunately, Marsha and I were not on top of things enough to put together a Christmas card this year, so this is our insufficient attempt to wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
We are thankful for God’s continued grace, mercy, and provision in our lives – especially the good news of the gospel – that God sent His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, to take on flesh, live a perfect life, die on the cross for our sins, and rise again to defeat sin and death for all eternity. We pray you experience a closer walk with Him this coming year and prioritize Him above all else.
Merry Christmas! “For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). His name is Jesus. Praise the Lord!
This past Sunday evening, our kids with Richland Baptist Church had a children’s Christmas program. They sang some well-known Christmas hymns and shared some stories of how God has used angels to touch the lives of His people, as recorded in Scripture.
Perhaps more than any other time of year, I love singing hymns about the birth of Jesus. No, I don’t mean the commercialization of Christmas and songs like “Here Comes Santa Claus.” What I love is the great theology found in some of our great Christmas hymns.
I loved hearing the kids sing them Sunday evening, and I especially love singing them myself with our church family.
Jesus is the reason to sing. His coming to take on flesh is a reason to sing. His life, death, and resurrection for our salvation is a reason to sing. Do you desire to sing?
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Mary’s song of praise in Luke 1:46-55, talking about how “Redemption Is Certain.” When we know and follow Jesus as Savior and Lord, the redemption we have in Him is certain.
Does that make you want to sing? If you have experienced that redemption, I am unsure how your answer could be anything but an enthusiastic “YES!”
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord” (Luke 1:46).
The same reason Mary burst out in praise – celebrating our great God of redemption – ought to compel us to to sing praises to the King.
Do you have that reason to sing? If not, would you consider turning to the Lord for the eternal redemption only He can give?
Perhaps more than any other time of year, December is a month we think a lot about gifts. What will we get those we love? What should we ask for on our Christmas list? What do we “need” or want? How much money should we spend?
Christmas time is often referred to as “The Season of Giving.” While I would like to think that is because we would do well to “keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, for He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive‘” (Acts 20:35), more than likely, we call this “The Season of Giving” because we are so consumed with the giving and receiving of gifts. Commercialization rules the season more than we would probably care to admit.
WANTS CONSUME OUR HEARTS
From the time I can remember, I have been asked every single year, “What do you want for Christmas?” I, too, ask this question, although I will admit that I am thankful for my wife, who does the vast majority of our Christmas shopping for pretty much everyone for whom we buy gifts.
Our wants tend to consume our hearts, though, right? Naturally, we ask for things we want, and this is not solely the case with Christmas presents. An honest assessment would reveal that this is the way of our lives.
We think about what we want. We seek what we want. We get obsessed, sometimes, with what we want. And, if we are honest when asked what we want, we tell people what we want. Discretion might keep a 30-year-old from asking for the pony she has wanted since she was 13, but if pressed, maybe she will even admit that desire.
THERE IS A GIFT WE NEED
So much greater than the things we want, though, are the things we need. Sometimes those things overlap, but usually our list of needs is much shorter than our list of wants. Makes sense, of course, because we are pretty fortunate to have much of what we need.
There is no greater need, though, than our need for redemption – eternal life through the debt of our sin being paid in full.
What greater example of “The Season of Giving” than the gift of God’s Son, who came to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21)! He came to redeem us – to buy us back. His blood-sacrifice on the cross is the only payment sufficient to cover our sins and make us right with God. His resurrection from the dead is the only victory sufficient to conquer sin and death for all of eternity.
When you purchase Christmas presents, you redeem them, to a degree, with your money. You take possession of them and make them yours (perhaps to then give to someone else) by giving up something – money.
That is exactly what Jesus did when He died on the cross. He gave His life to purchase your salvation. This is why we use the word “redemption” when referring to God’s act of delivering us from eternal death in hell by sacrificing His Son. He bought us and made us His own.
For this to be true of you, though, you must repent of your sins and trust in Jesus’ sacrifice for your salvation. On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Matthew 1:18-25 on how “Repentance Is Redemption.” I hope to challenge those listening to trust in Jesus alone for redemption and for the assurance of such redemption.
Have you trusted in the greatest gift ever given – the gospel of your redemption? Are you finding great hope and assurance in this gift? Are you so grateful for this gift that you are passionately sharing it with others? Eternal redemption is the ultimate gift we all need and should be the gift that gives us the greatest joy, hope, and peace. Praise be to God!
Few things in life are more difficult than admitting you are wrong, saying you are sorry, and asking for forgiveness. When is the last time you have done that?
Perhaps you can remember situations where, if you had not apologized and admitted you were wrong, a relationship could not have been repaired. Likely, you remember expecting such actions from someone else, too. Regardless, we have all experienced the necessity of repentance and forgiveness, whether we realize it or not.
If you are clearly in the wrong in a situation, selfish, foolish pride can still prevent you from admitting your guilt. Thus, humility is an essential part of reconciliation and restoration.
How much more so is this the case when it comes to our relationship with God? The brokenness that exists between God and us is completely our fault, and the only way to fix that brokenness is through repentance and faith. Jesus Christ took our shame, guilt, and disgrace upon himself when he died on the cross for our sins. He took our place and took the punishment we deserve. When he rose from the dead, he defeated sin and eternal death, so that everyone who truly trusts in His sacrifice can be restored into a right relationship with God forever. In order for this to be a reality for you and me, though, we must repent of our sins and trust in Him alone to deliver us from sin and death.
Repentance is essential for our lives now and for our lives eternally. Repent or regret. There are no other options.
To repent is to change your mind and change your direction. Repentance is a decision to turn away from sin and turn to the Lord. On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Mark 1:1-8 on how “Preparation Is Repentance.” We cannot be prepared for meeting Jesus Christ unless we repent of our sins, so we must understand biblical repentance.
Of course, this act of repentance is something that happens when God’s Spirit changes our hearts and draws us to Himself the moment we surrender our lives to Him for salvation. Also, though, repentance must be a consistent, ongoing attitude and action that defines our lives.
Jesus could return at any moment. We have all heard this, sometimes more often than others. The authors of the New Testament, inspired by the Holy Spirit, believed this and taught this. Jesus could indeed return at any moment, and we must be ready.
Consider, though, that He Himself declared this before He ascended to heaven after His resurrection from the dead nearly 2,000 years ago. That is a long time, from a human perspective, to be waiting. “Any moment” is a difficult phrase to embrace for a coming that generations have anticipated without realizing.
REASON TO BE THANKFUL
Yes, 2,000 years seems like a long time, but also consider how long people waited for the first Advent – the first arrival of Jesus Christ into the world. His first Advent was promised back in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15) and to Abraham (Genesis 12:3), to Jacob (Numbers 24:17), to Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-19), to David (2 Samuel 7:12-13; Psalms), to Isaiah (7:14;9:2-7; 11:1), to Jeremiah (23:5-6), and to Micah (5:2), and those are just some of the references. My point, though, is that people waited thousands and thousands of years for the promised Messiah to come into the world and be born of a virgin and save His people from their sins. Yet, Jesus’ first Advent did indeed happen just as God promised and foretold.
For this reason, we can be thankful even in waiting. We can thankfully wait for His second Advent – when He will return to judge the living and the dead and save forever all who know Him. No, we do not know when that day will be, but we can be certain that day will be.
THANKSGIVING TO ADVENT
Perhaps that can be our Thanksgiving-to-Advent bridge – thankfully waiting. Truly, we have many things for which to give thanks, but when is the last time you gave thanks that you can wait – wait with full assurance of faith for the second coming of Jesus Christ our Lord?
As sure as was His first Advent, His second Advent is sure. Praise the Lord!
What a great reminder to slow down and give thanks in the midst of the chaos that tries to consume our daily lives. Jesus is coming again, and His coming is guaranteed. He never fails to keep His promises. In fact, the reason we have not yet realized His second Advent is because of His love…
“The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will begin a new Advent sermon series on “A Season of Preparation.” By preaching through Matthew 1:1-18, I hope to communicate that “Anticipation Is Preparation.” We prepare to encounter Jesus by anticipating His arrival. The people of old did this when waiting for His first Advent, and we do this by understanding that first Advent and looking forward to His second Advent.
THANKFULNESS REQUIRES READINESS
If you are not ready for Jesus’ second Advent, though, you will not be able to wait in thankfulness because that day will be eternally terrible for all who are not ready. To be ready, you must know and follow Jesus Christ with a sincere heart of complete surrender. Learn more by watching and/or reading The Story of the gospel. Only Jesus can prepare your heart for His second coming by making you right with God.
If you are ready and walking with Jesus, will you be more intentional this Advent season about waiting in thankfulness? Will you help others prepare and be ready by sharing The Story with them?
We have all heard it, and most of us have probably said it, whether in seriousness or in jest – “living the dream!” What does it mean to be “living the dream,” though? Of course, the answer to that question is subjective because “living the dream” can mean different things for different people. Generally and simply put, though, the statement implies that life is good. Things are going well. You are happy and thankful.
Are you “living the dream?” Why or why not?
From a Christian perspective according to the Word of God, living the best life we can live means living according to God’s plan for us. Oftentimes, this is in conflict with the typical idea of “living the dream,” though, because God’s plan is in accordance with God’s Word. And, God’s Word calls us to do things that are often uncomfortable and often not so “dreamy.” Loving your enemies, praying for those who persecute you, rejoicing in suffering, surrendering your life, and calling people to repentance, for example, are not usually statements associated with “living the dream.”
“Living the dream” – if meaning the best life we can live – is different when you have a Christian perspective, though, because your eternal status impacts your present reality. Because of what is to come for all who know and follow Jesus Christ, we can find great contentment and satisfaction now, even when things are difficult. While we might not be “living the dream” according to cultural and material expectations, we can be consumed with the hope and peace that people truly long for when they think of “living the dream.”
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching on perhaps the most important section in Hebrews (chapter10, verses 19-39). Verses 19-25, in particular, are really an amazing summary with which the author of Hebrews seems to be challenging his readers throughout the book. In this message, I hope to help you understand why “Jesus Gives the Better Life,” and this is the living reality now and eternally.
To live the superior life – the life consumed with objective hope today because of the certainty of tomorrow – you must know and follow the One who gave you life. The Author of life is certainly the One who knows best, and if we try to “live the dream” apart from His plan, we will be disappointed soon and more importantly, for eternity.
Instead, “Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).
Are you “holding on” and doing so with confident assurance? If so, then you understand what “living the dream” really means because you know nothing/no one else satisfies like Jesus satisfies. Does that mean earthly riches and great health and ongoing comfort? No. What it does mean, though, is a “true heart in full assurance of faith,” (Hebrews 10:22), and while the world’s riches can be taken away, those riches (eternal life and the assurance of it) can never be taken away.
For those reasons, those who have genuine faith in Jesus Christ are “living the life,” and they are doing so in community with others who are “living the life.” As we will see Sunday when looking at verses 24-25, the expectation and assumption is that sincere Christ-followers will remain faithful not only to Christ but also to His church. The Bible does not speak of a Christian who does not both endure in the faith and remain with the church. Such an idea is contrary to what the Bible clearly teaches.
The Apostle John, for example, when speaking of those who had abandoned their local church, says, “They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us” (1 John 2:19). When he said “none of them belongs to us,” he was declaring that those who are without a church family are without Christ.
The author of Hebrews, then, is not trying to convince Christians to gather with their church but rather is declaring that sincere Christians will gather with their church, whereas those who are simply professing faith in Christ but not truly possessing faith in Christ will eventually abandon Christ and His church.
Do you possess saving faith in Jesus? If so, your values and priorities will reflect such faith as you seek to grow closer to Jesus, grow in service to His church, and grow in commitment to His mission. If not, would you consider surrendering your life to Him today?
Yes, I know Thanksgiving is not even here yet, but supposedly some people are already Christmas shopping. My mom asked for my list, and she might already be done shopping for me. Christmas is only six weeks from today!
You have probably heard it said and have maybe even said it yourself, “What do you give someone who already seems to have everything?” We often say or hear things like this when referring to our parents or grandparents, especially in this country where most of us truly have more than we really need. We are materially blessed far more than the vast majority of people on this earth. So, what can we even give someone who really does not need much, if anything?
GIVING IS INADEQUATE
Regardless of what we might decide to give to those we love, we tend to agree that there is nothing we can give that sufficiently expresses our love for those about whom we most care. Giving is inadequate for that purpose, just as it is inadequate to earn their love in return.
Even more inadequate and insufficient, though, is any attempt we make at giving back to God to earn His love and favor. We are simply unable, as sinful human beings, to sufficiently give enough to a holy God. In fact, our attempts to give offerings and sacrifices for the purpose of fixing our sin problem are garbage. Even if we had everything this world can offer, we would not have enough to earn God’s love and favor. He is God. He is perfect. He is holy. We are none of those things.
RECEIVING LEADS TO GIVING
Our reality, in our sinful state, is that we have nothing to offer God unless we first receive what He offers us. We must receive His mercy, grace, and forgiveness before we can give to Him our lives. We must receive the free gift of salvation in and through His Son before we can give to Him our devotion.
Perhaps you are under the false assumption that you must figure out what you can give in order to win God’s approval. What you must understand, though, is that you will never truly give what God desires of you until you realize you have His approval in the cross of Jesus Christ.
We cannot give enough and therefore be accepted. We are accepted in Christ and therefore we desire to give.
This begins when we experience the mercy, grace, and forgiveness God offers in the gospel, and this continues when we daily grow in our faith and dependence on Him.
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Hebrews 10:1-18 (“Jesus Is the Better Offering“). He alone can and did offer the sacrifice that was necessary for our reconciliation with God and our eternal salvation. Furthermore, He alone is able to equip us through the work of His Holy Spirit to be whom God created us to be and to do what God created us to do.
Have you trusted in His superior sacrifice? Are you continuing to trust Him to enable you to endure until the end?