There isn’t really words for the tragedy that occurred in Las Vegas this week. 59 people lost their lives and over 500 were injured. So many families ripped apart. The trauma of what happened will continue in many evil ways in those people’s lives for a long, long time.
It’s been hard to even think about. I can’t imagine how those involved are feeling. How could someone do such a thing? Even in our sin infested world, even knowing the depths of the sinner’s heart, it’s hard to fathom how someone could do such a thing.
We are filled with fear,
for we are trapped, devastated, and ruined.
Tears stream from my eyes
because of the destruction of my people!
My tears flow endlessly;
they will not stop
until the Lord looks down
from heaven and sees.
My heart is breaking
over the fate of all the [people] of my city.
My enemies, whom I have never harmed,
hunted me down like a bird.
They threw me into a pit
and dropped stones on me.
The water rose over my head,
and I cried out, “This is the end!”
But I called on your name, Lord,
from deep within the pit.
You heard me when I cried, “Listen to my pleading!
Hear my cry for help!”
Yes, you came when I called;
you told me, “Do not fear.”
We will remember that evil night in Las Vegas, despising that cowardly, wicked act. And we will honor those who died by valuing human life and loving our fellow man in Christ’s name.
This morning, I read a quote from Jeff Bauman who lost both of his legs from the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013. On Facebook he wrote to the victims, “I know your pain,” but he assured them, “You will walk again. You will laugh again. You will dance again. You will live again.”
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1)
We took a vacation to California as a family just before dropping our oldest, Hannah, off at Bible College a few weeks ago. It was a blast hanging out as a family together one last time before things changed and a new “normal” came our way. As I sat there one day in devotions I thought about Jesus’ last week with his disciples. He spent 3 years hanging with them. It was certainly a family. Leaving is never easy. So with Him as our example, let’s note these things about saying “good-bye” to loved ones who are heading off to a new chapter in their lives.
Jesus then went to the cross, died for them, and rose again…only to see them again in a few days. How great are reunions with loved ones in Jesus not only in this life, but knowing we will have forever with them too!
My birthday is less than a week away and it seems like the last one was just a couple of days ago. I’m getting old fast and I don’t particularly embrace all of its aspects. A year used to be a very long time, but now it passes in a heartbeat. It’s sort of like money. A dollar used to buy a bunch of stuff and now a dollar is like a nickel. What’s up with that?
I used to be young. I did young stupid things and got away with it. I drove my ’58 Chevy across the country with little sleep, no seat belts and bad tires. I rode my motorcycle down the railroad tracks over the train bridge dozens of times. Once there was a close call, so I traded the bike for an airplane.
Now I’m an old guy. I don’t do dumb stuff like that anymore…because I can’t. I joined AARP, signed up for Medicare and became a snowbird. I go north for the summer now because it’s too hot in Phoenix and my arthritis is killing me!
Some people think that God is old too. They think of him as they would think of an eccentric, out-of-touch old codger. They might envision an old crotchety, hippy-like character with a long grey beard, shaggy hair, wearing a white robe and Birkenstocks hanging out in heaven…if there even is a heaven. Some call Him the “Grand Old Man” or even “The Old Man Upstairs.” However, God is not old as people think of old. It is true that He has been around for a very long time, you might even say for an eternity. You see, God always was, and now is, and will always be.
Here is how the Bible describes Him: God is Spirit. He is a living and active divine person who is infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, truth and love. He longs for fellowship with us whom He created in His own image and redeemed by His grace and He always acts in harmony with His perfect nature.
Doesn’t sound like a tired old guy to me. God lives and acts eternally outside of time. As a matter of fact, He created time and some day He will reach in and take each of us out of this time-machine to live with Him forever. I look forward to that day more and more as the years pass.
Mike Means, Elder/Treasurer
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 NKJV
I've been confronted lately with more suffering and death than usual. From the suffering and death of a family pet to the suffering and death of friends, acquaintances, and family.
Suffering and death is fact of life. Unavoidable for us. But as my heart aches for two husbands that lost their wives recently... as I listened to the testimonies of impact, loss and grief... as I hear and feel the anxieties and fears of people left behind and those facing trials now... and as I stood in the cold veterinary exam room and watched the life of our dog be snuffed out... I was struck once again with the realization that suffering and death ought not to be.
It wasn't so in the beginning, and it will not be so at the end of this age. It's hard to imagine a world with no suffering and death, but that is the reality of how life began. God, who is life, imparted life, and there was no death. But sin entered, and death by sin.
But Life, Himself, came and conquered sin and conquered death. Jesus has given us hope that will not disappoint because He cannot fail. He has promised us that He will do away with them once and for all at the appointed time.
This is the only thing that enables me to endure. And so I look to Jesus... and I live.. and I hope... and I wait.
"For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39
Remember the song “Jesus Loves Me”? So simple, yet so powerful. I ran across it the other day and looked up the history (get out your kleenex):
Back in 1860, Anna Warner wrote it as a 3 stanza poem to comfort a dying child (over the years a chorus & other verses were added).
Here’s how it was originally:
“Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong; they are weak, but He is strong.
Jesus loves me, loves me still; though I’m very weak and ill,
From His shinning throne on high; comes to watch me where I lie.
Jesus loves me, He will stay; close beside me all the way.
Then His little child will take; up to heaven for His dear sake”
Knowing the background drives it in deeper for me! As a child I was on death’s doorstep. I’m sure my mom sang these very words to me as a 6 week old suffering from spinal meningitis not knowing what the future held.
Suffering is everywhere in our world. It’s part of how sin has wrecked us. From the injustices done to innocent people, to the sicknesses of an innocent little child. Life is fragile, but God’s love is forever! No matter what you face, Christian, remember this: it will never separate you from God’s love!
I’ve been thinking about Michael Philip today. It happened just four years ago this week. The doctors said, if born this early, my grandson would only have a few seconds of life. At twenty-weeks, his tiny lungs were just not formed enough to breathe in this world. The family had all been together for many days in the dimly lit hospital room. As we all waited and prayed, God gave me these words:
Deep in the womb a soul, it is formed,
His life, a gift from the Lord transformed.
By days and weeks and hope of years with love,
Near God Himself and His Son from above.
All earthly life is Yours, not ours to know,
How many days on earth bestowed,
For life and length of days we pray,
This darkest night and into the new day.
We commit this hour a child, a precious soul,
Trusting your mercy and the word of your scroll,
Might I give my own self for the life that you made,
Not much of a price, but would be my honor to trade.
But my will is not His will. Michael Philip was born in the darkness of that early morning. He was quiet and still and beautiful. I held him in the palm of my hand. I touched his tiny hands and his feet, and his face, all perfect as God had formed them. At that moment, my tears ceased. Joy filled my heart and my soul, understanding again that God’s Son gave His life for Michael Philip. Because our Lord lives, Michael Philip lives and I will see him again. Happy birthday Michael.
Have you ever read a passage and wondered why did God put this in his precious book? Both books of Chronicles are that way. Well Ezekiel 42 was that way for me, when I first started. And then that small voice said "attention to detail". And I went aha!!! God is showing us his character again. He is a precise God. A God of calculated thoughts. Nothing is by chance. This passage shows that and his desire to guide his creation in a specific direction. This is not just for him (of course it is his desire) but to also have a more perfect relationship with us.
Organize your life with thought and precision. Pattern it after the will of God. You will live a more Godly existence and have a peace/joy that Christ intends.
My father would turn ninety-six in a few days. Fifteen of us; sons and daughters, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, travelled from around the country to be with him on his birthday. We would be four generations in the same room at the same time, a rare occurrence in our family for sure.
I wondered – “What kind of gift is desirable to a ninety-six-year-old?” I usually just get him a gift card to the Hefner Grill, his favorite restaurant. But this year I wanted to give him something better, something with meaning. I remembered the Bible verse that says to “Honor your father and mother…that your days might be long upon the earth” (Eph. 6.2). (Actually, I think of that verse quite often since I would like to hang around for a while.) So that’s it I decided…I would give dad “honor” for his ninety-sixth birthday.
I let my mind drift back through the years to a time when all the kids played in the streets. I considered the many things dad taught me about being a (little) man and getting along in life. Some of the lessons seemed pretty harsh and even unfair to me at the time, but they have served me well as an adult.
The big day came and we were all there at the Hefner Grill. There was a lot of laughter, a lot of joy and good food. There was the customary birthday cake, candles and the (off key) happy birthday song. There was the giving of presents, some serious and some funny. So when all the presents were given and the laughter died down, I stood up and told dad there was one more gift to be given…and that was for me to thank him for all the things he taught me as I was growing up. There were seven things in particular that he successfully conveyed to me, albeit took a lot of work and a long time on his part.
1. HONESTY – Dad exampled truthfulness and honesty and he expected no less from me. When I lied, I got the backside of his belt. It wasn’t child abuse, it was wisdom. God reproves all of those whom He loves and so did my dad.
2. WORK & RESPONSIBILITY – Dad never missed a day of work. When I was young, he gave me the responsibility of keeping the yard mowed and manicured and taught me to take pride in accomplishment.
3. SELF RELIANCE – Dad taught me how to deal with bullies in the street and how to start my first business. He gave me the new power lawn mower to use and I sold lawn service to the neighbors for $1 a yard. That was big money back in 1956.
4. FIX STUFF – Dad taught me how to work with wood, how to lay bricks, how to pour concrete, how to paint the house and how to fix small electrical appliances, light switches and lamps.
5. ORGANIZING COMPLEX JOBS – Dad taught me how to completely disassemble, repair and rebuild a 1949 Chevy straight six-cylinder engine. After the Chevy, I had the confidence to tackle any complex job.
6. THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION – Dad came home at the end of WWII and didn’t have the luxury of going to college. Yet he continuously encouraged me as I grew up to get a college education. Nothing less would do he said. He also sacrificed and borrowed money to provide an education for my sister and me.
7. CRITICAL FINANCIAL SUPPORT – Dad taught me the difference between wants and needs. For instance, dad wouldn’t buy gas for my car, because I could walk to school if necessary. But he would buy tires for my car when I couldn’t afford them, because he wanted to keep me safe.
Thanks dad for all you have done for all of us, I said. Everyone smiled and clapped in appreciation. Dad just grinned and said “Well, I often wondered if I was getting through to you, it wasn’t always easy.” Then dad went on to say, with some emotion, that he was truly honored that all of us came to his birthday. “I expected that a few of you would come, but I never expected that all of you would come at once. I love you all.” he said.
You know, I think dad was happy to get a bit of public appreciation from me, but I think the real honor was just the fact that his entire family took the time out of their busy lives to come and spend time with him on his birthday. So, I just learned another thing from dad. You don’t really have to say much of anything...
You just have to show up!
So there you go, just spend time with your mom and dad. Then you will bring “honor to your mother and father and your days will be long upon the earth.”
Life can be the most brutal burn on you figurative muscles...mind, body and soul. The Christian race that is set before you may seem impossible and impossibly painful. You ask, "How long, O Lord?" You think, "Is there any end to this?" The enemy of our soul comes in to discourage us, "There is no end. Just give up."
There is a thing in marathon running called the "runner's high". "Psychologically, runners may experience euphoria, a feeling of being invincible, a reduced state of discomfort or pain, and even a loss in sense of time while running," says Jesse Pittsley, PhD, president of the American Society for Exercise Physiologists.
There is a runner's high for the Christian as well, when God breathes new life and new energies into you where there was nothing left before. The discomfort and pain fade as you get a sense of God lifting you up out of the agony and setting you in the heavens. But how do we tap into His grace for our endurance race?
Hebrews 12:1–2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Just as Jesus endured the most brutal path through setting His joy before His face (YOU! You are dearly loved and deeply desired by God!), we must set Jesus before our face. One way you can do this is to make a list of your joy...seriously, write out a list of your joy and keep it with you all the time. I do this by having it typed out on my phone because my phone is always with me. When the race gets agonizing and my efforts are spent, out comes my list and I pray through it. Then the breath of God, like a mighty rushing wind, comes blowing into my life, filling up my sails...and the race continues with new hope and new purpose.
Right now, write out 5 things you love about Jesus, 5 specific ways He showers His love on you, and 5 reasons why it's worth it to keep pressing on in the race that is set before you. These 15 things will be the joy that will keep you moving forward.
I can’t believe what just happened. I can’t believe what I just did. I’m at a loss. Depressed doesn’t describe me now. I’m on the verge of losing it all! It all started last night. We had a wonderful dinner celebration. It was Passover, my favorite time of the year. I was there with Jesus and eleven of my closest friends. He said to us, “One of you will betray me”. It was shocking. Who would do such a thing to someone like Him? I told Him, “Lord, even if all of these guys betray you, I won’t!” There was no way I would do that! I’d rather die at His side than betray Him! He told me, “Peter, before the rooster crows three times you will deny Me.” It stung to be honest. Because partly, I can’t recall a time when He was wrong. Partly I didn’t want to think that I would be capable of such a horrific thing. I pushed it aside and stayed my ground.
Anyway, last night, in the garden, I made the first mistake. I fell asleep as He prayed. I heard His prayers out loud and saw Him cry. He even seemed to have blood dripping down from His brow. But the sleep overtook me. Not once but 3 different times! How embarrassing! And then Judas came with soldiers and arrested Jesus. I thought I could stand up for Him, but I only ended up cutting off an ear in my drowsiness. UUGH! And then I ran. We all did. I was afraid. Jesus said we would earlier that night, but I didn’t want to believe it could happen by me. That’s twice when He needed me by His side, that I failed!
And then it happened….I knew they probably would take Him to the High Priest’s home to find some fault with Him. So I followed. When I came into the courtyard someone said to me, "You also were with Jesus of Nazareth." I said, "Not me, wrong guy. I don’t know the Man!" and then left to go sit by a porch. A servant girl there said to others around me, “This is one of them!” I denied it and left. I figured I go sit by the fire. It was a cold night. I was a bit on edge by the time I got to the fire. Just as I sat down, someone said to me, “You’re from Galilee. I can tell by the drawl in your voice. Weren’t you with Jesus?” I flat out denied it and cursed! I was scared. For the third time I denied Him. And then a rooster crowed! Just as He said! I can’t believe what I just did and I broke down sobbing!
I looked up through my tears and my eyes met with Jesus’. It wasn’t a “told you so” look of condemnation. It was a look that said, “I still love you”.
Well here I am a few hours later on Friday. I’m confused. Hopeless. Lost. What a nightmare I’ve been through. I just got word they are going to crucify Him. I’m not sure things could get any worse.
If you could say anything to Peter what would it be? I know what I would say. Simply this, "Peter, Sunday is coming!” Jesus’ resurrection changes everything IN Life and ABOUT Life. What’s it changing in you?
Words of encouragement from the leadership at Calvary North.