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BY JIM WINTERS

 

It has been close to 50 years ago that I became a father. Now in our present day, there are numerous opinions as to when this event actually takes place. I, however, can remember the moment as if it were yesterday, when my wife uttered these immortal words: “Congratulations, Daddy.” I have to admit, it took a few moments for those two previously unheard words to sink into my 21-year-old, somewhat naïve brain for digestion. Having searched the Scriptures, I believe a baby’s life begins at the moment of conception, develops in the womb, then enters this strange new world at God’s appointed time.

Nine months after the life-changing news was given, my wife delivered our first child, a living soul. From that very moment at 10:52, Sunday night, December 26, 1971, I became a full-fledged father, responsible to provide for, and to lead that beautiful, little bundle of life in the ways of the Lord. My daughter’s eternal destinywas at stake, and I was the one now responsible for leading her by my direction, example, and leadership; she was going to be influenced by dear ol’ Dad. And incidentally, that awesome privilege has never changed even after 51 ½ years.

Dads, you have a tremendous challenge before you, as you realize God has given you an everlasting soul to love, guide, train, protect, and lead in the paths of righteousness. Remember those little eyes will follow you wherever you lead them.

What a privilege to call the Creator of this universe, the Savior of the whole world, the Redeemer of all who will receive Him, our “Father.” There are too many situations of which we are all aware that a father figure is missing in the home, and a solid role model is nowhere to be found. You see, one can become a dad, but not all dads are true fathers. Gentlemen, let’s be bold, faithful, and true.

The good news is that God has provided a magnificent and perfect plan for all mankind to enter into His family. John 1:12 tells us, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” Wow! By accepting what Christ did on the cross paying our sin debt (in full) with the shedding of His own sinless blood, believing that He was buried and rose three days later from that grave, and calling on Him to enter our hearts as our personal Savior, we can call him “FATHER” for all eternity!

Who is your Father?

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY.


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BY MARK ALLEN

 

I was married at a young age and became a father when only 20 years old. I was a raised in a religious home but didn’t know Christ as my Savior. I was working hard, as taught by my Dad, to provide for my wife. When I came home from work and heard we would soon be a family, my reply to her was, “I need to be promoted and get a raise!” I then realized how little I knew about fatherhood.

I was searching for a church, and we began to attend Grove Bible Church in St. Johns, Michigan. Shortly after attending, I discovered I needed Christ (John 3:16) and asked Him into my heart. We attended a young couples’ class on family and were taught biblical principles on raising children. Realizing how little I knew, I also went to the men’s Bible study class. Any time the Church was open, we were there.

“Train up a child” (Proverbs 22:6) became important as we realized we wanted our family to be raised on biblical principles, and the Bible was no longer taught in the schools. After much prayer, we were blessed with a good Christian school and a principal who challenged me to trust God for the ability to provide! Provide He did, as I was learning to give my children, wife, and job by faith to Him. I prayed daily for His wisdom and guidance in my heart and grew in the ability to hear God through His Holy Spirit as He guided us.

The Pastor, Barb, and the Christian teachers were all sounding boards as my children grew and were saved at Grove Bible Church. We had devotions daily and read Christian authors like Tim La Haye and James Dobson to understand the training up of each child, as God had given each one a different character and spirit. The Lord gave Barb great insight into each child’s life; she was a godly mother who prayed for her family. Both of us relied on the Lord to show us their needs and bents. We have five children and now twelve grandchildren whom we continue to guide and pray for daily.

We continue to pray for our two unsaved grandchildren to be drawn to the Lord, and for the others to keep God first in their lives. Family gatherings and holidays always give me opportunities to pray and read Scripture. Pray for our oldest son, as he has walked away from our God. Once a father, always their father. I still walk in faith praying God will intervene and draw him back to Himself.

As a father and grandfather, I realize I need Christ more each day. Dear God, please continue to guide my life with Your Holy Spirit and for Your Glory!


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BY LAURA WAREING

 

“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:30

REST. What mom doesn’t long for this wonderful state of quietness, peace and refreshment? But as a mom, rest can seem so elusive. Each season of motherhood often brings with it deep exhaustion—whether it be from meeting the never-ending physical demands of your precious infant, constantly training and retraining your non-compliant toddler, consistently pointing your elementary-aged child’s heart upward as they navigate school and fickle friendships, listening to and exhorting your teen as they grapple with deep spiritual questions and amped up hormones, or counseling and praying with your adult child as they make their own life choices. All of this motherhood stuff can be so heavy, can’t it? Life-crushing, heart-wrenching, back-breaking heavy. Can you feel it? Can you feel the heart weight? It is exhausting. We can’t do it. We can’t be the perfect mom. Our dreams of having our praises sung on a gilded Mother’s Day card fall flat because we know the words would be hypocritical at best. We can’t control our children’s hearts. We can’t fix their problems and give them joy. We can’t eradicate rebellion from their wandering hearts. We can’t even truly fulfill our role as mother well because of our own pride and selfishness. We need rest. We need life-giving, heart-healing, peace-filling rest. But where are we to find this REST?

Can you feel it? Can you feel the heart weight? It is exhausting. We can’t do it. We can’t be the perfect mom … We need life-giving, heart-healing, peace-filling rest.

“And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.” Genesis 2:2

For the mom who is a child of God, we can better understand where to find this rest by looking back to the story of our salvation. There was a time when we recognized that it was impossible to perfectly keep the laws that a holy God rightfully required of us. We wanted to keep them. We tried to keep them. And when we couldn’t keep them, we tried to at least look like we were keeping them. But they were too heavy. The law was heavy: life-crushing, heart-pressing, soul-breaking heavy. But CHRIST, the God of the universe came to this earth as a man to live the life that we could not possibly live. He fulfilled the law in every point. Matthew 5:17 tells us, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” Jesus kept the law for us, paid the sin debt we owed with his substitutionary death on the cross, and rose again from the dead making it possible for us to have true REST, to cease from our never-ending pursuit of trying to earn God’s favor. You see, our REST really is a person, and that person is Jesus, our Sabbath.

Now, Mama, it follows that, if Christ is our REST for salvation, he is also our REST in life. Is the burden of Motherhood too heavy? Are you longing for true REST? Look up. Look to Christ. Just as it is impossible for you to be perfect to obtain salvation, so it is impossible for you to be the perfect mom or the perfect anything for that matter. It’s too heavy. It’s too much. Good news! Christ is our perfection. He has freed you from the power of sin so that you can now worship Him by loving and serving others including your children. When your children make choices that break your heart, and you feel that you can’t carry the burden, look up. Find REST in the God who CAN change the heart of your child and who loves your child far more than you can ever love them. “Be careful for nothing: but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). When the mundane and usually messy responsibilities of motherhood bombard you relentlessly, and you find yourself physically exhausted, look up. Find REST in the presence of the only One who can truly give you soul-refreshment. “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul:” (Psalm 23:1-3a).

Just as it is impossible for you to be perfect to obtain salvation, so it is impossible for you to be the perfect mom or the perfect anything for that matter. It’s too heavy. It’s too much. Good news! Christ is our perfection.

So, Mama, do you find yourself exhausted today, pressed down, burdened in your calling as a mother? Let me encourage you that true REST is possible, and it is not dependent on time, money, or trying harder. Rest doesn’t look like an hour of peace and quiet spent in a luxurious bubble bath. It doesn’t look like a stress-free week spent on a tropical beach somewhere. It doesn’t even look like perfectly behaved children that garner you praise as a godly mother. True REST is available anytime, anywhere. It is found when we acknowledge and spend time in the presence of Christ. True REST is a person, and His name is Jesus.

True REST is a person, and His name is Jesus.


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BY KRISTA BARNETT

 

Being a mother was something I had longed for many years before the Lord blessed us with children. It truly was one of the greatest longings of my heart. But becoming a mother was more difficult than I had expected. With all the joys that motherhood would bring, it also brought moments of great loss, disappointment, exhaustion, and many times it stretched me more than I could have ever imagined. When circumstances came that crushed my spirit, this once longed for blessing sometimes left me feeling overwhelmed, inadequate, anxious, and many times fearing things that were totally out of my control. In these times, my sinful heart was revealed. No matter how hard I tried to be the “perfect mom” or the “perfect wife,” I could never fully measure up.

But growing in my understanding of the gospel has changed the way I understand and view motherhood, and really life itself. I realized that I was putting more faith in trying to “do it all right” without fully relying on Christ to be my strength. You see, Christ is not only sufficient in salvation, but for each and every day. Christ is SUFFICIENT for my every need, but I must submit my will to His will. In 2 Corinthians 12:9 Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Psalm 56: 3-4 says, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.” God has chosen me, with all my inadequacies, to be the mother of our children. He has given me the opportunity to be used as an instrument of his grace and demonstrate Christ and His sufficiency, not my own. Truly understanding this was freeing.

God has chosen me, with all my inadequacies, to be the mother of our children. He has given me the opportunity to be used as an instrument of his grace and demonstrate Christ and His sufficiency, not my own.

At the age of 9, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. I realized I was a sinner and incapable of perfection. I needed a SAVIOR that could do for me what I could not do for myself. I praise God for this! But, I also need HIM and His Word each and every day. Through developing a closer relationship with my Savior, I am renewed in my faith daily. Without His transforming work in my life, I have nothing to give.  Only as I yield myself to Christ am I able to pour His love, His grace, and His mercy into the hearts of those I love. As I am reminded of what He did for me on the cross, I am humbled and strengthened to offer this same grace, love, and forgiveness to my children, my husband, and those around me. The gospel reminds me of MY constant daily need for His forgiveness of sin. Even though I was nine years old when I accepted him as my Savior (well over 30 years ago!), I need His daily sanctification until I’m 109!  When life’s storms come and I’m tempted to be anxious of the unknown, when my sin is ever before me, when I’m impatient or unkind in my words or actions, He graciously offers His forgiveness again and again as I humbly repent of sin. As my daily need of Christ is displayed to my family, he uses this to show them how He offers this grace to them as well.

As my daily need of Christ is displayed to my family, he uses this to show them how He offers this grace to them as well.

Through growth in my understanding of the gospel, I have become aware of my need to daily submit my will to His will. It has caused me to realize that my “perfect-made” plans may be different from what His best is for my life, or for my family. Because of sin, there will always be challenges and circumstances that I would rather avoid, but in dying to self daily, I find peace and new life in Christ. Each and every day He offers me His new mercies. God’s Word tells us in Lamentations 3:22-23, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness”. God is merciful, He is kind, and He is forgiving. He can take our mistakes and make something beautiful out of them. I can find rest and joy in motherhood because of the hope I have in Jesus Christ. God does not ask for my perfection, or the perfection of the ones I love; that is why He sent His Son, Jesus, to do what I could not do! These imperfections point me to my great need of the Perfect One, Jesus Christ! Understanding these truths, allows me to die to my own will and be submitted to His.

This understanding helped me to realize my mission in motherhood is focused on the eternal – to point those that I love to Jesus Christ.  As I seek Him, trust His Word, ponder His faithfulness, and repent of my sin, only then can I minister to the spiritual and physical needs of my children, my husband, and those around me. Only then can I look at even the everyday, mundane tasks and allow God to use them for His glory. Only then, can I experience true peace and true joy as I place my faith and my hope in my Savior. Fully realizing this was life-changing for me! Even though I still struggle to remind myself daily of the gospel, I find freedom from the burden of navigating motherhood in my own strength.

As we anticipate Mother’s Day, if you have never accepted Christ as your Savior, trust HIM as your Savior today.  It is the greatest decision you will ever make that is eternal. It is the greatest gift you can give to your family. If you are a believer, praise Him for what HE has done for you and find joy in all the seasons of motherhood by loving your Savior and fixing your eyes upon Him. And when the tough seasons come, when your hopes and dreams are not in line with what is happening, when the everyday, mundane tasks seem too hard and exhaustion is more than you can bear, realize Christ is sufficient for your every need! As moms, or other ladies who have the privilege to invest in others’ lives, realize you can only find strength, hope, and “rest” at the feet of Jesus.  The Lord has specifically given you the privilege, not to be “perfect,” but to point those you love to the PERFECT SAVIOR!

And when the tough seasons come, when your hopes and dreams are not in line with what is happening, when the everyday, mundane tasks seem too hard and exhaustion is more than you can bear, realize Christ is sufficient for your every need!


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BY MARGARET SEMENOV

 

Have you ever read a passage of scripture and skimmed over profound words because they are written with seeming nonchalance?   It’s easy to do.  For example, in Acts 7 when Luke is giving a dynamic yet succinct history of the Hebrew people, he talks about how Moses was raised by Pharaoh’s daughter “and when he was full forty years old” (vs 23) he decided to visit his Israelite brethren.  Now when I was forty, I felt like I had lived a mighty long time already.  For forty years, Moses had been living and being trained by the Egyptians – 40 years!  That’s a long time in life’s economy.  But wait, there’s more!  After killing the Egyptian, he flees and lives in Midian, gets married, has two sons, then the Bible says, “when forty years were expired” he saw the burning bush.  What?  Forty more years?  That’s right.  These are the details I think it is easy to miss.  At 80 years old, God calls Moses on a rescue op of massive proportions!  No wonder he was reticent at first.  It’s easy to miss, however, because the Bible speaks of it as a matter of course – 40 years here, 40 years there, but think about it in terms of your life…I’d be in Midian right now.

One such passage struck me recently as I was reading Hebrews 10:32-34:

But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.  (KJV)

The italicized section has also been translated, “and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one” (ESV).  This is written without fireworks or fanfare, but I have to stop and wonder how I would feel if the police or military showed up at my door and plundered my property because I was a Christian.  The word “joyful” honestly does not pop into my mind at that scenario.  It is so easy to read through that passage and not truly grasp what is being said.  It seems so “out there” to most of us to think about such atrocities.

Something easier to comprehend and therefore a good example would be a house fire. For me to talk about a house fire is a very different thing than my friend who lost her house to a fire a few years back.  For me, it is just an idea of what it might be like. For her, there are mental pictures, smells, and vivid memories attached with the words “house fire.” Likewise, I can only surmise what the plundering of my property would be like. However, there are places in the world even today where this plundering is not out of the realm of possibility. I’ve spoken to Christians from other places in the world in which this was their reality, but for me it seems so hard to grasp and therefore is easy to read over quickly without comprehending the weight of the words that the Hebrews likely felt.

This small part of scripture, however, does expose my priorities.  Why were the original readers of Hebrews known for their response of taking these abuses with joyfulness? Because they understood that they had in heaven a better and an enduring substance, a better possession and an abiding one. Endurance is not founded in the temporary. It is founded in that which is better and abiding, that which cannot be taken away. It is founded in Jesus.

Endurance is not founded in the temporary. It is founded in that which is better and abiding, that which cannot be taken away. It is founded in Jesus.

This brings to mind Matthew 5-7. Jesus is preaching and turning everything upside down for the listeners as He introduces the Kingdom of God. Everything they thought they knew, He was challenging.  In the midst of that sermon, He speaks of where we should place value because that reveals where we place our hearts.  We should place value on heavenly things, not on earthly things.  The believers of Hebrews seemed to have taken that teaching to heart. Have we?  How loosely do we hold our worldly possessions?  Are they grasped loosely enough that God can remove them or use them at will?

When I read, “and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one,”  I picture the Hebrew believers standing aside as their possessions are being plundered with a glint in their eyes thinking I know something you don’t….these are not my most valuable possessions. You can have these paltry things. My most valuable things you cannot touch. I want to live that life knowing that these earthly things are simply temporary. At best, they are tools for the Lord’s use. At worst, they weigh us down and shackle us in servitude to inanimate things, dead things which cannot give life.  Let’s instead cling to the Life-Giver, enduring because we have a “better possession and an abiding one.”  As we continue to study, take note of the details. Ponder passages that are easily missed. It will enrich and even change your life.

I want to live that life knowing that these earthly things are simply temporary. At best, they are tools for the Lord’s use.


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BY BARBARA HARVILLE

 

I know, I know. Some of you are already up in arms after reading my title. You are preparing your defense for disagreement. You are thinking: she’s crazy, she knows my mom and my mom is a saint and I may not be perfect, but I am really trying to be the best Mom I can be.
 So I guess I’d better explain myself. Scripture tells us that “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NO, NOT ONE,” (Romans 3:10). This truth is stated throughout the Bible, so God must want us to take notice. The fact that none are good includes mothers. I could stop now and rest my case and say, “See, I told you so,” but that’s not the point of this blog.

The point of this blog is for my readers to think about Mother’s Day in a nontraditional manner. Mothering is hard; kids don’t come with instructions. Nurturing and parenting are not totally innate. Just because I’m a woman doesn’t automatically mean I like children or want to hold your baby. Sometimes mothering has to grow on you. Since God’s truth is that none of us are good, as moms, we have to admit the fact that there are times when we are bad moms. This is not because we want to be, but because it is our nature. I don’t know of one mother who has not felt the guilt of not being the perfect mom. We get frustrated, angry, maybe not feeling our best, overwhelmed by life itself, and what happens? We yell, speak harshly, walk away, throw up our hands, throw a mini temper tantrum (OK that’s me), blame shift, or just throw up our hands and say, “I’m done.” We don’t mean any of these things, really; but because none of us are good, we let Satan control us in that weak moment. We feel guilty, regret our words and behavior, apologize, and then declare ourselves as “a terrible mom.”

Since God’s truth is that none of us are good, as moms, we have to admit the fact that there are times when we are bad moms. This is not because we want to be, but because it is our nature.

There are other reasons to consider for not being the perfect Mom, besides the obvious that we were born as sinners wanting to be sovereign. One of those reasons may be due to inexperience and lack of preparation for becoming a mother. I have met mothers from the ages of 10 to 46 and neither the 10-year-old, nor the 46-year-old were prepared to raise a baby. I was 18 when my precious daughter, the very best of me, was born. I was totally unprepared. I had only babysat three times and really wasn’t very good at it. Growing up in the sixties, such things were not discussed. We learned via Girl Scout books like How Shall I Tell My Daughter, health class, older girls, assumptions, and our own imaginations. I considered myself a “bad mom.” As my daughter grew, I realized I was not by any means the June Cleaver of moms, but I really wasn’t THAT bad.

Over my lifetime, I have listened to both men and women who have been marred by the treatment of a bad mother. There are those who refuse to celebrate Mother’s Day because they did not have a good mom. I am well aware that not all mothers are loving, nurturing, caring, or even present. I know too well that some are physically, sexually, and emotionally abusive to their children. I have unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) observed the results of the fact that there are not just bad, but evil mothers in this world. But even as I acknowledge this, I must also acknowledge the fact that your mother chose to GIVE YOU LIFE!

I said I wanted us to think about Mother’s Day in a nontraditional way, so let’s do it. A few of the definitions of the word mother are: one who gives birth, one who brings up a child with care and affection, an important female figure, and—I love this one—an elderly woman. A woman does not have to produce biological children to be a mother. YEA! God tells us this very truth in Titus 2:3-5 as the aged women are to take younger women under their wings and train them to live life according to God’s Word. I have one daughter and one child in heaven, but I have many mentored daughters. There are a number of legally adoptive parents and grandparents among our congregation. They have not given birth to these children, but they are their mothers and grandmothers. There are others who have taken on the role of parenting or grandparenting the kids of members of Grace. You see, God has always had a plan for women to be able to mother. So this Mother’s Day, let’s think outside the box when it comes to mothers. If you had or have a godly, loving, unbelievable mom, thank God for them. If your mom is still living, thank her for choosing life. And if you are telling yourself you are a bad mom, remember: none are good, but those who have trusted Christ as Savior are righteous in God’s eyes. Happy Mother’s Day.

…if you are telling yourself you are a bad mom, remember: none are good, but those who have trusted Christ as Savior are righteous in God’s eyes.


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BY JACQUELINE WILLIAMS

 

To me, Easter is equally joyful and solemn, celebrating that we can now draw near to God, yet remembering that this is only possible through the incomparable suffering of Jesus during His life and death. I love that Easter comes around springtime, when the Earth is experiencing new life just as Christ offers believers. We can now draw near to Him and He to us, abide in Him, boldly enter the Holy of Holies, and “obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” rather than the judgment we expect (Heb. 4:16). What an undeserved privilege!

In the Lent study Confident, Lauren Weir explains, “the longing for home is an eternal one—we’re all looking in one place or another to satisfy it” (62). I certainly would not have given us, sinners and enemies of God, another chance to come home again after the Garden. Jesus did not just die for our sins, but also because of our sins (Isa. 53:4-6). We should be without a home. AND YET, God has been mercifully and graciously working since our Fall from the Garden to redeem us and provide a way for us to dwell with Him again: from the Tabernacle to the Temple, from Jesus dwelling among men to our own bodies being indwelt with the Holy Spirit, consummating in us being together with our triune God in the eternal Holy City (Rev. 21:3)!

Jesus did not just die for our sins, but also because of our sins.

When Jesus died, “Behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom” (Matt. 27:51). The veil in the Temple separated unholy man from holy God, in whose presence man would die without permission and proper sacrifice. Imagine telling an Old Testament Israelite that God would one day let His very Spirit indwell every believer (1 Cor. 3:16)! Christ’s Sacrifice means that the veil and animal sacrifices are no longer needed. Not only is Christ our perfect Sacrifice who understands human temptation and suffering better than any other by never giving in to sin, our Great High Priest who only needed to offer Himself once for all to be the forever Mediator making intercession for us, but also Jesus is the very temple (John 2:19-21), where we go to be with God!

Christ’s final words, “Tetelestai—It is finished,” said right before the veil was torn, echo loudly during Easter and reaffirm God as so completely trustworthy. We can now rest in the truth of Jesus as the Living Word, His perfect obedience and endurance, and His finished, victorious work of redemption through His life, death, and resurrection rather than our own feeble and futile works. I think the word faithful sums up the idea: we can endure and be full of assurance and confidence in our faith (be faith-full), because He is faithful to His promises and will be forevermore!

God’s faithfulness makes our lack thereof so utterly obvious. Just like Adam and Eve, our sin still causes us to want to run and hide from God. And even though the veil is now Christ’s Sacrifice/flesh and we have access to God, we put up our own veils daily that get in the way of us drawing near to God and growing in relationship with Him: lesser hopes, desires, idols. Christ has “broken down the middle wall of partition between us [Jews and Gentiles]; having abolished in his flesh the enmity,” yet we put up our own walls of hostility with others (Eph. 2:14). We have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us, yet we often ignore Him and listen to and esteem others more. I have even come to realize how much we can do with good intentions (hear God’s Word, grow in knowledge of Him, serve in the church, talk about God, encourage others, and even pray) without truly drawing near to Him.

We have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us, yet we often ignore Him and listen to and esteem others more.

In his sermon about “The Pleasure and Plight of Drifting,” Pastor Fernandez clarifies that running as with enduring in the faith involves overcoming and disciplining your own thoughts and mind, warning against “drifting due to distraction.” To be transparent, I have always struggled with consistent, focused prayer time. I am more prone to spend time studying His Word and growing in knowledge of Him more than I am talking directly with Him and growing in relationship with Him. To rein in my easily distracted thoughts and prepare my heart for Easter, I committed to a certain amount of intentional prayer throughout each day during this Lenten season leading up to Easter. Already, more time spent drawing nearer to Him not just in study of the Word but also in prayer has helped me see more of my sin and what distracts me daily from Him and the race of faith to be run and which thoughts cause me to drift rather than draw near (Heb. 12:1). Essentially, it has moved my eyes from myself and my situations to Jesus and loving Him and others more.

When we see others outside enjoying these first warmer days of Spring, it makes us want to get out there too. Similarly, us living lives drawing near to Him makes others want to draw near too. Even though Christ is all that we need to run our race of faith well as our Living Water and Bread of Life, I am so grateful that He has graciously given us one another in the church as a gift to train together and to “exhort one another daily” (Heb. 3:13) as we love one another by proclaiming in our words and more importantly our actions: “Hold fast!” “He is risen indeed!” “Seek Him! Draw near!” “He is worth it!”


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BY VICTORINA HOLDING

 

Having read historical accounts of the Roman crucifixion, I cry every time I think of Jesus’ dying on the cross; yet each year I purposely recount the events leading up to His death. Perhaps it’s my own way of keeping the wonder of His sacrificial death fresh in my mind. Recently, however, our Sunday morning messages in the Book of Hebrews have arrested my attention to a truth that I have not given much weight until now: Jesus Christ first lived for me. This, to me, is even more condescending than Christ’s dying for me. I have heard it said many times that it is easier to die than to live for someone else. Why, indeed, did Jesus live for you and me?

Jesus Christ first lived for me. This, to me, is even more condescending than Christ’s dying for me.

In my ritualistic recounting of Christ’s humiliation on His way to the Cross, I am now convinced that I have denied myself of the opportunity to stop and listen in on that momentous conversation in the Garden of Gethsemane – that place where the living Christ showed humanity’s need for connection in love. Love Himself displayed our need to love and be loved. A part of the chorus in J. Wilbur Chapman’s hymn, “One Day,” captures it well: “Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me.” At Gethsemane Jesus asked His disciples, “What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” (Matt.26:40). Just one hour. That was all the Lord asked for: one little hour. The word watch carries the connotation of expecting something; something is about to come or happen. Interestingly, Christ says the word watch twice in just three verses. He wanted His disciples – His friends – to watch with Him and keep Him company. Sadly Christ’s disciples failed Him there. Even more sadly, I have not learned from their failure.

Leading up to Resurrection Sunday, Easter Week has evolved into a calendar entry that triggers different emotions: excitement, stress over a new Easter Sunday outfit and an impressive Easter Sunday dinner, spring break, and post-excitement disappointment. In a flash, the entire week is reduced to a checkmark. The more spiritual among us cannot relate to this, but some of us can. For me, a nostalgia towards traditions is not in itself sinful, but the cloak of self-gratification and pride has rendered the experience empty and depressing. Worse, the events I just mentioned have rarely brought me nearer to Jesus “that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death” (Phil.3:10).

Ah! the fellowship of His sufferings! How humbling that I, who could not watch with Christ one hour, would be given a chance to enter into the fellowship of His sufferings. I’m beginning to wonder if this prolonged pandemic and the current global upheaval might be one of those “one hour” quantities of time in history. Time is nothing to God. He is not bound by it. This, too, shall pass. In the meantime, He is telling me to “watch” with Him for one short hour. Did He not also say, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.”? But like the disciples, I have been failing Him here. Illness, weariness, doubts, misgivings, and a host of other distractions have lulled my soul into a restless drowsiness of unbelief.

God’s response to my lack of faith is usually puzzling. “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is to say, ‘My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?’” (Matt. 27:45 & 46). This much I now understand: even in isolation, in loneliness, yea, even in sickness, the Lord is with me; in fact, He was there first because He lived for me. Could I not then watch with Him one hour? Could I not then be still for this moment – this brief stretch of time?

Why ONE hour? Why not two? In math, the number 1 is indivisible; it stands on its own. Could it be that God is trying to get our undivided attention? The Psalmist admitted in Ps.119:71: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” I believe the Lord has allowed this time of affliction in our land – this “one hour” of our lifetime – to come away with Him individually and as a church to get to know Him better than ever. Forsaking all the incessant clamor and distractions, you and I must watch with Christ even as we watch and pray for His soon return. Away then with the divided life! Christ is either our All or not at all. “Take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand” (Matt.26:45). “It is finished!” (Jn.19:30). A new hour begins.

Away then with the divided life! Christ is either our All or not at all.


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BY BARBARA HARVILLE

 

We use seasons as a metaphor for our lives because they elegantly illustrate the transitions we go through and how those transitions affect both our mindset and our faith. My philosophy of Easter has changed since I came to know the Lord sixty-seven years ago in the spring season of my life. As a child Easter meant baskets, colored eggs, jelly beans, Peeps, and biting the ears off chocolate bunnies. In my teens Easter meant it was time for a new dress, new shoes, and, my favorite, a new handbag. Spirituality didn’t seem to make the priority list during that summer season of my life. Yes, I went to church on Easter Sunday and sang “He Arose,” “It Is Well with My Soul,” “Because He Lives,” “In the Garden,” and the rest of the standards. I certainly knew that Christ died for me, He was buried, and He rose again. But, though I believed this with all of my heart, I did not spend time meditating on the full scope of these truths and how they impacted my relationship with Jesus.

It wasn’t until the autumn season of my life as a believer that I examined the culture of Jesus’ day, including Roman methods of torture and death. I was employed in the medical field so I understood the results of blunt force trauma on a human body. I knew the consequences of excessive blood loss caused by flogging. I comprehended that hanging on a cross pinned by nails in one’s hands and feet made every breath an excruciatingly painful struggle. In my head, I perceived the humiliation and sorrow of being mocked, scorned, accused, betrayed, and punished even though He was innocent. I acknowledged the facts of Christ’s death. I appreciated that He suffered all these persecutions willingly for me. And yet, my heart and mind did not mourn as I celebrated Easter. I did not grieve the loss of a dear friend and family member. My heart was not broken, just moved.

Now in my full adulthood, both chronologically and as a believer, contemplating Easter has become personal. I am intensely aware of my sinful nature and my inability to please God in my own power. I hunger to deeply know the One who is everything that I am not. I thirst to commune with the Savior who loves me and desires a personal relationship in spite of my sin.

You see, with God, it is personal. What was the reaction, at this historical event we call Easter, of those who knew our Lord best? I wonder:

What anguish did the women who cared for and prepared the body of their friend, teacher, and master suffer? Scripture states that His body was so disfigured, it was beyond human likeness. Were the women angry, vengeful, horrified at man’s inhumanity to man, saddened by the loss, or anxiously awaiting the promised resurrection?

When the angel rolled away the stone, did the earth cease to groan, if only for a moment? Did the flowers, trees, and vegetation take on a new glow?

Did Satan realize his defeat and Christ’s victory?

Would my reaction be one of joy or skepticism?

Would my heart be broken because Jesus had to suffer and die, that I may live?

Would these facts change my view of Easter from a mere holiday to a time of true repentance and rejoicing?

In the winter season of my life, my answers to these questions are very different from when I was a child. Heaven is both more absolute and not that far in the future. The horrors of Christ’s crucifixion are less vivid and overshadowed by His resurrection. The assurance of spending eternity in His presence is guaranteed and I joyfully await His call to come home. Today, Easter is a season of rejoicing in the “now, but not yet.”


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BY MAX FERNANDEZ

 

Church Family,

As we study through the book of Hebrews, you will hear a variety of sermons. All of them will be expositional (exposing the message of the text), but of different kinds. Below are the distinctions among the different types of sermons. I hope this helps.

Pastor Max


Biblical Theology

Biblical Theology traces the development of a particular theme through the storyline of the Bible. For example, if we were studying a biblical theology on the Son of God, we would see where the Son of God is in Creation, the Fall, Redemption, and New Creation. Biblical Theology is concerned with showing how the theme is fulfilled in Jesus Christ and how it flows from Christ. Since this theology pertains to the whole story of Scripture, a sermon of its kind will typically flow from the beginning to the end of the Bible.

Historical Theology

Historical Theology is concerned with how particular doctrines were understood during different periods of church history and why the beliefs were such. Historical Theology is particularly helpful in identifying heretical teachings; therefore, a sermon of this kind will look at a particular passage or doctrine and what it actually says versus how it has been interpreted and even misapplied. For example, with the doctrine of Jesus, there was a false teaching about Jesus’ Person. This false teaching was called Arianism. Historical Theology will explain what this teaching is, where it is today, and why clarity about this teaching matters.

Applied Theology (Practical)

Practical or Applied Theology is primarily concerned with how a particular doctrine is applied in the life of the hearer. This kind of sermon will expose a particular passage. The primary application for the original hearers of the text will be preached as the primary application for the contemporary hearers. In addition, this sermon will not spend as much time developing details of the text.

Systematic Theology

What does the entire Bible say about a particular topic? Systematic Theology attempts to systematize and synthesize all of the verses on a given topic. For example, a search may be done for the word atonement. Each of the verses on atonement would be compiled and studied to see a systematic approach to the teaching of the topic. Systematic Theology is distinct from Biblical Theology in that the former is not concerned with how the doctrine correlates to the storyline of the Bible. Systematic Theology will present, explain, and apply the topic from the various corresponding verses. In this kind of sermon, I will attempt to keep in mind the context of each of the cited passages as I refer to them. This should further help you understand the given topic.


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