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BY MAX FERNANDEZ

 

A few years ago, I gave several lessons regarding scripture study and interpretation. As part of those lessons there were questions which I encouraged the church family to ask each time they read the Bible. Here is a sample that may be of help to you.


 

TEXT: ISAIAH 43:1–13

What is he saying?

  • The LORD commands his people to not fear, because He is with them. These verses also really show the uniqueness and exclusivity of God – or why there is no reason to fear.

Why is he saying this?

  • It appears that the passage is referring to a time of regathering those who were exiled to Babylon. This could be a reference to a post-exilic time.

What is the principle?

  • If we have this LORD, there is no reason to fear.

How does it apply?

  • There is no reason to fear if the Lord is with me. Don’t fear.

Where is Christ?

  • First, there is the fallen condition that I am prone to fear that which I don’t have control over. Only Christ ever had perfect trust in His Father, and he enables/allows me to have this kind of trust in the Lord.
  • Second, where Israel failed in the imperatives of these commands, Christ did not fail.
  • Third, Christ is the One who makes it possible to have the ever-abiding presence of the Lord with us–through His Spirit.
  • Fourth, the ever-abiding presence of Christ is for the purpose of God’s glory through mission–having commissioned them, Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you alway...”

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BY MAX FERNANDEZ

 

Notice what Isaiah 41:10 says: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

Historical Setting

As we look at this passage, it is important to try to understand what the historical background is. It would appear, based on the passage, that Judah is under attack from a nation just north of them. In response to this, the opening paragraph has a couple of rhetorical questions to remind the nations that he is the one who is in control (Isa. 41:1-5).

Literary Context

Then, within the paragraph of our text, there are three reasons given why Judah (God’s people) do not need to fear. Two of these reasons are found in our key verse of Isaiah 41:10: (1) the presence of God (2) the help of God. Though we might agree that we know or understand these two reasons, how would we explain them? What is the point? It is certain that God’s people do not have to fear because of his presence and his help. But what does this really mean, and how do I make sure I have this kind of help?

I think that when we read a verse like Isaiah 41:10, we might automatically assume that we are God’s people and that we have his presence…but only those who have God’s presence have cause for no fear, which means that we have to ask, “Who really has God’s presence?”

Clearly, the opposing nations here did not have God’s presence, so we have to ask what was it that made Judah, God’s people, have the presence of God?

The Chosen, Covenant-Servant

The answer is found in the opening of the paragraph in Isaiah 41:8-9.

But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.”
Isaiah 41:8-9

The writer uses very intentional language. It is covenant language. The Lord says:

  • You are my servant
  • You are chosen
  • You are the seed of Abraham (my friend)

What does this mean, and what is the significance of it?

God Is Gracious

First, it means that these people have the presence of God because God had a covenant with Abraham through whom God would produce offspring and make a great nation. Abraham was chosen of God.

What this means is that Israel has the presence of God because of the grace of God. It was not that Israel earned God’s presence or that they deserved it. They had the presence of God as the people of God by the grace of God. Simply, God was good to them.

God Is in Covenant

Second, God’s presence was with them because they were the “seed” of Abraham. This language is important because it not only connects the nation of Israel to the past, but it also connects them to the future. God had covenanted with Abraham many years before this Isaianic account. The Abrahamic covenant was that the LORD would give to Abraham a son in his old age. This promised son was the “seed” of Abraham. The nation of Judah was connected to the past because of covenant, and they were connected to the future because of covenant.

Presently I am in covenant with my wife, and the token of that covenant is my ring. The ring connects me to the past ceremony–the words of the covenant, but it also reminds me of my enduring future responsibility and commitment. In like manner, the covenant “seed” of Abraham also connects the nation of Judah to the future. Over 700 years later, the Apostle Paul makes the explicit connection in the New Covenant book of Galatians 3:16–“Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.”

What the New Testament writer Paul understood was that when God made the covenant with Abraham, God was going to preserve the nation of Israel until the actual “seed” or great-great…. etc. grandson of Abraham would be born. That “seed” who was born is Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ Is the Covenant Fulfiller

Thus, when we think about the presence of God, it is something that is given by the very grace of God; and it is something that finds fulfillment in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Two examples: when Jesus was born, they called his name Immanuel, meaning “God with us.” In John 1:14, the Bible says, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” Both of these passages confirm that Jesus is the very presence of God among mankind.

In Isaiah 41:10, the LORD is telling Judah that he would be with them, but more importantly the verse is pointing us to the greater fulfillment of the LORD being with us—that is the coming of Jesus Christ.

That still does not complete the story though because not everyone has the presence of God. Just as in the story of the nation of Judah, only those who are in covenant with the LORD can say they really have the presence of the LORD.

Just as in the story of the nation of Judah, only those who are in covenant with the LORD can say they really have the presence of the LORD.

So, Who Today Has the Presence of the LORD?

Only those who are in covenant with the LORD Jesus Christ have his presence. This means that there are some excluded from this wonderful promise.

An Implicit Desire

Listen carefully to the statement of a very religious man named Nicodemus in John 3:2–“The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” The statement of Nicodemus implies a question—“How can I have God with me?”

The answer to Nicodemus’ question is found in the rest of the John 3 passage. What you will find is that only those who believe that Jesus Christ died for their sins and believe on Jesus as Lord can be saved. Only those who are in covenant with Jesus can have the presence of God with them. Nicodemus’ implicit desire is answered through salvation in Jesus Christ alone.

The story of Nicodemus is intriguing because it reminds us that no amount of religious or moral activity can earn you the favor of God. Only the blood of Jesus Christ can atone for our sin. God’s presence, which wards off fear, is only real for those who have Jesus by faith and not by their own works.

The story of Nicodemus is intriguing because it reminds us that no amount of religious or moral activity can earn you the favor of God. Only the blood of Jesus Christ can atone for our sin.

In Christ, there really is no reason to fear. When someone believes on Jesus Christ, they do receive the very presence of Christ’s Spirit. What is the consequence of this? The result is that if you are truly saved and in covenant with God, then you truly have no reason to fear. He will never leave you nor forsake you.

“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”
Hebrews 13:5-6

Only those who have believed on Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior truly have the presence of God. He is either truly with you, or He is not. You either have cause to fear, or you have no cause to fear. Which one are you?


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BY MAX FERNANDEZ

 

Introduction

Marriage is a shadow of what is an eternal reality–that reality being the Triune God. The Trinity is the doctrine that God has eternally existed as one God, yet three distinct persons. God, as eternal Creator, created the institution of marriage, but how is marriage a shadow of an eternal reality? The answer to this question is the Trinity. Understanding the Trinity (i.e. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit) will help us better understand the connection between marriage and eternity.

Understanding the Trinity will help us better understand the connection between marriage and eternity.

Image-bearers of the Eternal God

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:26). Mankind is made in the image of God, which means that man was made with communicable attributes of God. Communicable attributes are those attributes which God possesses, and man is able to possess as well. An example of a communicable attribute would be love.

In addition, man is relational. Man is relational because God is relational within his own Godhead–the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. The first two verses of Genesis reveal that God the Father and the Holy Spirit were present. Genesis 1:26 seems to imply that there is a conversation among the Godhead by the way the verse uses the plural pronoun us. Even though the Son is not explicitly identified in Genesis, passages such as the opening of John’s gospel account show that the Son is the One through whom all things were created:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1-3)

Thus, the scriptures indicate that all of the Godhead were at Creation, and that they participated. This Trinitarian consideration has massive implications for the offspring of God.² The implications are first relational. The relational aspect of the Godhead can also be seen in the high priestly prayer of Jesus in John 17:5 which says, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” God was in relationship with Jesus Christ before the world was created. The Holy Spirit was in relationship with God before the world existed.

God created Eve to be in a unique relationship with Adam. The uniqueness of this relationship has a couple of different facets: (1) divine and (2) covenantal. By divine, I mean that Adam and Eve’s relationship was created to reflect the relationship that existed in the Godhead (see above). By covenantal, I mean that this is no mere contractual agreement. When Adam exclaims that Eve is “bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh”, it becomes evident that this is no normal agreement.  In addition, Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”  The union emphasized by this terminology is unique to all other human relationships in the Bible. God created Adam and Eve to be in a unique relationship with each other–in particular a relationship that would reflect the very Persons of God.

God created Adam and Eve to be in a unique relationship with each other–in particular a relationship that would reflect the very Persons of God.

Foreshadowing of the True

The covenant of marriage is not only tethered to the eternal God of the past, but marriage is also a foreshadowing of the true eternal reality. When you are walking in a forwards direction with the sun to your back, you can look down on the ground and see your shadow leading you with each step. As your shadow leads you, so it is important to realize that our earthly marriages are temporary images that cast a shadow towards where we are all heading–the true Husband. I say that our marriages upon this earth are temporary because that is what Jesus taught in Mark 12:24-25, but why are they temporary? It is because they are heading towards the true eternal reality of Jesus Christ, the true Husband, and the consummate church, the true Bride.

Our marriages upon this earth are temporary … because they are heading towards the true eternal reality of Jesus Christ, the true Husband, and the consummate church, the true Bride.

Ephesians 5:25-33 presents the truth of Christ and his bride quite clearly. “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32). Our home has many beautiful, pictorial memories of our family. There are pictures of my children and of my wife, but when I arrive home, I do not select a photo of my wife to which I express my affection. I do not need to do that because the real person is in the home: why express affection to a photo when the real person is there? The photo is a memory of the true. In like manner, when we are with the Lord, there will not need to be any more foreshadows; we will be with the true Husband, and we, ourselves, are the true bride as believers. Our marriage is a foreshadowing of the clear New Testament truth of Jesus Christ and the church: “The shadow of covenant-keeping between husband and wife gives way to the reality of covenant-keeping between Christ and his glorified Church.”³

The Gospel & Marriage

The gospel directly impacts the way we understand the covenant of marriage. While in the last point, we looked at marriage as a foreshadowing, and we touched briefly on Christ and the church, but notice what Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Paul speaks of Christ giving himself–a reference to the suffering and death of Jesus. Jesus laid down his life, but it is not just that Jesus did this. It is important to understand how Jesus did this, and I don’t necessarily mean by way of a Cross. Jesus gave his life for undeserving, sinful enemies, and marriage is to be the place that foreshadows this Jesus. It is to be a place where this kind of unmerited love and reverence is to be shown.

Jesus gave his life for undeserving, sinful enemies, and marriage is to be the place that foreshadows this Jesus. It is to be a place where this kind of unmerited love and reverence is to be shown.

In application, this all means that your marriage exists for the purpose of showing the devotion and faithfulness of our God and Jesus Christ: “The meaning of marriage is the display of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his people.”⁴

This also means that—“Staying married, therefore, is not mainly about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant which rightly represents the Lord. ‘Till death do us part’ or ‘As long as we both shall live’ is a sacred covenant promise—the same kind Jesus made with his bride when he died for her. Therefore, what makes divorce and remarriage so horrific in God’s eyes is not merely that it involves covenant-breaking to the spouse, but that it involves misrepresenting Christ and his covenant.”⁵

Conclusion

Lastly, marriage can be good, but it cannot be godly apart from the application of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, marriage is the place where you both will continually be sanctified. It is the institution where gospel-love should be displayed. Marriage is the temporary human relationship that is tethered to the eternal God of the past and is in tension with the future true Husband/Bride. Sense the weight, beauty, and value of the great privilege that you have to be a part of this covenant. It must not be taken lightly, since it is ultimately for God’s glory.

Brief Application Questions:

  • Are you humbled by the privilege that you have to reflect the glory of the eternal God?
  • Have you asked the Lord to equip you with a greater measure of humility?
  • Are you aiming at a good marriage as opposed to a godly marriage? If so, what needs to change?
  • Husbands, what is one specific way you have manifested the gospel in your marriage today?
  • Wives, what is one specific way the gospel has been evident through you towards your husband today?

 

¹See also Colossians 1:13-16.

²“offspring” is the language Paul cites in Acts 17:28 when referring to the fact that God created us–a reference he makes to a Greek poet.

³Piper, John. This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence (Kindle Location 123). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

⁴Ibid., 138.

⁵Ibid., 297-300.


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BY MAX FERNANDEZ

 

Introduction

Companionship is one of the blessings of marital covenant. Implicit within the thought of companionship is the assumption that aloneness is not good. From where did this assumption come, and who made the solution for aloneness? The purpose of this first lesson will be to establish that God is both the Creator of aloneness and the Supplier of companionship.

God is both the Creator of aloneness and the Supplier of companionship.

A Divinely Designed Dilemma

In Genesis 2:18 we read the following words: “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” Though God had created all things as good to this point, here God says that something is not good–aloneness is not good. God’s determination here is based on two important principles: (1) God is the Creator who reserves the right to determine what is good and what is not good and (2) God, as Creator, intentionally created this dilemma.

The meaning of the phrase not good means that there is incompleteness. Maybe when you hear the phrase not good you are thinking that man was made morally imperfect, but that is not the thought here. The inspired penman Moses is communicating that though man was a social creature who was created to be in relationship, Adam did not have a companion. Adam was incomplete.

As a New Testament Christian, please be very careful not to run off with the idea that all men and women are supposed to be married. Scriptures such as Genesis 2:18 have errantly been interpreted to teach that some people are of less value or less worth unless they find that special “one.”  This kind of interpretation of Genesis 2:18 is not in consideration of the fulfillment of Christ’s gospel. For example, Paul speaks of the gift of singleness (I Corinthians 7:7), and it appears also that some would remain better as singles; thus, it is possible that not all people must be married.

A Divinely Designed Solution

Nonetheless, the dilemma of Genesis 2:18 is given a divine solution. Notice the words “I will make him an help meet.” God creates the solution by making a helper who would be suitable for Adam–as opposed to identical.  Also, it is God who created marriage. Though the passage does not use the modern English term of marriage, the covenant is heard in the words from Adam in Genesis 2:23–“And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Marriage is God’s solution of companionship for the aloneness.

Conclusion

There are a couple summarizing principles from this account: (1) Marriage was designed by God and not by man, and (2) Marriage is the divine solution and not a human solution. These two previously stated principles should cause us to conclude that mankind does not have the right to tamper with or change the God-created institution of marriage.

Mankind does not have the right to tamper with or change the God-created institution of marriage.

As the Creator of marriage, God is the foundation of marriage. Marriage is the covenant that should reflect the Creator and should be upheld according to His standard:

The most foundational thing to see from the Bible about marriage is that it is God’s doing. And the ultimate thing to see from the Bible about marriage is that it is for God’s glory. Those are the two points I have to make. Most foundationally, marriage is the doing of God. And ultimately, marriage is the display of God

If God invented marriage, then those who enter it should make every effort to understand and submit to his purposes for it. We do this in many other aspects of our lives.² As previously stated, God is the Creator of the divine dilemma as well as the divine solution.  God’s word must be the standard which is upheld for determining what marriage should be like.

 

¹Piper, John. This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence (Kindle Locations 215-217). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

²Keller, Timothy. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God (p. 5). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


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BY MAX FERNANDEZ

 

How does Galatians 1:1-5 help administrators within a Christian institution?  

It is hard to imagine that such an old writing like the book of Galatians may actually be relevant within Christian administration, but Galatians is tremendously relevant for administrators within a Christian institution. It will be the purpose of this short article to set forth the passage, principle, and practice according to the book of Galatians.  

Passage:

Paul opens up with a thoroughly God-centered perspective. First, Paul mentions that he himself is an apostle (Gal. 1:1). This means that Paul is a sent one. Paul’s commissioning is not by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father. The authority of his commission rests in the Person of God, and is qualified by the powerful resurrection. God is central to Paul’s work.

The authority of [Paul’s] commission rests in the Person of God, and is qualified by the powerful resurrection.

Secondly, Paul notes how this work of God has brought about a new brotherhood (Gal. 1:2). God’s power is not only seen in the resurrection, but also in what the work, by Christ, has accomplished in creating a new people for his own name. The development continues as Paul mentions that this band of brethren (those who are with Paul) are writing to multiple churches. This shows that the work of God is multiplying by this same resurrection power. God is central in establishing the new brotherhood.  

Lastly, in Galatians 1:3, Paul uses the terms “grace” and “peace”—terms indicating that something has started and is ongoing. How did this unmerited favor upon them begin? This is answered in Galatians 1:4. The grace and peace of God has come by way of the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This substitutionary terminology presumes the sinfulness of men. This presumption can be understood by several phrases in the verse: 

1. Who gave – this indicates the need for mankind to have a willing participant; 
2. gave himself shows to us the intimate and complete nature of what Jesus Christ did for mankind; 
3. for our sins – answers the question why mankind needed a substitute;
4. that he might deliver us from this present evil world – teaches us the intended outcome of this substitutionary sacrifice. Thus, God is central to the bestowal of grace and peace.  

Principle:

This passage introduces the fundamental principle which guides the rest of the letter—God reserves the right to all glory (Galatians 1:5). God’s right to glory is attacked when another gospel is introduced to the region of Galatia, but it is not just a problem that happened in Galatia in the 1st Century. At heart, we are all glory thieves. Some are glory thieves who self-deprecate all of the time. Some are glory thieves who self-exalt all of the time. In both cases, self-deprecation or self-exaltation, God’s glory is being stolen.

In both cases, self-deprecation or self-exaltation, God’s glory is being stolen.  

Practice:

So, as Christians who have been graced to be children of God and to serve in a Christian institution: 

1. Begin each day with a thoroughly God-centered perspective.    
2. A God-centered perspective is impossible without re-faithing the gospel.
3. It is no gospel unless you consider the substitution of Jesus for your sinfulness and the power to live free in an enslaved world.
4. Extend the grace and peace to others, with whom you work, which has been extended to you on the merit of Jesus Christ.


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BY ALEX FLANAGAN

 

“God is dead, and we have killed him.” That is what the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche concluded in his seminal parable entitled The Madman. Although this simple yet profound statement was written well over one hundred years ago, it seems that the ideology behind it has never been more popular than it is today. In our modern secular culture, is Biblical Christianity still relevant, or is it just a relic of the unenlightened past?

As long as mankind has existed, there have been certain questions asked that have never gone out of style. They are timeless and inescapable – a given of the human experience. I like to call them life’s big questions. Here are a few:

  • Where did I come from?
  • Who am I?
  • Why am I here?
  • How should I live my life?
  • Why do people do bad things?
  • Why is there so much pain and suffering in the world?
  • What happens when I die?
  • Is there any hope?

Any worldview, if it is to be seriously considered, should be able to give satisfactory answers to these fundamental, existential questions. And the answers, taken together, must be logically coherent and empirically consistent. In other words, the answers cannot be self-contradictory, and they must correspond to reality. The question is: can Biblical Christianity give existentially satisfactory answers that are both coherent and consistent?

According to the Biblical narrative, God made man in His own image and likeness. Man’s created purpose was “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever”, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism so beautifully puts it. However, because true love is impossible apart from free will, God gave man a choice. He could either submit to God and glorify Him, or he could rebel against God and glorify himself. Tragically, he chose the latter. And in doing so, he separated himself from God and plunged the world into unimaginable pain and suffering.

Because true love is impossible apart from free will, God gave man a choice.

But that was not the end. God did not abandon His creation. As a wise Father deals with a wayward son whom He loves, so God dealt with man. He sternly confronted man’s sin, but He also gave him hope. God promised to send Someone who would heal man’s broken heart and restore all creation to its original perfection. From that time, faithful men looked diligently for the coming of the One whom God had promised – the One who would make all things right: “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall” (Malachi 4:2).

“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:3-4). At just the right time, according to God’s perfect plan, Jesus Christ, the very eternal Son of God, humbled himself and became a man – our substitute. He perfectly obeyed God and glorified Him; He suffered and died on the cross for our sins; He defeated death and hell by rising again; He ascended into Heaven and sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. Now all who believe in Him experience the first fruits of personal restoration. But one day, He will return as a conquering King and will completely fulfill God’s promise to heal our broken hearts and to restore all creation to its original perfection. This is the eternal hope of the Christian.

So, is Christianity relevant? The answer, I believe, is a resounding yes. Not only does the Christian message satisfy the needs of our innermost being, but it also describes the way the world is and why.


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BY DON OVERPECK

 

What happens when you die depends on what happens before you die.

Hebrews 9:27 declares, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” The only opportunity you will ever have to get right with God, is the opportunity God affords you right now.

When those who are saved die, they go directly into the presence of the Lord. Remember the thief on the cross? Luke 23:43 “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” This is a promise that at the moment of death, the repentant thief would pass from his life and his agonizing death into paradise with Jesus. The believer passes immediately into the presence of Jesus Christ. This is our hope and comfort as we stand at the graveside of a loved one.

The believer passes immediately into the presence of Jesus Christ. This is our hope and comfort as we stand at the graveside of a loved one.

What is ahead for us when we die?

  • Our soul/spirit goes into the conscious presence of the Lord.
  • Our body is buried until the day of resurrection.
  • When Christ returns, we will be raised bodily from the grave.
  • Our body and soul will reunite into a new, glorified body.
  • We will be with the Lord forever in a place where there are no tears, no pain, and no heartache. A place where we need no sun or moon because the great Glory of God lights our way. A place of eternal peace, joy, and beauty.

Now we consider the fate of those who die as non-believers, without a personal relationship with Jesus. For the believer, the moment of death brings him into the presence of Christ. For the unbeliever, death begins an experience of unending pain.

At the moment of death, the soul of the lost is sent to hell where it is in conscious torment: “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.” Luke 16:22-26.

That pain is eternal. The Bible teaches an eternal punishment for those who do not know our Lord. Mark 9:43-44 “….it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”

If we shudder at such a thought, then let us do whatever is necessary to make sure that such a fate does not befall us or the ones we love. Hell is more than just theoretical doctrine. You must make a conscious choice to put your complete trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. The words of Jesus in Revelation 1:18: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”

Death is not the end of the road; it is only a bend in the road.

Death is not the end of the road; it is only a bend in the road. For the believer, death is the doorway to heaven and unimaginable peace and beauty. For the unbeliever, it is a passageway into unimaginable suffering. These things are true even if we do not fully understand them. They are true even if we do not believe them.  What happens when you die depends on what happens before you die.


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BY VAL BUSSELL

 

There are many important, loving people in a child’s life; however, since I am a mom, we will approach this subject from that point of view.

Regardless of whether you are an adopting mom, foster mom, step-mom or biological mom, everything said here will relate to you.

So, a little about me……

I remember very well hearing those longed-for words from the doctor, “Yes, you are pregnant!” Wow! How exciting, after six years of struggling to have children, I could finally tell my husband this great news! We were beyond happy.

To be totally honest, I had times of doubt, because of the many years of tests and disappointments. Was it really true? I felt the same as before, but wait!  The moment I felt our baby move, I was completely overwhelmed with an amazing feeling of love for this little one–the love of a “mom.”

Have you ever said or thought, “I’m just a mom”?  Read through the list below, and you will proudly say, “I AM A MOM!

Here we go:

ACCOUNTANT, PERSONAL SHOPPER, CEO, MEDIATOR, HOUSEKEEPER, GROCERY SHOPPER, NURSE,  PROTECTOR, LAUNDRESS, BAKER, COOK, FRIEND, DISHWASHER, TEACHER, SECURITY GUARD, NURTURER, PSYCHOLOGIST, JOURNALIST, PARTY PLANNER, HOSTESS, SPIRITUAL ADVISOR, CHAUFFEUR, SECRETARY, PHOTOGRAPHER, JUDGE, REFEREE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY, PERSONAL ASSISTANT, MEAL PLANNER, ORGANIZER, ENTERTAINER, MIND READER, INVESTIGATOR, PROBLEM SOLVER, HAIRDRESSER, TRANSLATOR, TRAVEL AGENT, BARGAIN HUNTER, LIFEGUARD, …the list probably could go on. Let me add my favorite: PRAYER WARRIOR. Quite a list, right? This list describes a very unique person group: moms/homemakers. Whether you are a stay-at-home or working mom, you are in this list. You may be beginning your journey with your little one, but just wait, you’ll see. You are very important people!

What a special blessing God has placed in our lives; but will everything be smooth sailing, problem-free, no overwhelming moments? ABSOLUTELY NOT.  There will be good days and not-so-good days, times when we wonder if we are doing anything right. (Believe me, I know). God equips us with naturally instinctive “tools for the job.” He also places those in our lives we can turn to: husband, family, friends, pastors’ wives.

We want to be the best for our children […] But God has a better plan for all of us.

Bottom line is we want to be the best for our children, so we pour our lives into them and teach them to be the best they can be. But God has a better plan for all of us to be the best we can be. That begins with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Christ loved us enough to go to the Cross and pay the debt (penalty) for the sins of the world.

Just as we love our children, God loves them so much more.


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BY JAKE TAUBE

 

One of the great wonders of our modern era is that I can safely assume essentially every reader agrees that racism is evil and all people, whatever their ethnicity, have equal dignity and value. This would not have been the case in nearly every society of the past! As concerned as we may be about the state of things today, it would be foolish and unthankful indeed for us to ignore this significant progress in the world.

But there’s a danger whenever our society begins to take a truth for granted. When we assume that racial discrimination is wrong (“everyone knows that!”), we are in danger of forgetting the reason. It may be very obvious to us that racism is wrong, but it clearly was not very obvious for our ancestors! If we don’t know why we oppose racism, we set up future generations to fall back into it. We also set ourselves up to fall into a different version of the same vice!

If we don’t know why we oppose racism, we set up future generations to fall back into it.

Let’s see how this can happen. Racism is antagonism towards some fellow human beings because of their ethnicity. But here’s the big question: is that antagonism bad because we shouldn’t feel like that about any fellow humans, or is it okay to be hateful to some human beings, just not on the basis of their skin color? I imagine that this is a question that will divide the audience. You see, many of us non-racists have not understood the case that historically overthrew racism.

Let’s suppose for now that the first option is correct: racism is wrong because we shouldn’t be hateful to any fellow humans. If this is true, it means that we all likely have fallen into another version of this same vice. It means that if a white person hates his white neighbor, he is committing the same kind of sin as the white person who hates his black neighbor! The sin of hatred isn’t limited to hating other races; it includes hatred of coworkers, political opponents, and even the people closest to us.

For the record, Christianity is opposed to racism because it condemns hatred. The Bible teaches that all human beings have a claim on our respect and love, because they were made in the image of God—including those of other races, including those who disagree with us, and including those we find obnoxious and irritating.

Christians will be the first to admit that we have certainly not managed to live up to this ideal of love. But we will eagerly tell you about the One who did. Listen to how English novelist Zadie Smith put it:

“I think the hardest thing for anyone is accepting that other people are as real as you are. That’s it. Not using them as tools, not using them as examples or things to make yourself feel better or things to get over or under… And it’s so difficult that basically the only person that ever did it was Christ. The rest of us are very, very far behind.”

This love was displayed most perfectly in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, where he died for a world lost in hatred. And what the Bible says is that when I experience the love of Jesus for me, Jesus begins to transform my heart. Secure in his love for me, I am no longer threatened by the “other”—the other race, the other party, the other gender.

Secure in [Christ’s] love for me, I am no longer threatened by the “other”—the other race, the other party, the other gender.

So profound is this change, that a follower of Jesus nearly two thousand years ago wrote these words, which were like a lightning bolt in the ancient world, words that mean racism’s days are numbered:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Galatians 3:28


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BY ELIZABETH BERRY

 

We are created in the image of God. Our lives are designed to reflect—to image—pure perfection: the Creator Himself. The human identity was always intended to be found in Him.

The curse of sin has ruined many things for mothers—we experience infertility, miscarriage, difficulties in childbirth, heartbreak, death, and so much more—but one of its most devastating effects is the corruption of how we perceive identity and worth. Though we were meant to be God’s, sin tricks us into believing that we are better on our own. We forget Whom we were created to image. We forget where our true and better identity lies.

Sin may prevent us from perfectly reflecting our Creator in this life; but when we believe Christ in repentance and faith, His transforming work is able to salvage glimpses of His glorious image in us—even on our most ordinary days.

So, Momma—remember who you really are.

To the mother who has lost her identity:

Your once-prioritized dreams lie buried deep beneath diapers, nap schedules, athletic events, schoolwork, and never-ending requests for more snacks. The drudgery of the mundane induces a zombie-like resignation to your family’s needs, and you lifelessly go through the motions with little or no joy.

Momma—find yourself in Jesus, who gladly laid down His life for yours. You will image His selfless sacrifice as you joyfully lay down your own life in this season of service to your family.

To the mother who has too many identities:

You juggle your mom hat with your career hat, your social hat, your hobby hat, and your fill-in-the-blank hat—but this balancing act is unsustainable, and you end up dropping hats left and right. The only hats you really seem to keep up with are your guilt and shame hats.

Momma—rest in the only One who is able to do it all. In fact, He already did it all. You will image His finished work of salvation as you rest in the freedom He offers: freedom to remove the unnecessary, to lay aside the expectations of others, and to acknowledge—as you rest—that God is God, and you are not. 

To the mother who has her identity figured out:

You pride yourself in your ability to manage the bubble you have carefully crafted for your family; but if some unthinkable event were to pop that precious bubble, your entire identity would be crushed—overwhelmed by despair, depression, and emotional breakdown.

Momma—Jesus is better. When your seemingly-perfect world falls apart, He remains, in true perfection and glory. Look for your value and identity in Christ’s performance—not your own—and nothing can shake you.

“The only esteem that will suffice
is one that is rooted in Jesus Christ.”
Max Fernandez

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 12:2


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