Suicide – Twenty Years Later

It has been twenty years since Connie put SUICIDE on my “radar” – October 22, 1997 – by taking her own life on that fateful day, and in some ways, it hasn’t gotten easier. I was reminded – again, of the devastation that is left behind when someone commits suicide. I lost a young friend (29) and brother to suicide, October 12, 2017. Connie left behind our family which will never be “whole” again, and he left his young, pregnant wife and three young children behind.

His wife told me that she felt like she had lost a piece of herself, and she did. I lost a piece of myself when Connie took the “easy-way-out“. We will never regain that lost piece, and nobody can ever “replace” that lost spouse. Why do we lose a piece of ourselves when we lose our spouse? We find that answer in the latter part of Genesis 2:24: “…the two shall become one flesh.” Marriage, as designed by God, is intended to be our deepest, most intimate human relationship. In becoming husband and wife, “one flesh“, we mirror the deep, intimate relationship within the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We see “unity in diversity“.

Sadly, suicide has become an epidemic in America. Another person takes their own life every twelve minutes, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and one out of five is a Veteran. He was a Veteran, a two-tour combat Veteran. He had uncontrolled and inadequately-treated PTSD. Not even his wife knew how badly he was doing and hurting.

Suicide always demands more questions than there are available answers, not the least of which is “WHY?”. In spite of having more answers than I had a few months ago, thanks to some things I found in my mom’s files, even they asked more questions than they gave answers. I now know that I was kept in the dark about some things, which my mom knew about, for over five years before Connie took her own life. Why wasn’t I told?

Why does suicide seem to “require” a scapegoat, someone to blame? Aren’t there enough questions already, besides wondering what “someone did wrong“? That seems particularly prevalent when that person was married, and so the most common scapegoat is their spouse. Why do families have to play the “blame-game“. Any time a person takes their own life, it is easy to believe that “someone” is to blame. WHY??? Did that “someone” “drop the ball“, “fail to read the signs“, or otherwise “not live up to expectations“? Were they “not as good a spouse as they should have been“? There are people who are still blaming me for Connie’s death twenty years later.

As if it isn’t bad enough that others want to blame us, the survivors, for our spouse’s suicide, we have the tendency to blame ourselves for their suicide. Weren’t we “good enough“? Did we “do something wrong“? Worse yet, “could we have done something to prevent their suicide?“, or, “how did we miss the signs?“… The problem with those lines of thinking is that WE ARE NOT MINDREADERS, and not every person who commits suicide “telegraphs” their intentions beforehand.

As a suicide survivor, and knowing other suicide survivors, I am appalled by how many people take their own lives every year. One of the problems is suicide is that it doesn’t just affect the person who took their own life, but it also affects their family and friends. With that in mind, let’s look at the statistics from the AFSP (https://afsp.org/):

* Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US.

* Each year, 44,193 Americans die by suicide. To expand on that, a person dies by suicide every twelve minutes, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

* It is estimated that twenty-five people attempt suicide for every people who actually takes their own life.

* On average, there are 121 suicides a day, of which 22 are Veterans, which means that we not only lose five people to suicide every hour, but almost one out of five is a Veteran.

* That means that 121 families and extended-families are bereft of their loved-one every day. How many people does that affect? Thousands per day? Millions per year?

* Firearms account for almost 50% of the suicides each year. The next most common methods were suffocation (including hangings) at 26.8% and poisoning at 15.4%.

* Men die by suicide 3.5x more often than women.

* White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2015.

* The rate of suicide is highest in middle age — white men in particular. “Mid-life crisis”?

* In 2015, the highest suicide rate (19.6%) was among adults between 45 and 64 years of age. The second highest rate (19.4%) occurred in those 85 years or older. Younger groups have had consistently lower suicide rates than middle-aged and older adults. In 2015, adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 24 had a suicide rate of 12.5%.

* In 2015, the highest U.S. suicide rate (15.1%) was among Whites and the second highest rate (12.6%) was among American Indians and Alaska Natives. Much lower and roughly similar rates were found among Asians and Pacific Islanders (6.4%), and Blacks (5.6%).

These are real people, not just numbers. In more tangible terms:

* We lose a community every day. I live in a community which probably doesn’t even have 121 people in it, so it would be wiped out, and then some.

* We lose a small town every week. There are many small towns that don’t even have 850 residents. They would be a total-loss.

* We lose 3,400 people to suicide every week, which is the equivalent of a modest-size town.

* Our annual losses to suicide would populate a small city.

When we think about those affected by suicide, we immediately think of their immediate-family; spouse, children, siblings, parents, etc., but we often forget that suicide affects far more people than that; church, extended-family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Nobody takes their own life in a vacuum. When my wife took her own life, it affected nearly the entire community because she was a hometown-girl who was related to at least half of the town through marriage. It was no wonder the church was standing-room-only during her funeral.

We must not forget that suicide doesn’t just strike “secular-people“, “unbelievers“, it strikes Christians as well. My wife was a strong Christian and active in our church. My friend who committed suicide recently was a Christian, as was the pastor’s wife I mentioned in “The Faces Of Suicide“. Just because Christians should always have hope, doesn’t mean that they always HAVE hope. Nobody is immune to staring down that black-hole of hopelessness. Nobody…

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention PTSD. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event, such as sexual assault, warfare, traffic collisions, or other threats on a person’s life. While Veteran’s PTSD is the most recognized, we can’t leave out the PTSD our First Responders, Firefighters, Police, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Search and Rescue (SAR) personnel face. Nobody who deals with trauma and death is immune to PTSD, but frequent debriefings do help lessen the effects of PTSD. I was in Search and Rescue for a dozen years, and I have been places, seen and done things I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Why? Because even if we were not able to “rescue” anyone, helping bring “closure” to their families DID matter. PTSD not only affects the person with PTSD, it affects all of their close relationships, particularly their spouse.

FInal thoughts…
Is there more to say? Unfortunately there will always be more to say, because the problem of suicide is only getting worse, not better. I doubt that this is my final word on suicide, because as I learn more, I will pass on what I have learned in hopes of helping prevent even ONE suicide.

Are YOU available to help someone who is contemplating suicide? I am…

Blessings,
Steve

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What Is Our Only Hope? – Why Jesus’ Humanity Matters…

What is our only hope?

We are faced with a crisis of hope in America today. Fewer people have true hope than at any time in the past. Two or three people have committed suicide since this service began, and before it ends, several more will have committed suicide. Someone commits suicide every fifteen minutes, twenty-fours a day, seven days a week, and one out of five is a Veteran. Suicide is the ultimate expression of hopelessness. Why are so many people living without hope?

We see hopelessness in divorce courts. Over fifty percent of the people who say “I do” will say “I don’t” sometime in the future. Those marriages may last for many years before they dissolve or just a few days as my most recent one did. Why do people say “I do” and then say “I don’t”? Why was there so much hope when they said “I do” and yet they are hopelessly broken when they say “I don’t“. “Til death do us part” has become “Til death or disconvenience do us part“. Why this epidemic of hopelessness? What has caused all this hopelessness?

Could it be that throwing God out of America has real consequences?

Could it be that when people say “I don’t want anything to do with God“, He gives them their wish and turns them over to the worst to torture themselves for all eternity.

The Bible will provide the answers people need, but only if they are willing to get acquainted with its Author. Are you living without hope? If so, I hope that you will stay tuned as we look at “What is our only hope? Why Jesus’ humanity matters“.

We are broken people, living in a broken world, and if we are truly honest with ourselves, there is far more brokenness in us than we would like to admit, which is why we act like we are “okay” even when we aren’t. We have learned to put on a “happy-face” even when we are crying inside because we don’t want those around us to know how broken we are. Only God can heal our brokenness and make us whole again, but we have to trust Him to do what we can’t do for ourselves. God, in the person of Jesus Christ, became a man so that He could bring us back into a right-relationship with God and with one another. He IS our ONLY hope.

We often ask “Where was God when…?“, and we can list a thousand-and-one events when God was seemingly-absent, but was He? If we don’t really know who Jesus is, we would be tempted to think of God merely as a detached observer, but we couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Four major traumatic events are etched deeply into my memory, and beg the question Where was God when…?

Where was God when the Space Shuttle Challenger became a ball of fire?

Where was God when the Murrah Federal Building was bombed?

Where was God when the Twin Towers fell?

Where was God during the Pulse Nightclub massacre?

While I was somewhat “detached” from those events, every one of them left grieving family and friends behind, and I was deeply-shocked by them. The Pulse Nightclub massacre struck way too close to home, since I live fairly close to Orlando. Where was God when those events took place?

Getting more personal…

Where was God when my wife committed suicide?

Where was God when my brother Darrell died of cancer?

Where was God when my mom died?

Whether it is a major-event or a personal-tragedy, our deepest desire is to know that God cares, that He understands our pain and suffering. While we might think that God was “detached” from those events, as we will see from John 11, God was very-much present during and after those events. This should give us hope, both for the present, AND for the future.

The Death and Resurrection of Lazarus
11 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 This He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.” 12 The disciples then said to Him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep. 14 So Jesus then said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.” 16 Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.”

17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off; 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. 20 Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house. 21 Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”

28 When she had said this, she went away and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and was coming to Him.

30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?”

38 So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” 44 The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:1-44)

In our era of instant-communications, we barely remember when all news from friends and loved-ones came by “snail-mail“, so it is hard for us to fathom that it could have taken several days for Jesus and His disciples to have found out about Lazarus’ sickness, but it did. At the end of John 10, Jesus had escaped Jerusalem with a price on His head and headed East to beyond the Jordan River where it was a bit “safer“. Jesus and His disciples were there when they heard the news that Lazarus was sick. “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.

Jesus was deeply-relational. Mary, Martha and Lazarus weren’t merely “friends“; they were virtually “family“. Jesus’ love for them transcended “friendship“; it was a deep, intimate love, which was reserved for those who were closest to Him, such as John.

I have no biological siblings, but I have a few dear friends who have become “family” to me. We care about each other on a far-deeper level than mere “friendship“. Maybe you have some of those too.

Mary and Martha had sent for Jesus, but He didn’t respond immediately. He stayed where He was for two more days. Oh, He could have spoken the word and Lazarus would have been healed immediately, but He didn’t. He waited until after the funeral. Jesus tells us why He waited in verse 4, But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.”

17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off; 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. 20 Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house. 21 Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”

Lazarus being in the tomb for four days was proof-positive that he was actually DEAD. He also wasn’t in a coma or merely sleeping. He was stone-cold DEAD. Bethany was close enough to Jerusalem for her to have friends there, and many of them had come to console Mary and Martha, and while funerals happened very quickly, public-mourning continued for quite a while.

Martha was reeling from the death of her brother, but Jesus could have prevented his death. She expresses a curios mix of scolding and confidence. Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”

Jesus begins to show her that, while He was too late to prevent Lazarus’ death, it WASN’T too late for Him to do something about it. Jesus wanted her, and us, to realize that God doesn’t operate on our time-schedule. 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Martha, unlike the Sadducees who didn’t believe in a resurrection, DID believe that Lazarus would be raised when the final-curtain was dropped on this phase of our human existence. However, she still didn’t have any confidence that Lazarus would rejoin their family. It seemed that death had still gotten the last word…

This is where Jesus begins turning the tide. 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; Standing before her was the very Creator, the ultimate Author of life. He had breathed life into a pile of dust and given Adam life. He was also the ultimate Authority on resurrection, because if He could breathe life into mankind, He could also breathe new life into a man. He was also making an explicit-claim to Deity because only God could raise the dead.

His next claim either confirms His place in the looney-bin or completely-separates Him from the rest of humanity. “He who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” He is either who He says He is, the Incarnate Son of God, or the biggest fraud that ever walked the earth, because He is claiming that those who truly believe in Him WILL have eternal life.

Do you believe this?” This is the reality-check. Does Martha believe in Him? Her answer shows that she was willing to risk believing His claims and lay skepticism aside. She knew that, standing before her, was the ONLY person who could alter the course of history, who could make their family whole again. 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” She affirms that she believes that He is the long-awaited Messiah.

28 When she had said this, she went away and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and was coming to Him. Mary didn’t waste any time going back with Martha to where Jesus was.

30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?”

Two sisters, same exact statement to Jesus, but He gave two very-different responses. Why? Both sisters expressed confidence that Jesus could have prevented Lazarus from dying if He had been there. How could He confront Martha one moment and bawl like a baby with Mary the next? He was strong one moment and vulnerable the next. He was either a deluded, wacko nut-case, or He was who He said He was, the Incarnate Son of God. He revealed both His true Deity and His true Humanity by His responses to Martha and Mary. He is both fully God and fully human, the perfect God-Man. His favorite title for Himself was “Son of Man“.

When we look at Martha, she is almost angry at Jesus because He allowed Lazarus to die. Had He gotten there sooner, He could have healed Lazarus, rather than allowing him to die. Mary approached Jesus with pleading-humility, falling at His feet. Why did Jesus answer Martha rather harshly, while He entered Mary’s grief and broke out in tears?
Jesus demonstrated both “sides” of His personhood, that He is fully-God, and at the same time, fully-human. His deity allows Him to claim, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” , while His humanity allows Him to enter into our pain and grief.

33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” We may be wondering why Jesus didn’t know where Lazarus was buried, but that may have been in deference to His friends.

35 Jesus wept. This is the shortest verse in the Bible, and it should cause us to pause and rethink our doctrine of Christ. He was God, enshrouded in human-flesh.

38 So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” 44 The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Jesus hurt with Mary, Martha and their friends as they came to Lazarus’ tomb, which was simply a cave with a stone rolled in front of the entrance. It was, in most cases, reusable, because in that desert climate, bodies dried out very quickly, leaving nothing but bones, allowing other family members to be buried in it also. Joseph was buried in Egypt, but he bound his family with an oath that they would take his bones with them when God liberated them from Egyptian domination. (Genesis 50:24-26). He didn’t want to be interred permanently in Egypt.

39 Jesus said “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Only dead bodies decay, proof that Lazarus was really DEAD. The stench of death was going to be replaced with the joy of resurrection.

40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they removed the stone. Jesus, speaking as God Incarnate, was going to reveal the glory of God in a dramatic way.

Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” Jesus’ prayer may sound strange to us a first-glance, but it reveals something very profound about who He is, His intimate connection with His Father. He wasn’t just a man with an elevated “God-consciousness“; He was the Incarnate Son of God. He was God in human-flesh. He had a perfect “hotline” with His Father far beyond our wildest imaginations.

When Jesus walked up to the tomb, He didn’t have a look of glee on His face. No, He had tears in His eyes, and righteous-indignation in His heart, because Sin, the Fall, and the Curse had robbed Him of one of His dearest friends. As Creator-God, He never intended for Lazarus’ story, or anyone else’s story to end this way, in death. We are created to live, not to die.

Was He already starting to feel the icy-jaws of death close around Him? He knew that in order to raise Lazarus from the dead, He would have to die for the sins of His people. In order to interrupt Lazarus’ funeral, He would have to be buried too, and only by His own glorious resurrection would He be able to secure Lazarus’ resurrection. He was only a few days away from the cross…

We can almost hear the anger in His voice and see His rage as He bellowed-out “Lazarus, come forth.” Death was not supposed to claim the lives of those we love, but it had claimed the life of one of His dearest friends, Lazarus. They were virtually family. He was staring in the face of the vilest result of our fall into sin, death. Death wasn’t part of God’s original plan. Death came as the ultimate curse of the Fall. It wasn’t “natural“, it wasn’t “normal“, even though we have come to think of Death as being both “natural” and “normal“.

How many people have you known who have slipped the bonds of this life and entered into the next life without dying first? If you are like me, you have attended far too many funerals as you have lost far too many friends and loved-ones to death. I lost my “twin” brother in 2011. That was a tough memorial service, but I couldn’t have NOT been there. My dad died in 2013. My friend Liz lost her mother in 2015 and her father this year as well as her best friend. I lost my mother in April.

He, who was the Creator of Heaven and Earth, invaded the Dragon’s lair, bound the Dragon, grabbed the keys and released one of its captives. He, who had breathed life into the first man, breathed new life in Lazarus. The Dragon would not be finally slain until Jesus strode from His own tomb after His crucifixion.

Lazarus didn’t come out of his grave as a zombie; rather he came out of his grave struggling with his grave-clothes. Lazarus was, after he was relieved of his grave-clothes, buck-naked. When someone died, those who were close to them washed their body, and if spices were available, packed spices around the body as they wrapped it almost “mummy-style“. Since clothing was handmade and costly, there was no reason to bury them in their clothes.

We can imagine the jubilation of his friends and family when Lazarus walked out of the grave – ALIVE. That would have been an event to celebrate in style. Their family was whole again!

45 Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him. (John 11:1-45)

Why does Jesus’ humanity matter? Only by becoming human, one of us, was He able to live the life we cannot live, die the death that we deserve in our place, and be resurrected that we may be resurrected. God had to become a man, so that man could be brought back into fellowship with God.

A prominent theologian, who is the son of a prominent theologian, recently had to resign all of his positions in disgrace because he was caught driving under the influence of alcohol, AND, he had a minor child with him. The arresting-officer wasn’t swayed by who he is and what he has done prior to that time, because in the eyes of the law, he had violated the law. The judge might be lenient on him, but he won’t get off Scott-free. Thus it is when we stand before God. Regardless of how “good” we may have been, we were born sinners, and regardless of how “minor” our sins may have been, we are guilty before God, and there is NOT any “plea-bargaining“. There is ONLY on plea that holds up in God’s court and prevails, and that is the blood and righteousness of Christ on our behalf. Had God not become human in the person of Jesus Christ, there would NOT be any acceptable plea. We would ALL be guilty before God.

That was the way it was with the Apostle Paul. Paul, then known as Saul, was a Pharisee who was zealous for the Law of God, yet he rejected the very Messiah he had longed for all his life. He also rejected and persecuted the very faith that had grown up around Christ and His teachings. When the risen Christ confronted him on the road to Damascus, He didn’t confront him about the “good” that he had done, but about the EVIL he was doing. Paul was guilty before God, and he needed a new heart and a new life-direction. Acts 9:1-7 recounts his conversion.

His humanity also matters because He experienced everything that we experience, pain, sorrow, loss and grief, so that when we experience those things, He can share in them with us. When I lost my mom, as painful as it was, my supreme-comfort was that she is in the presence of God, and that Jesus shares in my pain, sorrow, loss and grief. I don’t travel this road alone. Jesus is with me every step of the way.

The Apostle Paul gives us even deeper reason to believe in Jesus’ true humanity:
12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

If Jesus had not truly become a man, He could not have died on the Cross, and He couldn’t have been raised from the dead. All of these events are absolutely-vital to our salvation. Paul ends with these words; “we are of all men most to be pitied.”

The Heidelberg Catechism opens with these beautiful words:
Q. 1 What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong — body and soul,
in life and in death — to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.

He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven;
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.

For those who are in Christ, we are kept by the Lord and Creator of the cosmos. Jesus didn’t abandon His earthly-body when He ascended back into Heaven. He is living at the right hand of God the Father as the eternal God-Man, as fully-human as we are.

Is Jesus your Savior and Lord? I pray that He is, but if He isn’t your Savior and Lord, tomorrow is not guaranteed, nor are you even guaranteed your next breathe. We all have an appointment with death, but we don’t know when that will be. As I was working on this message, one of my elderly neighbors took her last breathe. I had seen her outside that morning. Only God knows her eternal-destiny. The only way for you to be certain that, when you die, that you will meet your Creator in peace, is by humbly acknowledging your need for a Savior and committing your life to Christ. He died that you might live, and He lives that you might live with Him forever. May this be your day of salvation. Jesus is waiting for you…

In Christ,
Steve

Is “Universalism” Biblical?

When tragedy strikes, such as the recent Orlando Massacre, many people want and need to be comforted and consoled, so it is tempting to quote the first phrase of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world“, while leaving out the equally-vital third phrase, “that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life“. The thinking and narrative goes something like this: “Since God loves everybody, He wouldn’t send anyone to hell, so they must all be in heaven.” It seems inconceivable that someone we knew and loved, and who was such a “good” person, might be in hell. Is that concept Biblical? So, in light of the entirety of John 3:16, we are going to examine whether “Universalism” is Biblical.

I was a Bagpiper for several years, so I piped nearly a hundred funerals and committal-services. If it was a committal-service for a deceased Veteran, and an Honor Guard performed the service, the message went something like this: “He served faithfully and honorably in this life, so he is in the care of our great Commander in the sky. He has joined that great Army in Heaven.” There was just one sad problem with that narrative; nobody really knew the true spiritual-condition of the person when he took his last breath. They were making a comforting, but dangerous, assumption.

One of the most difficult, yet most comforting funerals I piped was for the Chief of a small, rural volunteer Fire Department, which was held at a small country church. I was a Firefighter at another volunteer Fire Department in the area, so I had met and worked with him a couple of times. His pastor described his great faith, how he loved the Lord, and how he loved to read and teach from his tattered, dog-eared Bible. That was music to my ears and comfort to my soul, and if there is a Fire Department in Heaven, he is there when he isn’t teaching others more from the Bible.

Do you see the difference? “Universalism” provides a false hope and false comfort; while we have the true hope of seeing those we knew and loved again if they were trusting in Christ alone for their salvation.

Into John 3:16…

For God so loved the world…
Yes, God DOES love His creation, and we were created to have a relationship with Him, but our sin has separated us from God and destroyed that relationship. Sin has real consequences, and one of those consequences is eternal-separation from God. God could have terminated or rebooted His human-project after Adam and Eve sinned, but He didn’t. God could even have accepted the “new-normal“, but He didn’t. He kicked His plan of redemption in high-gear with the promise of a Savior in Genesis 3:15. It wasn’t going to be easy for God to restore us to a right-relationship with Him. His own Son was going to have to become a human and bear the just-punishment we deserve in our stead. If “Universalism” was true, we would have had no need for a Savior.

That He gave His only begotten Son…
Jesus Christ came to earth with a mission, sent by God the Father, to enter our battle, to stand in front of us in our fire-fight, to take the bullets we would have taken, to stand between us and the wrath of a Holy God, to die the death that we deserve, to become our Savior. He came willingly, even relishing the battle, because He loves us that much. If “Universalism” was true, Jesus Christ would not have needed to come to earth to die in our stead.

That whosoever believes in Him…
This isn’t just passive-acceptance that Jesus is God-incarnate and came to save sinners; it is active-belief, marked by a changed-life and a fresh love for God. It is a heart-felt understanding that we can’t save ourselves, but Jesus Christ came to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves. If “Universalism” was true, it wouldn’t matter what you believe, because even Atheists are going to Heaven.

Shall not perish…
This isn’t some empty-hope; it is an iron-clad promise. If you are trusting in Christ alone for your salvation, your eternal-destiny is secure, guaranteed by Christ himself, but if you are trusting in “Universalism” for your salvation, you are dead in your sins, and when you take your last breath, you will go into eternal-separation from God, Hell.

But have eternal life…
There is an eternal-reward for putting your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, entering into His joyous-presence and being with Him forever. That alternative isn’t pretty.

Is “Universalism” true and Biblical? Don’t bet your soul and eternal-destiny on it, because you WILL lose. There is ONLY one way into Heaven, and that is by accepting and believing the truth, as laid-out in John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

In Christ,
Steve

David and Goliath

Are you faced with a “Goliath“? Are you facing what seem to be insurmountable obstacles in your life? Have you ever lost your job suddenly and without any warning? Have you ever been unemployed AND unemployable? Are you faced with financial distress so great that you don’t know how you are going to pay your bills, let alone live? Are you in a relationship that seems so irreparably-broken that you think that there is no hope of saving it? Are you plagued by a growing list of chronic health-problems? Have you lost a loved-one to death, and wondered how you could ever carry-on without him or her? Has the seemingly “organizedchaos” of your life descended into utter-pandemonium? Several thousand years ago, David, a young shepherd-boy, faced Goliath, a man who was nearly twice as tall as him, but he conquered that that giant with the help of the Lord. So, sit back, relax, and buckle up, as we look at how David slew the giant, and how we may “slay” our “giants” with God’s help. We may never completely “slay” our “giants” in this life, but God has promised to show Himself strong where we are weak.

David and Goliath

17 Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. 2 And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines. 3 And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them. 4 And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. 6 And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. 7 The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron. And his shield-bearer went before him. 8 He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” 10 And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.” 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, who had eight sons. In the days of Saul the man was already old and advanced in years. 13 The three oldest sons of Jesse had followed Saul to the battle. And the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. The three eldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem. 16 For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening.

17 And Jesse said to David his son, “Take for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain, and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers. 18 Also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See if your brothers are well, and bring some token from them.”

19 Now Saul and they and all the men of Israel were in the Valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. 20 And David rose early in the morning and left the sheep with a keeper and took the provisions and went, as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the encampment as the host was going out to the battle line, shouting the war cry. 21 And Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. 22 And David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage and ran to the ranks and went and greeted his brothers. 23 As he talked with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.

24 All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid. 25 And the men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. And the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel.” 26 And David said to the men who stood by him, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” 27 And the people answered him in the same way, “So shall it be done to the man who kills him.”

28 Now Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men. And Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” 29 And David said, “What have I done now? Was it not but a word?” 30 And he turned away from him toward another, and spoke in the same way, and the people answered him again as before.

31 When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul, and he sent for him. 32 And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”

38 Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, 39 and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” So David put them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine.

41 And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42 And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43 And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.” 45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.”

48 When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.

50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. 51 Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. 52 And the men of Israel and Judah rose with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron, so that the wounded Philistines fell on the way from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron. 53 And the people of Israel came back from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their camp. 54 And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent.

How big was Goliath? Six cubits and a span translates into 9 feet, 8 inches tall. His armor weighed 5,000 shekels of bronze, or 125 pounds. and the head of his spear weighed 600 shekels of iron, or about 15 pounds. He was enormous! He was a trained warrior, he was invincible, and yet he was felled with a stone hurled from a sling. Maybe everyone else thought he was too big to fall, but to David, with the help of God, he was too big to miss.

Goliath thought that David was easy-pickings, a push-over, but he was dead before he hit the ground. Using his own sword to lop his head off was merely the coup-de-gras. Even though David removed and saved Goliath’s armor, his real reward was seeing the hand of God at work and saving the Israelites from the Philistines.

David may have been a “lowly shepherdboy“, but God had prepared him well for this battle. As a shepherd, he was responsible for his sheep, including protecting them from predators. Lions and bears are serious predators, and to go against one of them with a stone and sling would be unthinkable today, but they were all in a day’s work for David. Never underestimate the effectiveness of “primitive” weapons, when wielded by a skilled hunter. Of course the true game-changer was God Almighty. David faced Goliath as one would face a Sherman Tank armed only with a sling-shot, except that with the help of the Lord God, that small stone became a precision-guided anti-tank missile. Goliath never even saw it coming, let alone duck.

My “Goliaths”…

Why do I keep writing? Why do I keep baring my heart and soul for you, my beloved readers? Is it because I am an “overcomer” and have something to brag about? This blog is “STRUGGLES“, not “Triumphs“, because I am still a struggler. I hope that, by writing about my struggles, someone is given hope in their own struggles. I received an email recently from a very dear friend of mine, and he told me that when he read my testimony, he was challenged to revisit and think more deeply about his own faith. Thank you my dear Brother! That is why I keep writing…

The Apostle Paul, in Philippians 3:12-14, said: “12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul, even though he was an Apostle, was still a struggler.

Jobs…

I have lost four jobs since 1994, and all were under suspicious circumstances. Two of those jobs lasted ninety days or less, and three of the four were “management” positions. I won’t bore you with the details of each, just a thumbnail sketch, and to the best of my knowledge, none of them involved some kind of impropriety on my part.

1994 – Quality Assurance and Maintenance Manager – Fiberglass cooling tower manufacturer. “Christianowned” – less than ninety days.

1997 – Safety Manager and Maintenance Foreman – Aluminum trailer manufacturer. Three years. My wife committed suicide shortly thereafter.

2000 – Maintenance Assistant – Nursing home – ninety days.

2008 – Service Manager and Lead Mechanic – Bicycle shop. “Christianowned” – about four and a half years.

By the time I lost my last job, I was over fifty and pretty much unemployable. Companies weren’t hiring “olderworkers“.

Finances…

I am very familiar with “too much month at the end of the money“, and I have faced that problem many times. I wish I could say that I always have money left over at the end of the month, but I am exstatic if I break even. Some people would say that if I didn’t write that check for my giving to the work of the Lord, I would have more money, but in my experience, if I DON’T write that check for the work of the Lord, it is garaunteed that I WON’T have enough money for the month. Non-Christians don’t understand God’s economy and never will. Finances are one of my “Goliaths“.

Relationships…

I wish that relationships were easy to maintain, but they aren’t. It takes two to make a relationship last, and even if one spouse is doing everything they can to keep a marriage together, the other spouse can still ruin it. I am a veteran of several failed relationships and three failed marriages. My latest “marriage” lasted less than six weeks. She decided that she wasn’t “happy” in our relationship, so she moved out, and went and moved in with another man. In spite of everything I did to try to reconcile and restore our marriage, we are still seperated, although we are still legally-married. I prayed, my church prayed, my international community of friends prayed, but to no avail. I finally had to leave it in God’s in-box for Him to take care of, and He still hasn’t…yet. Patience…

Health,,,

I could list all of my health problems, and yes, the list seems to be growing, but that is one “Goliath” that I don’t have to face alone. A few years ago, when I had no health-insurance, and barely had two nickels to rub together, I got fast-tracked into the VA health-care system. Over the last almost seven years, I have had an incredible group of health-care providers, both doctors and nurse-practitioners. My two ARNP urologists deserve special thanks, because the first one cared enough about me to stick with it until she was able to figure out what is wrong with me, and the one I have now has continued to carry the baton for me. My hematologist is tops, and even though we have a disagreement once in a while, I wouldn’t trade him for any other. God has definitely been at work making sure I get the best health-care that is available.

Death…

On October 22, 1997, I got the kind of news that I pray no-one else ever has to face. My wife of 19-1/2 years had committed suicide. I was devastated. My world was already crashing down around me, and that was a catastrophe of horrible proportions, but I didn’t have to face it alone. I even lost my own children. Through it all, God sent several people, including my parents and a very dear pastor, to come along-side me so I didn’t have to face it alone. Life before that had been “organizedchaos” to a certain extent, but it quickly descended into utter-pandemonium. I had lost just about everything that I held dear, including my wife and children.

These are just some of the “Goliaths” I had to face through the years, but one thing is certain, and that is that God has always been faithful to me, even though I haven’t always been faithful to Him.

Additional thoughts…

I believe that God sometimes allows us to face our own “Goliaths“, not to test our metal, but to test and deepen our trust in Him. Some of us, myself included, never seem to “get it“, insisting that we can go it alone, hoping that we are smart-enough, tough-enough, strong-enough, skilled-enough, or whatever-enough to deal with the situation. I have been a master of “doing it myself“, and a chronic “slowlearner“. Just a few days after my first wife committed suicide, a friend of mine asked me how I was doing. I told him “I am doing okay. I am tough and resilient.” Was I crazy? Maybe… Was I in shock? Probably… Grief will do that to you, and it is called DENIAL!!! That was only the beginning of many tough, rocky roads that I would travel over the next several years. It would take me fifteen more years before I started allowing myself to grieve her death, and that grieving process isn’t over yet. Some of that pain is still there, but I am no longer afraid of it. Connie is gone, but definitely NOT forgotten.

I failed that test, and have failed many since then. It has take me a long time to start realizing that I don’t have to face my “Goliaths” alone. It is a lesson I still have to learn, day by day, sometimes hour by hour, because I still don’t always completely trust God to do what I can’t. Maybe that is because I don’t always see Him topple that giant how and when I want Him to. Another lesson I still need to keep learning is that He is God, and I am NOT.

What is my only hope in life and in death? That I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

What “Goliaths” are you facing that still aren’t toppled? What “Goliaths” have you faced with God’s help and are now buried in the “Goliath Cemetery“? If you feel so inclined, please join in on this conversation. I would love to hear your story.

In Christ,

Steve

Is There Any Hope?

We live in turbulent times. All one has to do is listen to the news for five minutes to realize that there is no peace in our world. Whether it is another corrupt politician caught in his self-centered agenda, a much-touted health-insurance program that doesn’t work, or fighting in some part of the world, the message is the same. Our world is falling apart. Mankind is busy doing all the evil their hearts can imagine. More unborn babies are killed every day by women exercising their “right to choose”, enabled by abortion-providers getting rich murdering babies. The “prince of this world” – Satan, is busy doing his dirty-work. This is, first and foremost, a spiritual battle…a battle for domination between Satan and God. Satan is the usurper, not God.

There is one organization which we should be able to count on to stand for truth – the church of Jesus Christ, but Satan has been having his way there also. We hear of another financial scandal, priests caught molesting kids, pastors having affairs, and the list goes on. In many churches, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has been replaced by a “social-gospel”, “feel-good-religion” or a “health, wealth and prosperity” message. “Pastors” are getting filthy-rich proclaiming a “name-it-and-claim-it” religion. We hear of yet another denomination that has started “ordaining” women as church officers, and ultimately, pastors. One such denomination has gone so far as to “consecrate” an openly-homo-sexual bishop. Perhaps many parts of the church are merely social-clubs. Will it ever end? Has God been reduced to our servant, obligated to give us what we want, or are we His servants, proclaiming the Kingdom of God? Lest we be surprised, Jesus Christ predicted these days.

As we descend deeper into this evil abyss, we may be tempted to despair. Is there any hope?

The great writers of the Heidelberg Catechism addressed this question in 1563. Things haven’t changed much. I believe their words bear repeating in our turbulent days also. Question one answers this most poignantly.

1. Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?                                                                  

A. That I am not my own,[1] but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death,[2] to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.[3] He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil.[5] He also preserves me in such a way[6] that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head;[7] indeed, all things must work together for my salvation.[8] Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life[9] and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.[10]

Scripture references:
[1] I Cor. 6:19, 20 [2] Rom. 14:7-9. [3] I Cor. 3:23; Tit. 2:14. [4] I Pet. 1:18, 19; I John 1:7; 2:2. [5] John 8:34-36; Heb. 2:14, 15; I John 3:8. [6] John 6:39, 40; 10:27-30; II Thess. 3:3; I Pet. 1:5. [7] Matt. 10:29-31; Luke 21:16-18. [8] Rom. 8:28. [9] Rom. 8:15, 16; II Cor. 1:21, 22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13, 14. [10] Rom. 8:14.

As we dissect this one phrase at a time, the answer should come more clearly in focus.

Q: That is your only comfort in life and in death?
The word “comfort” could easily be replaced with “hope” without altering the meaning.

* That I am not my own… All along we thought that we were what counted most in life.

* But belong with body and soul, both in life and in death… Body and soul encompasses our complete being. God hasn’t left any part of us out, or to chance.

* To my faithful Savior Jesus Christ… We shouldn’t have a nebulous sense of belonging to Him. Our belonging is real. He is perfectly faithful, so what He sets out to do, He does. Had God promised a Redeemer in Genesis 3:15, but not made good on His promise, we would have good reason to doubt His faithfulness, but He did make good on His promise, and in a grand way. God is ever-faithful.

* He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil... Jesus Christ didn’t just atone for part of our sins, and leave the rest to us. He did the WHOLE job, for ALL of our sins, so that nothing is dependent on us. He also freed us from the kingdom of Satan, so we are no longer his slaves.

* He also preserves me in such a way... God is the one actively preserving us, not us preserving ourselves. Even though we are called to “persevere”, “run”, “attain”, we don’t do those things in our own strength. We “persevere” because we are preserved. We can “run”, because Jesus Christ runs beside us, and carries us when necessary. We “attain”, because all that we need has already been purchased with His blood, and is given to us as a free gift.

* That without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head… God is Lord of all, and that includes even the minutest details of our lives and earthly, bodily existence. Not one hair will either turn gray or turn loose without the express consent of our Lord. Did your blood-pressure go up? He knew it would, and He allowed it to. Did your blood-pressure go back down to normal? He knew that too, and was actively-involved. We are His, in our entirety.

* Indeed, all things must work together for my salvation… Do you think it was an “accident” that you had an encounter with God? Did you “find Him” by accident? Not hardly! He planned it that way.

* Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life… Our assurance of salvation isn’t based or predicated on what we did. He did it ALL, and He guarantees our salvation, as surely as He is faithful.

* And makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him… Last, but not least, comes our response to what He has done for us. We should have an “attitude of gratitude“, because we have been given a priceless gift beyond all measure – salvation.

Even as our world seems to be going to hell in a hand-basket, and true solutions seem few, our true and only hope MUST be in the Lord, because He alone is faithful. That doesn’t relieve us of our responsibility to pray that the Lord lifts up good leaders – in the church, in our land, and globally. We are His ambassadors, His agents for His kingdom in His world.

This world belongs to God, not Satan. There is hope, because we belong to God, and He IS our hope.

God bless!

Steve