Of Sorrow and Faith
Late on the first of October one American man killed nearly 60 people, and injured over 500 others. This tragic event has torn across our country, causing untold sadness and heartache to all the victims and their families, not to mention those who now live in fear for their lives every time they enter a crowded supermarket, shopping mall, or other public gathering place. Many eyes are filled with tears; many hearts have been pressed down by grief.
Those whose hearts are pained, Psalm 55 may give voice to some of your feelings. Open your heart and let these inspired words pour in.
To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Maskil of David.
Give ear to my prayer, O God,
and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!
Attend to me, and answer me;
I am restless in my complaint and I moan,
because of the noise of the enemy,
because of the oppression of the wicked.
For they drop trouble upon me,
and in anger they bear a grudge against me.
My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.
And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;
yes, I would wander far away;
I would lodge in the wilderness;
I would hurry to find a shelter
from the raging wind and tempest.
Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongues;
for I see violence and strife in the city.
Day and night they go around it
on its walls,
and iniquity and trouble are within it;
ruin is in its midst;
oppression and fraud
do not depart from its marketplace.
For it is not an enemy who taunts me--
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me--
then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together;
within God’s house we walked in the throng.
Let death steal over them;
let them go down to Sheol alive;
for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart.
But I call to God,
and the Lord will save me.
Evening and morning and at noon
I utter my complaint and moan,
and he hears my voice.
He redeems my soul in safety
from the battle that I wage,
for many are arrayed against me.
God will give ear and humble them,
he who is enthroned from of old,
because they do not change
and do not fear God.
My companion stretched out his hand against his friends;
he violated his covenant.
His speech was smooth as butter,
yet war was in his heart;
his words were softer than oil,
yet they were drawn swords.
Cast your burden on the Lord,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
But you, O God, will cast them down
into the pit of destruction;
men of blood and treachery
shall not live out half their days.
But I will trust in you.
Our family life quickly forms patterns for ourselves and expectations of those around us which are difficult to change later in life. God teaches us to be especially concerned with whether our family relationships portray the truth concerning our spiritual relationship to Him. When family relationships become mirror images of our spiritual relationship to God, our family and every person connected to it benefits. Consider three of the principles God provides concerning the family:
Serve each other (Eph. 5:21ff). Willing servitude to those in our family motivated by our relationship with God is one of the pillars of God’s design for the family. Wives who follow the loving leadership of their husbands create a mirror image of Christ and the church for their children to see and grow to understand and appreciate. Children who obey compassionate and caring parents will find that they themselves are served well by the very instructions being given to them.
Give clear instruction (Eph. 6:1ff). Children who have rules, expectations, and consequences clearly communicated and maintained will find greater peace in life than those whose homes are filled with confusion and chaos. Parents who give clear instruction place their children in the advantageous position of understanding what they must do to please their father and mother. Through this type of relationship with their physical parents they will more easily understand the necessity of following their Heavenly Father’s commands to be pleasing in His sight as well.
Show Compassion (Mk. 7:9-13; 1 Tim. 5:4, 8). Parents who sow seeds of compassion in their children by genuinely caring about others ought to reap the harvest of their children’s care for them in their later years. A child who cares for their aged mother or father is doing what is pleasing in the sight of God and is displaying a Christ like spirit to those who are looking on.
By making these principles part of the foundation of your family life you will set habits in motion which will guide your family closer to God. Make godliness the goal of everything you do together!
In 2003, Kyle Beebe was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. He was fined and sentenced to three years of supervised probation. Although he had served his sentence, the conviction remained on his record permanently, and would cause potential employers to take a second look at him before they hired him for any job. After all, who wants a “former” drug dealer as their employee? How long before he goes back to his drug-dealing ways and damages the reputation of your establishment?
In 2014, Kyle wrote a letter to the Arkansas governor, Mike Beebe, requesting pardon for his offense. Yes, you read the last name right. The governor was Kyle’s father. Within weeks the pardon was to be issued, but as I read the news story, one question nagged my mind: Why did the governor and father wait so long (11 years since the conviction!) to issue a pardon to his own son? According to CNN, the recommendation for pardon came only after Kyle, the son, wrote a lengthy letter to the governor along with his pardon application. An excerpt from the letter reads:
“Mr. Governor, I am asking for a second chance at life. I am asking for a second chance to be the man that I know that I can be.”
“At the time of my arrest I was living in a fantasy world, not reality. I was young and dumb. At that time in my life I felt like I was missing something and I tried to fill that emptiness by selling drugs.”
In response, the governor and father had this to say:
“I would have [pardoned him] a long time ago if he’d have asked, but he took his sweet time about asking.”
The forgiveness, the erasing of the guilt by way of pardon, was readily available, but the child had to return in humility to his father, showing a penitent heart, before forgiveness could be given. How often do we retain our own guilt because we are too proud to confess our mistakes before God and ask for forgiveness? Remember the teachings of John in 1 John 1:8-9:
If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Those who have become children of God through obedience to the gospel need only to humbly and penitently confess our sins before our Father, and He is more than willing to forgive us, to offer us the pardon we continually need.
When is the last time you bowed before God in prayer, specifically noting those sins which you had committed, for which you need His forgiveness? When is the last time you spoke to your brother or sister in Christ, requesting their forgiveness for a wrong you committed against them?
Pride is a powerful emotion to overcome. So often it is the reason we refuse to confess our sins and seek forgiveness from God and our spiritual family. Make no mistake, we are all ashamed of choices we have made. The beauty of Christianity, however, is that Jesus loves us enough to bear that shame for us, if we will let Him. God is ready to forgive, are you ready to humble yourself and seek Him out?
While I would disagree with the statement in the title, I have heard more than a few people make that accusation. It is true that not everyone who claims Christianity is honest about who they are and the life they are living. In the New Testament, prophecies were made concerning the church, especially concerning hypocrisy that would arrive and worsen as time would continue. Read what Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:1-5:
"But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant … lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these."
This grim prophecy points to a time when people would create a hollow shell of godliness, a form that appears holy on the outside but contains no substance. It is a time of faithless people who still claim to walk with God (Hebrews 11:1; 1 John 1:6).
There are people who claim to serve God but who really serve idols of varying types. I doubt that comes as a revelation to anyone. What we must communicate to each other and to the skeptical lost soul is that the value of Christianity is not diminished by those who falsely claim it. The value of Christianity rests in Christ Jesus, the only Savior of the world (Acts 4:12), and in the way of life that is taught by His grace (Titus 2:11-14).
Those who follow His ways, who confess their sins and repent and return to God, are the ones who truly display the power of God and the value of Christianity. Let’s examine our lives and make sure we are walking worthy of the calling we have received (Ephesians 4:1) and not placing a stumbling block in anyone’s path (Matthew 18:7). Let us display true Christianity, so that when anyone makes a blanket accusation of hypocrisy we can point to each other and prove that true, faith-filled Christianity exists today.
Second Only to the King
42 Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. 43 “But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. 45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
-Mark 10:42–45 (NASB95)
The teachings of God concerning how to attain greatness are clear, and may at first seem impractical or unreasonable. In short, God says a person will only find greatness and honor if they do not seek it at all. Instead, they must seek the opposite. Seek to be a servant, lowly, selfless, totally unconcerned about status or recognition. Only then will greatness
s and honor be granted (James 4:10). To keep human eyes clear of fog concerning the issue of greatness and how it is sought and achieved, God has provided examples like the one in Esther.
The book of Esther provides a uniquely earthbound perspective. God’s behind-the-scenes workings are seen only in their effect. The reader is not allowed to pull back the curtain to see God’s plan until it is revealed in due time. In this account, Haman sought honor and glory without rest while Mordecai sought only to do what was good for his people. Ultimately, Haman’s ambition assembled the gallows from which he swung (Esther 7:9). Mordecai, on the other hand, through his humility and selfless seeking of good, became “second only to King Ahasuerus” (Esther 10:3).
Those who seek greatness and recognition will not find it from God. Those who selflessly seek good for all will be exalted by Him. Servitude is the path to true greatness. Walk it with humility and avoid the prideful gallows.