This morning I was pondering what to write about because so many ideas and topics come across my mind daily. However, there are times when what other people write stops me in my tracks and I have to share their Godly love and wisdom. There was a status posted on Facebook from a very good friend and brother of mine who is the Family and Youth Director at Brown Trail church of Christ in Texas. His name is Jon Warnes and he truly lives what he teaches and preaches. Jon wrote, “Have you thought about what your final words on this earth might be? They're likely to be soft, caring, motivational, forgiving, peaceful, honest, kind, and well thought out. Well, since we'll never know the exact timing of our passing, it would be good for us all to always speak as if we are saying our last words.”
Wow. His post really made me think. How often have I used my speech in a way that was not seasoned, and did not edify? What if those words were the last words I spoke on this earth? And what about my actions? What if the last thing I did on this earth was to not treat someone in the way I should? If I had the opportunity to show Christ just by saying something kind to make their day but I did not? Paul wrote, "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward others, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6). Christians must act and speak in Godly grace and wisdom to show others who we are and who we represent on this earth. We should never miss an opportunity to be loving and kind to all men. Paul wrote to the Ephesians to speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Later on in this chapter he stated, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear ... Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:29-31). Truly wonderful words to live by.
Our world is filled with evil and hatred. So many in society act how they want to act, say what they want to say and they do not care who they hurt. We cannot change that sad fact. However, this world also has people who are trying to reflect the love, kindness and mercy Christ showed as He walked on this earth. Let us be this type of people every minute we breath the air God has blessed us with ... so when death comes we will know we lived lives of Godly love, wisdom and grace and it made a difference in this world.
There was a time I went hiking to camp. I was unprepared. The hike in was not bad, however, the hike back was brutal. It was blazing hot and we ran out of water. We were exhausted, hungry and dehydrated. It was like heaven having a cool shower, burgers, beans, corn and cold water. We made it to our rest. I was so happy to be back that extra lettuce on my burger was a big deal. This life can be like that path of exhaustion, hunger and thirst, that we wonder if we will ever find our rest. However, we must remember to be faithful and never give up. In Hebrews 4 we have a passage with “extra lettuce” or “Let Us,” that will guide us home to our rest.
#1 - Let us FEAR
Hebrews 4:1 tells us a promise of rest remains but let us fear. We are to fear we will fall short of God’s rest and face His wrath. In Chapter 3, the inspired Hebrew writer gives a warning to not harden our hearts as in the rebellion like the Israelites who missed out on their rest, Canaan. What about us? Do we fear God? Are we being unfaithful forcing God’s wrath? Since God made a promise of another day of rest,
#2, Let us be FAITHFUL
Hebrews 4:1 teaches that our diligence will guard us from being disobedient. The word “diligent” here means the same thing as being faithful. The “rest” the inspired writer is talking about is a heavenly Jerusalem. In Jesus, we have rest. He’s living, active, and sharp (Hebrews 4:12). In Revelation 19:11-16, Jesus is called “The Word of God,” which is Living and Active. We serve One who is active, and discerns the thoughts and intents of our heart. He is sharp and penetrates to the joints and marrow, to the division of soul and spirit. We must remember, like the Israelites were accountable to God, we must give an account to Jesus (Hebrews 4:13). Therefore:
#3, Let us hold FAST.
Jesus is our High Priest so we can be confident holding fast to Him (Vs 14). Why? He knows our weaknesses, pain and struggles. He’s been tempted in ALL things that we are (Vs. 15). Holding fast our confession is trusting in the Lord, knowing Our High Priest will deliver us. Are we holding to our High Priest Jesus? Israel did not draw near to God and lost out. Therefore:
#4, Let us FOLLOW
We are to draw near to the Throne of Grace (vs. 16). We follow closely to Christ and His teachings to “Draw Near to God.” Atonement comes only through Christ. In the tabernacle, the time of Moses and Aaron, the High Priest was the only one allowed to go into the Most Holy of the tabernacle. He did this once a year to sprinkle blood (Day of Atonement - Exodus 25:8-21). Notice Vs. 22. The atonement cover, the Mercy Seat, is where God gave atonement to the people. To get this, they had to draw near to God. Today, we draw near to God in obedience to our High Priest, Jesus. The blood of Christ brings us near. This happens in baptism, then walking in the light of Christ. This is how we obtain mercy and find His grace in time of need. Have we drawn near to God?
I noticed a status post on Facebook the other day, although simple, yet powerful. It read, “The missing component to a lot of problems are a result of the lack of love for others.” It reminded me of a story about Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire. The story goes that Cyrus once captured a prince and his family. When they came before him, the monarch asked the prisoner, "What will you give me if I release you?" "I’ll give you half of my wealth," he replied. "And what will you give me if I release your children?" "Everything I possess,” he cried. "And if I release your wife?" The young prisoner replied, "Your Majesty, I will give myself." The young prince’s self-sacrificial love and devotion for his family so moved Cyrus with compassion and mercy, it caused Cyrus to let them all go free. As they returned home, the prince said to his wife, "Wasn't Cyrus a handsome man?” With a look of deep love for her husband, she said to him, "I didn't notice. I could only keep my eyes on you, the one who was willing to give himself for me."
The author of this story is unknown and I do not know if this was a true story or not. However, it serves as an illustration to Jesus sacrificing His life on the cross. Why would Christ face a brutal and agonizing death for sinners who put Him there? John 3:16 tells us why, “For God so loved the world that He gave His Only begotten Son…” It was the deep sacrificial love Jesus has for us that caused Him to lay down His life. Our sins made us enemies of God. We needed to be redeemed and reconciled back to God. The love of Jesus made that possible, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Romans 5:8-11).
Imagine a world bearing this type of love for each other? How wonderful would it be? We may not be able to help save the whole world, but we can show the love of God on our hearts as we reach out to others. As we walk with Jesus each day, let us never forget that His love has freed us from eternal bondage. Showing others this love can cause them to turn to Christ so they are set free.
It warms my heart to see young men learning to be leaders in the church. Our first Tuesday of the month where these young boys are up front song leading, praying, and doing devotionals, gives these boys confidence and lets them know they are adequate, able, and aspiring members of the body of Christ in Ripon. This pleases God.
In 1 Timothy 6, Paul writes to young Timothy showing him how to be a man of God, even when other men feel he is too young to be adequate for God. Our young boys have hearts for God. They want to serve God and please Him. Imagine if they were not given the opportunity to? Imagine if we discouraged them in their youth, saying they should not be up there as leaders because they are too young? Imagine if Paul had this attitude with Timothy? It amazes me that there are congregations in this country that do not develop their youth in the church and we wonder why we are losing so many of them to the world.
In 1 Timothy 6:11-14, Paul shows Timothy a portrait of the man of God.
First, the man of God FLEES (Vs. 11). He flees from false teaching and holds to the doctrine of sound words, which comes from God. He does not get caught up in the ways of worldly men (1 Timothy 6:3-5). The man of God also flees from the love of money (Vs. 10). Money can become our idol and Paul states to flee from idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14). Paul also tells Timothy a man of God is one in whom also flees from youthful lusts (2 Timothy 2:22).
Our we fleeing from these sinful things?
Second, the man of God FOLLOWS. He pursues heavenly things, such as righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness (Vs. 11). Are we in hot pursuit of the things of God?
Third, the man of God FIGHTS. This is the noble and good fight, the fight of faith (Vs.12). This is one in which never gives up. He has made the good confession and takes hold of eternal life in which the devil wants to take away. Are we fighting the good fight of faith?
Fourth, the man of God is FAITHFUL. He keeps to the Word without stain or reproach. Nothing will be able to get us to pervert the truth, or fall from it. Are we being faithful every day to the Lord? Are we being men and women of God?
In His Service,
I vividly remember the darkest day of my life, which turned out to be the worst four years of my life. I had just spent a perfect day at my parents for a Fourth of July barbecue. The call came in at midnight from my cousin, who informed me that my dad was taken away in an ambulance. My heart sank. My father had a massive stroke and we took him off life support six days later on July 10, 2006. Just four years later my mom got brain cancer. Not long after, I held her hand as she took her last breath. In just four years my life turned upside down. Tracy and I had three young daughters who loved their grandparents so much, and just like that, they were gone. My family was devastated. However, in our darkest time, God was there. He felt our pain. He heard our prayers. He gave us peace and comfort in a time when our whole world seemed to be crashing down.
It makes me think of Naomi in the Book of Ruth. This was during the time of the Judges when Israel had lost God’s favor. God was finished sending them a Judge to deliver them. Israel was dealing with famine, so the times were dark for them. They got darker for Naomi. She not only lost her husband Elimelech, she also lost her two sons, Mahlon and Chilion (Ruth 1:3-5). Naomi was in deep grief. She thought God was afflicting her and she became bitter (Ruth 1:11-21).
We seem to blame God when trials, tribulations and tragedy strikes us, don’t we? God, however, blessed Naomi with two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah. Ruth was a gift from God to Naomi because she loved her and was there by her side. After Ruth met Boaz and married him, she bore a son. The woman said, “Blessed is the Lord, who has not left you without a redeemer today; and may his name become famous in Israel. May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him. Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her lap and became his nurse (Ruth 4:14-16). The baby was named Obed. Obed became the father of Jesse and Jesse becomes the father of David (verse 22). Through this lineage Israel triumphed to her greatest heights of glory and where the Savior of the world came through.
Although times were dark and grim for Israel and Naomi, God is behind the scenes at work for His people. When we think He is farthest from us or that He has turned against us, He is paving the roads of greater happiness for us. We cannot forget Jesus is there with us in our darkest times, in the times we may feel alone and helpless. Blessed be the Lord who has not left us.
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