Are you worried about a rise in crime in your area? Have you been a victim?

Crime is a serious matter in the eyes of God. He wants us all to be under the rule of law, so that “we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:2). God invites us to respect and to pray for our government and for our judicial system (1 Timothy 2:1). He expects us to obey the law ourselves (Romans 13). He expects the government to punish those who don’t obey the law (Romans 13:3-5).

Jesus understands what it is like to be a victim of crime. He was wounded and beaten and mocked and spit on. He was accused of things he didn’t do. He has sympathy for those who are suffering in a similar way today (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)

But Jesus’ reaction to criminals is a little surprising. When he was being punished for crimes he did not commit, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Two criminals were hanging on crosses next to Jesus when he was crucified. When he saw that one of them trusted him, he said to that criminal, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

How could Jesus say such things about bad people and to bad people?

Jesus could say those things because as he hung on the cross, he was willingly taking the punishment for the sins of all of the criminals who ever lived. In fact, he took the punishment for people who aren’t even criminals. On the cross Jesus suffered the eternal punishment that all people deserve (Matthew 27:46) so that he could tell everyone in the world that their sin is forgiven (2 Corinthians 5:19,20).

Because of what Jesus did, God can say to sinners, “I forgive you.” God forgives them, even criminals.

Facing Death

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. – Isaiah 12:2

There is a saying in our English language which is falling out of use: whistling past the graveyard. There are two theories about its meaning. The first is that it is used to describe people who don’t know that they are in a terrible situation. The second is that it is used to describe people who know they are in a terrible situation yet remain confident even in the face of overwhelming odds.

If we take the second meaning, that saying can describe Christians. The Bible tells us why. It says, “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD is my strength and my song, he has become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2). We human beings face a terrible situation and overwhelming odds. Sin infests our hearts like a disease, showing itself in hateful thoughts, hurtful words and hostile actions toward others. The result is that we are headed for the graveyard, facing the death of our bodies and souls forever as our just punishment. And there is nothing we can do about it. There is nothing we can do to make up for our sins or set our wrongs right.

We need saving, and that saving comes not from us, but from God. He has become our salvation. He sent his Son, Jesus, to endure the punishment for all our sins by giving his life on the cross. But that’s not all. Jesus not only fought our fight against sin and won, he also rose again, conquering death. So in Jesus, we have victory over sin and the grave. His work on our behalf gives us unshakable confidence in the face of overwhelming odds.

We can sing past the graveyard because in Jesus and his sin-conquering strength we have forgiveness. We can sing past the graveyard because the grave is not our end. Instead, Jesus makes heaven our eternal home. So no matter the terrible situation, no matter the overwhelming odds, Jesus and his salvation gives us strength for singing.

How Do I Find More Happiness in My Life?

We need to begin by asking, “What do we mean by happiness?”  For a child, happiness might mean getting Christmas presents every morning and cake and ice cream for every meal.  After a few days, though, it would stop being fun.  Many adults think that money will make them happy.  But we have seen many rich people who are unhappy and even depressed.  Others might think that drugs and alcohol make them happy.  But the “high” soon wears off.  Finding happiness in the things and people of this world is an exercise in frustration.

The Bible uses the word “blessed” to describe happiness.  The blessings of God give us true happiness.  The most important of God’s blessings is Jesus, whom he sent into this world. Jesus took the blame for everything we ever did wrong.  That’s why he died on the cross – not because he did anything wrong, but because we did.  Jesus has paid for our sins, and that means we are saved from God’s judgment of eternal death by believing in him.  That makes us happy.  Jesus blesses us with salvation.

No matter how long we live, we are all destined to die.  But when Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning, he broke the hold of death.  Even though we will one day die, by trusting in Jesus we have the sure hope that we will also come back to life and live forever in heaven.  That makes us happy.  Jesus blesses us with eternal life.

God even uses the tough times in life for our good – to teach us more about his love and strengthen our trust in him.  No matter how tough life is for us, no matter how much pain we endure, no matter how poor we are, no one and nothing can take away what Jesus did for us.  Our sins are forgiven by God, and through faith in Jesus eternal life in heaven is waiting for us.  That makes us happy. Sometimes we smile through tears, but we can still smile.

Can God help us find happiness?  He has already given it to us through Jesus.

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.

How Do I Deal With My Alcohol Problem?

First, congratulations on your willingness to believe you have a problem.  That means you’ve gotten past the stage where you insist, “There’s no problem, I can quit any time I want.”  The Bible says, “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12).  If you’re down on the ground looking at the mess in your life and thinking, “My drinking is behind all this,” you’re already on your way to real change.

You’ve probably tried some things already to get your drinking under control, like limiting your drinking to beer, or to drinking only after five or only on weekends.  Didn’t work, did it?  Or maybe you tried promises and resolutions – “That’s the last time I drink too much, I swear, I really mean it.”  That didn’t turn out too well either, did it?  It’s time to try doing something different.

The Bible says, “The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:15-16).  That means finding people you can be honest with, people who will understand your drinking problem, and talking and praying with them about your problem.  Forgiveness and strength are found in our relationship with Jesus Christ.  When James mentions “a righteous man,” he is speaking of believers who are clothed in Christ’s perfection.  The road to change will begin with Christ’s assurance of forgiveness.

Your best choice for people to talk with is going to be people who share your problem, people who have had a drinking problem but have found ways to stay sober.  They’ll know how to encourage you, and they’ll know when you’re not being as honest as you need to be.  They’re out there.  You can probably think of a few already.  Find them, start meeting with them regularly, and listen humbly to their recommendations.  A good place to start looking for them is at your local church–start by asking the pastor whom he might suggest.

And remember what the Bible said in James – “the Lord will raise him up.” It’s true. God has healing power he will put to work in your life.  Just don’t assume that that means you’ll end up without any cravings for alcohol or that you’ll be able to drink normally.  “Healing” may mean the simple ability to say “no” to your cravings, or having your obsession with drinking fade away.  And it’s definitely going to mean a renewed relationship with God, as you turn your problem over to him and humbly accept the help and direction he gives you through your new allies.  God bless this new direction in your life!

Why can’t people forget after I apologize?

The friend I hurt with my sinful actions seems to have forgiven me. But he can’t forget. What’s wrong?

Nothing’s wrong. I need to remember that human beings are not machines. When we hurt each other, it cuts deeply, and deep cuts leave scars. I can’t expect my friend who has forgiven my wrong to delete all memory of that wrong from his mind automatically. People just don’t work that way.

But there are some things I can expect. I can expect that, if he has truly forgiven me, my friend will not keep bringing up my offense. That would not be in keeping with God’s advice in the Bible: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). I can expect that my friend forgives me, even if he cannot forget right away.

I also can expectand here’s the best partthat God has completely forgiven my sin. There is no offense of mine that Jesus left unpaid. He took my guilt upon himself and removed it forever.

Even though the sin is gone, the consequences may remain. It’s going to take a while for my friend to rebuild his trust in me after the way I hurt him. I need to give him time. But I also need to try my best to help him trust me again. That means showing the love God has for me by helping my friend, building him up, and forgiving him as I have been forgiven.

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.