Thursday, October 30, 2008

God and monsters

Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man unclean (Matthew 15:19-20).

What is the worst monster you can think of? Is it the vampire, who can only live by feeding off of others? Is it the werewolf, who loses all control under the influence of a full moon? Is it the ghost, who wants revenge for the all the hurts experienced in life?

If you think about it, those monsters are us. We act like monsters when we use others to satisfy our own needs. We act like monsters when passion overrides common sense. We act like monsters when revenge dominates our thoughts. The worst monsters of all are human and very, very real.

We see monsters on the news every single day. Terrorists. Serial killers. Kidnappers. Rapists. Our prisons are full of human monsters, but many more run free. People who lie. People who break promises. People who treat their parents shamefully. People who act irresponsibly and then expect someone else to bail them out. Every one of us has a monster inside, just waiting for a chance to bare its fangs and do some damage.

Many people believe that Satan is the worst monster of all. Yet we are often his willing accomplices. We know that the devil cannot be trusted; he lies, spins the truth, and makes empty promises. Yet we listen to him anyway. We do things that we know are wrong, because he convinces us that no one will notice or care.

But God notices; God cares. He always tells the truth, and the truth is that sin causes hurt. Sinful behavior undermines love, and God wants us to love Him and each other with all our hearts. God also keeps His promises, and He promises eternity in hell to all who choose sin over love.

God also made another promise. If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God and ask Him for mercy, God will forgive our sins and welcome us into heaven. Even though we act like monsters, Jesus loves us—loves us so much that He suffered our hellish punishment on the cross so we could live forever in paradise. If you look in the mirror and see an ugly monster, look up to the cross—there you will see the beauty of God’s love for you.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Vampires and love

There is no fear in love (1 John 4:18).

Vampires have become extremely popular in recent years. From the time that Anne Rice started writing about them, and Buffy began slaying them each week on TV, vampires have grown into a mass-media phenomenon that is more sexy than scary.

It wasn’t always that way. In his novel Dracula, Bram Stoker emphasized the horror of dark seduction. But in recent years, these creatures of the night have become less like monsters and more like sexy bad boys. These days, some people dress up like vampires—some even experiment with drinking blood. Vampire fiction dominates the fantasy shelves in bookstores, and each year brings a new vampire-themed TV program or movie.

I’ve thought about this trend, trying to figure out why vampires are so alluring. I think it’s this: a vampire is powerful and confident, yet it needs blood to stay alive—it needs you. Power and confidence are sexy; intimacy grows from being needed. Put these traits together and you get a powerful aphrodisiac.

And yet, the human/vampire relationship is ultimately a destructive one. Sooner or later, the predator kills the prey. Those who enjoy the thrill of a dangerous relationship end up getting hurt.

Vampire fantasy distorts the true nature of love. Love is not about thrills. Love is not about taking risks. Love finds no pleasure in bad behavior or in controlling others. Listen to how the Bible describes love: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

That is not the defective love of humans or vampires; that is the perfect love of God. That is the love which sent Jesus to the cross, so you and I could be forgiven when we cause pain instead of happiness. God’s love is perfect love; don’t crave for anything less.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

By Grace, Faith, Scripture alone

Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, and Sola Scriptura are Latin words. They have come to be called the "motto" of the Protestant Reformation. In English they mean "Solely by Grace, Solely by Faith, Solely by Scripture." These three principles define the children of the Reformation.

Solely by grace—by grace alone. What does the word 'grace' mean? Grace is a gift, the giving of something that has not been earned or deserved. When you go to work, you earn money—when you get your paycheck, you have earned it through your time and sweat. But if the boss gives you a Christmas bonus, that is an act of grace; he was under no obligation to give you that bonus because you had done nothing to earn it.

Grace is an action. Grace isn’t the gift, it is the choice to offer the gift. An act of giving is only gracious when the person receiving your gift cannot give you something in return for your generosity. At Christmas we are in the habit of exchanging presents; but when you give a gift fully expecting to receive a gift in return, there is no grace involved in your giving—it is merely an exchange of goods. If you give money to a charity but then take a deduction for it on your income tax, that is not gracious giving either because you are benefiting from making your donation. Gracious giving is when you offer a blanket to a homeless man. Gracious giving is offering forgiveness to someone who has hurt you, with no expectation that they will do anything in response beyond replying "thank you." Our Lord illustrated the principle of gracious giving in Luke chapter 14: Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

Grace can also be rejected. No one is forced to accept a gift if it is unwanted. A homeless man who is filled with pride might very well reject your offer of a blanket; a person who has wronged you might feel perfectly justified in her actions and spurn your offer to forgive her. There is no obligation to offer grace, nor is it automatic that a person accepts an act of grace.

We are saved solely by God’s grace. It is our decision to reject God and His way of life on a daily basis. We could devote every waking hour of our lives to God by constantly working for Him, praying to Him, and studying His Word, but we don’t. We could immediately forgive every person who wrongs us in some way, but all of us lose our tempers from time to time. We anger God with our thoughts, words and actions every day, and He is under absolutely no obligation to forgive us and take us back—yet He does. God forgives us because He is gracious—He is willing to offer us His mercy, expecting nothing in return except our reply of "thank You." In fact, it is impossible for us to earn God’s mercy in any way—Isaiah tells us, all our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). In Galatians chapter 2, Paul writes that no one will be made righteous by their efforts to obey God’s law. God knows that we cannot repay Him for His generosity towards us, yet He forgives us anyway—that is the grace of God.

And yet, that grace can be rejected. In the Gospel of Luke chapter 7, we read that the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God's purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John. They rejected being baptized because John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3). The Pharisees did not believe that they were sinners; in their deluded minds they led holy and perfect lives, so they had no need to be forgiven. Their pride caused them to reject God’s offer of grace—and with that rejection, they rejected God’s purpose for them--to be His own, to represent Him to those dying lost in their sins, and to spend eternity with Him in Paradise. Without God’s grace, life has no worthwhile purpose and can only end in tragedy. It is only by God’s grace that the blessings of personal worth and eternal life can be ours.

The second sola is solely by faith—by faith alone. God wants us to come to Him, but our sin is like a stormy ocean separating us from God. We cannot get across to the Almighty, because the storm of our sins constantly drives us away from Him until we finally become exhausted from the constant struggle and drown. The only way that God could get His offer of grace to us was by sending it with someone who was stronger than the fury of our sins. That bringer of grace was His Son Jesus. Jesus came into our world and withstood every temptation to sin that Satan could throw against Him. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that He has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. When Jesus was condemned to death, He was not condemned for His sins but for ours. When Jesus suffered rejection and torture, He was suffering the punishment for our sins. When Jesus died on the cross, He died the death that was the penalty due for our rebellion against God. But when Jesus rose from the dead alive again, He proved that He had more than compensated for all our failures—He had paid the full price for all our crimes of thought, word and deed, and still could return to life everlasting! He ascended back into heaven, where He represents our needs to God the Father; in Job 16:19-21 we read, Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend.

Jesus is God’s chosen means by which His grace is offered to us. In Acts 4:12 Peter said, Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. Without Jesus there is no way for our sins to be forgiven, no way for us to access God’s offered grace. But with Jesus being in heaven where we cannot see Him, how can we have a relationship with Him? By faith. Jesus connects us to Himself by creating faith in our hearts. In Romans chapter 10 we are told, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. It is Jesus’ words that create faith in us—faith which believes in Jesus as God’s one and only Son, faith which believes that Jesus made full atonement for our sins through His suffering and death, faith which believes that Jesus is alive, that He loves us, and that He will forgive us the moment that we sincerely beg for His mercy. Without faith, we cannot trust in a living Savior who is invisible to our eyes; it is by faith alone that we have access to God’s grace and are saved.

The third sola is solely by Scripture—by Scripture alone. 'Scripture' is another word for the Bible. Scripture is the complete collection of God’s teachings written for us by His prophets and apostles. We cannot receive God’s grace except by believing in Jesus Christ. But since Jesus is invisible to us, the only way that we can experience His faith-giving words is through the one book that has them on record—the Bible! Only the Bible contains eyewitness accounts of what Jesus did and said. Only the Bible can be trusted to speak about Jesus with 100% accuracy, because God has ensured the accuracy of every word. In 2nd Timothy 3:16, Paul wrote that all Scripture came forth from God’s mouth. Peter wrote, no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21).

It is by Scripture alone that we know who Jesus is, what He has done for us, and what He has promised to us. Jesus gives us His words in the Bible so that we might gain faith in Him, and thus receive God’s grace. Human teachings have no value in comparison. As a matter of fact, keeping God’s words in the Bible pure is so important that near the beginning of the Bible, God said: Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, and again at the end of the Bible Jesus said, I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book (Deuteronomy 4:2, Revelation 22:18-19). God makes it clear that everything in His written word is important; no part of it is to be disregarded. The Lord also makes it clear that no human teachings are to be added to the divinely-revealed word of God, because human teachings are faulty and can mislead; only God’s word is useful for teaching, opposing evil, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is by Scripture alone that we can hear Jesus’ words and gain the faith that welcomes God’s gracious offer of forgiveness.

Which brings us to one final solasoli Deo gloria. This is Latin for "Solely to God the glory." When we understand Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, and Sola Scriptura, it is clear to us that our rescue from captivity to sin and its curse of death is entirely due to God. We have no ability to save ourselves, all has been done on God’s initiative: He decided to save us, He sent His Son to achieve His purpose for us, and He caused the Bible to be written for us to bear witness to it all. Without God, we would still be lost in our sins, so when we give credit for our rescue from sin and hell, all glory goes to God alone.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The spirit world

God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

People are fascinated with the spirit world. And it’s not just at Halloween. We have TV shows about psychics, and people who speak with ghosts. Hollywood has made all sorts of movies about angels and demons. At gravesides in America, and family shrines in Japan, people speak to departed loved ones, hoping that their words are heard.

Folks are interested in the spirit world. Part of it has to do with a need for meaning; they are looking for explanations. Is there a reason for my suffering? When things come together despite long odds, is it coincidence or fate? Will bad people get what’s coming to them? Does every person have a soul mate waiting for them somewhere? The world is often confusing; we want reassurance that all the puzzle pieces fit together into a picture that makes sense.

But interest in the spirit world is mainly driven by our fear of death. When a loved one passes away, we don’t want to believe that we’ll never see them again. We want reassurance that the dead continue to exist somewhere, and that some kind of reunion with them is possible. Even worse is the thought of our own death. Our hearts pound in fear, thinking about the end. What if I don’t finish everything I wanted to get done? What if people forget me? Will I cease to exist? Will I end up in some strange and scary place? Will I have to do life over again, keep on suffering all the pain and heartache and tragedy, until I get it right? When I die, will I be punished for everything that I did wrong?

Jesus has the answers that you’re looking for. He is God’s own Son, come down from heaven. Jesus tells us that the spirit world is real—God is real, His angels are real, and they show us their love. He also tells us that the devil is real, demons are real, and they treat us like toys to be played with. People do live on after death; those who call Jesus ‘friend’ are welcomed into heaven, while those who reject Him will spend eternity with demons for company.

Jesus does not want you suffering with demons. That’s why He suffered and died on the cross—He spilled His blood to give you eternal life in paradise. All He asks is that you believe. The spirit world is real—the only question is, whose side are you on?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


My disgrace is before me all day long, and my face is covered with shame (Psalm 44:15).

Dressing up in a costume is a Halloween tradition, for adults as well as children. Many people get a thrill from disguising themselves and playing a role; why is that? I think that people like hiding their identity behind a mask because it allows them to do things they ordinarily wouldn’t do. A shy man in a pirate costume can flaunt his masculinity, while a woman in a witch’s outfit can shed her inhibitions and act seductively.

It is a natural thing for us to wear masks—it’s just that most of the time, other people don’t realize that we’ve disguised ourselves. We don’t express what we truly feel for fear of ridicule or rejection, so we put on a happy face to hide what’s really going on inside of us. We’ve learned to behave this way because each of us has an ugly face that has frightened others and gotten us into trouble. That ugly face is our real face, the face pitted and scarred by sin. Our real face is often repulsive. Its eyes turn green with jealousy. Its ears are pointed so that they can hear everything that would better be kept a secret. Its nose is out of joint over long-held grudges. Its mouth is a rotting maw of blackness, just waiting to say something hurtful or untrue. Years of unpleasant experiences have demonstrated that our true face scares others away, so we have carefully crafted for ourselves a beautiful false face, a mask that we wear for other people so that they will like the person that they think we are. Yet we live in constant fear that the mask will slip, a friend or lover will get a glimpse of our true self, and we’ll never see them again.

Our Lord Jesus is not fooled by the masks we wear. He can look right into our hearts and see our true selves. This is a good thing. Unless the deformity we try to hide is exposed, it cannot be corrected. Jesus is our Great Physician; He takes away our masks so that He can perform reconstructive surgery on us. He makes us face the ugly truth about ourselves and offers to forgive us. When we admit our need for His help, He gives us a transfusion of His own holy blood poured out for us on the cross, and by it He removes the taint of sin that has disfigured us. Purified by Jesus’ work, the sickly pallor of our appearance is replaced by the healthy glow of renewed life. With Jesus as our physician, we can face others honestly, without resorting to a mask; with Jesus we can stop pretending and just be who we really are—forgiven children of our Father in heaven.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Christians and representative government

Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God's will that, by doing good, you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king (1Peter 2:13-17).

Election Day is just around the corner. By now, you’re probably sick of all the campaign advertising—signs along the street, phone calls while you’re eating, endless commercials on TV and the radio. And the commercials are so negative—instead of laying out their credentials and accomplishments, most candidates devote their time to running down the opposition.

Our political system is terribly polarized. The political parties would rather point fingers at each other than work together. They want you to be afraid—afraid that if you vote for the wrong person, our future will go down in flames. But this fear mongering only hurts the process; many people become so discouraged that they don’t end up voting for anybody; they just try to ignore what happens in government.

My friend, we have an obligation to vote. We have an obligation to vote wisely. In the Bible, God tells us to obey the government. Paul writes, Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established (Romans 13:1). But what if that government is corrupt? What if the government is run by people who do not love or respect the King of the Universe? Paul goes on to say, The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. Jesus submitted to the authority of Pontius Pilate, even though Pilate was a godless, evil man. Pilate said, "Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?" Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above" (John 19:10-11).

God wants us to respect corrupt government? Think of it this way. God expects us to honor the holy estate of marriage. There are a lot of terrible husbands and wives; there are a lot of marriages that are dysfunctional and wind up in divorce court. Yet in spite of this, we don’t sneer at marriage as if it is something worthless. The union of husband and wife is a gift from God, even when we spoil it with our bad behavior. So it is with government. The Lord gives us government to make life better, even though we often subvert its God-given purpose. God demands that we respect the government, even when it is flawed.

God expects us to obey the law and respect our lawmakers. Civil disobedience is only permitted when human law tells us to break God’s Law. This happened to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Babylon; when the king ordered them to kneel and worship his statue, they said we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up (Daniel 3:18). It happened to the apostles in Jerusalem; when they were ordered to stop preaching about Jesus, Peter replied we must obey God rather than men! (Acts 5:29) It happened to the early Christians living in the Roman Empire; when the emperor demanded that they pray to him as a god, they refused. It happened to Martin Luther in Germany; when the king told him to admit that his teachings were wrong, Luther replied "Unless I shall be convinced by the testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear reason ... I neither can nor will make any retraction…Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me! Amen."

Although there are times when we must oppose the government, doing so comes with great danger. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace. The apostles were repeatedly jailed, beaten, and eventually executed. Early Christians were convicted as traitors to the Roman Empire. Luther was branded an outlaw and lived for many years in hiding.

But conflict between Christians and their government does not have to happen here in America. God has placed us in a country where we can influence what happens in Washington, Pierre, and Milbank. We can choose who serves in public office. We can change our laws through referendums and initiated measures. We can shape our government into one that serves the Lord.

This kind of shaping requires that we do some work. We need to familiarize ourselves with the candidates. What issues are important to them? What positions are they willing to negotiate on? Do they keep their promises? Do they take responsibility for their actions, or are they quick to point the finger of blame at someone else?

As a Christian, how do you choose the best candidate? Let’s use the race for the White House as an example. Every candidate for president and vice-president is a Christian, so that is not an issue. Since they are all children of God redeemed by Christ, I would hope that race and gender have no bearing on your vote—as Paul said, There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). Prejudice has no place in the heart of a Christian.

Your decision should be based on the candidate, not the party. Our last Democratic president had his second term crippled by scandal. Our current Republican president is the most unpopular Chief Executive in modern history. Party affiliation does not guarantee a good run in office.

A good candidate should be able to inspire confidence. A good candidate should be free from the taint of scandal. A good candidate should make decisions that uphold the law, yet works hard to change laws that need to be overhauled. A good candidate should work with allies and opponents to find common ground, but never compromise when it comes down to a choice between God’s law and human law. A good candidate should stay calm during a crisis and avoid impulsive decisions.

Of course, no candidate is perfect. Like us, they are sinners who misunderstand God’s will and let Satan influence many of their decisions. Paul writes, there is no difference, for all have sinned (Romans 3:22-23). Politicians often give in to temptation; they abuse their office for personal satisfaction. We behave the same way; we steal things or dabble with extra-marital sex, if it seems like we can get away with it. Politicians need votes, so they turn a blind eye to many immoral things around them. We behave the same way; we put up with all sorts of bad behavior so that we can be popular with others. Politicians break campaign promises in order to make deals. We behave the same way; we make promises that we can’t keep or don’t intend to keep. Politicians play fast and loose with the truth; sometimes they lie, other times they twist the truth so much that you can hardly recognize it. We behave the same way; we tell lies to escape responsibility for our actions, we spin the truth to make ourselves look good.

This is why Jesus came into our world. Jesus does not abuse His authority; He said the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). Jesus does not ignore our sins, He confronts us and demands that we take responsibility for our actions. John writes, If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9). Jesus never goes back on His word; you can count on His promises to help you through life. Peter writes, he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires (2 Peter 1:4). And Jesus never lies; He said everyone on the side of truth listens to me (John 18:37). We are not perfect; no candidate for office is perfect. But thanks to Jesus, we are forgiven our mistakes and have the promise of help to do God’s will.

We also need to study the issues. Don’t wait until Election Day to read complicated ballot measures. The Secretary of State publishes explanations that are available at the courthouse. You can read different opinions about them in newspapers and on the Internet. Decide how you’re going to vote before going to your polling place.

As a Christian, how do you decide which measures deserve your support and which should be defeated? Look to the Word of God! Does the measure hold people accountable for their actions, or does it contain loopholes? Does the measure encourage respect for everyone, or does it benefit some at the expense of others? Does the measure make it easier to proclaim God’s Word to people who are dying in sin, or does it restrict Gospel outreach? Does the measure honor God’s gift of life, or does it sanction death? Is the measure concerned with what is best, or with what is easiest?

Don’t let fear keep you away from the polls. No matter how the voting goes, we will have an imperfect government that is staffed with imperfect men and women. But the future is not in their hands—the future is in God’s hands! That is why you don’t have to be afraid. God has said, "I will never leave you; I will never turn my back on you." So we can say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid" (Hebrews 13:5-6). Jesus said, In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33). Paul writes, we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). Pray and cast your vote, then go home with confidence that everything is in God’s loving and mighty hands.

On Election Day, you have an obligation. Vote to align human laws with God’s laws. Vote to give a better tomorrow to your children. Vote for the sake of unbelievers who need to experience the Word of God in their lives. Use your vote to honor the King of the Universe here in the Land of the Free.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Working for rewards

All our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

I remember the first time that I got something published. It didn’t matter that the magazine had a very small circulation. It didn’t matter that I only got paid 50 dollars for all the time I put into writing the article. All that mattered was that my work was accepted for publication. To this day, I still have a photocopy of that 50 dollar check.

Most of us work for more than just money. We want to know that our skills are valuable. We want to feel that our time and effort is appreciated. No one likes to be taken for granted. No one wants to feel like a little part in a big machine, easily ignored and easily replaced.

It is hard to work long hours on a proposal only to have it rejected. It is hard to have your work criticized by the boss as not being good enough. It’s hard to watch someone else get the promotion that you wanted for yourself. Such things undermine your confidence, make you worry that you aren’t needed. No amount of money can take the place of feeling valuable.

We tend to approach God the same way. We want to impress Him with how good and honest and hard working we are. But a performance review from God is nothing to look forward to; by His righteous standards, we are all miserable failures who only deserve to be fired and sent away forever.

Thankfully, there is another option open to us. There is a way to please God and avoid getting a terrible performance rating. That alternative is offered by God’s Son. His offer is this: stop relying on your own efforts to win God’s approval, and rely on Jesus’ efforts instead. Jesus has already earned God’s approval. Because we are too corrupted with sin to ever succeed at pleasing God, He lived a perfect life in our place. And because our failures demand God’s punishment, Jesus chose to suffer that punishment in our place, suffering and dying on the cross which by rights should have been ours. Because of this, you don’t have to prove your value to God. Jesus already thinks you’re special—so special that He suffered and died for you. When you embrace Jesus as your Master, God credits you with Jesus’ righteousness. It is your relationship with Christ that pleases God.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Be kind to everyone (2 Timothy 2:24).

Our God is powerful and wise. He is holy and magnificent. But God’s most wonderful quality is His kindness. God is the king of the universe yet He still reaches out to us, to miserable sinners who don’t deserve His notice. Heaven is the most wonderful place of all, yet the Son of God chose to leave it behind so He could be born in a shed used to feed and water animals. Holy angels eagerly waited to do His will, but Jesus surrounded Himself with sinful men and women who often had no idea what He was trying to teach them. Christ came to be our Savior, the most thankless job anyone has undertaken; He suffered and died for every sinner, yet most of humanity couldn’t care less about the awful sacrifice He made for them. Being a sinner is awful; sin makes our lives miserable with angry words, broken promises, unexpected disasters, and encroaching death. Because God curses sin, we live every day fearing His anger instead of rejoicing in His love. But Christ bore God’s curse for the sins we have committed. He could have stayed comfortably in heaven, but instead He showed us kindness by joining us in our pain so that He could repair the damage caused by sin.

That is what kindness is all about—a willingness to join others in their pain in order to help them. Kindness is not afraid of discomfort or getting dirty; kindness wants to help other people, no matter what the cost. A kind man stops to help a stranded motorist, even if it is risky to approach a stranger. A kind woman is willing to visit a friend in the hospital, even if she is deathly afraid of germs. A kind person is willing to talk about anything, even uncomfortable topics like death, if it will help ease the mind of a troubled friend.

Jesus wants us to be kind. He wants us to love other people so much that we are willing to get involved in their lives instead of keeping a safe distance. When you are kind, you are generous with your time, always willing to offer a helping hand or a sympathetic ear. You offer your friendship to all sorts of people, without regard to the color of their skin or the amount of money in their pockets. After all, Christ died for everyone; Peter says God does not show favoritism (Acts 10:34). Being kind means that you are willing to give others the benefit of the doubt instead of assuming the worst about them. When kindness fills your heart, you are willing to suffer hurt and inconvenience if that is what it takes to bring comfort to others. That’s what Jesus did on the cross; to be kind is to be like Christ.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

God's undeserved mercy

Note: in the decades before the Revolutionary War, Jonathan Edwards was one of America's most influential preachers. His best known sermon was "Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God." I have taken the first half of that lengthy message and modernized it for today's readership.

In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them (Deuteronomy 32:35).

In this verse, God is not breathing out threats against godless unbelievers who are persecuting His chosen people; these words promising punishment are directed to the Israelites, the people God has blessed above all others! In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them. With these words, the God of the universe promises what will happen to anyone who chooses to turn their back upon Him and His covenant ratified through Jesus’ holy blood.

In due time their foot will slip. As we consider these words, the following thoughts come to mind:

Sinners are always vulnerable to destruction, just as the person who stands or walks in some slippery place is always at risk of falling. Furthermore, they are exposed to unexpected destruction. The person that walks in slippery places may fall at any moment, and when he does fall, it happens suddenly and without warning. We find this expressed in Psalm 73:18-19: Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed. Finally, such people are liable to fall on their own, without being felled by the hand of another, just as he who stands or walks on slippery ground needs nothing but his own weight to bring him to a hard landing.

The reason why these people are not fallen already is only due to the fact that God's appointed time has not yet come. God said that when the appointed time arrives, their foot will slip. Then they shall be left to fall, as they are prone to do by their own weight. God will not hold them up in these slippery places any longer, but will let them go; and at that very instant they shall fall into destruction. The only thing that keeps sinful people out of hell is the merciful pleasure of God. The King of the universe is under no obligation to love us, care for us, or forgive our sins; by our own grievous sins we have removed ourselves from the pleasure of God’s loving approval. The truth of this may be made obvious by the following points.

First, God has the power to cast sinners into hell at any moment. No man or woman has the strength to resist him, nor is there any spiritual power that can rescue a person from his divine judgment. He is not only able to cast the wicked into hell, but he can do it easily. Sometimes an earthly ruler meets with a great deal of difficulty in subduing a rebel, who has found a secure hiding place and has made himself strong by the numbers of his followers. But it is not so with God. There is no place that can offer refuge from the power of the Almighty. Though vast multitudes of God's enemies join hand in hand, they are easily dashed to pieces. They are as chaff before the whirlwind, or dry stubble before devouring flames. We find it easy to step on an ant that we see crawling on the ground or to break a spider’s web; it is just as easy for God, when he chooses, to cast his enemies down to hell. Who are we, that we would dare try and stand against him?

Second, sinners deserve to be cast into hell. Divine justice does not object to God using his power at any moment to destroy them. On the contrary, justice calls for infinite punishment for human sin. The wrath of divine justice hangs over the heads of sinners constantly, and only God’s desire to be merciful holds it back.

The wicked are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell. They not only justly deserve to be cast down, but they are already sentenced by the Law of God; in John 3:18 Jesus says, whoever does not believe stands condemned already. Every unbeliever properly belongs in hell; that is his place. And it is there that he is headed; it is the place that justice, God's word, and the sentence of his unchangeable Law has assign to him.

The wicked are at this very moment the objects of that very same anger and wrath of God that is expressed in the torments of hell. And the reason why they have been spared so far is not because God is ignoring their sinfulness. God is fully aware of their wickedness, and he hates it. The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation is prepared, the fire is ready to receive them.

Furthermore, the devil stands ready to fall upon the wicked and seize them as his own, the moment that God permits him. They belong to him; Satan has their souls in his possession, and they are slaves to his will. Peter warns, Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. He treats sinners as his prey, but is for the present held back. If God should withdraw his restraining hand, Satan would immediately pounce and tear their lives to pieces. The Old Serpent bares his fangs; hell opens its mouth wide to receive them; and if God should permit it, they would be quickly swallowed up and lost.

One should not feel secure simply because death appears to be far off. Accident or war or disastrous weather can end any life suddenly and unexpectedly; at any moment of any day, a man’s life may be on the brink of eternity, his next step entering the afterlife. Unbelievers walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are any number of places in this covering that so weak that they will not bear weight; these places where life unexpectedly collapses into death cannot be seen. When the wicked blunder through life uncaring of the danger, it is only a miracle of God that prevents them from quickly falling into disaster.

Nor can a man find security for his life through living wisely, whether that be good money management or healthy lifestyle choices. If earthly wisdom could insure the future, the wisest of us ought to live the longest, while we should expect the foolish to die at a young age. But the reality? Ecclesiastes 2:16 says, Like the fool, the wise man too must die.

Of course, the wicked do not expect to enter hell. Almost every person who is told of eternal punishment flatters himself that he will escape it. He looks to what he has done, what he is doing now, or what he intends to do in the future, and reckons that by his efforts at being a good person, he need not fear the hereafter. But I daresay that if we could interview a just a few of the many who are in torment today, they would tell us how surprised they are at being consigned to hell.

God has not obligated himself to spare anyone from hell. The Lord has only promised eternal life and rescue from the punishment for sin through his covenant of grace, the promises that are given to those who believe in Christ and seek his mercy. But as for those who do not know Christ, those who reject him, those who treat his sacrifice and his will for their lives lightly, God is under no obligation to preserve such unbelieving and unrepentant sinners from eternal destruction.

So it is that mortal men are held in the hand of God over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, his anger as great towards them as to those who are actually suffering his wrath in hell--and they have done nothing in the least to appease that anger. Nor is God bound by any promise to hold them up for even a moment; the devil is waiting for them, hell is gaping for them, the flames gather and flash about them, eager to lay hold on them and swallow them up; and they have no interest in any Savior, there are no means within reach that can offer them any security. They have no refuge, nothing to take hold of--all that preserves them each moment of their lives is the unwarranted mercy of the God whom they have provoked to anger.

O sinner! Fear the wrath of God. God is infinite. The wrath of the most powerful of men is as nothing compared with the wrath of God. Our Lord Jesus said, I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. The Bible often speaks of the fury of God; in Isaiah 66:15-16 we read See, the LORD is coming with fire, and his chariots are like a whirlwind; he will bring down his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For with fire and with his sword the LORD will execute judgment upon all men, and many will be those slain by the LORD. Ezekiel adds, I will deal with them in anger; I will not look on them with pity or spare them. Although they shout in my ears, I will not listen to them.

Today God stands ready to pity you; this is a day of mercy; you may cry now to Jesus with the hope of obtaining forgiveness. But when the time of mercy is past, your most lamentable cries and shrieks will be in vain; you will be entirely lost and cast away from God, who will take no further thought to your welfare. God will no longer have any use to put you to, save to suffer misery; you shall continue to exist for no other reason save to pay for your sins with your agony throughout eternity. Isaiah describes that agony this way: their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched. Maggots will eat their flesh, fire will sear their skin, but their bodies will never be consumed, never released from the pain. God’s wrath is an everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this punishment of the Almighty God for just a few minutes; but the lost must suffer it for all eternity. There will be no end to this misery. But the worst part will be the despair, the certain knowledge that no moment of relief will ever come, no one will ever again show them pity or love.

You now have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands calling with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God. Many are coming from the east, the west, the north and south; many that were very recently under the awful threat of hell, but are now happy, their hearts filled with love for him who has loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood—these are people who are rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.

Let every one who has neglected Christ, and feel themselves hanging over the pit of hell, take heed of the Savior’s call. This day, a day of unmerited mercy for some, will undoubtedly be a day of divine justice for others. Peter warns, The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Speaking of the final years, Jesus predicted, Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. In these days, men's hearts are becoming hard, and their guilt is increasing as they neglect their souls; as it was in the days of John the Baptist, The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

Therefore, let everyone that wants to live awaken from the delusions of their sins and fly to Jesus for mercy from the wrath which is to come. The anger of Almighty God hangs over the unrepentant sinner; let every one flee from a life of sin as Lot and his family fled Sodom at the urging of God’s angel: Flee for your lives! Don't look back, and don't stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away! Heed God’s angel; flee from sin without looking back and seek the mountain of God, where you may find mercy in his holy temple.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

God is perfect—perfect in wisdom, perfect in love, perfect in justice. He is the perfect Lawgiver and the perfect Judge; no one can hide the truth from Him or outmaneuver Him with a clever argument. Human laws are at their best when they are based on God’s perfect commandments.

We can be grateful that God is perfect in wisdom, love, and judgment; only these three things together could save us from ending up in hell. God’s perfect justice demands that sin be punished; hell is every human’s rightful sentence. But God’s perfect love wanted a different verdict; our Lord did not want us suffering forever. The impasse was solved by God’s perfect wisdom; by sending His Son to die in our place, justice was served and we were spared. Only in God’s heavenly courtroom could such a verdict ever be rendered.

We would like to be lawgiver and judge; we would like to make the rules and make sure that they are followed. But sin distorts how we see things; it impairs our thinking and taints our decisions. Every parent fails as a disciplinarian, resulting in children who cry, "that’s not fair!" Every court hands down verdicts that punish the innocent or let the guilty go free. Humans are fallible; because of sin, our judgment is faulty.

God wants us to recognize our limitations and live accordingly. We are all sinners; none of us can claim moral superiority over anyone else. Everyone has sinned, Paul says; we all fall short of God's glorious standard. When you admit this to yourself, it changes the way you deal with other people. Knowing that your reasoning is often flawed, you don’t try to push your opinions as if you are right and others are wrong. The only thing you can offer of unquestionable value is the truth given in God’s Word—but even then you offer it in meekness, knowing that your understanding of God’s Word not perfect.

When you own up to your shortcomings as a sinner, you realize that you are in constant need of Jesus’ help. Prayer becomes part of your daily routine, as you ask for assistance with making decisions both large and small. You want the support of other Christians; you prefer to work in a group because it is easy for sin to mislead you when going it alone. You don’t insist on getting your own way, and you don’t try to hog the spotlight—you are happy to give credit where credit is due, because in the end it is God who gives success.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


If a man does not work, he shall not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

When Jesus came to live among us, He took His work very seriously. Jesus never goofed off or took shortcuts. When something unpleasant needed to be done, He rolled up His sleeves and got to it. His job was to bring God’s righteousness to a world fatally in love with wickedness. Inevitably, then, Jesus’ work involved confrontation. He confronted merchants who set up shop in the Temple precincts. He confronted people who taught false religion. He confronted the devil himself. And He confronted our sins on the cross. Jesus worked tirelessly to push back evil and reveal the glory of God’s truth.

We should be grateful that Jesus took His work so seriously. Because of his unwavering commitment, we have been rescued from sin and the hell it leads to. Saving us was no easy task; Christ suffered everything the devil could throw at Him in order to bring us back to God. The Son of God died so that we might live eternally. If He had not been fully committed to His cause, He might have chosen to avoid the cross, saving Himself from pain but dooming us to everlasting pain instead.

God looks for whole-hearted commitment from us as well. He expects our complete loyalty; He expects us to serve Him with all that we are and have. In Revelation chapter three, our Lord condemned a group of Christians for not taking their faith seriously enough: I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot…So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth. God wants more from us than just being wishy-washy; He wants us to be passionate about life.

Someone who is passionate works hard; he is fully committed to whatever he does. A Christian dedicates everything He does to the Lord. He is careful to do quality work, because through working he serves God’s purposes here on earth. He wants to earn enough money to support the church, take care of his family, and still have something left to share with the needy. He does his work with care and planning, so that the result of his efforts will benefit many people for a long time to come. He works so that he will be a blessing to others, not a burden. He doesn’t give up when faced with problems, because he trusts in the Lord to bring about a satisfactory result. And when he is tempted to sluff off at work, the Christian finds renewed motivation in Paul’s advice: Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do (Ephesians 6:7-8).

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Religious complacency

Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria, you notable men of the foremost nation, to whom the people of Israel come! Go to Calneh and look at it; go from there to great Hamath, and then go down to Gath in Philistia. Are they better off than your two kingdoms? Is their land larger than yours?

You put off the evil day and bring near a reign of terror. You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.

Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile; your feasting and lounging will end (Amos 6:1-7).

When these words were written, the kingdom built by God through the hands of King David and King Solomon was falling apart. Where there was once one great nation, now there were two smaller kingdoms, Israel and Judah. Israel was the larger, northern kingdom. Since God’s Temple was in Jerusalem in the southern kingdom of Judah, the northern kingdom of Israel built its own temple on Mount Samaria. Both nations felt secure. God had promised this land to them because they were Abraham’s descendants. The economies of both nations were strong; the leaders were wealthy and most people were well off. The kingdoms were built mostly in mountains and were easy to defend from attack. Because of these blessings from God, the leaders of the Israelites of the north had gotten too comfortable. They lounged around instead of working hard. They tossed away money on fine foods and fancy perfumes. Instead of playing music in worship of God like David did, they composed new songs about themselves and the earthly things that they loved. They escaped their responsibilities by guzzling wine. They didn’t want to think about their sins or the sinful lives that their people were leading; they didn’t feel grief over how far the descendants of Joseph had fallen away from God. They believed that their country was the best in the world, and that nothing bad could happen to it. The leaders of Israel had become complacent.

Does this sound familiar to you? After the 9/11 attack on our country, people began talking about how selfish and lazy America has gotten. Some believe that the United States has been complacent, that we have taken for granted our economy, our national security, our luxury-filled way of life, and our freedoms. Many have suggested that America needed a wake-up call, to reunite and work together to make our country a better place for everybody. It would be easy to listen to today’s lesson and say to ourselves, "yep, this country sure had been lazy and corrupt, but things are better now."

But God’s word isn’t just for Washington or Hollywood, it’s for you and me. Amos was speaking to the leaders of Israel, but he also speaks to us. In Amos’ time, the people of Israel looked for leadership from their kings and priests whose positions were appointed by God. Today, the Temples on Mount Samaria and in Jerusalem are no more; they are no longer needed because Jesus now makes His home in our hearts through the waters of Baptism. Each of us is a walking Temple of God, each of us is a priest who can pray to God on his own behalf. Because of this, we Christians are the leaders of God’s kingdom here on earth. When people look for God’s leadership, they look to we who make up Christ’s Church. We have the same responsibility of moral leadership that the leaders of Israel had in Amos’ time.

So, what does God have to say to us through the mouth of Amos? He warns us of complacency. Let’s do a little mental checklist, like they do in magazines, to see how complacent we are:
+ Do you pray to God to protect people in America, or do you let the Armed Services and the FBI worry about that?
+ When someone you love starts doing things that you know God doesn’t approve of, do you tell them or do you keep your mouth shut because it’s none of your business?
+ When you decide how much money to put in the plate on Sunday, do you ask God each week to help you decide how much to give, or do you put in what you’ve always put in?
+ When church elections come up, do you offer to serve as an Elder or a Trustee, or are you satisfied that other people will take care of things at church?
+ When you have free time, do you use some of it to read the Bible or devotional literature, or do you feel that you get enough religion on Sunday morning?
+ Do you pray for forgiveness every day? Or don’t you need to, because you lead a pretty decent life?

How did you do on this checklist? Do you rely on God for forgiveness and leadership every day, or do you take God for granted some of the time? I think that if we are honest with ourselves, each of us must admit that we are complacent to some degree. Complacency is taking something for granted. When we take something for granted, we don’t think much about it or appreciate it. But we must not be complacent about God. God wants us to think about Him constantly. Through Moses God said, Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up (Deuteronomy 6:5-7). We should also be thankful for the gifts that God has given us; Psalm 107 says Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of His works with songs of joy.

Amos was sent to warn Israel that God was going to end their complacency by taking away the blessings He had given them and allow them to be conquered by the Assyrians. The people of Israel had taken God’s gifts for granted and gotten so comfortable that they had stopped paying attention to God. We face the same temptation. God has given us abundant blessings: an incredible selection of foods to purchase, good farmland, large homes, excellent health care, and an amazing variety of freedoms, including the freedom to worship God publicly. But as these blessings increase, it becomes easy to focus our attention on the gifts and forget about the One who gives them. When God’s gifts become so distracting that we no longer look to God, or when God’s blessings become so routine that we don’t see them as special anymore, God, in His wisdom, begins to take them away. This is because God loves us and wants us to join Him in heaven when we die. We cannot enter heaven if we don’t have a relationship with God; God will not have strangers at His eternal feast of fellowship. Speaking of heaven, Jesus said, Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, `Sir, open the door for us.' But he will answer, `I don't know you or where you come from' (Luke 13:24-25). Because God wants us to have a relationship with Him, He sent His Son Jesus to teach us about God and to forgive us for ignoring God. Only through Jesus can we know God; Jesus said, No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him (Matthew 11:27). Without forgiveness, we cannot be acceptable to God; Paul writes, Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God." Only Jesus can forgive our sins; Paul also writes, For [God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14). Jesus is able to forgive our sins because He has overcome them. God was ready to punish us for ignoring Him, but instead, out of love for us, He sent Jesus to take our punishment in our place. Jesus was willing to take our punishment because He loves us more than anything else. Jesus died under His Father’s punishment, but He returned to life to prove that God’s love for us is greater than the death our sins deserve. When we kneel in prayer with broken hearts and confess to Jesus that we’ve angered God, we can know for sure that Jesus forgives our sins. And when we know for sure that God accepts us back into His loving arms, we can’t help but be grateful for His undeserved mercy. It is when we feel this way that we truly trust in God; we are no longer taking Him for granted.

When we live our lives trusting in God and being thankful for His care, our whole attitude changes. When there is danger, we pray to God that He will protect us, those we love, and Christians everywhere. When another person is doing things that anger God, we go to that person with loving concern and explain why they need to repent. When we give money to support God’s Church, we pray that God would help us to give generously, just as He has given generously to us. When church elections come up, we thank God for this opportunity to serve Him and agree to being put on the ballot for a position. When we have free time, we gratefully take the opportunity to read two or three chapters in the Bible, or read a religious article in a magazine or on the Web. Most importantly, when we live our lives trusting in God, we pray to Him every day, admitting our sins, begging His forgiveness, and thanking Him for all the good gifts He continues to give us. We pray to God to help us make wise decisions about everything: where to work, where to live, where to go to church; who to be friends with, who to date, who to marry, how to spend our time, how to spend our money, how to patch up a damaged relationship. When we live our lives trusting in God’s care for us, we learn to be patient because we know that He will make good on His promises at just the right time, as Solomon said: Wait for the LORD, and He will deliver you (Proverbs 20:22).

If you are concerned that you have been complacent in your faith, take time today to pray for forgiveness. Pray "create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your presence, and take not Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with Your free Spirit." When you are done praying, thank God that He forgives you, and thank Him for all the blessings which you did not deserve but He gave you anyway. Remember that God always loves you, even when you take Him for granted.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20).

Our Lord always thinks ahead. He is never caught off guard or unprepared. When Adam and Eve brought sin and death into the world, our heavenly Father had a plan ready to fix what they had broken. There in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were the first to hear about a Savior who would destroy the power of evil and bring sinful mankind back to its holy Creator.

But God thinks in the long term. Thousands of years would pass before Jesus was born among us to suffer and die. And two millennia have gone by since Jesus rose from the dead and returned to heaven; no one knows how much longer it will be before He returns to raise the dead and restore this world to perfection.

God wants us to think in the long term as well. He wants us to focus less on today and more on eternity. When we take the long view, it can drastically change the decisions we make here and now. Take an athlete, for example; few people like strenuous exercise, but by focusing on the future competition she hopes to win, the athlete finds the motivation she needs to keep at her training. Or consider a farmer plowing a field; if he spends most of his time gazing at the ground just a few feet ahead or keeps looking down to fiddle with his radio, the path he cultivates will be irregular and hard to plant. But if he keeps his eyes focused on a fence post at the far edge of the field, he can use that guide to plow a furrow that is straight.

When we take the long view, our lives can be freed from many foolish and hasty decisions. When you are focused on building a house big enough for a growing family, you start putting money into savings instead of spending it impulsively. When heaven is something you think about regularly, you will be more likely to support the church in it’s work to fill God’s home with forgiven people. When you take the long view, you realize that there is a limit to the time and resources God has given you—so you set priorities to help you in using those heavenly gifts wisely. Taking the long view involves planning; it requires discipline so that you don’t fall into the trap of only living moment to moment. The pleasures of this life never last for long; thankfully, there is happiness that never fades away. Jesus offers eternal joy; keep your focus on Him and this gift will be yours.

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