Jesus Teaches Us About Death

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live even though he dies.” (John 11:25)

Alfred Nobel woke up to a grim and unexpected notice one morning. In the local paper he read his own obituary! You see, the local reporter had mistaken the death of Alfred’s brother for his own. But the appearance of Alfred’s obituary did not alarm him as much as what he read in that obituary. It read, “The Dynamite King has died!” Alfred was described as the man who had made a great fortune from his invention of dynamite.  Sadly, he would be remembered by the world as someone who profited from bringing disaster; a merchant of death and destruction.

Someone once said, “Death is the ultimate statistic.” It’s a hardened reality that is completely inescapable. Death can fill us with a feeling of defenselessness. Most of us do not get the opportunity to reflect on our own death like Alfred did. So when these thoughts creep into our minds, we find ourselves with a lot more questions than answers. When?…Where?…Why?

Our God desires a different statistic for all people. Our Savior Jesus Christ says, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” (1 Timothy 2:4). This life that Jesus offers each of us extends beyond the grave. It is life in its fullest; it is life with God forever!

Jesus does not want us to have a heart full of worry and questions about death. Instead he wants us to be confident of his power over death. Jesus declares, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies.” Even though death will make its unwanted visit, Jesus breaks through the gloom of death with the assurance that he will raise all the dead and give eternal life in heaven to those who believe in him.

It’s not so important how people remember us after we die. What is important is that we know Jesus before we die. When questions about death plague our minds, Jesus teaches us to be confident that through faith in him we will live forever!

Being Tempted?

“Lead us not into temptation” – (Luke 11:14).

Those are familiar words from the Lord’s Prayer. Yet there seems to be something almost sinister about them. Would God actually lead you into temptation?

At times you may want to blame God for falling into temptation. Your circumstances maybe caused you to lie. Maybe the people around you were a bad influence on you. Can you blame that on God? The apostle James says you should not accuse God of tempting you because: “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone” (James 1:13).

Satan is the author of evil.

The reason the devil’s temptations work so well is because they connect with desires you have deep inside. “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin” (James 1:14-15).

Interestingly, there is one time in the Bible where it seems that God led someone into temptation. “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). God led Jesus into the desert but it was the devil who tempted Him. And God knew that the devil would not succeed! This passage shows that the devil is real. The devil wants to lead people into sin. He wanted to tempt Jesus most of all.

The Holy Spirit wanted Jesus to trade places with you.

Jesus faced every temptation and hurt and disappointment you face. For all the times you have failed by giving in to temptation, Jesus succeeded. He succeeded as your substitute. When you believe that, God counts Jesus’ success as though it were yours.

Why can’t I be satisfied with my life?

In 1975 the United States promised to convert from the so-called English system of measurement (which even the English don’t use anymore!) to the metric system. Since then, bills passed by the U.S. Congress have called for conversion but have basically been ignored. Meanwhile, when officials experimented with metric road signs in kilometers instead of miles, some dissatisfied people even went so far as to shoot up the road signs! (albeit with metric weapons like 9mm pistols).

We’re used to a certain way of measurement for a satisfying life. We don’t like it when our lives are interrupted. We want life to be perfect! Perfect functioning from our computer. Perfect programming on cable TV. Perfect weather. Perfect service at our favorite place to eat. Perfect health. Without perfection, we’re simply not satisfied.

We even have a conscience that won’t let us be satisfied with anything less than a perfect performance on our own part, either. Missed deadlines. Failed relationships. Half-hearted efforts. We know we’re not right… with others, with ourselves, with God who happens to expect perfection in every action, word, and thought – think about that!

There is one measurement standard that does make us satisfied with life. The Bible urges us “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ – that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). The love of Jesus Christ is wider, longer, higher, and deeper than any sinful pile of imperfections we can assemble. Jesus Christ satisfied all demands of perfection by obligating himself to them and fulfilling them perfectly in every way. Then, he satisfied God’s anger at our imperfections by suffering and dying. All this he did on our behalf, to make God perfectly satisfied.

Because of Christ you are filled to the measure of all the fullness of God! Because of the boundless love of Jesus Christ, God is satisfied. He now takes delight in your thoughts, words, and actions meant not to satisfy him, but to serve him with pleasure. You can take delight just the same!

Faithful Friendships

Have you ever longed for a solid friendship?  Have you ever wondered if there’s a friend out there that you can count on?  It’s no secret that a true friendship is a rare thing.

That’s not to say there aren’t people who will pay attention to us!  The world is full of people who will be our friend as long as they feel we have something to offer.  But what about that friend who sticks by us, even when we’re at the end of our rope?  What about the one who cares about us even when we have nothing to give?  Is it possible that God could provide such a friendship?

Certainly God has a good track record of providing friendships to those in need.  When David was under attack by King Saul, he found a faithful friend in the person of Jonathan, Saul’s son.  The Bible tells us that Jonathan “loved David as he loved himself” (1 Samuel 20:17) and even defended David against his father’s attacks.

We’re also told that the apostle Paul had several friends that attended him while he was in prison.  They were of great help to him at a time when he really needed a friend.

But even during those times when true friendship seems far away, there is one friend who will stick by us no matter what!  That person is God’s one and only Son – Jesus.

There’s a verse in the Bible that says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).  What a beautiful description of Jesus’ friendship for us.

Just think!  Even when we sinned, Jesus didn’t abandon us.  Instead, he stood in our place, taking our sin and guilt for us and then giving his life for ours to set us free from eternal death!  Jesus also earned a place for us in God’s family. By faith in him, we have the privilege of being heirs of his promised heaven.  And he did it all because he loved us even more than he loved his own life.

Looking for a faithful friendship?  Simply look to Jesus!  His friendship will never end!

Low self-esteem

Do you have low self-esteem? You’re not alone. Millions of people are afraid they’re not good enough, not smart enough, or not attractive enough.

What should you do about low self-esteem?

You’re told to keep reminding yourself that you’re special. You’re supposed to say repeatedly: “I am good enough. I am smart enough. I can do it!”

You can try to earn self-worth by losing weight, buying new clothes, or getting a new job.

You can look to other people to validate your worth. Perhaps your spouse, family or friends will fill in the gaps you feel.

Foundations for self-esteem based on externals cannot truly satisfy. They’re temporary–people move away or change loyalties. They’re insufficient–money cannot guarantee health. They’re illusory–what you want may not be what you need.

Real self-worth lies in God’s unchanging love for you. He exchanged his Son’s life for yours, forgiving all of your sins. The Bible says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

With God’s forgiveness comes unconditional acceptance. He loves you, in spite of your inadequacies.

Through God’s Son you have membership in his family. That means he cares for you daily. He hears your prayers. Your life begins to make sense, and you can look forward to a happy home in heaven.

Self-esteem is a reality through Jesus Christ.

Can God help me build up my self-esteem?

“I’m worthless!”

That’s a depressing statement. Yet many people silently admit to themselves that they are worthless.  The single mom who doesn’t feel loved; the child or adult who can never seem to do anything right for his parents; the employee who messed up on the job again; they and many others feel that they are not worth very much.  Maybe you’ve felt this way.  Is there an area of your life in which you want to feel better about yourself?

Many say you can establish a positive self-image by focusing on your skills, accomplishments, status, financial resources, or appearance.  There’s “help” out there in the form of self-hypnosis, support groups, affirmation and visualization techniques, plastic surgery, self-help books, CDs, DVDs, and other attempts to build self-esteem.  All these efforts only provide a temporary, superficial lift.  Ultimately they prove to be feeble efforts to feel worthwhile.

We all want to feel a sense of worth, love, and security in our lives, but we can’t provide them for ourselves.  But God can.  He freely gives them to us through his Son, Jesus.  His Word tells us not to focus on ourselves but on him, to look not at what we’ve done but at what he’s done for us through Jesus Christ.  Our sense of worth and value – our self-esteem – is found in the Savior who lived and died in our place.

A man named Paul realized this when he said, “Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).  In Jesus we find a status before God that we could never produce, a love from God that is unfailing, and the security for life in knowing that our Savior who loves us will be with us each and every day.

God’s way of helping us build up our self-esteem is showing us Jesus.  Please join us to find out more about your Savior who lived and died for you.

What More Could We Want?

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.”Psalm 23:1

John D. Rockefeller was one of the richest men in the world. An interviewer once asked him, “How much money is enough?” Rockefeller replied, “Just a little bit more.”

How many times have we told ourselves that if we had “just a little bit more” we would be happy? A higher paying job. A larger home. An earlier retirement. Better health. Successful children.

But what happens when those wants are met? Are people truly happy? And what happens when those wants aren’t met? When you find yourself unemployed. When in rough times your savings are depleted. When plans for better housing or earlier retirement have to be put on hold. When your health takes a turn for the worse or your children struggle in school. Where do you turn? Turn to Jesus and remember, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.”

We might not have everything we want in life, but Jesus, our Good Shepherd, has truly given us everything we need. He’s given us his word. He’s given us his promises. He assures us that our sins are forgiven and eternal life in heaven is ours through his death and resurrection.

He promises to provide for all of our physical and spiritual needs richly and abundantly here on earth until he takes us to the glorious home that he has prepared for us in heaven. There through our Savior, you and I will experience the fulfillment of his promise, “You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11).

Not long after his death, someone came up to the accountant of John D. Rockefeller and said, “We know Rockefeller was a very wealthy man. How much did he leave?” Without a moment’s hesitation, the accountant answered, “Everything!” A man who seemed to have it all was forced to leave it all behind in the end. The only things that will go with us from this life to the next are the spiritual treasures that belong to us through faith in Jesus.

What do we want out of life? What we need the most has already been fully and freely supplied by Jesus, our Good Shepherd. So, what more could we want? What more could we need?

Feeling Down?

Do you ever feel that things you do really don’t make a difference?

Is it sometimes difficult to see the results of your hard work?

There are many times when we may ask ourselves, “What’s the point? Why do I keep trying?”

When events in our lives lead us to become depressed or discouraged, two reactions come rather easily to us.  The first is blaming God for the problems.  The second is thinking that somehow God is punishing us for something we have done.  However, neither of these reactions is correct.

The problem lies not with God; it lies with sin.  All of life’s problems come as a result of living in a world filled with sin.  These problems include layoffs at work, health problems, family issues, and others.  We’d have to get rid of sin to remove the troubles and problems that discourage us. But that’s something we could spend the rest of our lives trying to accomplish and never complete the task. Thankfully, God accomplished what we are unable to do.

We deserve to be sentenced under the judgment of God for everything we do or say or think that violates God’s will for us to live perfect lives.  But the Bible gives us the good news from God that “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).  In tremendous love for us, God took away all of our sins and laid them on Jesus.  He charged his Son with our guilt.  Jesus, our Savior, suffered the punishment that we deserved.  He died to free us from eternal death.

Even though we experience discouragements in our life, nothing can take away the peace we have in Jesus, who took away our sins.  Through faith in our Savior, we are children of God.  Every day God is at our side helping us through difficult times.  Confidently trusting in him, our discouragements melt into calm assurance that our loving God is always leading us.

Contentment – How do I live in a material world?

Bang!  The window shattered.  My wife was driving our minivan when, for no apparent reason, a back window exploded.  It had no visible flaws, but the harsh desert sun had obviously taken its toll and fatigued the glass.  In an instant, the window, which had seemed to be durable and lasting, revealed its true state – its perishing nature.

This window is typical of the material things in this world.  Everything this world “owns” is temporary.  Even when we don’t realize it, our possessions are growing old and wearing out (like my van’s window).  When we understand the true nature of our earthly goods we look at them in a different way.  Jesus once said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).  Your car, your house, your body, and everything else will age and fall apart.  Treasure in heaven is treasure that lasts forever.  That is what we really should be concerned about.

Owning the biggest house or the fastest boat won’t get you into heaven.  That’s because heaven is not about material wealth.  It’s about goodness.  Jesus once asked, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”  (Mark 8:36-37)  Our soul is our most important possession.  Because of our sins of greed, envy and theft, we are not worthy to experience the blessings of heaven.  And no matter how hard we work to try to earn heaven, God says that we fall short.  By our own efforts, we can never be good enough to get into heaven.  But Jesus is!

The Apostle Paul wrote, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).  Jesus wants you to be rich in heaven.  He came down to earth so that we could live with him forever.  He lived and died for you to make you righteous in God’s eyes.  Jesus has credited his perfection to your account.  Because of Jesus, God loves you and takes care of all of your needs.

How do we in live with contentment in a material world?  First, we understand the true value of our earthly possessions: they do not last and they cannot buy us heaven.  Second, we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and the home that he has prepared for us in heaven.  Then we will live every day assured of God’s love and caring.  That is true contentment.  Paul confirms this when he says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

Something’s Missing

“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” – Luke 12:21

Something was missing.  That’s what Bill thought.  It wasn’t like there was anything wrong; there was just something missing.

Bill was able to take an early retirement.  He had worked hard.  He advanced rapidly.  In addition to all of this, Bill was a good investor.  Even when people said it was foolish to take stock options, he did it just the same.  Consequently, when he received the offer to retire early, he was able to take advantage of it.

He was 55 years old, retired and financially secure.  He had good health.  He was able to enjoy himself and travel.  He even started a consulting business that kept him as busy as he wanted to be.  However, late at night he always felt something was missing.

Bill’s problem is one many people have.  They look at their lives and conclude something is missing.

As I look at my life, most of the time it seems to be in order.  I am not a multi-millionaire, but things could be worse.  The bills are paid.  My family is not lacking anything important.  There is even a little left over for savings.  Still, the nagging thought remains – something is missing.

The problem I need to address is the very issue to which Jesus directs my attention.  It is easy to focus on preparations for this life.  It is just as easy to see wealth and a steady flow of income as my highest priority.  This may lead me to scrimp and save, and even sacrifice.  But, after the bills are paid and the investments pay dividends, what’s next?

Jesus teaches me the wealth of this world is secondary.  He also wants me to understand it will never prepare me for the life to come, nor can it ever prepare me to stand before the Judge of all.  This is why I need to have a clear understanding of what it means to be rich toward God.

Being rich toward God is not measured in financial terms.  It requires spiritual ones.  Being rich toward God means I can live my life with the true direction his Word provides.  Being rich toward God means my debt of sin has been paid by my Savior’s sacrifice.  Being rich toward God means I am able to stand before God as he desires – without fault or blame.  Often, it is this wealth that is missing in my life, and until I return to the one who gives it, there will always be that nagging feeling – something’s missing.

Jesus reveals what’s missing in my life.  Then he offers to fill it with his rich blessing.  As I store up his lasting wealth in my life, I can be confident nothing important will ever be missing.