A Memorial of Love

Love Is the Cross-powerpointI have always wanted to go to Washington, DC and see the many memorials honoring different people or events throughout the history of the United States. Personally, I would like to see the Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, and the WWII Memorials. These memorials and museums offer a glimpse back in time. They may not be able to take you back to the events, but they can help give you a better understanding of history.

In all of creation there is no greater memorial of God’s love than the cross. Whenever we are struggling we can always look to the cross and be reminded of God’s unconditional love for all those who are His children. The cross is our hope, confidence, and peace that we have passed from death unto life. At the cross all our sins have been judged and now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

At the cross we see God’s love as His wrath for our sin is poured out upon Jesus. Why? Because Jesus not only died for us, but he also died because of us! He took upon Himself the punishment for our sin. Now, when we believe in His finished work upon the cross and commit our lives to Him, we will have forgiveness of sin and eternal life in heaven.

Regardless of the struggles, pains, or uncertainties we face in this life we need simply look to the cross to be reminded of God’s surpassing love. The cross moves our perspective from the temporal to the eternal, from the earthly to the heavenly, from the painful to the peaceful!

As we move into this Memorial Day weekend, let’s be sure to remember LOVE IS THE CROSS!

One of Those Days!

outrageous loveHave you ever had one of those days when you feel all alone? You don’t feel close to anyone. It’s like you’re the only person on the planet even though you’re surrounded by a multitude of people. These feelings usually continue down the path of doubt. You doubt your importance, your worth, or even if anyone loves you. You’re alone, hurting, and feel like there is no one who cares that you are alive.

Sometimes you might be led down the path of confusion. You are suffering in so many different ways that you can’t imagine life ever getting better. This usually leads to wondering if the trials are because of something you’ve done. Confusion leads to questions you already know the answer to: “Are things so difficult because I’ve made God angry?” “Is this punishment for not going to church, giving, serving, reading my Bible, or praying enough?” “Does God really love me?” It is not uncommon for those who have suffered for a long period of time to be confused. You are so tired, weary, and worn that nothing makes sense, so you begin to wonder “What have I done to bring this pain upon myself?”

I believe the paths of doubt and confusion are two trails Satan has cut off the beaten path of faith to cause us to question God’s love. Just like Eve in the garden, Satan is still asking questions to cause us to misinterpret God’s Word and forget His promises. He wants us to believe we’re all alone so we’ll try to solve our problems on our own. He wants us depending on self instead of the Savior.

If you’re having one of the those days and about to leave the path of faith, stop and remember the cross. There is no greater sign of love in all of creation than the cross of Christ. God’s outrageous love for you was proven at the cross. At the cross your sin-debt was paid in full. At the cross anything that could bring condemnation upon you was placed upon Jesus. At the cross we can see that our suffering in this life should make us long for eternal life in heaven all the more.

So, if you’re having one of those days, know that our trials, troubles, and tribulations are not a sign of God’s displeasure. They are a sign that we live in a sinfully fallen world that will eventually end. When this world comes to an end, those who are believers in Christ will be ushered into one eternally long peaceful day where we dwell in the presence and love of God!

Then I saw a new Heaven and a new earth, for the first Heaven and the first earth had disappeared and the sea was no more. I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, descending from God out of Heaven, prepared as a bride dressed in beauty for her husband. Then I heard a great voice from the throne crying, “See! The home of God is with men, and he will live among them. They shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death shall be no more, and never again shall there be sorrow or crying or pain. For all those former things are past and gone.” Then he who is seated upon the throne said, “See, I am making all thing new!” (Revelation 21.1-5)

Is Suicide an Unforgivable Sin?

In April 2010, my younger brother committed suicide. It is always difficult to lose a loved one; however, when they die at their own hand it just leaves you feeling guilty. You wonder why you didn’t recognize the signs, why didn’t they call to talk, where is the note telling how much they care. No matter who you talk to there is a sense that you should have done more, that you should have known, that it is somehow your fault.

Over the years, I have noticed that one of the first questions people ask is about the eternal home of those who commit suicide. As if the guilt of not being there to help them wasn’t enough, now the fear of wondering if their trying to escape what seemed like an impossible situation could have led them to an eternally worse torment. You see, there are those who believe that suicide is an unforgivable sin. There is no way you can take your life and repent afterward; therefore, the soul is lost for all eternity, forever separated from God. Clearly this is a question that needs to be addressed, and there is no better place to look than the Bible.

In the New Testament, Jesus teaches that the only unforgivable sin is “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” (Mark 3.22-30). Mark says the scribes were accusing Jesus of healing people by the power of Beelzebub—the prince of demons. The scribes believed Satan and his demons were behind Jesus’ power instead of the Holy Spirit. Jesus quickly warns that to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness and carries a punishment of eternal condemnation. To blaspheme the Holy Spirit, one refuses to acknowledge God’s completed work through Jesus Christ His Son.

This idea is clarified in 1 John 5.10, “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.” Here we are told the person who does not believe the Holy Spirit’s convicting witness about Jesus as God’s Son and our propitiation has made God a liar. Clearly those who do not believe in Jesus are declaring that the message from the Holy Spirit is a lie. The Bible teaches that God cannot lie and that Satan is the father of lies (Titus 1.1-2; John 8.44). Therefore, those who do not believe are calling the Holy Spirit a liar; which is another name for Satan.

There is no forgiveness for those who reject Jesus as the only way to heaven. Since suicide is clearly not ascribing the works of the Holy Spirit to Satan then it cannot be the unforgivable sin.

The Bible also helps us find hope in Christ’s finished work. There are several passages which show that at salvation we are forgiven of all sin—past, present, and future.

  • “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ”         (Romans 8.1)
  • “For He made Him who knew no sin [to be] sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor 5.21)
  • Jesus, “who does not need daily…to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself” (Hebrews 7.27)
  • Christ “with His  own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9.12b)
  • “…once at the end of the ages, [Jesus] has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9.26b)
  • “…we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10.10)
  • “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit…” (1 Pt 3.18)

These verses make it clear Jesus’ substitutionary atonement was once for all time. Those who believe in Him are justified before God. There cannot be any condemning accusation brought against them as Jesus has already taken their punishment. God has taken their sin and cast it as far as the East is from the West (Psalms 103.12). Since this is true, then the sin of suicide is among the many sins Christ has forgiven.

It has been four years since my brother’s death. Prior to his suicide I knew what I believed about forgiveness and suicide; however, in light of his death I was forced to put my faith to work in the promises of God. I spent hours studying God’s Word and praying for clarity and wisdom. In the end I simply had to trust God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, and the promises of His Word to keep those secure who have trusted in Him. I know the life my brother lived and the faith he had in Christ, so today I am sure that he is with Jesus in heaven.

In closing let me say this, in writing an article of this nature there is a fear that there may be those who say, “Hey I can take my life and still get to heaven.” Please, please don’t take all this as a reason to escape the troubles of this life. I have not written this to make it easier for you to take your life, but for those who live every day with pain because of a loved one who took their own life. The pain, loss, guilt, and fear we live with every day can only be softened by the hope that is found in Jesus. If your life seems hopeless and the only reasonable solution in your mind is suicide, please do me a favor and call someone. Go to a hospital, a pastor, a family member, a co-worker, or even a good friend. Just find someone and tell them you need help. There is hope for a better life. It might take time to overcome whatever is causing you such great pain, but I promise, if you will trust Jesus, He will lead you to an abundant life here and now. Please believe me, Jesus is your hope!

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (for the hearing impaired TTY 1-800-799-4889) or visit the website.

A Shelter in the Storm

Weathering the Storms of LifeHave you ever been caught out in a severe thunder-storm? The rain was coming down so hard that you couldn’t see five feet in front of you? You are trying to run toward cover, but because of the high winds and massive amount of rain you can’t see anything? You know that if you just keep moving forward, eventually you’ll find shelter and relief from the deluge.

After you’ve been running awhile, you begin to wonder why you haven’t reached  shelter. You ask yourself, “Did I go in the wrong direction? It is raining so hard that I couldn’t actually see the shelter, so I just started running in the general direction? Maybe I went the wrong way, maybe I passed it, maybe it is not really in front of me, maybe—maybe I’m lost and out on my own.”

As you continue questioning your hope of finding shelter, panic begins to well up within your heart. “I’m cold, wet, and tired from running. Maybe I should stop and wait for the storm to pass. Maybe I should go back the other direction.” Just as you’re about to give up, something within pushes you on. The voice says, “Don’t give up, just keep trusting what you know to be true.” So, you press on finding greater confidence with each and every step. “I’ve jogged in this park for years, and I know for certain that shelter is just a little bit further ahead.”

Suddenly, through the rain you see a dark shadow just a few yards ahead. You begin to run faster as you realize it is the long-awaited shelter right where you knew it would be. Entering the shelter you double over to catch your breath, and after a few minutes something incredible happens. You look outside the shelter at the overwhelming downpour that had left you blind, helpless, and confused, and you begin to see the beauty of the storm from within the shelter. Outside the shelter you could only see a few feet, but now you can see up and down the trails, and behold the beauty of the falling rain. You now realize the only way to go through a storm is under the safety of the shelter. After all, you’re still in the middle of the storm—the wind is blowing, rain falling, lightning flashing, and thunder crashing; nevertheless you are protected within this old, trusted safe haven.

I have found myself many times over the last forty-eight years being battered about by the storms of life. I was tired, cold, and weary. I kept calling out to God for help, but He never seemed to come and rescue me from the terrifying tempest. Continuing on, blinded by the wind and rain, soaking wet, and shivering, I just couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t point me in the right direction, why He wouldn’t stop the rain—I couldn’t comprehend how leaving me lost in this storm could possibly bring Him glory.

But then I remember, I had gone out into the storm on my own. I had chosen my own direction and took off running thinking that I could withstand the beating long enough to find shelter. What I needed to do was stop running away from God, remember the shelter of God’s presence, peace, and protection, and begin running to where He had always been. Sure enough, when I quit struggling, trying to get through the storm in my own strength, and relied on God it happened. My eyes were opened to see His shelter, and from there I was able to see the beauty of the storm and understand that He is glorified most when I find my strength, safety, and satisfaction in Him regardless of the circumstances.

God has never left you to fight alone, but He will freely let you go out and try it all alone. There has never been a moment when He wasn’t patiently waiting for you to stop thrashing about in your sea of self-determination and cry out to Him, “God, I CAN’T DO THIS!” Nope, not for a moment has He ever forsaken you! All you have to do is open your eyes to see Him, run to His shelter, and then find your rest in Him!

If you find yourself in the middle of a raging storm, you don’t know where to turn, and you are thinking of giving up, then you need Jesus. He is as close as your next breath and is waiting on you to cry out to Him. If you need help finding your way to Him, email me at pastorbob@lobc.net, and I’ll help you find your way to His shelter.

Here is a beautiful song by Meredith Andrews, “Not for a Moment.”

A Renewed Strength

28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Yahweh is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the whole earth.
He never grows faint or weary;
there is no limit to His understanding.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and strengthens the powerless.
30 Youths may faint and grow weary,
and young men stumble and fall,
31 but those who trust in the Lord
will renew their strength;
they will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary;
they will walk and not faint.

(Isaiah 40.28-31 Holman Christian Standard Bible).