In the Midst of Mourning

“No matter what situation we are going through we must remember that God’s promises still and always ring true.”

Life is hard.

There are times when suffering and difficulty seem like the new and only reality. There are times where smiles and laughter and hope seem like far off and unattainable mirages.

There are many situations that can make us feel helpless and hopeless. You might experience a broken relationship. Perhaps you lose your job or experience a setback in schooling. Maybe you are affected by the consequences of sin, your own or someone else’s. Or, like myself, maybe you just lost someone you loved and cared for. Whatever the situation is, it is important that we understand that grief and mourning are natural. These two things are an important part of the process of eventually moving forward. Another, and perhaps the biggest part of the process is resolving to live with joy.

Joy may seem like a strange thing to talk about in the midst of suffering, but it is, in fact, the most vital to our spiritual and emotional health.

You see, joy is not an emotion, contrary to whatever the popular movie Inside Out would say. The emotion that most people often mistake joy for is happiness. Happiness, like all other emotions, is good and can be helpful. However, happiness, just like all other emotions is fleeting. Emotions change based on circumstance. Joy is not an emotion because it does not have to change based on our situation.

So if joy is not an emotion where does it come from? The simplest and most correct answer is from God Himself. Galatians 5:22 lists joy as part of the Fruit of the Spirit-things that are visibly evident in those who “belong to Christ Jesus.”

No matter what situation we are going through we must remember that God’s promises still and always ring true.

“God is our refuge and strength a very present help in times of trouble. Therefore we will not fear.” (Psalm 46)

       “do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Romans 8:18 is a promise for those who know and trust Jesus. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed.”

Revelation 21 talks about a time where God will “wipe away every tear…and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore.”

Joy in the midst of mourning makes sense when we have an eternal perspective.

We must realize that there is much more to life than just simply our present situation.

We must realize that God is a God of hope, and peace, and joy.

Understanding these things isn’t some magical silver bullet that will in the blink of an eye make everything better. However, realizing these things causes us to cling to our savior and “cast all of our anxieties on Him because He cares for us.” Because it is in our weakness that His strength is magnified.

This last week has been very tough for me and for a lot of people that I care for. But what we must remember is Philippians 4:4. We must rejoice in the Lord always. Even now. Because this is when we need joy the most.

If anyone is experiencing pain don’t push that pain away and try to hide it. But please remember, there is so much more to life than what you currently feel.

I pray that Romans 15:13 will be true for all of us.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

 

Jesus in the Old Testament

“The Christmas story doesn’t first start in Matthew 1, but in Genesis 1.”

Here we are in November and for about a month now my wife, Ashley, and I have been listening to Christmas music and watching cheesy Christmas movies. It has taken all my willpower not to put up Christmas decorations yet. And for the record; yes, I am allowed to sing about my savior’s birth all year round!

As I have been planning for the December sermon series I was reflecting on just how connected to the Old Testament Jesus was and is. We celebrate the Messiah’s birth once a year, but for an Old Testament believer, it was something they looked forward to daily!

The Christmas story doesn’t first start in Matthew 1, but in Genesis 1.

The relationship between Jesus and the Old Testament is a bond that is unbreakable. The Old Testament speaks of Jesus, not only on occasion but in every book it points to the coming Messiah. Let’s take a quick look at a few times that the Old Testament points to Jesus.

First, a few rules to interpreting the Old Testament…It is important to view the text in light of its original contexts to its original audience. The Bible was written to real people in a real place at a specific time. It is also important for the reader to not perform eisegesis and impress onto the text a view that was not originally intended to be there. Only after good exegeses is done can proper interpretation and application take place.

With those qualifications in mind let’s move forward.

            -The first significant point to consider is how Jesus is the New Adam or Second Man. While this is New Testament language the concept finds itself in the very first book of the Pentateuch. In Genesis chapter 3, while God is in the middle of handing out punishments to man, woman and the serpent, he makes an extraordinary promise in verse 15. God promises that one day the woman’s seed (we know this to be Jesus born of the virgin) although his heel will be bruised ultimately He, will crush the head of the serpent, the enemy. We know this to be found in Jesus death, resurrection, and second coming!

            -The next point to explore is how Jesus fulfills God’s promise to Abraham. God promises to Abraham in Genesis chapter 12 that He will use Abraham and his many descendants to ultimately bless the whole world. Again this is fulfilled when Jesus died on the cross to take away the sins of the world. His grace and mercy provided a blessing of eternal life for all who believe. While there are other specifics to the Mosaic Covenant this is clearly one that is fulfilled through Jesus Christ.

            -Another key point in the OT that points, eludes to, and is fulfilled through Jesus, is God’s promise to David. The Davidic Covenant is set up because in 2 Samuel 7 David desires to build a house for God. Because of David’s heart attitude God promises to make his name great. Additionally, He promises that one of David’s offspring will be raised up and they will always be reigning on the throne. When we read Matthew chapter 1 we see that Jesus is clearly in the line of David who will set up His kingdom and thus reign forever. As well, Luke 1:33 states specifically that Jesus is the one who will reign over Jacob’s descendants (Israel) and that His reign will never end.  Praise God!

            -The last key that we will look at today is how Israel and the prophets continually look forward to the day that the Messiah will come. With our knowledge of the New Testament we can clearly see how Jesus fulfills each prophecy about the Messiah. He will be born of a virgin, He will be born in Bethlehem, He will enter into Jerusalem on a colt, He will be a prophet like Moses, He will be of the tribe of Judah, He will suffer, He will be betrayed, and the list goes on and on.

If we put ourselves in the shoes of the Israelites right before, during, and after the exile we can see their desperate need for a physical savior. However, we can also see their desperate need for a spiritual savior as well since the exile was a result of their suffering spiritual state. The prophets understood this as they looked for the coming Messiah.

Closing Thoughts

It is important that we, 21st-century believers, understand that Jesus coming to earth was all part of God’s plan from the very beginning. That is why God the Son can be seen so brightly in the Old Testament. This is something that we must never forget because it emphasizes God’s sovereignty, mercy, and grace.

Joy to the world the Lord has come…just as God always planned.

Re-Forming

re·form

rəˈfôrm/

verb

  1. make changes in (something, typically a social, political, or economic institution or practice) in order to improve it.

500 years ago today, October 31, 1517, a German monk nailed 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Martin Luther’s 95 grievances were against the Catholic Church and specifically against the Pope. He did this, not with the intent of breaking away from the church, rather, he wished to call the church to refocus and recommit to a more biblical way of doing church and life.

From the Reformation came what is known as the Five Solas. These statements all work together in order to summarize the Gospel, salvation, and how a believer ought to live.

Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) –The Bible is the source of authority for Christians. Scripture is efficient. 2 Peter 1:20-21 & 1 Timothy 3:16-17

Sola Fide (Faith Alone) –Salvation is a free gift; it is never based on human efforts or deeds. Christians must have faith in God alone. Ephesians 2:9

Sola Gratia (Grace Alone) –Salvation is by grace alone. It is a result of what Jesus has done, not what we do. Ephesians 2:8-9

Sola Christo (Christ Alone) –Salvation is through Christ alone. Jesus alone is our great High Priest and mediator. Hebrews 4:15

Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone) –The goal in life for every believer should be to bring glory to God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

Martin Luther usually gets a lot of credit for his reform work, and rightly so. However, I want to shed some light on a few other great and godly men who were unafraid to reform. This is not a comprehensive list by any means, but just simply a few snapshots.

John Wycliffe in the 1380s worked to translate the Bible into English from Latin.    Wycliffe also fervently opposed unbiblical teachings of the Catholic Church and was eventually declared a heretic. Wycliffe’s writings and work inspired other future reformers.

Jan Hus was a Czech priest who was committed to the idea that people deserved and needed to hear the truth of the Bible in their own language. He began performing services in the local Czech language rather than Latin, and adamantly opposed the same teachings that Luther would also later condemn.  Hus was eventually arrested and burned at the stake for his “heresy.”

At the same time that Luther led reform in Germany, Huldrych Zwingli led the Reformation in Switzerland. Although Zwingli and Luther did not always see eye to eye it should be said that Zwingli had a profound impact.

In 1536 William Tyndale was burned at the stake for his stances against unbiblical teachings of the Catholic Church. Tyndale was the first to translate the Bible into English from the original Greek and Hebrew.

So here we are, 500 years removed, what does all of this mean for us today?

The sad reality is that many people today are ignorant of what the Bible has to say. Even sadder is that Biblical illiteracy does not just apply to those outside churches, but to many sitting in pews as well.

The Bible (whole) is available in 636 languages and the New Testament is available in 1442 languages! There are currently six Bible apps on my phone and I would bet there is at least one on your phone as well. In fact, most of those apps have an audio option so that God’s Word can be listened to at any time.

We are running out of excuses.

Clearly, the Reformation was about much more than just reading or listening to the Bible. But studying and understanding God’s Word was certainly at its core. Luther and the other Reformers all knew and loved God’s Word dearly. We would do well to follow their example.

Here are 5 “theses” for us to be challenged with on this 500-year anniversary:

  1. Let us continually reform our commitment to God.
  2. Let us continually reform our love for Jesus.
  3. Let us reform to a higher view of Scripture.
  4. Let us reform our obedience to the Spirit.
  5. Let us allow God to continually reform us.

 

A Lesson From Notre Dame

“Even when we do not feel Him, He is right there. He never ever will leave or forsake His children.”

This summer Ashley and I had the opportunity to travel a bit. It was an awesome blessing and as always, a fun adventure discovering new places. I must take this opportunity to recommend Groupon to anyone looking to see some awesome sights but also not looking to break the bank. Groupon is the way to go for awesome deals.

Anyway, one of the historic sights that we had the pleasure of seeing this summer was the famed Notre Dame. To say that the historic cathedral was awesome seems a bit cliché, but it truly was. I remember standing in front of it and reflecting on all the history and attention to detail and feeling overwhelmed by the grandness of it all. Quasimodo’s home was beautiful on the outside and incredibly interesting on the inside.

–Quick note- Ladies, be sure to wear something that covers your shoulders otherwise you will be turned away at the door, even if your dress is more modest than most…So after we bought Ashley an overpriced scarf from the souvenir shop next door we were back in line waiting to get in.

It is what happened in line to get in that stuck with me more than anything else that day. We were waiting in this incredibly long and twisting line when all of a sudden I heard crying. Actually, it wasn’t crying, it was more of a guttural, panicked weeping. I looked around and saw the source, a terrified little boy no older than 10. He was frantic as he ran in circles. Tears and snot dripped from his face as he desperately looked for his parents. Immediately, Ashley and I were looking for some sort of police officer that we could connect this lost boy with. There was nothing we could think to do, we didn’t speak French, but it was clear this boy was lost and clear that he was petrified.

But in an instant, all my concern drifted away because I saw his dad. Of course, I didn’t know the boy or the family or anything about them, but I knew it was his dad. The look on the man’s face said it all. A mix of concern, compassion, patience, and love. The father patiently waited, no more than 20 feet away for his son to finally see him. Not more than a few seconds later the son did see his dad and ran as fast as he could to him. The boy disappeared into his dad’s arms and the dad spoke softly to his son. Then after a few moments, the father stood his son up began to reprimand him. Again, I don’t speak French, but as a son who has earned his fair share of reprimands, I know one when I hear it, no matter what the language.

Watching the whole experience rocked me. This boy was absolutely terrified to be away from his father, unable to hear or see him. I remembered times in my life as a believer where I drifted in my relationship with God. This must be a picture of how believers should react when they walk out of step with the heavenly father. I emphasize must, because unfortunately, far too often we as believers ignorantly wander away from our loving heavenly father and don’t panic when we realize just how far we’ve gone.

Let’s be clear on two things. First, we should not wander from the love, care, kindness, and mercy of our God. Never, ever. However, the reality is that we are still human and need Jesus on a daily basis. Without constant dependence on Him, we are prone to listen to the lies of the enemy.

Second, once we have trusted in Jesus Christ for our salvation nothing can separate us from His love, not even ourselves. Romans 8:38-39 reminds us of that truth. We have an assurance of our salvation. We have God’s promise that “He who began a good work in [us] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) He guards us for salvation and guarantees our faith. (1 Peter 1:3-9)

Even in the midst of that, we are still capable of quenching the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. When we quench the Spirit, before we realize it, we have wandered to a spot where it is hard to see and hear our heavenly father. And that spot should be the scariest place of all.

When we do find ourselves lost in the crowd and being of the world not just simply in it, we need to be terrified. The scariest place on earth is the place where we cannot hear, feel, or see the presence of God.

However, there is hope! Those very promises shared above should be a constant reminder for us of the assurance that we have in our God. Even when we do not feel Him, He is right there. He never ever will leave or forsake His children. Just like that father in front of Notre Dame, God is patient, compassionate, and loving towards us. Even when we act like terrified children.