Monday, August 14, 2017

Fear of Divine Judgment - How Jesus Overcomes Our Fear of Death

Many people assume that death is bound to be better than our suffering right now. How often have you heard somebody say, “Well, at least he’s not suffering anymore…”? Or “Now she’s at peace; she’s in a better place.”

If you’re in heaven, you are in better place where there is “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” Tears and suffering are over forever.  But according to Jesus, not everyone goes to heaven. Christ said, “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it (Matthew 7:13-14, NLT, my emphasis).
           
If you end up in hell, the suffering is infinitely worse than anything you might experience in this life. Christ described hell as a place where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched (Mark 9:48).

In three previous posts I’ve talked about the reasons why people may fear death. But this last one, fear of divine judgment, is the most important one. People should fear being punished for their sins.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Jesus' Cure for Frustration Over Other People's Business

Have you ever worried about how God is handling other people’s business? Sometimes out of love and sometimes out of more negative emotions - resentment, frustration - you find yourself unsettled because of what’s happening in someone else’s life.

Even one of Jesus’ apostles was not immune from being stirred up about somebody else’s business. (Of course the apostle was Peter, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised.)

Peter had had a very public melt-down the night of Jesus’ betrayal. After  the resurrection Christ challenged and restored Peter. There on the shore of the Sea of Galilee Jesus patiently and gently put Peter back where he needed to be. The Savior’s thrice repeated question to Peter - “Do you love Me?” - was followed by a threefold commission:  “Feed my lambs…tend my sheep…feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Enemy Bride

I never understood what he saw in her in the first place. She was pretty, I guess, in a wild, unhinged sort of way. But she had no family, no education, no job (not a decent one anyway). And frankly I didn’t see any evidence that she even felt the same way toward him that he obviously felt toward her.

But it was none of my business. I’ve been able to live peacefully in this neighborhood all these years by keeping to myself and out of other people’s business. But I never thought it would work out.

So they got engaged. He looked happy, she looked, well, like a trapped animal. My opinion.

Monday, May 29, 2017

No Fear in Death - by Christ's Death and Resurrection

Recently I read an article by a medical doctor who spoke transparently about his own fear of death. He developed a crippling anxiety which resulted in physical symptoms of various kinds. Eventually he was diagnosed with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) - associated entirely with his fear of death.

Death comes to all of us. So what do we do about fearing the inevitable? Christianity’s answer comes through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery (Hebrews 2:14-15). We look to Christ to deliver us from the fear of death that makes slaves of us all.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

How Christ Overcomes the Fear of Death (With Jesus on the Road to Samarra)

A merchant in Baghdad sent his servant to the market one day, but the servant soon returned, trembling with fear. “Master,” he said, “I met Death in the crowd, disguised as an old woman. She made a threatening gesture, and I ran. Please lend me your horse, and I will flee to Samarra to avoid my fate. Death won’t find me there.” The merchant lent him the horse, and the servant raced north, away from Baghdad. Then the merchant walked to the market, found the old woman, and demanded to know why she made the threatening gesture. Death replied, “I wasn’t threatening your servant but was only surprised to see him here. You see, I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”*

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Five Reasons We Fear Death, and How Jesus Gives Us Victory

John Donne famously wrote,
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so*

But, for many people, death might as well be proud. Because death does seem “mighty and dreadful.” People do fear death. They dread their own deaths and the inevitability of their loved ones’ deaths.

The Christian gospel addresses this basic fear.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Terrible Darkness

We only call this Good Friday because we know the world did not end on Friday. It would not have been a Good Friday at all if Sunday hadn’t been Resurrection Sunday.

If Sunday morning had dawned and that great solemn stone had still been there, guarded by soldiers, sealed by Rome, this would have been a terrible day, the worst of days.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Glory is Not Just a Destination

"I've got a home in glory land that outshines the sun."

I remember singing "Do Lord," and that stanza, the year I became a Christian. "Glory land" means heaven.

It’s true. Believers in Christ are headed to a place where God dwells, a place Jesus prepared for us, where we’ll be with the Lord and with all His redeemed children forever. It is truly “glory land.”

Monday, April 3, 2017

God's Unseemly Behavior

Many people, even some who claim to believe in God, find what He does or what He permits, well, unseemly. Why would an all-powerful, infinitely benevolent God wipe people out in Old Testament times? Why does He let children die of cancer? Or anyone, for that matter? To ordain or even to permit this kind of suffering seems inappropriate - not right somehow.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Woman's Choice - A Reprise

I posted this piece three years ago. It's not easy to read, and it was no fun to write, but sadly it seems fitting to share it again.
        
I woke up the the other day with this story in my head. It's not the kind of thing I usually post. But the Lord Jesus is Lord of life, and sadly our nation has embraced a culture of death. And where will it end? God's word says, Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. (Psalm 127:3, NLT)

“Beth, you’ve got to help me.” Ally was hunched over on the couch, hands clenched around a wad of Kleenex already damp from her tears. “Please. I know we don’t know one another very well, but I don’t know who else to talk to.”
            Beth scooted her chair a little closer. “Well, sure, I’ll help you. What’s going on?”
            Ally closed her eyes, shook her head, and more tears began to track down her cheeks. Beth sat silently, praying a little, and finally whispered, “Whatever it is, I know we can get through this together.”
            After more tears, Ally took a deep breath and in a strangely emotionless voice said, “I don’t want to be a mother.” She glanced quickly at Beth’s face, and then cut her eyes away, looking down. “It’s probably not right, but I’m just not ready. I just can't do it.”
            “Honey, I understand. I have three, and they are a handful.” She paused, and gently took Ally’s hands in hers. “So what does Bill say?”
            “He doesn’t know I’m struggling. The idea of being a dad is great for him, but he doesn’t have to deal with anything. I’m here all day, and he leaves for work, and it all falls on me.” She started sobbing again.
            “Well, okay. I understand perfectly, and men are men, right? They never do any of the heavy lifting. We women have to stick together and make the hard decisions, don’t we?” Beth smiled, and for the first time Ally looked up and smiled too.
            “So when is the little one due to arrive?”
            “He gets home from preschool at 11:30. I’ve made up my mind. I think it's best for everybody. If you can help me, I was hoping we could do it today, before he has to have a nap.”
“Okay, you just sit tight. I’ll call and set it up. And I’ll be with you the whole way.”
*                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *
“Hi, I’m calling about  a – I think they call it a PPA. Post-partum abortion. You do that, right? Okay, sure…no, for a friend of mine…It’s a little boy, I think he’s three...No, it’s just not working out…Of course, she’ll sign whatever you want…Two o’clock this afternoon? Okay, that’ll be fine. So we just drop him off, and you handle the rest? How long does it take?... It doesn’t, you know, hurt does it? Oh, great. See you at 2.        
*                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *
The front door banged open. “Hi, Mommy, I’m home.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Boys in the Boat

The Boys in the Boat is an amazing book. The author, Daniel James Brown, made me interested in a sport I never cared about – rowing. I came to admire the young men – they called themselves “boys” – who rowed to Olympic gold in 1936. I was mesmerized by the story of nine young blue collar guys with no money, no college scholarships, and seemingly no chance, who stuck it to the Third Reich and struck a blow for liberty, impossible dreams, and American exceptionalism.

They rowed for the University of Washington, but they did all of America proud. They came up when America was down, mired in the Great Depression, with millions out of work. Hitler’s Germany was on the rise, and the Berlin Summer Games was a propaganda colossus engineered by Hitler and Goebbels to assure the world that Germany was no threat to anyone.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Too Wonderful For Me

The other day I was composing an email to try to send some comforting words to a friend who had just suffered a devastating loss. As I typed, Psalm 131 flashed into my mind. This short psalm has been such a comfort to me over the years. Written by King David, it is only three verses. 
1 O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3 O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.
“I don’t involve myself in great matters,” David says in v. 1. “Great matters”- the Hebrew adjective is repeated: “great great.” As if someone were walking through life with a loud voice, acting important.

Nor does he involve himself in things that are “too marvelous” for him. The NIV say “too wonderful.” In Hebrew “wonderful” often refers to God’s miracles. A form of the word is used in Isaiah 9:6 - His Name is wonderful.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

An Angry Mob and the Power of Prayer

The little family heard the mob before they saw them. The angry voices seemed random at first, like a dispute in the marketplace or hot-headed men arguing over a traffic accident. But then the volume of Arabic words grew, shouted in unison by more and more voices.

As Christian missionaries they understood the risks of living in a Muslim country, but their home was in a good part of the city, just a few blocks from one of the royal palaces. Then the horror of seeing the chanting mob marching toward them confirmed their worst fears.