by pastor david
“For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”
Far too often, we look at life from only a momentary and transitory perspective. We look at life now and fail to see life with the long view. We look only at the present and neglect to see the future.
In the Scriptures, we discover that God always takes the long view. For instance, the first prophecy of the coming Messiah was recorded all the way back in the Book of Genesis. The promise that the Messiah would be born of a virgin was given through the pen of Isaiah, hundreds of years before its fulfillment. These are just two of the many examples of God taking the long view.
If we follow the wisdom of The Architect of the Universe, we will do our best to always see our life with the long view. Life is short but the decisions we make each day will have long-lasting consequences, sometimes eternal consequences.
James asked, “What is your life?” Well, it certainly is brief but when you live with the “long view” in mind, the result of your short life will be eternal glory.
“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
What a great time of year this is! Christmas is a favorite time of year for many of us. However, for some, it is the most difficult and unpleasant time of the year. This is often true of those who have had some tragedy or traumatic experience close to or connected with the Christmas season.
For instance, I talked with a friend of mine some time ago whose young son died in 2013 on December 23, leaving a wife and three small children. My friend said he was getting more and more despondent as the anniversary date approached.
My own mother passed away on December 23, 1993. Our families had to have our Christmas dinner and gift exchange before we even had her funeral or buried my mother. Naturally, this time of the year can be difficult, as we think of the void left in our lives.
For some, the Christmas holiday is challenging, not because of the death of a loved one, but because of the death of a relationship – a spouse, a child, or a friend. That person who was such an integral part of your life is now absent for reasons beyond your control. This too makes “celebrating” quite arduous.
Having experienced this kind of despondency myself, may I suggest some strategies that have been helpful to me? When you think about your loved one or the loss…
1. Think about what you had, not what you lost.
2. Think of the good, not the bad.
3. Think of what that person was, not what you wish they were now.
4. Think of what they contributed to your life, not the void they left behind.
5. Think about what God gave, not what you have lost.
6. Think about the fact that you are here, with much to accomplish, not the fact that they are not here.
7. If the person was a Christian, think about meeting them again, not about how badly you miss them now.
8. Let Christ be the Lord of your emotions and, therefore, control the way you feel.
9. Give God the glory, no matter the situation.
“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)
Please do not misunderstand me! I am not saying you should try to push your loved one out of your thoughts and memory – just the opposite. Think about them. Talk about them. Share your memories, but just do so from a positive platform and not from the mud of self-pity.
Perhaps you know someone who is experiencing this kind of grief right now. Whether you realize it or not, you can help him or her in tremendous ways. Here are a few suggestions.
1. Spend time with them. Don’t let them seclude themselves in self-pity.
2. Ask them about the person they lost or the situation that is causing the grief. They need to talk about it, even though, initially, they may be reluctant.
3. Don’t panic if they cry. Don’t say, “Please don’t cry”. This is their way of dealing with their grief and is very beneficial.
4. Listen intently. Don’t say, “I know how you feel” if you have never had the same experience.
5. As a matter of fact, don’t try to relate similar experiences in your own life. You are there to talk about them and not you. If you have had similar experiences, listening to them will be therapeutic for you as well. You can talk with someone about your situation at another time.
6. Be cautious about giving advice. They need a listening ear more than a therapist at this point. If you sense God does want you to give advice, make sure it is advice that aligns itself with Scripture.
7. Realize that all of these things are simply part of our responsibility as brothers and sisters in Christ and members of the family of God.
(Hebrews 10:25 - New Living Translation)
“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourageone another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.”
Yes, Christmas time can be quite challenging for many people. I’ve heard people say, “I hate the Christmas season. I can’t wait till it’s over”. Well, it is really good to know that God understands and is ready and anxious to fill any voids that life may have created in your heart. Additionally, God can use you to help fill those voids in some brother or sister in Christ.
Let’s make Christmas an occasion for true giving - giving our time, giving a listening ear, giving a sympathetic heart.
(Matthew 5:11-12) “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Just imagine that you were taking a walk around your neighborhood and as you passed the fenced-in yard of a neighbor, his dog came running out, barking at you. How would you respond?
Would you say, “How dare that dog bark at me?” Or, “I’m offended that the dog barked at me!” Or, “Dogs should not bark at people.” Would you say, “Let’s get a campaign started to put an end to all dog barking”? Would you be tempted to send out a prayer request asking people to pray for you because you became the object of an animal’s growl?
You certainly would not. Why? Because barking is what dogs do. It is a part of their innate makeup – something they received from birth, over which they have little control. Dogs bark! Live with it!
That being true, then why are we so surprised and appalled when those who do not know Christ as personal Savior and Sovereign bark at us who are followers of Jesus? Why are we so caught off guard and offended when they rush up to our proverbial protective fence and growl at us? Why would we think that the person who does not know God through Jesus Christ would, in any way, agree with our belief system?
In the scenario above, the dog barked because, in his mind, you posed a threat to him. You were invading his territory and he was afraid. The reasons the unbelieving world barks and growls at the Christian are the same. They think you pose a threat to them (their lifestyle might have to change), you are invading their territory (your beliefs and worldview have no place in their culture), and they are afraid (they fear you might indeed be correct).
I have found that the best way to stop a strange dog from barking at me is to try to warm up to the animal. Let him know that you pose no threat and that you want to be his friend. Strangely enough, I think the same approach may work with barking, growling unbelievers.
How will we ever have the opportunity to share the Gospel with them if they fear us or if they perceive that we are a threat to them. How can we witness to them about the love of Jesus if we can’t even get close to them? They must get quiet enough to hear the Gospel for “it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16 NKJV).
Our task is difficult but simple. We must engage unbelievers in a conversation about Jesus and that cannot be accomplished from a distance. We must get close to them, without compromising our Biblical convictions, so they will listen to what Christ has done for us. At that point, it is the job of the Holy Spirit to “convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:8 NKJV). As I like to remind folk, “The Power is in the Proclamation”!
As we consider those barking antagonists, let me make a few suggestions.
1. Find some common ground with the individual, something non-threatening about which both of you can
2. Listen carefully to his or her story. Ask questions about him. People love to talk about themselves.
3. Share some of your story; your life before and after coming to know Christ.
4. Share as much of His (Christ’s) story as possible. This may not happen in a single discussion. You will probably have to invest time in that person in order to give the whole story of the Gospel.
5. Invite them to church or Bible study or even a casual gathering with some of your Christian friends.
6. Continue to be their friend, regardless of their response to the Gospel. This is a processing generation. It may take time for them to grapple with the truth.
7. Be available to listen and discuss any questions they may have in the future.
8. Pray fervently for their salvation and let them know you are doing so.
Sometimes dogs bark. Live with it. Sometimes unbelievers growl and make a lot of noise. Live with it! Warm up to them. Get close enough to share the good news of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
Are you aware that the human mind was never created nor intended to deal with guilt? Yet, guilt is a fundamental problem of mankind and, without a remedy, guilt will ultimately destroy one’s mental and moral wellbeing. This is true of the non-Christian and the Christian alike.
The central message of the Bible concerns God’s Grace for our Guilt. This is the reason God sent His Son into the world to die on Calvary’s Cross. This is why our Church is busy preaching the gospel and witnessing to the lost.
Yes, God provides His amazing grace for our guilt. The classic definition of “grace” is “God’s unmerited favor”. Through God’s marvelous grace, sinners are delivered from their sins and brought into a saving relationship with a holy God by the work of Christ on their behalf - completely free of charge.
However, God is not just the “author”, but also the “finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). He not only saves us, He also sustains us. Based on Philippians 2:13, someone has defined grace as, “the desire and the power to do God’s will”. (Philippians 2:13 NLT) “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him”.
Perhaps one of the most succinct statements concerning the remedy for guilt can be found in our text. Here is a crucial factor we must discover about God’s Grace for our Guilt.
The Divine Provision Has Been Made.
(1:7) “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us…”
Such is the radical problem of guilt that it necessitated the sacrifice of God’s only Son, in order to provide an adequate antidote.
(Heb. 9:22b) “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission (no forgiveness or cleansing for sin).
The shedding of Christ’s precious blood means that…
The word “vicarious” simply means “representative”. Paul tells us that the essential message of the Gospel is that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures”. (1 Corinthians 15:3)
Provision was made for a divine exchange.
•My unrighteousness for His righteousness
•My rags for His robe
•My sinfulness for His holiness
•My guilt for His grace
This is the wonder and the mystery of the Gospel. As the hymn says,
“Because my sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
And God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me”[i]
Although the death of Christ on the Cross was a single event in history, its effect is eternal. It “cleanses” – “goes on cleansing”. Now, in the power of that endless life, the Lord Jesus goes on cleansing all who have received Him by simple faith! In every true believer, Jesus Christ lives in all His sanctifying grace and glory. As a result, there is a constant cleansing – not only from the guilt of sin but also from the grip of sin.
The Psalmist, David wrote, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” (Psalm 32:1)
How wonderful to know that “the blood of Jesus Christ (God’s) Son cleanses us from ALL sin.” (1:7) It does not matter what your sin is or how many, God’s grace can deal both with the guilt of sin and with the grip of sin in your life.
In the words of the old hymn, “Oh For a Thousand Tongues to Sing”,
“He breaks the power of cancelled sin
And sets the prisoner free”.[ii]
Christ not only died as our Sin-Bearer, He now lives as our Advocate, and as such, He pleads the merits of His own finished work before the Father.
(1 John 2:1-2) “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation (covering) for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world”
On the Island of Trinidad, there is a crater in an extinct volcano that is completely filled with pitch. This asphalt is hard enough to walk on, even though, here and there, gas escapes in bubbles from its surface. For over 100 years, men have been digging great chunks from this tar-like lake and loading train cars full of it to pave the roads of the world. It is said, however, that no matter how large a hole is made in this Pitch Lake, no cavity will remain after 72 hours, for it immediately fills up from down below.
Such is the grace of God. No matter how great the sin, it cannot exhaust God’s grace nor extinguish God’s love. His grace is sufficient for all our sin – past sins, present sins, and future sins. Amen!?
[i]Keith Getty | Stuart Townend © 2001 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Used by permission: CCLI #11177648
[ii]Oh For a Thousand Tongues to Sing, John Wesley and James Ward, Public Domain
“And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.”
It has been my privilege to be engaged in full-time, vocational ministry since 1975. After I served for eight years in Youth Ministry, my Pastor and mentor sensed the call of God to start a new church in Phoenix, Arizona. So on January 1, 1983, at the age of 31, I began to serve as the Senior Pastor of my home church – the church in which I grew up.
Being new to the role of Senior Pastor, I realized I needed to develop a Biblical Philosophy of Ministry that would stand the test of time and the challenges that a changing culture would most naturally bring. Consequently, I spent a great deal of time searching the Scriptures, discovering exactly what a Church ought to be and what a Pastor ought to be and do.
The result of my studies was a multi-page document, which has served as a guideline for my ministry all these years. It begins as follows:
“The expectations held by a congregation of its Pastor are often rather obscure and vary from member to member and from Church to Church. Therefore, I have undertaken the task of outlining the Scriptural goals and principles upon which I intend to serve this great Church.”
What followed was a list of thirteen principles that serve as a roadmap for ministry. Here is the first.
1. I will seek in my entire ministry to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ and to promote loyalty to Him before seeking loyalty for Church, Denomination, or self (Colossians 1:18).
As I read that again, after all these years, I must ask myself, “Is this still true of me? Am I still seeking to exalt Christ in all my ministry and that above everything else? Is Christ still preeminent in ‘all things’?”
I am reminded of Matthew 6:33, where Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”. Am I seeking His kingdom or mine? Am I trying to build His kingdom or my kingdom?
The Greek word translated “preeminence” in Colossians 1:18 is, “prōteuōn”, which means, “holding the first place”.
It was the great missionary to China, Hudson Taylor, who said, “Christ is either Lord of all, or is not Lord at all”.
I hope you will do as I have been doing today and search your heart. Is there anything outside of the Lordship of Christ and His Kingdom? Is Christ preeminent in all your life? Do you love Him supremely? Are you loyal to Him and Him alone? If the answer to these questions is yes, then rejoice and give God the glory for the opportunity you have to surrender to Him.
(1 Thessalonians 1:2 NKJV)
“We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers.”
A gentleman reportedly came to Charles Haddon Spurgeon looking for the perfect church. The famous preacher told him he had many saintly people in his congregation, but a Judas could also be among them. After all, even Jesus had a traitor in the company of His Apostles. He went on to say that some might walk disobediently, as had been the case among the believers at Rome, Corinth, Galatia, and Sardis. “My church is not the one you're looking for," said Spurgeon. “But if you should happen to find such a church, I beg you not to join it, for you would spoil the whole thing."
The church will never be perfect until she gets to Glory.
A man once said to me, " Well, I'm not going to church because there are too many hypocrites in the church.” I wanted to say; “There is always room for one more". Instead, I said, “Well you had better not go to hell then, because hell is full of hypocrites.”
Since local churches are made up of sinners saved by God's grace, no church is perfect but some churches are closer to the New Testament ideal than others. The church at Thessalonica was in that category.
At least three times in Paul’s letter to them he gave thanks for this church and the way it had responded to his ministry. (Read 1 Thessalonians 1:2, 2:13, 3:9)
They were examples or models of what Christians and church members should be. (1 Thessalonians 1:7) “For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place.”
May I ask you a personal question? Are you thankful for your Church? Are you appreciative of your Pastor(s), your fellow members, and your faithful workers who serve your Church?
More importantly, do you pray for your Church, its leaders, and its workers? Are you the kind of member that any Pastor would love to join his Church?
No, our churches are not perfect and never will be until Christ returns but in the mean time, let us say with the Apostle Paul, “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers.”
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You.”
One of the things we seldom say to each other is, “I’m afraid”! This is especially the case with men. Even when it is true, we are unwilling to let others know what we are feeling. Perhaps it is our pride that keeps us from being honest and seeking help for our anxieties.
Nevertheless, God knows the things about which we are fearful and has provided everything we need to face our fears! The text above is just one of many such exhortations.
Notice that the “peace” God offers is first…
We see this clearly in the personal pronouns used in the text, “You” and “him”. This is a personal peace offered to you from God, Himself. Jesus said, “I am the good Shepherd” (John 10:11), indicating that He loves and cares for us and proved that by giving “his life for the sheep”. He desperately wants to lead you “beside the still waters”. (Psalm 23:2)
Note also that the “peace” God offers is…
The “peace” God gives is “perfect”, not partial. It is constant, not intermittent. It is continual, not occasional. It is a “peace” with which we should and can be living each day.
However, there is a condition attached to this “perfect peace” and the condition lets us know that the “peace” God offers is also…
Two practical conditions are mentioned here.
• One has to do with our Focus: “whose mind is stayed on You”.
• The other has to do with our Faith: “because he trust in You”.
This “perfect peace” is available to those whose focus and faith are upon Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. The writer of the Book of Hebrews tells us that we can “run with endurance the race that is set before us” by “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2). The phrase, “looking unto Jesus” is literally, “fixing our eyes upon Jesus”. Therein lies the secret to our “perfect peace” – letting our focus and our faith rest in Christ.
Years ago we used to sing a song called, “Peace in the Midst of the Storm”. The lyrics are applicable to the text we are examining today.
There is peace in the midst of the storm-tossed life
There is an Anchor; there is a Rock to build my faith upon
Jesus Christ is my vessel so I fear no alarm
He gives me peace in the midst of the storm[i]
When you are going through a storm, today or in the future, remember that God wants to give you a “peace…which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:6-7). Ask Him for that today.
[i]Peace in the Midst of the Storm, Stephen R. Adams © 1978, 1981, 1998 Pilot Point Music (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)
“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”
Did you ever ask a child why he did something he should not have done? His reply is usually, “I don’t know” or he simply shrugs his shoulders and gives you that bewildered look.
When you ask a believer why he did something he should not have done, he cannot say, “I don’t know”. He knows why or at least he would know why, if he thought about it for a few moments
The reason the believer sins is because he is selfish. He is thinking only about himself and his pleasure. He is giving no thought to the pain his behavior will cause others or how his misdeeds will break the heart of our Savior who died for him and for his sins.
The text above reveals one of the ways God deals with His children. When we think about how good God is to us, it should lead us to abandon our sins and to determine not to return to them. That is true repentance.
Sometimes difficulties cause us to repent of our sins. When we begin to reap the consequences of our wrongdoing, we are prone to turn from our sin.
But would it not be so much easier on our families and us if we responded to the goodness of God, instead of waiting until God had to discipline us?
Too often we force God to work in our lives in drastic ways instead of responding to His goodness and grace in our lives.
This stubborn response reveals the ingratitude of our sin. We sin because we are not appreciative of all God has done and is doing in our lives. If we could only see all He does for us, all the things from which He protects, all the things He provides for us, and all great things He has planned for us, we would, from a heart of true gratitude, live in such a way as to please Him.
It is the epitome of thanklessness to disgrace the Name of our Lord Jesus by our deliberate and disgraceful sin.
I am thankful today for God’s goodness! If we simply keep Christ and His goodness and grace in our minds when we are tempted to sin, we will be much more successful in saying no to temptation and will enjoy sweet fellowship with our Lord.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Every time I spend time with my children and grandchildren I am reminded afresh of the awesome and humbling task of parenting. Watching my children holding their children causes me to wonder if, by my example, I had properly prepared them to be good parents. Would they think back to their days as children in our home and glean profitable information from that experience or would they, without realizing the source, simply and naturally know what to do and how to love their children, or would they, like millions of other parents, be clueless about this task that has eternal consequences?
I could write a book recounting all the mistakes I made as a father and volume two could detail the high cost of those blunders. But rather than writing about all my faults and failures, it would be more profitable to try to share with you one of the things I was able to do correctly. My Pastor and mentor, Paul Thompson taught us to fall in love with the Word of God and having done so, I made it my intentional and emphatic goal to pass that truth along to our children. I knew this would be something that was both taught and caught. This was something our children would have to see in me and not just hear from me. To accomplish this, I turned for instruction to the very book I wished to communicate to the children.
There I learned that I needed to have a personal and private time each day with the Lord in Bible study and prayer. (Joshua 1:8)
Every relationship has a cascading effect upon the relationships below it. If my relationship with Christ were vibrant and vital, my children would be well aware of it. I knew I could not lead my children someplace with which I was unfamiliar.
From the pages of Scripture I learned that it was also my responsibility to teach my children God’s Word in an effective and efficient way. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
God plainly says, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
To accomplish this I began reading God’s Word to our children long before they could even talk. Reading a Bible story at bedtime and praying together became a nightly routine. Additionally, reading the Bible and praying also was part of our morning tradition. At breakfast time, before going off to school and work, we spent a brief period of time in God’s Word followed by prayer.
What was the goal? It was to saturate the children with as much truth as possible. This is such a daunting task that I knew I needed help. The solution?
The Scriptures clearly and concisely taught me that church attendance and involvement in various teaching environments must also be a priority. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
It was obvious that attending church and Sunday school could not be something we would do only when it was convenient or when there was nothing else on the calendar for that day. It had to be a real and fixed priority in our home. Keep in mind that the church cannot be a substitute for teaching our children but it is an invaluable supplement to what we are instilling in them. For many parents, church attendance and involvement are never high on their priority list and then they wonder why, when their children are adults, they have no interest in the church or in the things of God. If the Church, founded by and upon our Lord Jesus Christ, is going to be a priority for our children when they are adults, it must be an unchanging priority for them as they are growing up.
Following the example of our Heavenly Father, I made it my goal to love my children unconditionally. (Romans 5:8)
I have often said to the children, “I love you but I hate what you have done”. This expresses our “love for the sinner and hatred for the sin”. When we discipline or even spank our children, we are expressing our love for them. We are saying, “I love you so much I am not going to allow you to go astray!” Hopefully, the children never felt unloved or even questioned our genuine love for them.
When we brought the children home from the hospital, I realized that parenting is nothing less than discipleship.
It was my responsibility to lead them to faith in Christ and to disciple them during the few formative years they were in our home. This was a task I could not relegate to my wife, the Church, the Christian School, or anyone else. This duty was squarely on my shoulders as their father! By the abundant grace of God and the example of my own parents, along with the help of many other people and resources, our children have come to personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and they are leading their children to do the same! For this, all the credit and all the praise must go to the Lord Jesus Christ!
For most of you reading this, these truths are not new. You have probably heard them many times but, as I grow older and my children grow older and have their own children, I am reminded of the incalculable importance of these God-given imperatives.
God, please help us to be the Godly parents you have called and commanded us to be.
1 Kings 3:10
“The speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.”
In First Kings 3:5, the Lord said to Solomon, the new King of Israel, “Ask! What shall I give you?” In response, Solomon said, ”Give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people”.
Then, the Bible says, “The speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing”. (First Kings 3:10)
This incident caused me to ask this question: For what kinds of things do I ask from the Lord? Is He “pleased” with my requests?
It is almost impossible to pray without including some personal, and perhaps, self-centered request. God certainly wants us to pray about personal and individual matters but the question is: If God answered my prayers the way I want Him to, would that bring glory to Him and further His Kingdom?
On two different occasions, when Jesus could have prayed a very selfish prayer, He said instead, “I want Your will to be done, not mine” (Matthew 26:39, 42 NLT). This statement was preceded by a very personal and intimate request but in the final analysis, Christ prayed for His Father’s will to be done instead of His.
I am not suggesting that we glibly tack on to our every request the, “not my will but Thine be done”, clause but that our hearts truly embrace a sense of God’s will for our lives and every aspect of our life.
“What is God’s will for my life?” you ask. To simplify a very complex issue, God’s will for your life is for you to be Christ-like!
(Romans 8:29) “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son.”
Any prayer that does not have that goal in view will likely be a selfish prayer and not one that brings glory to God.
My concern today is that we could put aside our self-centered requests and fill our prayers with praise and petition that will glorify Jesus Christ and Him alone.
May it be said of our prayers what was said regarding Solomon’s prayer, “The speech (prayer) pleased the Lord”. (First Kings 3:10)
Pastor David Boggs
I hope these occasional posts will encourage and challenge you as we grow in Christ together.
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