Real Solutions to Real Problems – Part 1 (Video)

This is the first video in a series entitled, “Real Solutions to Real Problems. You will learn how to cope with stress by discovering how to apply biblical principles from the life of Jesus Christ.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. Digital images are used with permission from backpew.com by Jeff Larson, Goodsalt.com, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org, Arabs for Christ / FreeBibleimages.org, Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org, www.LumoProject.com, GoodSalt / goodsalt.com, or they are creative common licenses.

Living Life Today in Light of Tomorrow (Video)

This video looks at Bible prophecy in the book of Revelation to bring stability and hope to our lives when so many things seem out of control in the world today.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site: http://www.revelationillustrated.com. Other digital images are used with permission from Digital Globe / www.FreeBibleimages.org, GoodSalt / www.goodsalt.com, or they are creative common licenses. The video scenes in this video are used with permission from the producers of the video entitled “The Free Gift.”

How can I overcome loneliness? Part 2

“But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.” 2 Timothy 4:17a

We are looking at different causes and cures for loneliness in 2 Timothy 4 where the apostle Paul is writing to a young pastor named Timothy. Paul was near the end of his life, and he was having to deal with loneliness. The first cause of loneliness we learned was the transitions of life (2 Timothy 4:6-8). The cure for this was to utilize our time wisely (2 Timothy 4:13).

The second cause for loneliness is SEPARATION FROM LOVED ONES (2 Timothy 4:9-12, 21). When we are separated from our friends or from our family (because of career, COVID, military deployment, health, or any reason) – that can cause loneliness.

Paul says to Timothy, Be diligent to come to me quickly.” (2 Timothy 4:9). Then Paul mentions his best friends, but none of them are with him except Luke: 10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica — Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. 12 And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus.” (2 Timothy 4:10-12). Paul is in a foreign country in a prison, and he is saying, “I miss these people.” These were his best friends, his previous traveling companions. Paul was a “people person,” andhe loved to be among people. But now at the end of his life he experiences the loneliness of separation because his friends are in other countries.

Today you can contact people in other parts of the world using various electronic devices, but Paul did not have access to those devices. It took a long time to reach someone. Three times in this chapter Paul asks Timothy to come to him (2 Timothy 4:9, 13, 21). Why is he saying this? Because he may not be around much longer, and he really wants to see his dear friends.

Whom do you need to call or visit? Whom do you need to write a letter of appreciation to? You need to do it now while there is still time. Help relieve someone’s loneliness of separation by reaching out to them.

The second way to deal with loneliness is to RECOGNIZE GOD’S PRESENCE (2 Timothy 4:17a). Even though most of Paul’s friends were far away from him, the Lord was not. Although his companions abandoned him when he gave his first defense before the imperial court (2 Timothy 4:16b), 1 the Lord did not. Paul writes, “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.” (2 Timothy 4:17a). While Paul stood before his accusers and prosecutors, “the Lord stood with” him. God gave Paul the strength he needed to fight the good fight and finish the race and keep the faith even though others had forsaken him. God’s presence gave him all the support he needed.

While it does help to have others supporting us, it is also true that people cannot always be there for us twenty-four hours a day. Where is God when we are lonely? He is right next to us to give us all the support we need. God said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5). There is no place where God is not. He is everywhere at every time, and we can constantly talk to Him. Prayer is a great tool to use during lonely times. Occasionally, when we are feeling lonely, our instinct is to turn inward and revel in self-pity. Like the apostle Paul, we can learn that loneliness is a signal that it is time for us to get better acquainted with our precious Savior Who replaces our loneliness with His loving presence.

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, all of us go through times of loneliness and self-pity. During the coronavirus pandemic, we have experienced prolonged periods of separation from loved ones. Like the apostle Paul, some of us have also been abandoned by friends when we needed their support the most. As best we know how, we want to thank You, Lord, for these times when we feel lonely because they can remind us to get better acquainted with You. By Your grace, help us learn to talk to You when we feel all alone or abandoned. Because You are our Refuge, we can safely share our most intimate thoughts and feelings with You, knowing You still love and accept us. You understand what it feels like to be alone or abandoned. Your presence can give all the support we need when we find ourselves struggling with loneliness. When we are weak, Your presence makes us strong. In Your ever-present name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Robert W. Wilkin; J. B. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1216.

How can I overcome loneliness? Part 1

“Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments.” 2 Timothy 4:13

We live in a world of 7.9 billion people, 1 many living right on top of each other in crowed cities. We are wired together through incredible communication devices. Yet, despite all these circumstances that you think would inspire community, more people than ever feel alone in the world today. Research has shown that loneliness is especially on the rise among older teens and young adults due to the coronavirus pandemic. 2

Loneliness is one of the most miserable feelings a person can have. You may feel that no one loves you or even cares if you exist. Can you be wealthy and lonely? Ask the Donald Trump’s and Bill Gates’s of the world. Can you be popular and lonely? Ask the Kim Kardashian’s and Dwayne Johnson’s of society. Can you be beautiful and lonely? Ask the beauty queens who have attempted suicide. Can you be married and lonely? Ask the people who marry because of loneliness and then get divorced a few years later for the same reason.

All of us experience loneliness at one time or another, but there are specific causes and cures for it. Sometimes we bring loneliness on ourselves and other times we are in situations that are uncontrollable. The apostle Paul found himself in the latter as he wrote his second letter to a young pastor named Timothy. In 2 Timothy, Paul was a dying old man as he wrote from prison in Rome to Timothy and urged the younger man to visit him because he was lonely.

For the next few days, we are going to look at the causes and cures of loneliness. The first cause is THE TRANSITIONS OF LIFE (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Life is full of transitions and stages. Growing older is a series of changes, and any change can produce loneliness. We are lonely when we are born, and we cry until we are cuddled. We are lonely when we attend our first school or get a new job. Moving to a new community can be a lonely experience as can entering retirement. The death of a loved one is lonely. COVID has been a huge transition for the entire world which has resulted in many experiencing more loneliness.

The apostle Paul is now in the final transition of life, and he knows his time is short. He is feeling alone. “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.” (2 Timothy 4:6). Paul is saying, “Timothy, I don’t have much time left. I may be executed by Nero soon or I may die from old age.”

As Paul spends his last days alone, he says 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Paul is saying, “I have fulfilled my ministry and now I am ready to receive my reward of ruling with Christ along with all who have loved His appearing.” The first cause of loneliness is simply the transitions of life. Any new experience we must face, can be lonely.

There are healthy ways and there are self-defeating ways to deal with loneliness. One self-defeating way is to become a workaholic. You burn the candle at both ends and end up not being nearly as bright as you thought. It takes its toll on you physically and emotionally.

Some people try to overcome loneliness through materialism. They buy everything around them. They tell themselves, “If I can just get those things I want, then I will be happy.” But things don’t satisfy. We need people. We need acceptance and love, not things. Some people have an affair – they look outside their marriage to cure their loneliness. But this only leads to more pain and shame. Others may turn to alcohol or drugs. Some people lose themselves in afantasy world by reading novels or watching pornography online. Others do absolutely nothing but sit around and have a pity party. These responses to loneliness are self-defeating. They only create more loneliness and pain.

The apostle Paul did none of these self-defeating things. He did several things to overcome his loneliness which are just as relevant today as they were when Paul went through his days of loneliness. The first cure is UTILIZE YOUR TIME WISELY (2 Timothy 4:13). Make the best of your tough situation. Resist the temptation to do nothing. Loneliness can paralyze us if we just sit around and do nothing. If life gives you a lemon, think of creative ways to make lemonade. This is what Paul did.

Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments.” (2 Timothy 4:13). Paul refused to sit around and feel sorry for himself. He didn’t complain, “God, is this what I get for thirty years of ministry? Is this my reward for starting many churches, for being the person most responsible for taking the gospel to the Roman world? Is this what I get – to die in a damp and dark prison in Rome all alone?” No, Paul did not throw a pity party. Instead, he says, “If I am going to be alone, I might as well be comfortable. I’m going to make the best of a bad situation. Bring my cloak so I can at least be warm.”

Often lonely people don’t take care of themselves. They don’t eat right, they don’t exercise, and they ignore their personal needs. My grandparents were just the opposite. They were constantly walking, reading, and serving others. That is probably why my grandmother lived to be over a hundred and my grandfather lived to be almost ninety-nine.

It is important to pay attention to your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Learn to take care of yourself. When Paul admonished husbands to love their wives as they love their own bodies, he wrote, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” (Ephesians 5:29). Other than those with mental illness, people naturally take care of their physical bodies. 3 Men are to care for their wives just as they care for their own physical bodies. This is precisely what “the Lord” Jesus “does for the church” – He nourishes and cherishes it.

Are we taking care of our physical bodies? Are we eating properly, exercising, getting adequate sleep, and participating in activities that are life-giving? During times of loneliness, we can easily neglect our personal needs.

Paul did not ignore his personal needs. He says, “Bring my coat and my books, and I will take advantage of this solitary time; I will use it for writing and study time.” This was a big change of pace for Paul because he was a doer, a church-planter. More than anything else, he wanted to be in the Roman coliseum preaching the gospel to hundreds instead of in a prison studying. But sometimes God can use loneliness for our good. If Paul had been in the coliseum he would have been preaching, but God left him in prison and we got part of the New Testament instead, which has impacted far more lives for Jesus Christ! You know, probably the only way God could get Paul to sit still was to put him in prison. And Paul’s response was, “If I cannot be where the action is, I will create action right here.”

Since COVID restrictions were put in place early in 2020, the Lord led me to begin this online ministry to the world. Rather than moping around and feeling sorry for myself, I asked the Lord to show me how to utilize my time and talents for Him. And He led me to start See You in Heaven online to multiply disciples of Jesus around the world until all hear His gospel of grace.

What does the Lord want you to do with the time and talents He has given you? Take time to ask Him and wait quietly for His response. Write down what He impresses you to do. I believe we do not have much time left here on earth before Jesus returns for His church. Let’s focus on His leading and use our time and talents in a way that honors Him and fulfills His purpose for our lives.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for the example of the apostle Paul. Even though he was facing a huge transition in his life, he did not sit around and feel sorry for himself. Instead, he took care of his personal needs and utilized his time and talents for You. As a result, we now have a part of the New Testament that continues to change countless lives for Your glory. Like Paul, help us to take care of our personal needs so we can be more available to be used by You to impact this world for Jesus Christ. All of us have time and talents that You have given us. Please show us how to best utilize them all for Your honor and glory. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Retrieved on September 4, 2021, from https://www.worldometers.info/ .

2. Retrieved on September 4, 2021, from Colleen Walsh’s February 17, 2021, article entitled, “Young adults hardest hit by loneliness during pandemic,” The Harvard Gazette.

3. J. B. Bond, Robert Wilkin; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1067.

Remaining confident when facing extreme chaos

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

When we returned to the USA from southeast Asia in February 2020, we were blindsided by “the deadly coronavirus pandemic, economic collapse…  a society-wide reckoning over racism,” followed by “an election in which voter suppression, foreign interference, online disinformation and a bitterly contested supreme court vacancy” all offered a recipe for chaos. 1

Christians are facing challenging times. Jordan Sekulow, American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) Executive Director writes in a recent email, “our freedoms to worship and pray and live our faith out loud are under attack, especially under a new Administration and an increasingly hostile radical Left.

“From our workplaces to our taxpayer-funded public schools, our military, and now inside our houses of worship – as government officials banned churches from singing during the pandemic – our constitutionally protected rights as believers are being challenged…

“Internationally, Christians are being persecuted at an alarming rate. Churches are being shuttered. Believers are being harassed. Pastors are being arrested and imprisoned…” 2

In another recent email, Jay Sekulow states, “President Biden is emboldening and empowering the Biden Deep State. It’s becoming more dangerous.

“… From national security leaks and cover-ups to major corruption, we’ve been cautioning you just how bad it was going to get.

“Withholding information on a Chinese communist spy’s connection to a senior far-Left Member of Congress, hiding terrorists crossing our southern border, funding abortion experimentation, covering up Biden’s Press Secretary’s ‘shut . . . down’ email on the Obama-Biden Iran deal lie – which we just unearthed in federal court – and deleting details about Palestinian terror from a congressionally mandated report.” 3

With corruption and chaos increasing in our country and world, where do we turn to renew our confidence? Where do we look to renew our sense of hope and strength?

I believe we would be wise to turn to a prophetic promise found in the book of Isaiah. When the prophet, Isaiah, wrote Isaiah 41, his readers were not yet in captivity in Babylon. But he addresses questions that his readers would have about this coming captivity. Could God deliver them? Would God save them from the coming disaster? God reminds His people in chapter 41 that because He is a great and gracious God Who will deliver His people from disaster, they can still trust in Him.

The Lord, through His prophet, Isaiah, assured the fearful nation of Israel that it did not need to fear the nations of the world (Isaiah 41:1-7) because God remained committed to His people and would use them to accomplish His purposes (Isaiah 41:8-20). What really caught my attention in this section was verse 10 where the Lord says to His people, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10). This verse is filled with encouragement for us during these chaotic and uncertain times.

“Fear not, for I am with you” – We are often afraid when we perceive ourselves to be alone amid chaotic times. As we deal with the effects of COVID, an increase in corruption, and unrest in our society, we may think we are all alone with our fears. But God assures us that there is no need to fear because HE IS WITH US. God’s presence in our lives replaces our fears with His peace. Because no one and nothing is greater than our God, we can be free of fear even when life seems to be out of control.

“Be not dismayed, for I am your God” – God says not to be dismayed or discouraged because He is our God. As Christians, we are not immune to trials and difficulties (cf. John 16:33). We can experience confusion as we face major challenges. We don’t always understand why things happen the way they do. You may lose your job or your health. A loved one may die. You may be falsely accused of wrongdoing. When faced with confusing situations, God says not to “be dismayed.” Why? Because He is our God! The God Who created the universe with His spoken Word is in charge (Genesis 1). Nothing is too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:17). God does not always give us answers to our “Why” questions. Instead, He gives us something much better. He gives us Himself.

“I will strengthen you” – Do we feel our strength slipping away during these chaotic times? WE may feel as though we cannot hold on much longer. When we are weak, we are more susceptible to fear and discouragement. Don’t give up. Give in to God. He says to us, “I will strengthen you.” It is God who strengthens us to face each day. When we don’t have the energy needed to live above our circumstances and insecurities, God does. He invites us to wait upon Him to renew our strength (cf. Isaiah 40:31). He is there for us.

“Yes, I will help you” – Have we been let down by others? Are we the recipient of broken promises from those who said they would be there for us? God says to us, “I will help you.” He does not say, “I might help you.” Nor does He say, “I will try to help you.” He says, “I WILL help you.” This help from God is an absolute certainty! Our confidence does not need to be shaken when we see society collapsing around us because God has not changed. He still helps us amidst the chaos and social unrest.

“I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” – Are we growing weary listening to our society call wrong right and right wrong? Do we sometimes feel like we are drowning under an avalanche of change? Does it seem like we have been treading water for months and we can no longer stay afloat? God wants us to know that there is no way He is going to let us drown. He guarantees to “uphold” or support us with His “righteous right hand” that does what is right when others constantly do wrong. The same fingers that placed the sun, moon, and stars in the sky (Psalm 8:3) will not let go of us. Our confidence can remain strong when we face chaos because God’s grip on us remains firm (John 10:28-29).

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, thank You for encouraging us with Your unchanging promises. We don’t like to admit it, but our faith can easily be overrun with many fears especially when we take our eyes off You and focus on the chaos all around us. When we feel overwhelmed with loneliness and fear, please redirect us to the fact that You are with us. Nothing and no one can separate us from Your love. When our lives are filled with confusion and unanswered questions, You don’t always give us answers. You give us something much better. You give us Yourself. Thank You for the strength Your presence gives us as we face our fears and insecurities. When others break their promises to us, You keep Yours. We can always count on You to deliver on what You have said. We appreciate the constant support You give to us. Your righteous right hand continues to do what is right when others constantly do what is wrong. Thank You for the never-ending strength and support that You give to us. Our confidence can remain unshaken because Your grip on us remains firm. In the mighty name of Jesus, we praise You and thank You. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. David Smith’s article “Recipe for chaos: 2020 election threatens to snap a US already pushed to the limit,” The Guardian, September 27, 2020.

2. Jordan Sekulow, American Center for Law and Justice Executive Director in an ACLJ July 14, 2021, email update.

3. Jay Sekulow, American Center for Law and Justice Chief Counsel in an ACLJ July 12, 2021, email update.

How can Jesus’ resurrection make a difference in our daily lives? Part 3

“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ ” John 20:15a

We are learning how the empty tomb of Jesus challenged the life of Mary Magdalene (John 20:1-18) and provides ways to make a difference in our daily lives. So far we have discovered that Jesus’ resurrection can make a difference in our daily lives by…

– Dispelling the darkness in our lives with the light of His resurrection (John 20:1).

– Providing evidence of His resurrection for our minds (John 20:2-9).

Today we see that Christ’s interaction with Mary Magdalene PROVIDES ANSWERS FOR OUR HEARTS (John 20:10-15a).  John may have been the first to believe Jesus’ resurrection (John 20:8), but Mary was the first to see the resurrected Lord (John 20:10-15a). Some students of the Bible refer to this as the greatest recognition scene in all of literature – Mary seeing Jesus unexpectedly. The incredible thing about this scene is Mary does not recognize Jesus at first.

“Then the disciples went away again to their own homes. But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb.” (John 20:10-11). After Peter and John returned to their homes, Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb. She was weeping outside the tomb, stricken with grief over the death of Jesus and the confusion about His missing body. As she wept, she looked into the tomb.

“And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.” (John 20:12). Even though angels had announced to Mary on a previous visit that Jesus had risen (cf. Luke 24:5-6), Mary still did not understand because grief had overtaken her.

“Then they said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.’ ” (John 20:13). These angels do not announce the resurrection of Jesus, instead they express amazement at her sorrow. “Woman, why are you weeping?” Christ’s resurrection was the least appropriate time for tears. But Mary did not understand that Jesus was alive!If she had believed the previous announcement of the angels that Jesus had risen, she would not be weeping. But overcome with grief, Mary wants to know where Jesus’ body has been taken. She had come to the tomb to complete the burial of Jesus, but even that had been taken away from her.

Look at what happens next. “Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.” (John 20:14). “The fact that He appeared to Mary rather than to Pilate or Caiaphas or to one of His disciples is significant. That a woman would be the first to see Him is an evidence of Jesus’ electing love as well as a mark of the narrative’s historicity. No Jewish author in the ancient world would have invented a story with a woman as the first witness to this most important event. Furthermore, Jesus may have introduced Himself to Mary first because she had so earnestly sought Him. She was at the cross while He was dying (John 19:25), and she went to His tomb early on Sunday morning (20:1).” 2

Why didn’t Mary recognize Jesus? Two possible reasons why Mary could not see the risen Jesus:

Her TEARS. She couldn’t see Jesus through her tears. When the Bible says she was “weeping” [klaíō, κλαίω] (20:11, 13), it is not talking about a little tear making its way slowly down her cheek. It is a word for wailing or “weeping vehemently.” The tears were streaming down her face and had blurred her vision. We see in Mary someone with a broken heart after all she had been through. Because of those tears she couldn’t see Jesus. The second reason she did not recognized Jesus was…

Her FOCUS. It all has to do with her sight. She couldn’t see Jesus because she was focused more on the empty tomb in front of her than the resurrected Lord who was right behind her. She is peering into this empty tomb trying to find the resurrected Lord when He is standing right there ready to give her hope.

Some erroneously conclude that Mary did not recognize the risen Lord Jesus because it was a different person than Jesus. There is nothing in the biblical text to substantiate this. The same Jesus Who died is the same Jesus Who rose from the dead (see I Corinthians 15:1-8). Over five hundred eyewitnesses attest to this fact.

The empty tomb is a great thing, but it is the resurrected Lord we really worship. We don’t worship a tomb. We don’t worship a place. We worship the living Lord Jesus. Anytime we allow ourselves to focus more on some tradition, some place, some ritual and we get our eyes off the resurrected Lord, we start to lose hope. So Mary did not see the risen Lord at first because of her tears and her focus.

What happened to Mary can also happen to us. There are times in our lives when the resurrected Lord Jesus is right there in front of us and He wants to give us hope, but we don’t see Him because our emotions have blinded us or we have lost focus. It is easy today to loose focus on the Person of our risen Lord Jesus because of the impact the coronavirus is having on our lives. Large portions of the world’s population are confined within their homes and apartments, hoping they won’t be added to the statistics that are tracking this deadly pandemic. As I am writing this, there have been over 161.5 million confirmed cases worldwide and over 3.3 million people have died so far. There will undoubtedly be tens of thousands of additional deaths before it is all over.

Mary is asked two questions by Jesus to help her find the answers her heart needed. The first question is “Why are you weeping? (John 20:15a). Mary’s heart is broken after all she has been through. She sees the cross and Jesus taken to the cross. She sees Him taken to the tomb and buried. Now three days later, she comes back to the tomb and thinks His body has been stolen. Because of this, she is deeply hurt. She is crying.

Some of us may feel like Mary did. Your dreams are at a dead end like Mary’s were. Or maybe our expectations take a total U-turn from what we thought was going to happen. Or the support that we have been depending on in our lives crumbles from beneath us. We know exactly the kind of feelings Mary felt at the tomb. Jesus is asking us, “What is making you hurt?” That is what Jesus was asking Mary and now He is asking us. “What is it that is making you hurt?”

Mary is so much like us. She reminds us so much of what we need when we hurt so deeply – to listen and realize that Jesus cares about the fact that we hurt, that He cares about the struggles we have been going through in our lives. For Mary, her hurt was keeping her from seeing God’s hand at work in her life. That can happen to me and to you. God does not want our hurt to keep us from seeing that He is at work in our lives. Jesus Christ is alive.

Martin Luther who started the Lutheran Church and pioneered the reformation, was obviously not a perfect person any more than the rest of us. But he had quite a wife. One day he was in a deep depression over something that had gone wrong. On the third day of his depression, his wife came downstairs dressed in mourning clothes. He asked her “Who’s dead?” Luther’s wife said, “God is dead.” He said, “What do you mean God’s dead? God can’t die!” His wife says to him, “I just thought He had died considering the way you’ve been acting the last three days.” 5

We can sometimes act like Martin Luther. Sometimes we act like Jesus isn’t alive. Yes, our world has drastically changed because of COVID-19. We are more restricted than ever before. But what is more important? That, or the fact that Jesus is alive and guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to those who believe in Him (John 11:25-26)? Maybe some person offended you at work. What’s more real? That or the fact that Jesus is alive? Maybe you did not get something that you wanted to get. What’s more real? The fact you didn’t get something you wanted to get or that Jesus has a life for me in eternity? 

But Mary is just like us. The little things hurt us not to mention the big things. Those little things grow into bigger things. For Mary this was the biggest hurt she had ever faced. Jesus came to her and said, “Why are you weeping?” He asks us that question too. He wants to know because the resurrected Jesus Christ has an answer for our hurt. He has a hope. That’s what the resurrection is all about.

Then He asks her a second question: “Whom are you seeking?”  (John 20:15b). It is significant that Jesus asked Mary “whom” (tina) rather than “what” (ti) she was looking for. As one commentator says, “She was looking for a corpse whereas she should have been seeking a person.” 7

Jesus’ questions had to do with her tears and her focus. Why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking? As I read the Bible, I have noticed that God has the habit of asking great questions. The first question that God asks in the Bible, back in the book of Genesis, after Adam sinned. Adam is hiding behind the bushes in the Garden of Eden and God comes into the garden and asks, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). That’s a great question. God knew that Adam was behind the bushes. That wasn’t what the question was all about. “Where are you, Adam, in relation to Me? How come you are not having fellowship with Me? How come you’re not close to Me?”

God asks great questions. Jesus Christ was in the habit of asking great questions. At the feeding of the four thousand He looked at the disciples and asked, “How many loaves do you have?” (Matthew 15:34). He says, “Just give Me what you have, and I will take care of the rest.” He asked His disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” (Luke 9:18). Then He asked the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” (Luke 9:20a). One of the greatest questions Jesus ever asked and He asked this one several times, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Matthew 20:32).

Sometimes we need to stop asking God questions and let Him ask us questions. Take time to be quiet and listen to the risen Lord Jesus. Maybe He wants to ask, “Why are you hurting? Whom are you seeking? Where are you in relation to Me? What can you give to Me? What do you want Me to do for you?” Mary listened to these questions and her life started to turn around. Will we listen to God?

Some of you reading this article are restless and seeking answers for your fearful and hopeless heart. You may be seeking the Lord Jesus and not even know it. Jesus is inviting you to come to Him just as you are. Listen to His voice: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). When you come to Jesus just as you are, He will give you spiritual rest. The rest Jesus offers here refers to a state of mind that exists when a non-Christian realizes he or she does not have to earn or work for their salvation (cf. Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9). This refers to the positional rest of eternal life that is based on trusting in Christ’s finished work on the cross alone (John 3:14-15; 19:30). Christ can give you everlasting life as a free gift because He paid for it through His death and resurrection (Romans 6:23b; I Corinthians 15:1-8).

If you came to Christ in faith just now, Jesus gave you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). God became your Father and you became His child forever (John 1:12). Jesus now lives inside of you through His Holy Spirit who will comfort, guide, and teach you so your life will magnify Jesus (John 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:13-14). Jesus wants to be your best Friend. You can get to know Him better by spending time with Him, talking to Him through prayer anywhere, anytime about anything (John 15:7; Philippians 4:6-7). Learn to listen to His voice as you read and study the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17). I recommend you begin with the fourth book of the New Testament, the gospel of John, because it is all about Jesus and how you can have everlasting life in His name. It will also reveal to you God’s plan and purpose for your life.

Prayer: My risen Savior and Lord, please forgive me for losing focus on You and Your resurrection. I have allowed so many things to distract me from what is really important. Thank You for coming to me with questions just like You did with Mary Magdalene that first Sunday after Your death and burial. Your questions show me that You really do care about me. You care especially about my heart. You care about my disappointments, my hurts, my needs, and my worries. Your presence in my life calms my troubled heart and assures me that there is hope for today and tomorrow, and all the tomorrows You graciously give to me. Thank You for helping me refocus on what is eternal. As I quiet my soul in Your presence, what would You say to me right now Lord Jesus? I am listening. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 369 cites William Barclay, The Gospel of John: The Daily Study Bible series, 2nd ed., Vol. 2 (Edinbugh: Saint Andrew Press, 1963), pg. 312.

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 697.

3. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 545.

4. According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website on May 15, 2021 at https://covid19.who.int/.

5. Adapted from https://www.family-times.net/illustration/Trust/201414/.

6. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 362.

7. Ibid., cites Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), pg. 838.

Receiving Life Freely – Part 7 (Video)

This is the seventh video in a series about the gospel of John – the only book of the Bible whose primary purpose is to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life and a future home in heaven (John 20:31). This video looks at the seventh miracle of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John involving the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-45).

The movie clip subtitles are from the Good News Translation. All other Scripture are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted. Gospel of John pictures are used with permission from  www.GoodSalt.com, John Paul Stanley / YoPlace.com, www.LumoProject.com, or they are creative common licenses. The copyrights of the images of the movie belong to Jesus.net. The Gospel of John movie clip is used with permission from Jesus.net. You may view the entire Life of Jesus movie at https://jesus.net/the-life-of-jesus/.

God’s Grace and Suicide

Living during a global pandemic makes it especially difficult to connect with one another. There is a great emphasis on social distancing. People cannot connect with one another as easily as before because of all the COVID restrictions and the fear of getting sick. The additional stress caused by COVID increases the chance of conflict with one another which can also become a barrier to connecting with one another. Emotional needs are much greater during this pandemic. There is more fear and depression which can lead people to isolate themselves from others. More people feel hopeless and think of taking their own lives.

A question that may arise during this pandemic is, “Will a believer in Jesus Christ who commits suicide still go to heaven?” The answer to this is strongly related to one’s view of God’s grace.

WHAT DOES GOD SAY ABOUT A BELIEVER WHO COMMITS SUICIDE?

In Romans 8:31-39, God answers four questions or accusations that can arise in cases of suicide:

1.MAN’S ACCUSATION: Doesn’t such a death as suicide prove that God works against us, not for us? Isn’t this what prompts a believer to take his life?”

GOD’S ANSWER: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32) God says, “Since I am for you (and no one is greater than Me), no one can successfully oppose you, including yourself.” When the unexpected happens, you need to ignore the lie that God is against you. He is on your side. God does not work against us. How wrong it would be to believe that God turns His back on the believer who commits suicide. God is FOR US – on our side – deeply interested in our needs, our hurts, our pain, our failures and loneliness. 

Proof of this: God gave His Son to die for our sins, including the sin of suicide (Romans 8:32). 

2. MAN’S ACCUSATION: “Doesn’t the suicide of a Christian confirm the fact that Christianity really doesn’t have the solutions to man’s problems?” 

GOD’S ANSWER: “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8:33) God says, “No one can successfully press charges against a believer in Christ because I have declared him totally righteous on the basis of his faith in My Son.” No one can successfully accuse any Christian who commits suicide because God does not even accuse him – He declares him totally righteous or not guilty the moment he believed in Jesus Christ. No one can bring an accusation against the Christian who commits suicide that will stand. But how difficult it is at times to realize God’s interest and presence! It’s like the sun – every day – it shines. No one could EVER say – the sun isn’t shining! We may say, “I can’t feel it or see it”…but fly high enough and there it is!

3. MAN’S ACCUSATION: “Doesn’t such an act as suicide deserve condemnation?” 

GOD’S ANSWER: “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” (Romans 8:34) God says, “No one can successfully condemn the believer who commits suicide because My Son – 

“… was condemned to death for his sins, removing his guilt (8:34b).

“… was raised to life, satisfying My demand to punish his sins (8:34c). 

“… is at My right hand defending him against all accusations (8:34d).” When Satan comes to God’s throne with accusations against the believer who commits suicide, God looks to His Son, and Jesus says, “Father, I paid for that sin.”

“… intercedes for him (8:34e).”

Now let me make something quite clear. I am not suggesting that such a death is condoned in Scriptures… for God assures us that He has not only designed LIFE but LIFE MORE ABUNDANTLY for His children (John 10:10). However, the struggles and pain are often too great for a person who commits suicide. But God does not condemn him because Christ has taken his or her punishment. 

4. MAN’S ACCUSATION: “Doesn’t such an act separate a person from God’s love and presence? Isn’t this the classic act of rejection?”

GOD’S ANSWER: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39) Nothing, including suicide, can separate a Christian from the love of God. Even though others may stop loving us or we may stop loving ourselves, God’s love will never abandon us. Nothing you do, say, or think can separate you from God’s love. Absolutely nothing. 

Listen to Jesus’ own words: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them…and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29) That includes the believer who commits suicide!  

Who shall oppose us? NO ONE. Who shall accuse us? NO ONE. Who shall condemn us? NO ONE. Who shall separate us from God’s love? NO ONE. The believer who commits suicide is in God’s presence – no more tears, crying, pain, death or darkness… all that is gone. His body awaits that incredible moment when it will be raised and changed—NEVER TROUBLED AGAIN WITH INNER DISTURBANCE  …CONFLICT …INSECURITY…UNREST…

HOW CAN I OVERCOME THOUGHTS OF SUICIDE?

  • Aim to work on the causes of your emotional pain, not just the symptoms.
  • If your depression is due to guilt, admit your sin to the Lord (Psalm 32:1-5; I John 1:9).
  • When you are depressed, place your hope in God (Psalm 42:5; Lamentations 3:20-25).
  • Avoid being isolated (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). Stay connected to loving and supportive friends.
  • Seek help from others (Galatians 6:2; James 5:13-16).
  • Listen to uplifting Christian music and sing (I Samuel 16:14-23).
  • Identify and replace the lies underlying your suicidal thoughts with God’s truth. Jesus came so you could have life, but Satan came to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Suicidal thoughts often stem from some of Satan’s lies.Focus on the truth of God’s Word, not Satan’s lies (John 8:31-32). If you are not aware of the lies you believe, journal your thoughts and feelings, relying on the Holy Spirit to reveal the underlying lies. Then ask God to remove the lies that cause you to have suicidal thoughts and graciously replace them with His truth (Psalm 119:28-29).

WHAT IF I SUSPECT SOMEONE I KNOW IS HAVING THOUGHTS OF SUICIDE?

  • Don’t be afraid to talk to them about it. We are only as sick as our secrets. Ask questions like: “Are you thinking about taking your life? Do you have a suicide plan as to how you would do it? Why do you think that’s the only answer?” Talking about suicide does not plant suicidal thoughts in someone who is already depressed. Talking about suicide actually decreases the possibility of that person taking his or her life because it diffuses its power. (If someone has a plan to kill themselves, make sure they get medical assistance immediately!)
  • Obtain a verbal “non-suicide” contract or commitment not to do anything that would be harmful or self-destructive without first talking with you or with a counselor, pastor, or another trusted person. 
  • Ask them to think through these questions: “If you died and came back to life, could you find other reasons for being glad to be alive? Would the Lord’s promises of love and guidance though your trials still be in place? Would the sun still shine and water still be cool and refreshing? Would there still be adventures in life and growth in relationships? Could some positive reasons for living, as opposed to dying, be developed?” Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! There is hope for the hopeless!


Connecting in a Disconnected World of Covid (Video)

Although this video was prepared for a church anniversary in the Philippines, its biblical principles can apply to any culture. We will not only look at the challenges of connecting with other people during this age of COVID-19, we will also turn to the Bible to discover how we can connect with one another in more effective ways. If you are feeling all alone and without hope, this video is for you.

God’s solution to anxiety

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

As we begin 2021, we may be overwhelmed with anxiety. Perhaps we are anxious about the future especially with all the political and social unrest connected to the upcoming change in our government’s leadership in the USA. Many are anxious about the ongoing impact of the global pandemic. Our needs are greater than ever before. Due to social distancing and isolation, we cannot connect with one another as easily as we did before COVID-19. We may have greater physical needs due to the loss of our health, the loss of a job, and/or the loss of financial security. The additional stress caused by COVID increases the chance of conflict with one another. Emotional needs are much greater during this pandemic. There is more depression. More people feel hopeless and think of taking their own lives. All of these factors can increase our anxiety.

How does God want us to respond to these anxious times? The Lord gives us a solution to this struggle in Philippians 4:6-7, where the apostle Paul writes:

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  

God says, “be anxious for nothing” (4:6a). What does God want us to worry about? Nothing. “How can I worry about nothing?” You might ask. God says “in everything by prayer” (4:6b). We can worry about nothing by praying about everything. The word “prayer” refers to talking to God. When we are “anxious” or worried about something, God instructs us to talk to Him about it through “prayer.” When was the last time you got alone with God and talked to Him about what you are worried about? Talking about it helps to diffuse the power of worry. But it does not stop there.

Then God says, “in everything by… supplication” (4:6c). The word “supplication” means to tell God what you need. Few people ever identify what they need because they are so busy worrying.

For example, some of us may be worried about our health. So we talk to the Lord about that. And as you do that, ask God to help you identify the underlying need. Perhaps we need protection from illness especially during COVID. Or perhaps we are afraid of death because we are not prepared for it. So we need assurance of life after death. Ask God to give you the assurance that there is everlasting life both now and after death through believing in Jesus (cf. John 11:25-26). So talk to the Lord about what you need from Him.

Next, God says, “with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (4:6d). Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” The word “delight” means to lean into God.Just as a house plant leans in toward the sunlight coming through a window to get nutrients from the sun, so we need to lean into God during these challenging times to nourish our souls, and He promises to give us the desires or dreams of our hearts. So talk to God about your desires or dreams. Ask God what He wants to do in your life.

Notice that God wants you to pray with “thanksgiving.” He wants us to have a thankful heart. Why? Because when you trust God to supply your needs and wants in advance during difficult times, you can accept those circumstances and respond more appropriately. Also, gratitude stimulates the release of dopamine (happy chemical) in our brain which decreases our stress and enhances sleep.

Keep in mind that gratitude is a skill or learned behavior that is independent of our circumstances. Many people are overwhelmed with all the bad news in the world today. But it’s important to understand that we can increase our gratitude without seeing improvement in our situations. Try taking time each day to be aware of moments you may be tempted to overlook and thank God for them – such as your beating heart, each breath you take, the taste of Talapia (fish), the sound of birds in the morning, or the smile of a colleague. Take time to thank people during the day because it will also stimulate more dopamine to be released in your brain. It will also create stronger neuropathways in your brain containing thoughts of gratitude, so it will become easier to be grateful the more you practice this skill. What would happen to your anxiety if you spent time each day thanking God for His goodness in your life? No doubt your anxiety would decrease significantly.

As we talk to God about our anxiety, needs, and desires with thanksgiving, He promises that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (4:7). The “peace of God” is like a deep calmness in the midst of life’s storms. For example, the water underneath the surface of the ocean remains calm during a storm (see above photo). We can experience a deep-seeded calmness in our souls when we surrender to God in prayer as we face these challenging times.

The phrase “will guard,” pictures an armed soldier walking back and forth in front of the city gate, protecting the occupants inside the city from intruders. God’s peace constantly protects those who choose to talk to Him about their worries, and ask Him for what they need and want.

Prayer: Lord God, thank You for the unchanging promises of Your Word. When I focus on what is happening around the world, my heart can easily be overwhelmed with anxiety. But when I get alone with You and talk to You about my worries, You help me to identify the need underneath those worries so I can ask You to meet that need. There is no need in my life that is too great for You to meet. Thank You for reminding me to lean into You during these challenging times so you can nourish my soul and grant me the desires or dreams of my heart. There is so much to be thankful for at all times because of Your constant goodness to us! What peace fills my soul as I talk to You with thanksgiving about my worries, my underlying needs, and desires or dreams. Thank You for giving me Your peace which surpasses all human understanding when I surrender everyone and everything to You in prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.