VIDEO Looking Forward

We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8

We all occasionally wonder about the moment we’ll die, and it can be a terrifying thought. But it truly should hold no terror for the follower of Jesus. One of the best ways of changing our attitude about death is by studying this subject in the New Testament epistles. For example, in Philippians 1:23, Paul said he was hard-pressed to decide whether he’d rather stay on earth or go to heaven, for the latter was “far better.” 

In 2 Corinthians 5:8, Paul used the words “confident” and “well pleased.” That’s not the language of dread or fear. Let’s adopt his attitude—the biblical attitude. Let’s anticipate all Jesus has in store for us in the future.

Heaven awaits us, and that will be far, far more glorious than anything we can ever imagine…. I know that soon my life will be over. I thank God for it, and for all He has given me in this life. But I look forward to Heaven. I look forward to the reunion with friends and loved ones who have gone on before.… I also look forward to serving God in ways we can’t begin to imagine. Billy Graham


47 2 Corinthians 5 – Pastor Chuck Smith – C2000 Series

Got Plans?

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9

Caden, a young man of almost eighteen, was anticipating attending his first choice of a college on an academic scholarship. He was involved in a campus ministry in high school and looked forward to participating in a similar ministry in the new environment. He’d saved money from his part-time job and also had an excellent lead on a new job. He’d established some great goals, and everything was coming together exactly on schedule.

And then in the spring of 2020 a global health crisis changed everything.

The school let Caden know that his first semester would probably be online. The campus ministry was on hiatus. The job prospect dried up when the business closed. As he despaired, his buddy glibly quoted words from a well-known professional boxer: “Yeah, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Proverbs 16 tells us that when we commit all we do to God, He’ll establish our plans and work things out according to His will (vv. 3–4). True commitment, however, can be difficult. It involves an open heart to God’s direction, along with a willingness to resist charting our course independently (v. 9; 19:21).

Dreams that don’t come to fruition can bring disappointment, but our limited vision for the future can never compete with God’s all-knowing ways. As we yield ourselves to Him, we can be certain that He’s still lovingly directing our steps even when we don’t see the path ahead (16:9).

By:  Cindy Hess Kasper

Reflect & Pray

What disappointment changed your plans for the future? What can you do to seek God’s guidance today?

Loving and wise Father, help me to trust You even in my disappointments knowing that You’re a good and faithful God and You’ll establish my steps

Obstacles to Forgiving Ourselves

Psalm 51:1-12

Every human being has a sin problem. We lose our temper, make mistakes, and harbor selfish motives, but God offers forgiveness for everyone who will accept it. And yet many believers find it impossible to forgive themselves. Why?

First, we struggle with self-forgiveness at times because we find it difficult to accept God’s forgiveness. Guilt can overshadow the enormous gift of pardon and restoration that our Father has freely provided. We may think, What I’ve done is just too terrible for God to forgive me, but that’s never true. (See Titus 2:14.)

Second, personal disappointment can prevent us from forgiving ourselves. If we have ridiculously high, self-imposed standards for our behavior, failure to live up to them can leave us feeling disappointed and unworthy of forgiveness.

Third, seeing the results of our sin can keep guilt alive in our mind. That is, if our wrong actions produce a tangible negative consequence, we may find it hard to forgive ourselves. 

Are you harboring remorse for a sin from your past? God’s forgiveness is available now (1 John 1:9). Christ gave His life to make you free, so don’t willingly stay in chains. You’re invited forgive yourself for what God has already pardoned (Gal. 5:1).

The God Who Saves

“The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” (Psalm 18:2)

What a testimony given by David to his God! In this single verse, there is a sevenfold ascription of praise to the Lord for His great salvation. Each testimony can be appropriated also by all who trust Him.

  1. My rock: The word used here does not mean a stone or even a boulder but a mighty monolith, immovable and impregnable.
  2. My fortress: This word refers to a great bulwark—a stronghold. The Hebrew word is essentially the same as Masada, the high butte where the Jews resisted the Roman armies after the destruction of Jerusalem.
  3. My deliverer: “Our God is able to deliver,” even from the fiery furnace, the den of lions, and from the armies of Saul.
  4. My strength: This is another word often translated “rock,” this time a rugged, craggy one, most appropriate as a symbol of great strength.
  5. My buckler: The small, movable shield used to “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Ephesians 6:16).
  6. The horn of my salvation: This striking Old Testament symbol is even repeated in the New Testament (Luke 1:69) and applied to the coming Savior, referring either to the “horns of the altar” where fleeing sinners could cling for refuge or to the fighting horns of a strong beast.
  7. My high tower: Here the word is not for a man-made tower but for a natural, high, topographic eminence, suitable both for watching and for defense.

The great promises of salvation and security in Christ are timeless. The words that brought such hope to David are still a comfort to believers today. He is still “the God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10) to all who trust Him. HMM

“Keep Thy Heart”

Matthew 15:1-20

ONE is amazed at the Pharisees and scribes who could look over all the mighty works and teachings of our Lord and fasten upon such a petty matter as the fact that His disciples did not wash their hands according to traditional regulations (Matt. 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23). Yet we still have with us those who value set customs above the inner realities, to whom sacrifice is more important than mercy. Our Lord described both classes with His quotation from Isaiah 29:13: “This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoreth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me.”

Jesus recognized a clean heart above clean hands. He reproved them for their “corban” custom by which they dedicated gifts to God and therefore escaped giving them to the needy. It was well to vow gifts to God, but it had degenerated into a clever excuse for not helping the ones in need—a pretext for evading responsibility.

It is not what goeth into a man but what proceeds from him—his thoughts and acts, which reveal his heart, these defile him. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. Therefore, “keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”

Such teaching offended the Pharisees, but Jesus said, “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” It reminds us of the Old Testament statement: “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone” (Hos. 4:17). Our Lord made no effort to rescue these Pharisees; He regarded them as hopelessly set against Him. They had committed the sin against the Holy Ghost.

Well does formal and religious America need to ponder our Lord’s position as to outward ritual and inward reality. Throughout the Word, God cries against it: through Isaiah (1:11-17), Hosea (6:6), Amos (5:21-24). Jesus followed the prophets with their own words, hurling them against an entrenched religiousness that could become excited over a slight disregard for precedent but could not see the truth of the Son of God.

Today, sticklers for the niceties of tradition still strain out the gnat and swallow the camel, are careful to observe seasons and ordinances and minute church restrictions; but their heart is far from God. Jesus, however, would break a precedent and smash a tradition anytime to get at a needy life. Sabbath regulations were less important than a withered hand.

There are even Christians who have bordered on medieval asceticism by denying themselves wholesome and normal enjoyment and regulating each detail with meticulous care until they have fallen into the error of the Colossians, “Touch not, taste note, handle not.” One is not more holy by being less human. It is the state of the heart that matters most, for evil comes from within. It does no good to cleanse the hands with water if the heart has not been cleansed by the blood.

He Can’t Forget!

Jesus replied, “This is the work of God—that you believe in the One He has sent.”—John 6:29

In this passage, our Lord is asked: “What can we do to perform the works of God?” (v. 28). His answer was entirely different from that which you would receive if you posed the question to adherents of different religious systems today. A Buddhist would answer: “We must follow the eightfold path of Buddhism.” A Muslim would answer: “We must fast and pray and make a trip to Mecca.” Some followers of the Christian way might answer: “We must engage in regular Bible study, prayer, tithing, and Christian fellowship.” But the answer Jesus gave was: “This is the work of God—that you believe …”

George Watson, a devotional writer, said: “To trust the Origin of our existence is the fundamental grace of life. There is one virtue [in God] that stands out forever more conspicuously than friendship, or love, or knowledge, or wisdom. It is fidelity. God’s fidelity is in Him what trust is in us.”

Understanding that God is utterly trustworthy will deliver us from such incapacitating emotions as worry, anxiety, and fear. To be overwhelmed by the concerns of this life reflects poorly upon the faithfulness of God.

An old saint who was dying became concerned that he couldn’t remember any of God’s promises. His pastor said: “Do you think God will forget any of them?” A smile came over the face of the dying Christian as he exclaimed joyfully: “No, no, He won’t.” This, too, is our confidence. He won’t forget, because being God, He can’t forget.

Prayer

O God my Father, if fidelity in You is what trust is in us, then help us come to a place where our trust matches Your fidelity. We confess we are not there yet, but we long to arrive. Help us, dear Father. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Further Study

2Tm 2:1-13; Heb 2:17; 10:23

What did Paul assure Timothy?

Why was Jesus made like His brothers?

The Wind Beneath Our Wings

Isaiah 40:31

Isaiah, in chapter 40, lyricizes the grand themes of the majestic attributes and works of God, and his mighty manuscript here heralds the coming of the Suffering Servant on the stage of world history.

“All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field” (40:6) declares the poet-prophet. Indeed, man is but a transient being whose life quickly fades away like the grass, and his glory is short-lived like the flowers of summer.

In contrast, “the Word of our God stands forever” (v. 8). Man is transient; God’s Word is timeless. Man is ephemeral; God’s Word is eternal. Man is fleeting; God’s Word is forever. Man is impermanent; God’s Word is imperishable. Thus Isaiah’s message comes to us with the divine imprimatur upon every verse and promise. It is the cosmic compass by which we can chart life’s direction and destiny.

Isaiah proclaims in lofty lyrics the unique and incomparable God of creation, compared to whom the nations and empires of earth are like a drop in the bucket or as dust on the scales (vv. 12-15). He satirizes the manufacturers of idols and eulogizes the glory of God who stretches out the heavens like a canopy. “Lift your eyes and look to the heavens,” summons Isaiah. “Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name… not one of them is missing” (vv. 22, 26).

All the revelations of modern science but add to our awe of God as Creator of the fantastic wonders of the universe. Isaiah calls us to an adequate theology and to a recovery of the awesome transcendence of God. If we can be assured of God’s sovereignty over the universe, then surely we can trust Him with our finite lives.

This magnificent chapter culminates with one of the most inspiring passages of the Bible. God’s penman compares the believer who trusts in God to an eagle that soars with unwearying grace and strength. The eagle’s noble inheritance is the heights of the heavens. It builds its nest in lofty crags where man has not set his foot. It plays with the winds and currents of the air. This majestic specimen is king of the birds.

The eagle soars to great heights not by the power of his wings, but by surrendering himself to the currents and power of the wind. So it is with the believer. We soar and reach the heights of the spiritual life not by our own finite power, but by surrendering to the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, who is the wind beneath our wings.

Henry Gariepy, Light In a Dark Place