When we hike, we generally have a good map, showing the route, elevation changes, distances, and destination. By looking at the map, we know how many ridges are left, how many streams still to cross, and how far we have to go.
In our Christian walk, we know something about the wonders of our destination. We are warned that we’ll have trouble along the way. We are told how to think, speak, and act on our journey. We are certain we will have opportunities to serve. We realize God prepared work for us to do. We are promised guidance and help.
But we don’t know how far we have to go.
God’s word encourages us to have joy and hope in the journey, to rely on Him along the way, to persevere, and to trust Him for the unknown distance still to go.
Through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we … have hope. [It is] God who gives perseverance and encouragement … (Romans 15:4–5)
Therefore …let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1)
I had many relatives in the military, clear back to the Revolutionary War. None died in those conflicts, but one pilot uncle died in a Navy Reserve midair afterwards. On this day, I honor him and all those who gave their lives fighting for our freedom.
And I, and you, have many others to honor: the many, many, martyrs for Christ, who have died, and are dying, in the ongoing war between good and evil.
We look to and honor those who were faithful to Christ, who witnessed to Christ, even unto death.
Chapter 11 of Hebrews mentions a number of “heroes of the faith.” They are part of the cloud of witnesses (martyrs) (Hebrews 12:1) we look to as encouragements, as motivators, in order to be faithful ourselves.
As those fighting for our freedom were steadfast unto death, as those who considered Christ more important than their lives, let us also run our races with endurance, looking to Christ.
So today, Memorial Day, let us honor them and resolve to be faithful ourselves.
Feeling inadequate to do what God asks you to do? God makes you sufficient. You have what it takes.
Are you struggling with some stubborn sin? You have what it takes to overcome.
Are you concerned you won’t know what to say when your faith is attacked? The Holy Spirit will give you the words. You have what it takes.
Are you fearful that you’ll deny Christ in the face of impending death from persecution? You have what it takes to stay faithful.
We are equipped to do the job God wants us to do.
The fact is that we can do all things through Him. We can.
But we need to learn how to have His power work within us.
This is our assignment right now, in this world. We are to grow in the grace and love of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18). We are to learn how to fix our minds on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2, 1 Peter 1:13). We are to learn how to deny ourselves and take up the cross of Christ (Matthew 16:24). We are to increasingly walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16).
The great news is that God is working within us to want to do His will and to actually do His will (Philippians 2:13).
Determine to pay attention and walk in His way.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. (Ephesians 6:10)
This post is only for believers, those who have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. If you’re not, or not sure, see Becoming a Child of God.
God’s word is very clear. We are responsible for our thoughts, words, and deeds, AND at the same time God is sovereign over everything.
We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), AND God promises to work everything together for good (Romans 8:28).
God is totally holy, infinitely sovereign, and works all things after the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11).
God has a plan, is working His plan, and guarantees ultimate victory with righteous judgment, condemnation for some and glorification for others.
Right now, God is sanctifying us (believers), making us more like Christ (Romans 8:29). But, we must acknowledge our responsibility, and strive to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called (Ephesians 4:1).
Until glory, we will still sin, but, if we confess, God forgives and cleanses us (1 John 1:9). And our sin still results in consequences, some severe. At the same time, we know that in His sovereignty He has a purpose for everything that happens. We grieve our sin AND rejoice in His utter power over it.
The fundamental systemic problem underlying the world’s ills is sin.
Most of my career I worked on preventing problems and harm. The key lesson is that to prevent a problem, we need to work upstream, at the underlying issues, and that more than one intervention is most likely needed.
The famous model is the “Swiss Cheese” model. Think about putting slices of swiss cheese in row. Each slice has one or more holes, but if you close one hole, the chances of the problem getting to the next slice decline. If you solve more than one hole, and if you work on closing the holes in more than one slice, the chances of the problem getting to the person decline even more. You might even eliminate the chances of harm.
I don’t want to make this post focus on current difficulties, but if you’ll look into any of them, from “systemic racism,” to illegal behavior, to gun violence, to problems with law enforcement, to high school graduation rates, to poverty, in each there are a series of issues that cause the problem and need to be addressed. And for every issue, every single one, sin is the systemic issue.
As humans, we need to understand the chain of events leading to the problem and address multiple points to reduce harm. Often the temptation is to work just at the “pointy end,” the final step that results in the problem. But that is not the powerful place to focus. And, even if you can eliminate the “pointy end,” the underlying issues will result in a different “pointy end.” The more we can resolve issues “upstream” of the problematic result, the better.
We are responsible to do this.
But we also need to recognize that the fundamental issue is the relationship between God and man. Those without Christ walk in darkness and do the deeds of darkness.
Let’s pray we see our sin, repent, and turn to God in belief.
Have you ever had a very close call? A time when you might have been seriously injured or fatally wounded? How did you feel?
People laugh, or cry. They may be weak-kneed. They may tremble with relief. I’ve seen photos of pilots kissing the ground.
From a spiritual perspective, believers have been rescued from darkness and transferred to the kingdom of Jesus Christ. We don’t deserve it, but we are saved from hell and headed to heaven.
He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. (Colossians 1:13)
Now that should make us rejoice with weak-kneed, trembling, joy.
And we should tremble when we think what Jesus endured for us. His suffering was vast, His crucifixion is unimaginable, and the impact of experiencing God’s wrath is beyond comprehension. All that to save those who believe in Him.
You might want to find some music or videos of Were You There? Or sing it yourself.
[Since you] believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8–9)
Peace is an attribute of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Peace is who He is. He is the source of all peace (true, whole, rich peace, not just the absence of trouble). All peace comes from God, the source of peace.
Peace with God
The bad news
Unless we are reconciled to God through belief in Jesus Christ, we are enemies of God.
While we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son … (Romans 5:10)
Whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
“There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.” (Isaiah 57:21)
This is why we need the good news.
The good news
We can have peace with God, both eternally and now … IF we have received Christ as Lord and Savior.
Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Romans 5:1)
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (John 14:27)
The good news includes eternal peace.
He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— (Colossians 1:22)
Peace right now
The peace we (believers) experience in this world increases as we are sanctified.
The Lord grants us peace
Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. (2 Thessalonians 3:16)
And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.(Philippians 4:7)
We are to work at developing peace
We have responsibility here too. We are to let Christ rule in our hearts, and we are to practice righteous living.
The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9)
The result is perfect peace!
The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. (Isaiah 26:3)
Messengers of Peace
We are to be messengers of peace and to be peacemakers. (This is a topic for you, or for another time)
Father, thank You that, through Your Son, we have been reconciled to You and have peace with You. Thank You that You have granted us the way to have peace in every circumstance in this world, and that You show us the way to achieve it. Help us increasingly trust You, rely on You, and walk in Your way.
Recently I heard a Christian music group telling the audience that God loved them. The crowd cheered.
Their message was misleading and potentially deadly.
God does love that group of people listening to the music, but His love isn’t what was implied.
He loves the world so much He sends rain on the just and unjust (common grace), He warns us of the consequences of our sin (eternal death), He sent Jesus Christ to die for us, and He saves us IF we repent and believe in Christ.
The people in that crowd who have not repented and believed in Christ are God’s enemies. Do they know that?
If they die in their sins (that is, without having received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior), God condemns them and sends them to hell. God is their enemy.
That is truly bad news!
We wouldn’t need the good news of the gospel without the reality of bad news.
I am concerned that we tend to give only the good news without telling people about the bad news and why they need good news.
Each of us has only this life time to reconcile with God through Jesus Christ.
It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment. (Hebrews 9:27)
Let’s determine to help people understand they need a Savior (the bad news) and joyfully and lovingly tell them the good news. And pray for their salvation.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
The world is in chaos. AND God is in control. Both are true, but we have to trust God in order to believe it.
For His own reasons, He is allowing evil to increase, lies to proliferate, society to break down. At the same time, He is calling sinners to Himself, and sanctifying believers in Christ.
He works all things after the counsel of His will, and His will pertains both to the world and to each individual. Nothing and no one is out of His sight. Nothing and no one can escape His attention and intention. Nor do we, as Christians, want to.
He is working at the big level (society, nations, world), and also at the little (individuals). All of it ends in judgment or glory.
If I keep my eyes on Him, I’m okay. If I look at the disaster around me, I’m not.
He has a plan for the nations. He has a plan for you and me, followers of Christ. He uses everything to make us more like Jesus Christ. You and I are here because He has work for us to do.
Praise Him, the righteous Judge. Praise Him, our Savior.
Resolve to walk as children of Light, proclaiming Almighty God.