Jesus is the Greater Aaron – John Newton on Leviticus 8:7-9

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This week I’m teaching through the book of Leviticus in a early morning “boot camp” format. As I came to Leviticus 8 and began considering how Jesus fulfills the role as our High Priest, my heart was warmed by this poem by John Newton in a collection called the Olney Hymns.

I encourage you to read it out loud and then give God praise for how Jesus is the greater Aaron.

The True Aaron

See Aaron, God’s anointed priest,
Within the veil appear,
In robes of mystic meaning dressed,
Presenting Israel’s prayer.
 
The plate of gold which crowns his brows,
His holiness describes;
His breast displays, in shining rows,
The names of all the tribes.
 
With the atoning blood he stands,
Before the mercy-seat;
And clouds of incense from his hands,
Arise with odour sweet.
 
Urim and Thummim near his heart,
In rich engravings worn,
The sacred light of truth impart,
To teach and to adorn.
 
Through him the eye of faith descries
A greater Priest than he;
Thus JESUS pleads above the skies,
For you, my friends, and me.
 
He bears the names of all his saints,
Deep on his heart engraved;
Attentive to the state and wants
Of all his love has saved.
 
In him a holiness complete,
Light and perfections shine;
And wisdom, grace, and glory meet;
A Saviour all divine.
 
The blood, which as a priest he bears
For sinners, is his own;
The incense of his prayers and tears
Perfume the holy throne.
 
In him my weary soul has rest,
Though I am weak and vile;
I read my name upon his breast,
And see the Father smile.

Newton

 

 

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14–16

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Till Death Do We Part – Keeping the Vow Till the End

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A member of our church named Julie recently shared the story of her Grandparent’s love with me and my wife so I thought I’d pass it on to you.Groom waiting on Bride

“My Grandparents truly had a lifetime love affair. Their marriage was imperfect of-course, but was marked by a consistent, devoted, and tender love for one another.

Their love remained steady in times of plenty and in times of need. In all the days and nights I spent at their house, I never heard an argument between them. And while I’m certain difficult days came and went, I never witnessed one disrespect the other.

Shortly before my Grandparent’s 54th wedding anniversary, my Grandma became gravely ill. Watching his beloved bride suffer made those days very difficult, but Grandpa stayed by her side until she safely reached her heavenly home.

As he grieved and planned for her funeral, he wanted to honor his wife one last time and fulfill his vow “until death do we part.” So on the day of her funeral, he stood at the altar one last time. As the doors opened and the pallbearers brought his bride down the aisle, he waited for her in the same spot he stood 54 years earlier when she walked down to become his bride.

That day he fulfilled his vow and committed her into the hand of the One who had given her to him. He was faithful, all the way to the end.”

 

“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church…” Ephesians 5:25

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Daddy, Are They Going To Kill The Christians?

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Haddon

“Daddy, are they going to kill the Christians?”

My four-year-old son’s question broke the silence during our trip to school.

Earlier that morning he heard me praying for the 90 Assyrian Christians ISIS soldiers kidnapped from their homes during morning raids on their villages. He could tell I was distraught and began to ask questions.

“What happened to the Christians, daddy?”

I told him there are bad people in another part of the world who hate Christians and are trying to hurt them.

“Why do they want to hurt them?” he asked.

I explained that some people don’t like Christians because they follow Jesus. Jesus is the King of the world and people don’t like having a King ruling over them, so they sin by turning away from Jesus. Jesus tells us that if we are going to follow Him, some people won’t like us either (John 15:20).

He asked a few more questions and then we went back to our morning routine. But, during the ride to school, he broke the silence with the question that couldn’t escape his little heart,

“Daddy, are they going to kill the Christians?”

I told him they might. Many other Christians have already died because they follow Jesus. This happens all over the world to Jesus’ people.

“Daddy, what is Jesus going to do about it?”

These are the moments Christian parents know are important. When a child’s heart is stirred and their mind searches for answers. It’s also times like these that parents are pressed to find simple words to explain complex realities.

I told him that Jesus is going to save some of the people who hurt the Christians and He is going to stop some of the others.

“Why would Jesus want to save them?”

His perception caught me off guard. I knew the right answer, but I felt the same tension my son felt in his heart.

Why would God do such a thing as save ISIS soldiers?

Why would God save people that slay His bride?

Why would God redeem sinners who rape His children?

Why would God give mercy to villains when they withhold mercy from His people?

I told him it is because God is not like us. God is a God who loves His enemies and does good to all people, even evil people (Matthew 5:43-48). God doesn’t delight in evil people perishing, but loves to see them be saved (Ezekiel 18:31-32, 33:11; 1 Timothy 2:3-4). I told him that Jesus loved people in that way, including him and me. That is why Jesus died and rose—to rescue us from our sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

In that moment I was sobered by my son’s child-like wonder. Trying to find clear and simple words to help his four-year-old mind process such mysterious love pressed me in a sweet and uncomfortable way.

What wonder it is to consider that Jesus left a world filled with voices crying “Holy! Holy! Holy!” to enter into our world filled with voices that cry out “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” for one reason—to glorify His name by saving sinners (Isaiah 6:4; Matthew 27:22-23; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 4:9-10).

On the cross God shows us that He is a God who loves His enemies and is willing to shed His blood for those who shed His (Romans 5:8). There He put on display His compassion for compassionless killers (Psalm 103:8). What kind of love is that? It is amazing love. Worthy of our trust. Worthy of our lives.

As my son hopped out of the car and scurried off to class, I was moved by praise and to prayer.

 

Praise and a Prayer

While I’m grieved that my son has to ask those kinds of questions, I praise God that He does. We live in a world of brokenness and pain, and to watch him enter in is difficult to observe. But while that is true, I am also grateful that my son has an opportunity to consider the cost of following Christ.

In God’s perfect plan, he is learning what it means to be a Christian in a sobering time in history. Christians have been laying down their lives for thousands of years, but the modern day assault by Islamic radicals feels unique—and shows no signs of slowing down.

I praise God that my son and his siblings face the call of Christ in a context that will help him to see the cost more clearly. I pray that He will see the immeasurable value of having a Savior who does not flee from us when we are in trouble or are in danger. In fact, if the incarnation teaches us anything, it teaches us that God moves toward our danger and toward our trouble.

I praise God that this is the Savior I can call my son to follow—no matter what it might cost him.

 

Father, we pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering around the world. Give them strength to trust you as so many of them are being asked to surrender their lives for Your Name’s sake. Give them strength to endure to the end so they might be saved.

We also pray that we would be sobered and count the cost of what it means to follow Christ. We pray that our children and our churches would learn from our persecuted brothers and sisters who are teaching us what it means to take up the cross of Jesus.

 Might you give us courage and wisdom to follow their example of faith, trusting that You are the Rewarder of those who seek You (Hebrews 11:6). And Father, I ask for my son, that you might save his soul and make him a man, who like those captured Christians, the world is not worthy of (Hebrews 11:39-40). Spare us from suffering, but if not, give us grace to endure it in a way that brings you honor.

 

Come Lord Jesus, come.

 

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A Pattern Among Fallen Pastors – Lessons for Us All

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normandy beach

 

During my time in seminary I took a leadership course taught by the late-great Dr. Howard Hendricks. As we studied the life of David, Prof shared a study he conducted with a group of men in full-time ministry who had fallen into a morally disqualifying sin.

At the time, I had only been a Christian for a few years, but unfortunately the subject was all too relevant. During my early days I had witnessed several men whom I loved and respected fall into serious sinful compromises. At one point in those days, the falls came so frequently I felt as if I was on the spiritual beach of Normandy watching buddies lives get blown apart all around me.

Prof’s study was of 246 men in full-time ministry who experienced moral failure within a two-year period of time. As far as he could discern, these full-time clergy were men who were born again followers of Jesus. Though they shared a common salvation, these men also shared a common feat of devastation; they had all, within 24 months of each other, been involved in an extra marital affair.

After interviewing each man, Dr. Hendricks compiled 4 common characteristics of their lives.

1. None of the men were involved in any kind of real personal accountability. 

2. Each of the men had all but ceased having a daily time of personal prayer, Bible reading, and worship. 

3. Over 80% of the men became sexually involved with the other woman after spending significant time with her, often in counseling situations.

4. Without exception, each of the 246 had been convinced that sort of fall “would never happen to me.”

As I reflect on this study, a few lessons come to mind. These are applicable for pastors, plumbers, stay at home moms, and anyone else who seeks to follow Christ.

  1.  Sin thrives in isolation.

Satan lives in the darkness and longs to keep us there as well. He does this because lies live best in the darkness. God knows this, which is why when He calls us to Himself, He calls us into the church.

God has created the church to be many things, one of which is to be a community of people who help each other fight sin and love Him. He calls us into relationships where we speak truth to one another (Ephesians 4:15, 25), confess sins to one another (James 5:16), and love each other enough to chase after each other if we stray (Matthew 18:10-20; Galatians 6:1-2; James 5:19-20).

The question I want you to ponder is this: Who knows you? I mean who really knows you? Who not only has permission, but is currently acting upon the permission to ask you penetrating questions? Are you answering those questions honestly or are you hiding details and painting up your sin to guard your image?

Do not hide from God’s gracious aid of loving relationships.

  1. If you flirt with sin, you will fall into sin.

Sin’s slope is a slippery one. The longer you walk along the edge of the abyss, the more certain that your foot will slip. The men in the study put themselves in dangerous situations again and again. They ignored the words of Solomon who warned his sons to “keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house” (Proverbs 5:8).

These men did not guard their hearts, or the hearts of the people they were supposed to be protecting. Instead, they became blinded by the deceitfulness of sin (Ephesians 4:22; Hebrews 3:13) and were led into the ditch of destruction (Matthew 15:14).

What ways are you flirting with sin? What provisions are you making for the flesh in regards to its lust (Romans 13:14)? What guards have you stepped over? What details are you hiding? What emails are you deleting? What search histories are you erasing?

Sin is crouching at your door (Genesis 4:7) and the tempter is looking for an opportunity to pounce (1 Peter 5:8). How are you making his aim easier?

Flee from sin, don’t flirt with it (Genesis 39:6-12; Proverbs 5-7, Romans 6:12-13; 2 Timothy 2:22; 1 Peter 2:11).

  1. Pride blinds us to our weakness.

Many of us think this sort of serious sin would not happen to us, just as those fallen pastors thought. But 1 Corinthians 10:12 warns us “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Let us not forget that Samson—the strongest man in the Bible, Solomon—the wisest man in the Bible, and David—the man after God’s own heart, were all overcome by the temptations of sexual sin (Judges 14-16; 1 Kings 11:1-8; 2 Samuel 11-12; Psalm 51). No one is above the temptation to sin in grievous ways. If you doubt this, you are on your way to a great fall.

Brothers, beware. Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

  1. Purity is cultivated by loving Jesus.

Somewhere along the line, each of the men in the study began to drift. Prayers became less passionate. The promises of God in His Word grew dusty. Love for Jesus became something spoken of in the past tense.

The seduction of sin and enticement to sacrifice all to satisfy inner longings became too strong to resist.

But Christ is stronger. Hear these words of promise afresh:

Hebrews 4:14–16 “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Brothers and sisters, there is no sweeter assurance of help than Christ Jesus the Lord. He stands ready at God’s right hand to supply the grace and mercy we are in such need of.

Do not allow your hearts to grow cold toward the Lord who loves you so. Draw near to Him daily, moment by moment, in hopeful expectation that He is better than any fleeting pleasure that might entice your heart. Do not seek Him only in days of desperation, but seek Him daily. Walk with Him. Rekindle passion. Plead with Him to help you. He is able to do it, and He delights to do it.

Jude 24-25 “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

 

Come Lord Jesus, come.

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Jesus’ Message to ISIS Signed in Blood

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In recent days, ISIS militants led twenty-one Coptic Christians onto a secluded beach in Libya. With faces covered, they forced the Christians to their knees, in preparation for their execution. Standing with his knife drawn, one militant mockingly said to a praying prisoner, “Safety…is something you can only wish for.

21 coptic

They proceeded to cut off all their heads with knives.

Oh, if only that masked man knew how safe that beheaded brother is now. If he did, he would have joyfully thrown down his knife, taken off his mask, and surrendered his life along side those heroes of the faith.

God’s word assures us that those twenty-one Coptic Christians have nothing to fear any longer. Militants may have killed their bodies, but their soul will never die (Matthew 10:28). Their faith has been made sight and they join the many other believers who have laid down their lives in similar ways.

Revelation 6:9–11 “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.”

Those brave brothers have been given a robe and told to rest a little while longer. There is more time until their blood will be avenged. More Christians will be called to shed their blood for the testimony of Jesus. More believers will join those martyred saints.

But there is a day coming when the blood that is shed will no longer be Christian blood. It will be the blood of all those who will not repent of their sins. That includes ISIS militants. ISIS soldiers may raise their swords and shed the blood of Christians today, but a day is fast approaching when Jesus will unsheath His own sword to avenge the blood of His people.

Revelation 19:11–16 “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”

One day soon, Jesus will return, not as a lamb, but as a lion (Genesis 49:8; Matthew 24:30). His robe will be stained with the blood of His enemies (Isaiah 63:2-3), including the men who slit the throats of those twenty-one Christians. The day of God’s vengeance is coming soon.

The only hope those murderers have of escaping the Day of Justice is to repent of their evil and look to Jesus who willingly laid down His life in a way much like those twenty-one men on that beach.

But what Jesus did on the cross was far greater. Jesus was the sinless Son of God who came for the purpose of saving sinners like them, like us. The Apostle Paul, once a persecutor of Christians said it this way “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

When Jesus stopped Saul in his tracks on the road to Damascus, He said “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting Me? (Acts 9:4). He would say the same thing to ISIS militants today.

The video that recorded their murder of our brothers was titled “A Message Signed in Blood to the Nation of the Cross.” Well, Jesus has a message to ISIS signed with His own blood. It is this, “repent of your disbelief in Me and repent of your murdering My people and you will live, but if you continue to deny Me, you will pay with your own blood.”

Today is a day of grace, but the sands of time are sinking from the hour glass of God’s mercy. The Day of Judgment is coming. For those of us who are in Christ, we long to see mercy extended, but we also long to see justice served. We are tired of burying our brothers and sisters in Christ.

So what ought we do as we wait Jesus’ return? We must pray.

  1. We must pray for our enemies. Jesus commands us to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Pray for their conversions. Pray for them to be haunted by the prayers of those Coptic Christians. Pray for them to be converted by the Gospel they have heard proclaimed by so many they have killed. Pray for them to be born again. Jesus can save all sorts of sinners. If he can save us, He can save them.
  1. We must pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters. Hebrews 13:3 commands us to “remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” When one part of the body of Christ suffers, the whole suffers (1 Corinthians 12:26). Pray for the persecuted church around the world to be brave in the face of such terrifying hostility. Pray for them to have courage to speak the Gospel and to not deny the Lord, no matter what the cost. Pray for them to know the peace that only God can give during such times of testing.
  1. We must pray for ourselves and our churches. Pray that we will be sobered by the call of following Christ. Pray that we will put away our silly squabbles and whining over petty discomforts. Pray that we would have courage if one day we were forced to kneel on a beach for the name of Jesus. Pray that the Lord would raise up from among us people who will take the Gospel to lands where it is not safe to proclaim Christ. Pray that we would be willing to shed our blood to get the Gospel to those who want to shed ours.

Brothers and sisters, there is much to consider at a time like this. May God give us sobriety about what it means to be a Christian and certainty that the joy set before us is worth despising the shame—no matter what the cost.

“Come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20

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Helping Your Spouse To Heaven

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Helping Each Other To Heaven

 

“Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:13

God designed the church to be a community of people who actively and intentionally help each other to heaven. And I’d like to suggest that in marriage, God does a very similar work.

When God brings a Christian man and woman together as husband and wife, He provides them with one of the most potentially potent discipling partners on the planet. Your spouse knows you like no one else does and together you can serve each other’s deepest spiritual needs—including helping each other persevere in love for Jesus, until death do you part.

In fact, I’d like to propose that one of the the primary purposes of a Christian marriage is to glorify God by helping each other to heaven.

What follows are four observations from Hebrews 3:13 that apply to the way husbands and wives should strive to help each other persevere in faith until the end.

 

#1 – Encourage each other.

The word “exhort” shows up 109 times in the New Testament. Depending on how it’s used, the word can be translated “to speak words of encouragement,” “to invite,” “to beg,” “to urge,” “to persuade,” “to plead,” and “to implore.”

The heart behind this word is one of passion in which one person is doing all they can to help another person do something important. In the context of marriage, it is a call for the couple to inspire each other toward Christ. Husbands are to speak words of encouragement to lift their wife’s heart to find strength in God. Wives invite their husbands to come to the banquet table of grace by reminding them of promise in God’s Word. Together, couples are to urge each other on toward heaven.

While this type of encouragement is wonderful, I suspect we can also recognize the potential difficulty in it. My flesh resists people exhorting me and imploring me. I’m prone toward being defensive and irritated, especially toward those who are closest to me. And if I’m honest, I’m often fearful to challenge and encourage my wife because I don’t want to come across as nagging or judgmental.

But God knows that we need this kind of help from each other and that is why He calls us to fight through all our sinful excuses to engage in it.

In what ways do you think your spouse needs encouragement to more fully rely upon God?

What ways could you spouse help you? Have you shared this with them?

What kinds of fears do you feel when you think about giving and receiving exhortations with your spouse?

How are you openly warring against cowardliness and defensiveness in your marriage?

 

#2 – Encourage each other daily.

In Hebrews 3:13 the command to “exhort” shows up as a present, active, imperative verb. That means it’s something we’re commanded to be doing in a consistent way. We could literally translate the command “you are to keep on encouraging each other every day.” Date nights are great for your marriage, but daily encouragements are better.

God calls husbands to consistently invite their wives to not lose heart after an exhausting day. The Lord commands wives to relentlessly plead with their husbands to fight their insecurities by clinging to God’s Word. Husbands and wives are exhorted by God to daily exhort each other to strive through dark seasons of doubt and despair.

What a wonderful portrait of how Christians are called to enduringly love each other!

Again, this is where our sinful nature will rear its ugly head and call this kind of persistent love an annoying intrusion. Do not believe this lie. God initiates love with us each day (1 John 4:19; Lamentations 3:23) and never takes a day off from showing us His faithful commitment to us (Psalm 136:1; Jeremiah 31:3).

Jesus has shown us a relentless love, and He has called Christian husbands and wives to show that same kind of love to one another (John 13:34, 15:12; Ephesians 5:22, 25, 28, 33).

While there is no formula that works for every couple, here’s a few ideas of how to encourage each other daily toward heaven.

  1. Go to bed at the same time and close your evening by praying together.
  2. Get on the same Bible reading schedule and share one thing each day that you saw from the reading. This won’t work for everyone, but try it for a week or a month and see how it goes.
  3. Memorize verses or portions of the Bible together. By doing this you will both be meditating on the same scripture and can share insights from that text to situations you are facing.
  4. Share with your spouse the promises from God’s Word that most edify your soul. Set up a plan of how they can approach you and use them when you are in need of this kind of encouragement.

 

#3 – Encourage each other daily to protect your hearts from sin.

The context of Hebrews 3-4 is essential to understanding the urgency of encouragement. Here, the author is exhorting the church to not harden their hearts against God like the Exodus generation who faltered in faith and fell under His judgment (Psalm 95:6-11). To ensure this doesn’t happen to us, God commands His people to provide daily exhortations to each other reminding them of hope that lies before them.

In the context of marriage, Christian husbands and wives are commanded by God to exhort each other to not fall prey to sin’s deceitful offerings. Satan is daily seeking to lure us away from God, so we must daily be exhorting each other to remain faithful to God. This kind of regular encouragement is one of God’s prescribed antidotes to the satanic poison that leads to apostasy.

Do you know how your spouse is currently being tempted to harden their heart against God (Hebrews 3:12, 3:15)?

What plan do you and your spouse have in place to help each other war against the sin that so dangerously hinders our progress toward our heavenly home (Hebrews 4:11)?

How are your regularly calling each other toward the throne of grace to gain help in your times of need (Hebrews 4:14-16)?

Talking to our spouse about how we are being tempted can be tricky for many couples. For some, there is a fear of being exposed, while others wisely know their spouses’ God-given limitations when it comes to hearing about certain sins. I would however strongly encourage couples to find a way to talk about their battles with sin in a way that works for them.

For a help in considering how to discuss temptations with your spouse, consider the principles in the article “Should I Tell My Spouse About My Struggles with Sexual Purity?”

 

#4 – Encourage each other daily to protect your hearts from sin, until death do you part.

Our text challenges us to “Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today.” There is a day when “today” will turn into “the day” we will see the Lord’s face (Hebrews 10:25). But between now and then, husband and wives are to help each other strive forward in faith.

As Christians, our marriages are commitments that last until death separates us. Because of this, we must take the long view and encourage each other despite all our differences and difficulties. Marriage is not easy because it is a union of two sinners, but the grace of God is sufficient to help us make it home.

The day is coming soon when we will see the Lord Jesus, our hope will be realized and we will forever thank Him for the way He used others, including our spouses, to help us persevere and see Him face to face.

Oh what a day that will be—come Lord Jesus, come!

 

A Few Final Action Steps:

  1. Encourage your spouse to read this article and set up a time to discuss its implications in your marriage.
  2. Humbly share the hopes and fears you have about encouraging and challenging each other in your walks with God. Don’t give into the temptation to hide from your spouse—that is exactly what sin wants you to do.
  3. Prayerfully select another couple from your local church that can help you grow as a couple. Encourage them to read this article and talk openly about things the Lord challenges you with.

 

May the Lord give you and your spouse grace as you help each other toward heaven.

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Only What Is Done For Christ Will Last – C.T. Studd

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sunset

We are not all promised the same things in this life. Some of us will know much joy, others of us much sorrow. Some will be given fame and fortune, others nothing but obscurity and poverty.

But one thing we are all promised is that our life will soon end and we will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). There, before our Maker, we will give an account of how we used the days, words, relationships, dollars, skills, and opportunities God entrusted to us.

Charles Thomas Studd, who served as a British missionary to China, penned a famous poem that helps us to consider the only worthy way to use the life God has given to us—for Christ! May God help us to be ever mindful that only what is done for Christ will last. Lord, help us.

Only One Life

By C.T. Studd

Two little lines I heard one day,

Traveling along life’s busy way;

Bringing conviction to my heart,

And from my mind would not depart;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past, 

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Only one life, yes only one,

Soon will its fleeting hours be done;

Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,

And stand before His Judgement seat;

Only one life,’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Only one life, the still small voice,

Gently pleads for a better choice

Bidding me selfish aims to leave,

And to God’s holy will to cleave;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Only one life, a few brief years,

Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;

Each with its clays I must fulfill,

living for self or in His will;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

When this bright world would tempt me sore,

When Satan would a victory score;

When self would seek to have its way,

Then help me Lord with joy to say;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Give me Father, a purpose deep,

In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;

Faithful and true what e’er the strife,

Pleasing Thee in my daily life;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Oh let my love with fervor burn,

And from the world now let me turn;

Living for Thee, and Thee alone,

Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Only one life, yes only one,

Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;

And when at last I’ll hear the call,

I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;

Only one life,’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last. 

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

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Precious and Very Great Promises: Truth for the Journey

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key-to-bible

 

 

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” 2 Peter 1:3-4

During this Sunday’s sermon we considered this text and how God’s precious promises are the means by which we grow in godliness and escape the world’s corruption. You can listen to that message here if you’d like.

 

In the late 1670’s John Bunyan penned The Pilgrim’s Progress during his imprisonment in the Bedfordshire prison. For good reason, this book is the second most widely read book in history behind the Bible.

The story, which is an allegory of the Christian life, is a captivating tale about a man named Christian, who is traveling from the City of Destruction (the world) to the Celestial City (heaven). At one point in the journey, he and a friend named “Hopeful” are taken captive by the “Giant Despair.” He locks them for half a week in the dungeon of “Doubting-castle.”

During their time in the dungeon they were beaten, tempted to surrender their faith, and even commanded to take their lives by suicide. Things grew bleak for Christian and Hopeful, until they began to pray and Christian remembered…

“What a fool I have been, to lie like this in a stinking dungeon, when I could have just as well walked free. In my chest pocket I have a key called Promise that will, I am thoroughly persuaded, open any lock in Doubting-Castle.” “Then,” said Hopeful, “that is good news. My good brother, do immediately take it out of your chest pocket and try it.” Then Christian took the key from his chest and began to try the lock of the dungeon door; and as he turned the key, the bolt unlocked and the door flew open with ease, so that Christian and Hopeful immediately came out.”

Bunyan knew that God’s promises were the key that granted God’s people freedom from the slavery of sin and circumstance. Because of their power, he believed they were more valuable than any treasure in the world.

In Sighs from Hell, Bunyan says,“I tell thee, friend, there are some promises that the Lord hath helped me to lay hold of Jesus Christ through and by, that I would not have out of the Bible for as much gold and silver as can lie between York and London piled up to the stars because through them Christ is pleased by His Spirit to convey comfort to my soul.”

Do you have a precious promise like that? Do you have a promise in God’s Word that is so valuable that you would not trade it for all the money in the world?

Christians are people who live on promises. We grow by promises. We are sustained by promises. We please God by trusting His promises (Hebrews 11:6).

So I must ask you, what promises are you clinging to and trusting God to prove faithful to keep?

The Certainty of God’s Promises

We have great confidence to believe God’s promises because of what He has done for us in Jesus Christ.

The Old Testament is a sweeping story of God promising time and again to send a Savior to rescue us from judgment. God kept His promise by sending Jesus to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus accomplished His work by dying on the cross and rising from the dead—just as He said He would.

God’s faithfulness to keep His word is seen most clearly in His faithfulness to give us Jesus. When God gave us Jesus He gave us everything!

The Apostle Paul says, “all the promises of God find their ‘Yes’ in Him. That is why it is through Him that we utter our Amen to God for His glory!” 2 Corinthians 1:20. Does God promise you something? Then He says “Yes and Amen” when we ask Him to prove true to His word. How can we be so sure of this? Because Romans 8:32 reminds us that “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?”

When Jesus died on the cross, He not only received the punishment we deserve for our sin, but He also purchased every promise that God ever made His people. This means that if we are in Christ, we can claim and cling to God’s promises because He has purchased them with His blood.

Precious and Inexhaustible Promises

As Christians, we are all part of our own “pilgrim’s progress” toward the Celestial City. As we take steps of faith toward our heavenly home, we need promises to empower our souls and unlock doors of opposition in our own Doubting Castles.

What follows are a limited list of promises that we can claim and cling to as we face trials and temptations on our way to our heavenly home. These promises do not tarnish or fade, so use them and use them again. Or as the witty Charles Spurgeon once observed, “Some say ‘You can’t have your cake and eat it too.’ It’s not so with God’s comforts. You can enjoy a promise and still have it.”

This means that when you read God’s Word, you are going hunting for invaluable and inexhaustible treasure that you can have and hold and believe for the entire journey Home.

75 Promises for the Journey Home

What follows are just a sampling of God’s glorious promises that He has given to His people. Take these, consider them, and ask God to use them to stir your faith in Him.

When your sins haunt you, remember that in Christ, God has promised to forgive and forget them…

  • “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
  • “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned…” John 3:18
  • “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
  • “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Isaiah 1:18
  • “…I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” Jeremiah 31:34
  • “…as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:13
  • “…in love You have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for You have cast all my sins behind Your back.” Isaiah 38:17

When you wonder if God will be faithful to keep you through all your trials, remember…

  • “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” John 6:37
  • “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:28
  • “He who began a good work in you will complete it unto the day of Christ” Philippians 1:6
  • “He is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” Hebrews 7:25

When you feel dry and weary and desperately need encouragement to draw near to God, recall these invitations…

  • “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?…” Isaiah 55:1–3 (cf. Rev.22:17)
  • “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
  • “…God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God…casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:5–7
  • “…whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14

When you pray, you do so believing that God hears and answers your prayers…

  • “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7
  • “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” John 14:13
  • “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

When you lack wisdom to make decisions concerning the future…

  • “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5–6
  • “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” Psalm 32:8 
  • “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5

When you feel fearful to share the Gospel, remember that you are not alone as you go…

  • “…I am with you always until the end of the age” Matthew 28:20
  • “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses…” Acts 1:8

When you preach or minister to people, take confidence in God’s promises…

  • “My word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11
  • “…I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18
  • “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:7–9

As you strive to serve God and grow in holiness, rest in the promise that He supplies your strength

  • “As your days so shall your strength be.” Deuteronomy 33:25
  • “Work out your own salvation…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12–13 (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:10; Colossians 1:29)
  • “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
  • “Whoever serves, let him serve as one who serves by the strength that God supplies.” 1 Peter 4:11
  •  “My grace is sufficient for you, My power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

When you go to work and feel like what you are doing is meaningless, remember that…

  • “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23–24
  • “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.” Ephesians 6:5–8

When you find yourself filled with fear and anxiety, pursue peace by remembering God’s promises…

  • “…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
  • “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
  •  “…do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on…Look at the birds of the air…your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?…Consider the lilies of the field…if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious…your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:25-33

When you feel like the assaults of temptation are too alluring to resist, remember…

  • “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
  • “…the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.” 2 Thessalonians 3:3
  • “…because [Jesus] has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” Hebrews 2:18

When your unfaithfulness leaves you despairing, remember that His faithfulness is our promised hope…

  • “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23
  • “…if we are faithless, He remains faithful— for He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13

When you are overcome with anger, let promises give you strength to trust God…

  • “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19
  • “The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” Nahum 1:2–3

When you feel tempted to fear people and their opinions, flee to God and trust in His promises…

  • “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” Proverbs 29:25
  • “Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord…Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.” Jeremiah 17:5–7
  • “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation…Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God…” Psalm 146:3–5
  • “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” Psalm 34:8

When lust promises you sensual satisfaction, fight its lies with faithful promises of a better fulfillment…

  • “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11
  • “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6
  • “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8

Have you fallen into great sin?…then fall upon the promises about our great Savior…

  • “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate w/ the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John 2:1
  • “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” Romans 8:34
  • “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25 

Are you broken over your sin or circumstances?…God promises His healing presence

  • “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
  • “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51:17
  • “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

Are you struggling to be content with what God has given you?…He promises perfect provision…

  • “…be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
  • “…the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11
  • “…God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

As you look toward the day of your death, take encouragement from these certain words…

  • “Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.” Isaiah 46:4
  • “…if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also…I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:3, 18
  • “absent from body is present w/ the Lord” 2 Corinthians 2:5
  • “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 25:8
  • “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”…thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:54-58

God promises that the suffering and persecution we face in this life will one day be eclipsed by glory…

  • “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12
  • “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18
  • “…this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17
  • “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

If the Lord calls you to face trial or martyrdom for His Name, He gives you promises to carry with you…

  • “…when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Luke 12:11–12
  • “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28 (cf. Isaiah 51:12-16)
  • “…If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39

When you become tempted to think that persevering in faith isn’t possible, take heart in these promises…

  • “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23–24
  • “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” Jude 24–25

As you take each stride in faith toward heaven, be moved by the promised eternal day that awaits you…

  • “according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” 2 Peter 3:13
  • “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Matthew 25:34
  • “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Revelation 21:1–5

 

Thanks to John Piper for his biography on John Bunyan and his book Future Grace. Both have blessed my life and this post. 

Want Some More Promises?

Five Promises for Your Bible Reading and Prayer – John Piper

How to Find Strength in the Strength of God – John Piper

Which Promises Are For Me? – Jen Wilkin

Future Grace (book) – John Piper

Using God’s Truth to Battle the Tempter’s Lies – Garrett Kell

Is Jeremiah 29:11 a Promise for Christians? – John Piper

Do Promises in the Psalms Apply to Me? – John Piper

When I Feel Afraid – Leeann Stiles

A Summary of How to Kill Sin (sermon) – Tim Conway

Purity Among God’s People – Fighting Sexual Sin with God’s Promises (sermon) – Garrett Kell

 

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What Would Jesus Say to Someone Like Leelah Alcorn?

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Leelah Alcorn Selfie

On December 28, 2014 a 17-year old high school student apparently committed suicide after a difficult journey with confusion over gender identity. In his suicide note, Josh Alcorn said that since he was 4 years old he felt like “a girl trapped inside a boy’s body.” Because of this Josh desired to be called “Leelah” and wished for people to relate to him as a woman.

I will refer to Josh as “Leelah” in this post, but will also refer to him as a male, please bear with me, even if you passionately disagree with either of those choices.

This is an excerpt from Leelah’s final words posted shortly before taking his own life:

Leelah Alcorn

 

The letter goes on with sad details that I hope none of us are ever tempted to write or left to read in the wake of losing a loved one in such a tragic way.

Leelah’s final request was, “my death needs to mean something.” I could not agree more.

It is heart-wrenching to know that a young person was so overwhelmed with pain that their only response was to stop living. That should mean something. Whether you’re LBGT, Christian, liberal, conservative, religious or otherwise—we are humans and a tragedy like this should lead us to stop, weep, pray, and take notice.

For me, it made me wonder what I would say to my own child if they felt the same way Leelah did. And more importantly, it made me wonder, what would Jesus say to someone who feels the same way Leelah did?

I do not know exactly what Jesus would say them, but there are a few truths from the Bible that give me a pretty good idea.

1.     Jesus would say…“You are made in My Image, and I love you.”

 Just like Leelah, all people are wonderfully made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-28). We are each knit together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-14) and brought safely into this world to walk as an image bearer of God. When people see you, they see a reflection of the glory of the God who made you.

Jesus would say to you that you have value and worth because God made you. He would say something like, “no matter what anyone tells you, you are valuable and I love you. Come and find refuge in My faithful arms, I made you and I will protect you” (Psalm 91:4).

 2.     Jesus would say…“You are broken, just like everyone else.”

Leelah was an image bearer of God, but he was a broken one. Just like you are. Just like I am. Every person who has ever been born, except Jesus, is deeply and totally affected by the curse of sin (Psalm 51:4; Romans 5:12). We are all relationally, sexually, morally, rationally—broken. Sin does this to us. It corrupts our feelings and desires and understanding of life and of ourselves. We are all aware of this brokenness, though we experience it in different ways.

Jesus would say to you there is hope for your brokenness because “in me you can have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

3.     Jesus would say…“You have a unique struggle, and I will use it.”

There’s a scene in the Bible where Jesus declared that a man was born blind so “that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). God works in the mist of our fallen, sinful, broken lives for His glory. In fact, He only uses broken, sinful, needy people who have sinful struggles.

That does not give us an excuse to give into temptation, but it does give us hope that God can use even the most heinous sinful struggles to display His grace and sufficiency in our lives. If God did this with a self-righteous murderer like the Apostle Paul (Acts 9) and an impulsive denier like Peter (John 21), He can do it with you and me.

Jesus would say something like this to you, “I know you do not understand how I can use your struggle and your pain, but I can. I can work all things together for the good of those who love Me and are called according to My purpose—I can even use your struggle with transgender feelings in ways you cannot imagine” (Romans 8:28).

4.     Jesus would say…“I came to rescue people like you, so trust in Me.”

Jesus didn’t come to rescue people who had it all together. In fact, He said “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). It may seem insensitive to talk about sin at a time when you already feel so unloved and misunderstood, but all of our confusion about who we are in life flows from this very issue.

All of us, whether we consider ourselves straight or gay or transgender or anything else, are sinners. That means that we have disobeyed God’s design in every imaginable way. In the way we think, the way we talk, the way we treat others—the ways are too many for us to count. But God has counted our sins, none have escaped His eye (Psalm 69:5).

But in spite of our rebellion against God, He still loves us. There’s a place in the Bible where we are told “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Jesus came to rescue us from our sin by dying in the place of sinners and then rising from the dead to forgive us of our sins.

For those who truly believe in Jesus, God will never turn away (John 6:37) and rather than count all their sins against them, He will forgive them and throw them “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 32:1-2, 103:11-12; 2 Corinthians 5:17-19).

Anyone who says that is a message of hate is not listening to what has really been said. That is the greatest act of love anyone could ever show us (John 15:13). Jesus laid down His life so that we could be forgiven and made right with God. Does this new relationship change us? Yes, in every way. But please do not dismiss this good news because God calls us to change. He only wishes to transform us into the image of His own dear Son (Romans 8:29). He is better than whatever else we wish to hold on to. Ask God if it is really true that Jesus died for you.

5.     Jesus would say…“The journey is hard, but it is worth it and I will help you.”

 Just because someone becomes a Christian, does not mean things get easy. There is still much pain in this life. People you love will still hurt you at times. You will still be misunderstood by some people. You will still struggle with sin—in all sorts of ways (Romans 7:15-19). Your affections will change toward sin, but often that change doesn’t happen all at once and sometimes it happens very slowly (2 Corinthians 3:18).

You may never “feel” like your body looks. Your sexual desires may never be redirected. But as you walk with Jesus you will understand and respond to your passions differently. This may be a struggle for a long time, possibly for your whole life. But Jesus promises that you don’t have to carry the weight alone. He says to you “come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

If you are a born again child of God (John 1:12), your primary identity is now rooted in God’s acceptance of you in Christ. This radically alters the way you see everything, including your gender identity. This journey of understanding how to please God in spite of your struggles may be daunting but it will be worth it because it comes with the promise “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

6.     Jesus would say…“Your parents aren’t perfect, but they love you.”

I am a parent and as I’ve reflected on this heart-breaking story, I weep for Mr. and Mrs. Alcorn. I cannot imagine how anguishing it must have been to see their child struggling and despairing over such deep questions. I’m sure they wish they had answers to help their child understand why God allowed this pain into their child’s life and how to trust God in the midst of it all. I’m sure they wish they could take their child’s pain and bear it themselves.

Some will scorn Christian parents for attempting to help their child live according to their biological sex, but ridicule is not the answer. You may be upset that it sounds like I’m taking the parent’s side. I’m only saying that sympathy needs to go both ways in a situation like this.

Parents who love God and love their children will do all they can to help their child live in God’s perfect ways. How parents do this will sometimes be right and sometimes be wrong. There are no easy answers for parents either. I wish there were.

If you are at odds with your parents like Leelah was, I want to encourage you to be patient with them. Your parents aren’t perfect, but I suspect they do love you—even if their love feels oppressive. There is a great difference between being an abusive parent and a parent that in good faith is trying to help guide their child.

If your parents are pointing you toward trusting Jesus, don’t receive that as unloving—it is the most loving thing anyone could ever do for you. If they are doing it in a way that hurts you, talk with them and pray for God to help you not give up.

7.     Jesus would say…“Go to my people, they will walk with you in grace and truth.”

Many of your friends may tell you that the church is filled with hateful, bigoted, backwards people. Sadly, there are some people who do horrible things in the name of Christ—things that Jesus Himself would condemn. Sometimes Christians fall short of Jesus’ standard of love, but there are countless others who are trying by the grace of God to do better.  You need to find a church that is not Christian in name only. Find a Bible-believing, Spirit-led community that will love you and walk with you

Jesus came “in grace and truth” (John 1:17) and His people are to live in the same way (John 15:12). The church is filled with people who need your help to walk in humility before God, and you need them to do the same (Hebrews 3:13, 10:24-25). Jesus would tell you that you should not struggle alone, and that the people who tell you the truth are the people you can trust the most.

A true church is a community of people who are patient and compassionate—because Jesus been patient and compassionate with them. They are a people who will help you fight against your sins—because Jesus has forgiven their sins and helps them fight against their own issues. You may be surprised to find how many Christians there are who struggle with the same kinds of things you do.

8.     Jesus would say…“Don’t give up on life, I make life worth living.”

 There are some struggles that feel like they are too much to bear. Sometimes it seems as if ending your life will bring you the peace that has been so fleeting up until now. Maybe it feels like the only way to silence those who hurt you or get the attention of those who won’t listen to you.

If this is how you feel, Jesus would say do not give up because “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). He would say your weeping is not ignored and “I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears” (2 Kings 20:5). Jesus would tell you that He made you and He has all your days numbered in His book (Psalm 139:16).

He would tell you to not give up on life because He knows how He plans to work all of this together for your good if you will surrender to Him (Romans 8:28). And He would tell you that a day is coming when God “…will wipe away every tear from (your) eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

This is the promise for those who trust in Christ. Do not give up on life, but cling to the Jesus who will bring you through the many trials and temptations you are facing.

 

Some will say that because I am a Christian and believe the Bible to be true that I am the kind of person who causes deaths like Leelah’s. If you feel that way, please look past any of my shortcomings in this post and consider Christ Himself. Take up the Bible and read about Jesus for yourself.

There are no easy answers for any of our brokenness, including the kind of brokenness that Leelah Alcorn knew so deeply. But that does not mean that his death should mean nothing. It should lead us to listen to one another’s stories rather than spew hate at one another. Jesus is the hope for those who are LBGT, just as He is the hope for everyone else. He is the one who understands us, and our brokenness, even when no one else does. Draw near to Him in faith and ask Him if this is true and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).

 

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It’s a Good Time to Remember, Reflect, and Resolve

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“Consider your ways.” Haggai 1:5

The Lord gave this sobering command to His people after they drifted from rebuilding His temple in 520BC. They began well, but when opposition came, their faithfulness fizzled out. Left in the weeds was God’s house, overgrown due to lack of attention. But the Lord graciously intervened and the people reflected, repented, and reengaged in the work He had entrusted to them.

Most of us would probably do well to “consider our ways.” If you’re anything like me, you get overloaded and feel a persistent strain on your devotion to God. We get distracted and begin to drift, and as D.A. Carson says, “we do not drift toward holiness.”

If we don’t regularly take time to evaluate our heart, we can, often unknowingly, drift into sluggish and sinful patterns.

To fight against this deadly drifting, it’s wise to prayerfully consider our ways. And while there’s nothing magical about doing this at the turn of the year, a completed calendar does provide a natural opportunity to intentionally remember, reflect, and resolve with hopes of developing deeper devotion to Christ in the year ahead.

 

Take Time to Remember

In the days leading up to New Year’s Eve, my wife and I take time to separately develop two lists. Once the big night comes, we get cozy and share our lists together.

 

The first list is of the five things we’re most thankful for from the past year.

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember Your wonders of old.  I will ponder all Your work, and meditate on Your mighty deeds.” Psalm 77:11-12

 

Taking time to remember what God has done over a whole year is sweet for our souls. We tend to forget the many mercies that fill our day, but we’ve found that preparing our lists helps us think back through the peaks and valleys of the past year. During that journey we’re afforded a prime opportunity to remember God’s goodness. During our time of sharing we’re often reminded of things we’d forgotten and blessed to see how God used the same event to affect us in different ways.

What are you thankful for from this past year? Who can you share these memories with?

 

The second is a list is of five things we’re hoping for God to do in the year ahead.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.” Psalm 37:4-5

 

Since God has been so good to us in the past, we find great joy in looking with hopeful expectation toward the future. We’ve found that if we aren’t prayerfully trusting God for great things, our faith can grow weak and we can slip into spiritual cruise control. This list helps us to  trust God to do specific things in the year ahead. Our lists often include the names of people we hope God will save, particular sins we desire to experience victory over, or ways we hope to see God move in our church. This list stirs us to hope in God because we know He delights in doing great things for His people (Ephesians 3:20-21).

 What big things are you trusting God for in the year to come? Who can join you in praying for these things?

 

Reflect on Your Heart

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any previous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24

The Lord knows us better than we know ourselves. We need Him to open our eyes to see where our hearts have strayed from His ways. One of the best ways unearth the calloused soil of our hearts is by considering heart-probing questions. Questions serve us uniquely because they force us to step into the light as we answer them.

A number of years ago a friend shared with me a list prepared by Dr. Donald Whitney that contained questions “to prayerfully ask in the presence of God.” These questions are designed to help us do the kind of heart work that we all desperately need.

Below are the first 10 questions, but a full list of 31 questions can be found here. 

1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

 

Whether you consider these questions alone or with someone else, they will be well worth your time.

 

Resolve to Go Deeper

 Most New Year’s resolutions have something to do with losing a few pounds, getting on a budget, or to make our communities a better place. Those resolutions may be good, but Christians shouldn’t stop there. Remember that “while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” 1 Timothy 4:8.

Our resolutions should primarily center on growing in godliness, not just in reducing our waist size. The best model I’ve ever seen of making spiritual resolutions is Jonathan Edwards. When he was 19 he composed a list of 70 resolutions that he committed to re-reading each week in hopes of keeping them faithfully. Matt Perman developed a thematic arrangement of these resolutions that you should check out.

Here are a few of Edwards’ resolutions that I strive to keep as well:

#7 – “Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.”

#10 – “Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.”

#14 – “Resolved, never to do anything out of revenge.”

#15 – “Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger to irrational beings.”

#22 – “Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can…”

#30 – “Resolved, to strive to my utmost every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.”

#67 – “Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.”

Whatever your resolutions may be, here are two things to keep in mind.

1.      God gives us grace to keep our resolutions.

We must not fall into the trap of making resolutions that lead us to rely on ourselves. Jesus said “apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). God gives grace to do what we resolve (1 Corinthians 15:10; Philippians 2:13) and He gives us grace when we fail to keep our resolutions (1 John 1:9; 2 Corinthians 12:9). God promises to give us grace and as Matthew Henry said “God’s promises to us are more powerful and effectual for the mortifying of sin than our promises to God.”

2.      Don’t find righteousness in keeping your resolutions.

God won’t love you more because you make it to the gym more often.

God won’t love you more because you finish the Bible in a year.

God won’t love you more or less because of how many people you witnessed to.

God won’t love you more if you fast twice a week.

We should resolve to grow in practical righteousness, but we must not look to our resolution-keeping for our positional righteousness. Our righteousness is found in the One who resolved to die on a cross for sinners who failed at their resolutions toward self-improvement. Our justification is found only in a resurrected Savior who clothes us in His righteousness. Rest in the righteousness Christ gives us through faith, not in any kind of righteousness we resolve to achieve.

So, let us be a people who remember, reflect, and resolve with the hope that God will deepen our love for Christ and guard us from drifting from His perfect ways.

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