Speaking Hope

July 23, 2016

 

 

 

 

The world is a difficult place. We need only open our eyes and look around us to see pain, brokenness, and death. Things are not as they should be, and that is a fact that needs no arguing for. The past century has been the bloodiest in the history of the world, and who knows what lies ahead in the next? Those of us who have not had loved ones taken away by violence have, no doubt, lost dear friends and family members to sickness, cancer, heart attacks, or car accidents. In such a world as this, broken by sin, what is our hope supposed to be?

Christians are often characterized as having future hope. We are those who look for “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (English Standard Version, 2 Cor. 5.1). This is true. The apostle Paul, himself a man well acquainted with disease, suffering, and persecution, wrote under the inspiration of God, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8.18) and also “to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phi. 1.21).

But our hope is also a present hope. We have hope for today. Our hope is rooted in the reality of the gospel and a God who is deeply concerned about every aspect and detail of our lives. To show this, let us examine what happens in conversion. Ephesians 2 says to believers, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2.1-3). Before God saved us, we were following our sinful lusts and thereby contributing to the brokenness caused by sin in this world. The subsequent verses explain how God snatched us from this deadly and destructive state, by grace through faith, and gave us life when we were dead in our sins. Then verse 10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God has good works prepared for His people to do. This is the glorious reality of sanctification. God does not just save us from the eternal consequences of sin, but also saves us from sin itself, by degrees, in our life on this earth. Day by day He is making us more like Christ (Rom. 8.29), and though we will not be sinless here on earth, He will complete the work He started in us (Phi. 1:6) so that in heaven we will be totally pure and free from all sin.

Okay, so what does this have to do with the struggling single Mom, the teenager in juvenile detention with only a broken home to return to, or the parents whose child has recently gotten hooked on cocaine? In the gospel we have infinite power. It is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1.16). As we already examined, God changes lives. He works from start to finish to save from sin, heal hurts, and restore brokenness. If sin is the problem with the world, the gospel is the answer. Only the saving, converting, sovereign grace of God will turn sinners into saints. The more sinners are transformed by this grace, the less violence, pain, and brokenness, we will have in the world. This is our hope for today. As we go out and speak the gospel, making disciples for Jesus, the Holy Spirit works to save souls and change lives.

This grace of God is free and powerful. No matter what sin towers like a grim giant in an individual’s life, the grace of God, through faith, stands taller to overcome it (1 John 5.4-5). This grace turns violent thugs into gentle evangelists. This grace turns prostitutes into Godly wives. This grace can take a murderous man like Saul of Tarsus, who persecuted the early Christians to death, into the apostle Paul, who gave His life for Christ and for others to see His glory and be saved. Perhaps you are struggling with some sin today. Maybe you are broken. Maybe you have only months to live because of cancer. Come to Jesus, He will not reject you (John 6:37). Believe in Jesus! You will never be the same person. God will change you from the inside out. The power of God that has transformed so many others will come into your life and transform you! Come as you are. Bring your sins to Jesus, and let Him wash you clean in His cleansing blood. As the old hymns goes, “Just as I am, and waiting not, to rid my soul of one dark blot to thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come, I come!” You will be one less individual contributing to the brokenness of the world, and one more bringing the hope and healing of Jesus to broken, suffering, and dying people. 

To My Dad: 101 Things I Am Most Thankful For:

I realize that God is the ultimate giver of every good gift (James 1:17), but for these things specifically, you have been God's channel of blessing to me! It’s not in any certain order, and this is in no way a conclusive list of everything I love about you… but I just started writing…and kept writing, and writing… and by the time I finished and decided to count. It literally just so happened to come out to 101! So here it is!

 

Happy Father’s Day, and “Thank you…”

 

-for praying for all of us kids by name;

-for praying with us;

-for teaching us the scriptures from a young age, leading us in family worship and faithfully reading the Bible to us;

-for the Bible stories growing up that had us on the edge of our seats, and the times when we thought we'd die of suspense because you'd say "Do you know what happened next? Well, I guess we'll just have to wait till tomorrow night to find out!" And we'd all exclaim "Daddyyyyy!!! You HAVE to tell us!!!!";

-for all the life stories and practical analogies growing up that brought big concepts down to my age level;

-for being real, and in humility asking forgiveness for wrong attitudes, mistakes and failures;

-for trusting in God's Sovereignty, that He is in control and that even in the hard times He is working every situation for our ultimate Good;

-for your example of praising God in all things, even when the road is rocky;

-for choosing Sunday worship in a family-integrated church;

-for being patient and teaching me consistently to do what's right;

-for relating with us in every stage of life-- remembering the challenges of the tween/teen/young adult life and giving stories from your own life that we can identify with and learn from;

-for unconditional love;

-for telling me time and again that the Bible is the "Owners Manual for Life," and that it contains all the answers to life's problems, and encouraging/helping me to search them out;

-for teaching me that God's ways of doing things are often just the opposite of our natural inclinations;

-for recounting to us the stories of answered prayers in your life, from childhood and on;

-for teaching us that although people will let us down, God is a faithful friend;

-for teaching us by example that meekness isn't weakness, but rather great strength under control;

-for family vacations and road trips of the past, and for continuing to invite your married kids to join in when they can;

-for prioritizing our favorite family camp that we still look forward to every year, and all the spiritual growth and commitments I have made to God during those special times;

-for purposing to speak with soft words even when you're upset, and asking forgiveness if you spoke with harshness;

-for special birthday lunches at the restaurant of our choice;

-for family bike rides;

-for encouraging us to pursue the areas in which we are individually gifted;

-for letting us use your tools to be creative and build things;

-for giving us chores and working along side us to show us how to do them right;

-for wanting us to do our best, but not being a perfectionist;

-for all the injuries you sustained at night by stepping barefoot on a stray Lego or a Hot wheels car left upside-down on your floor;

-for all the times you let us "help" you with projects, even when it took 2x as long and sometimes made more of a mess than if you'd done it by yourself;

-for being our taxi service before we could drive;

-for giving me the keys on my 14th birthday and enduring with much long suffering the sudden "rocket-launching" accelerations and "brick-wall" braking of the learner's permit days... (Now 13x over!);

-for caring about my opinions and for taking them into consideration when making decisions;

-for all the fun day-trips to Silver Dollar City;

-for family meetings;

-for teaching me that God always answers prayers, but doesn't always say "yes"..sometimes He says "no", sometimes He says "wait";

-for reminding me that God is "painting the canvas" of my life and He sees the bigger picture, and He does all things well. We don't always understand this in the moment, but God is working all things together for good of his children.

-for always looking for the good that God can bring out of a tough situation;

-for recounting to us the miracles God has done for you;

-for the example of being open about your Faith in Jesus Christ and sharing the good news with others;

-for realizing that when it comes to parenting, more is caught than taught;

-for forgoing hobbies that could consume your free time and pull you away, and choosing instead to do things together as a family;

-for being ministry-minded, even when we were all young, and thinking of creative ways for us to catch a vision for serving others (raking leaves/stacking firewood for the elderly, singing in nursing homes);

-for teaching us about political activism from a young age, by letting us be involved in your runs for political office, passing out flyers door-to-door, campaign rallies, taking us to the polls to see the voting process, hanging out at election night watch-parties, and taking us to the capital during your time as a State Representative;

-for taking us with you to Lincoln Day dinners;

-for prioritizing sticking together as a family, even when that meant uprooting life in our hometown and moving halfway across the state of Arkansas to live in a rental home during your times of serving in the state legislature, and then doing it all over again during Josie's 6-month stay in Children's Hospital;

-for homeschool field trips and hands-on learning experience;

-for reminding us that life is the greatest classroom of all;

-for reminding us siblings in the midst of squabbles that we are each others best friends, and to "treat others how you'd like to be treated";

-for praising character you see in us to us personally, and sharing those positive things with family and friends;

-for bringing words of correction to us in private with an attitude of restoration, but avoiding open criticism which demeans;

-for not arguing as a couple in front of us kids, but choosing to work out and discuss conflicts in private;

-for being an example of a godly marriage-- we have always been confident of your love for one another, and it is evidenced to us daily by the words you speak and your endearing affections;

-for taking a date night each week, and prioritizing your marriage;

-for forgoing the common holiday focal points and making Christ's birth the center of our Christmas, and His life, death and resurrection the summation of our "Easter" celebration;

-for your thriftiness and teaching us to bargain hunt (pawn shops, auctions, clearance racks), and modeling to us wise use of the resources God has given you;

-for teaching us the value of hard work;

-for years and years of food, room and board!

-for the cell phone you got me on my 16th birthday, and for paying the accompanying phone bills!

-for the hours and hours of late-night talks, gaining wisdom for life;

-for teaching us to lay tile, frame a wall, paint, wire an electrical outlet, change the oil, change a tire, and so much more!

-for pre-marriage counseling;

-for financially covering so many of my wedding expenses;

-for time and effort put into helping us remodel our home;

-for making 7 trips from the car to the house carrying in "sleeping" children after a long road trip (even though you knew half of us were probably just pretending, so we didn't have to get up and walk in on our own two feet!);

-for 100s of family basketball & kickball tournaments;

-for the years and years of Thursday & Friday nights that you spent playing broomball with us, and then the trip to Braums for ice cream afterwards!

-for paying the bills for dental cleanings (and for the threat of making us pay you back if the dentist found any cavities!);

-for the special exception to the "no climbing on the dining room table" rule, because you always let the birthday kid sit in that very prominent place when it was time to open gifts;

-for dealing with stomach bugs and flus, even in the middle of the night, and hugging and kissing the sick ones knowing that increased your chance of coming down with it yourself;

-for comforting me during a thunderstorm, telling me not to be afraid, and explaining to me that this magnificent sight was "God's firework show";

-for hotdogs, s'mores & tent camping with us in the backyard, even when half of us didn't stick it out all night and went back inside to our beds;

-for 100s of games of hide and seek (We never did find your special hiding spot, btw! Often, you'd still be hidden out long after we got tired of searching and gave up!);

-for teaching me how to roll my socks into a donut and fire them at my brothers and sisters (lol! Then Mom would have us all come to the laundry room for a sock unwading party before she could throw them in the wash!);

-for changing hundreds of diapers;

-for eventually buying a toilet auger and DIY so you didn't have to keep calling the plumber, and you could extract the apple, toothbrush, matchbox car and poopy undies (flushed by an embarrassed potty-trainer trying to hide evidence), all by yourself!

-for the special times when we went out to eat (yes, we most definitely took advantage of kids-eat-free, the modern day policies of "2 children per paying adult" probably happened because of us ??)

-for the CASES of Children's Ibuprofen you had to buy when we’d get the stomach bug… and the disbelief on the cashiers face when you’d say"I've got a dozen sick kids at home."

-for inventing your Gourmet Barbecued Tuna recipe, and feeding us cold butterbeans with ketchup while Mom was away at a women's conference (first was a big hit, but just the thought of the latter still makes me gag);

-for trying to no avail to scrub mine and Jinger's Sharpie art off our white kitchen cabinets (that happened under your watch while mom was out grocery shopping)!

-for hours at the park playing freeze tag, riding scooters, and even getting on the see-saw with us!

-for teaching us how to build "Eskimo" forts (by packing snow into 5-gallon buckets), building super-sized snowmen with us, and driving us around the town to find the best hill for sledding;

-for buying a fixer upper house with a ton of fruit trees in the back yard! Hours of summer fun!

-for horse trough "swimming pools," and sprinklers to run through;

-for learners'-permit tests in a 15-passenger van!

-for limiting time spent playing video games and watching movies;

-for helping me get my first car;

-for the experience of remodeling houses with you;

-for believing in us and encouraging us to give 100% for God;

-for the example of how you've reached out and invested into the lives of others, from the beginning of your marriage and still continuing till this day (opening your home to homeless, church bus ministry, personally bringing people to church, leading bible studies, hospitality, love, giving financially, spiritual encouragement);

-for being cautious of the influences you allowed into our young, tender lives (movies, music, friends);

-for walking the walk you desired for us walk;

-for not making light of sacred and holy things;

-for not allowing put-downs in your relationship as a couple, or amongst us as siblings;

-for explaining the "still, small voice" of God which, though not audible, speaks to the heart;

-for loving to eat straight from a can! (cream corn, peas, pineapple, olives, & "ABC soup");

-for financially investing into family pets and teaching us responsibility in caring for them;

-for 13 years of music lessons, buying me a violin and a mandolin;

BUT MOST OF ALL, THANK YOU…

-for showing me Jesus Christ;

-for teaching me often that reaching Heaven cannot happen as a result of my good deeds outweighing my bad deeds;

-for teaching me that the free gift of God's Grace is Eternal Life through faith in Jesus Christ (the only perfect person who ever lived and walked this earth);

-for showing me that Jesus could forgive me for everything I've ever done wrong, and give me a clean slate to start over again;

-for leading me to the Cross where the innocent God-Man Jesus was put to death, not for sins of His own, but to pay the debt for all of mankind, and offer forgiveness to all who repent of their sins and trust in Him for their soul's salvation.

 

I love you so much!

I am so blessed to call you my Daddy!

 

Someone Is Weeping Today

By Ben Seewald

June 1, 2016

Someone is weeping today without a shoulder to cry on. Maybe God wants that shoulder to be mine. Someone is hurting today without anyone to comfort them. Maybe I can comfort them in Jesus’ name. Someone is lonely today and needs a friend to walk with. Maybe God means me to be that friend. Someone has their heart burdened today but no one will hear them. Maybe I can be a listening ear in Jesus’ name. Someone is weak today and needs a friend to come and help carry them through. Maybe God would have me help them.

 

But what if I myself am weeping, in pain, lonely, burdened, and weak. How can I bless anyone when I myself am in desperate need of help?

 

Then I realized that the One who wipes away our tears also shares our grief. The One who comforts us also experiences our pain in the most intimate way. The One who is a companion in our loneliness knows what it is to be despised, rejected, and utterly forsaken. The One who listens to us knows what it feels like to be misunderstood.

 

The One who bears our burdens on His very own back will also strengthen me to strengthen others. This one is Jesus.

  

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:3-5