Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Are You A "Good Person?"

Today I'm studying through Romans 3:1-20, and I still have the sermon from this past Sunday going through my mind. Pastor Terry preached from John 14:6, stressing that though many people have their "opinions" about who will spend eternity in Heaven, the Bible stresses over and over that there is only one way...through Jesus Christ!

I have had the opportunity to talk with many individuals about God's purpose for this world and for each of us individually, and I have listened to so many people share with me that they believe that they will indeed be in Heaven for eternity because they have lived a "good life," and they are a "good person." The conversation very often leads to the statement: "I believe in God!" Friends, one of my favorite verses in the Bible is James 2:19, which says that "You believe there is one God. You do well. But even the demons believe and tremble! NKJV" Yes, Satan believes in God and has stood before Him and spoken with Him. So, will Satan be in Heaven? Absolutely not! His future lies in an eternal separation from God, along with all others who do not "call on the name of the Lord. Romans 10:13"

Here, in Romans 3, Paul quotes from several of the Psalms, all of which drive home the point that "there is none righteous, not even one...! Romans 3:10" We are all born with a desire to please ourselves. We all naturally put ourselves first. But God has planted within us another desire...to put the One who created us first. Which desire are you fulfilling in your life? It's not about following a set of rules or the Ten Commandments (we have ALL broken many of these!), but it's about realizing that even those Ten point out the knowledge of the sin in our lives. With this knowledge that we are ALL sinners, the response should be, "how do I get this sin taken care of, or paid for?" That's where Jesus and His work on the cross comes in. Even though He was without sin, He took on all the sin of the world and offered His death and resurrection (a victory over death and sin) as a complete payment for us. The offer is on the table, and now it is up to each of us to accept this offer for the payment of our sins.

Many who read this will call me "narrow minded," which is fine (and, I guess, true!). But, if you are willing to trust the Bible, God's Word given for those who want to follow Him, there is no way around this most important decision each of us will ever make. Have you decided whom you will follow?

Until next time...have a blessed day!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Catching Up...Looking Ahead...Counting It All Joy

James 1:2-4 reads: "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

I'm here tonight in a hospital room in Pennsylvania, watching my beautiful, incredible, loving and strong wife recover from her surgery (she had a hysterectomy due to some past issues...but is doing great now). As I sat in the waiting room for nearly 3 hours today, trying to read and keep my mind off of the "what-ifs," I began evaluating all that has occurred in our lives over the last 2 months. My self-evaluation could easily have led to a pretty depressive thought pattern if taken at face value, but the Holy Spirit really laid the Book of James, and specifically these early verses on my heart, and they became a kind of living example to me.

November began with a bit of a scare for me as we found out that I have an enlarged lymph node in my neck. After another CT Scan, it looks like it's not growing, so I have a follow up in March. The next week, Annette was sent for a consult with a Gynecological Oncologist for an issue that we thought had been resolved two years ago. He recommended, as did her regular Gynecologist, that she proceed with an hysterectomy to best prevent the return of any cervical cancer cells. So we began preparing for today. The week after this, Annette and I excitedly set off, along with three other couples from our church, to attend a marriage enrichment weekend called "Weekend to Remember." Upon arriving at our hotel in Philly (yes, I am a Pennsylvanian now, therefore I'm allowed to officially call it "Philly!"), we received the news that my Grandma, along with two of my cousins (4 year old Ivan, and 21 month old Maggie Grace) had been killed in a vehicle accident near my home town in Virginia. That weekend and the following days were ones filled with extremely hard times, as well as some of the greatest blessings...both of which I will never forget. My aunt and uncle (sounds strange to call them that since she's only 10 months older than me, and he's a year younger!)...WOW! Through a tremendous loss, they have lived out their faith and trust in their Savior, Jesus Christ. Even while they wait to see how this hard to understand piece of the puzzle that is their life fits in, they wait...trusting. They will probably not understand the impact their faith has had on so many until they get to Heaven...but believe me, it has impacted people from miles and states away! Yes, November 2008 was one for the books!

November, as it always does, led to December and all that that brings. I found myself in kind of an emotional haze for much of the month. Not what I would call depression, rather more just trying to process the previous 30+ days. Finally, around the last week or so of the month, that haze lifted. We shared some meaningful time with much of our families, we had a blast with many of our students from church, bringing in the New Year at Liberty University (it was especially awesome since Annette & Brian were able to be there with me!), along with 6,000 other youth and adults. We were truly able to worship in the new year. The year has begun with some great ministry opportunities opening up, as well as some real blessings for our church, with a LOT of new families attending, and an obvious hunger for the Word of God.

So, again, I sit here giving Annette ice chips, watching her rest. I am so thankful to God for bringing her through this trial, and especially for recalling to my mind that even in this, we are to count it joy. I do count it joy to serve the Lord, both personally and in my vocation. And I count it joy that as we walk through these trials (and the ones we don't see right now, but are sure to come) in life, IF we are trusting in Jesus Christ as our Lord, these temporary trials will produce the endurance for us to strive until we are called home to be with Him forever.

May your 2009 be a year in which you can plainly recall as being the year that you got real with God, and that even though there were some (or many) trials...you counted it all joy!

In Christ...PJ