LIFE CYCLE

Guest post by: Connie Faust

The cycle spins on relentlessly;

From promise of life to final death,

So few are the years allotted to one

From the moment of first fragile breath.

An infant is born-happiness reigns-

Parents applaud a new life.

Fast forward through childhood, on to maturity,

Struggling through heartache and strife.

The hour and day when we leave this old world

Is a guessing game won by no man.

We feel our mortality closing the gap,

And ponder how short is life’s span.

Another friend dies, a bond is dissolved,

The memories over us flow,

And we ask how much time is left on the clock

Until it is our time to go.

How God marks the day of departure

Is a mystery that’s His to reveal;

How we use every minute we’re given to live

Will confirm if our faith is for real.

GRIEF HAS ITS SEASON

Extended reading: Ecclesiastes 3:1-15

Devotional reading: Verse 4

“A time to cry and a time to laugh.
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.”

It’s ok to grieve. You’re not alone and you’re not abnormal. You are a healthy person expressing deep anguish over the heart-rending loss of someone near and dear to you. The emotional turmoil you are facing is normal and healthy, but it needs to be worked through in a biblical way.

The writer of these lines is using sharp contrasts to express an important reality. From crying to laughing and grieving to dancing we can acknowledge a vast distance between the two.

None of them are forever. We may laugh and dance during the celebration of a wedding or graduation. But laughing and dancing is only for a season. Then, at some point in our earthly existence, we experience the death of someone we love and cherish.

Our laughter turns into crying and our dancing into grieving. Such things are inevitable BUT not insurmountable!

In these eight verses the writer directs our thoughts to a higher plane, a better place. He reminds us that God is in complete control of everything that happens, even the death of a spouse or other ones we love (v.14). He is the One who set the times for all these events.

I believe we grieve so deeply, not only because of our loss, but also because we do not understand the “full scope” of God’s eternal plans (v. 11). We cannot change what God has allowed, but we shouldn’t let those things we don’t understand drag us down and hold us there.

We can have hope and confidence in this: Just like our season of dancing at some point will turn into grieving, so too will our crying turn into laughter once again (v. 12-13).

WALK WITH WISDOM (2)

BRIEF INTRO:

In our previous study, we looked at positive, godly influences that a believer needs to have in their life. People like this live in “a manner worthy of our Lord,” indifferent to the circumstances of the day. Such people stand out in our congregations, and it is such people Paul urges us to look for and follow their example.

In this study, we will be looking at the opposite of godly influences, enemies of the cross!

18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even as I weep, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their [a]appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who have their minds on earthly things. 20 For our [b]citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;21 who will transform the body of our lowly condition into conformity with [c]His glorious body, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, [d]whom I long to see, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

FOCUS ONE:

Unworthy examples (18-19)

Some people live their lives as “enemies of the cross.” The Apostle is weeping as he writes those words. Brothers and sisters, does such rebellion in the lives of those around you cause you to cry? Does it cause you a-n-y distress of soul? Paul is not speaking of believers who stumbled into sin or who may be facing tough challenges in life and are dealing with doubts, depression, or things like that which they will inevitably work through. No, he is speaking about non-Christians.

These non-believers can be found inside a church, just as well as outside it. These were people who were adding works to their faith for salvation (2,3). Christ isn’t enough, they say, so they are constantly pursuing some form of fleshly merit to gain righteousness. Another group Paul may have been speaking about would be the “antinomians.” These were people who were a law unto themselves. They confessed Christ with their lips but denied Him with their lives. They practiced loose living; they were religious but denied the cross, loved the world, and lived for their flesh.

These are examples we are to turn away from, even call them out!

Such lives patterned after the flesh, living for this world and then adding religion to it, are lives that are destined to destruction (v.19). 

                       But, it is not likely that all these people Paul is speaking about are out-and-out pagans. 

One commentator says: “In all probability they were “professing” Christians, but whose lives were so profligate (recklessly extravagant, wasteful and amoral), that it was clear to Paul that they had never been regenerated, probably not even members of the Philippians church. Think about it. This entire letter would have been much different if “many” such people were in that church. These were people in the Christian community as a whole and therefore posed a danger to every church.”

But dear Christian, we have been changed, have we not? We have been transformed by the renewing of our minds and therefore ought to have nothing to do with the ways of this world. To do so is nothing short of compromise!

Our God has graciously saved us from this perverse generation (Acts 2:40). We now have the mind of Christ, so we can think, act and behave like Him (1 John 2:6). God has given us a new spiritual and moral capability, which continues and matures throughout our lives- as we obey His will, His word, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

We are eagerly awaiting our savior to return for us. This expectancy should spur us on to a higher and holier manner of conduct as we await His return. 

This is the goal, the prize that we are to be running the race for, as we will see in our next point!

FOCUS TWO:

The goal and prize (20-21)

 Dear Christian, our citizenship is in Heaven. 

  As citizens of heaven, longing to see our king, King Jesus, we are eagerly waiting for Him to return for us, because as Paul wrote the Corinthians, “he shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7-8). This is what Paul meant when he wrote back at the beginning of this letter that, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (1:6). This is our goal; Christ is our prize! “So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him” (Hebrews 9:28).

“In these early days of the church the doctrine of the last things had three great points of focus,” Boice comments: “The return of Jesus Christ, the resurrection of the body and the final judgement. Of the three the most significant was Jesus Christ’s return, This was the blessed hope of the Christians; it was for this they prayed. With this thought they comforted one another in the face of sorrow, persecutions death and martyrdom. We can imagine that as they lay in prison, suffering and tormented, often near death, they looked for His coming and thought that perhaps- – – in an instant – – – -and without warning – – – -Jesus would appear and call them home.” 

“As they entered the arena to face lions or looked up to the face of their Executioner, many would have thought with joy in their hearts, “perhaps this is the moment in which Jesus will return; even now, before the beasts can spring or the ax can fall, I shall be caught up to meet him.” 

But this is not the only place in our Bible that teaches us of this blessed doctrine of our Lord’s return. The return of Jesus is mentioned in every NT book except Galatians and the much shorter books of 2nd and 3rd John and Philemon. 

Peter called it “our living hope” (1 Peter 1:3). Paul called it our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). John wrote, “look, He is coming with the clouds and every eye will see Him” (Rev. 1:7).

Such truth ought to impact our lives in profound ways and be manifest in the ways we relate to the world around us and the things and people in this world. Christian, are you honestly expecting the Lord’s return? Is that evident in the way you are living?

“If you are motivated by prejudice against others, black, white, rich, poor or whatever, than the return of the Lord has not made a proper impression on you. If you are contemplating some sin, perhaps a dishonest act in business, sex outside of your marriage, cheating on a test or tax return, or whatever, then the return of the Lord has not made a proper impression on you.” 

John wrote, “dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, Just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).

Perhaps you are reading these words, and you are not “eagerly” awaiting the return of Jesus Christ. You think that you are a pretty good person. After all, you haven’t killed anybody, YET! You give money to charity, attend church sometimes, and are better than many people around you. So, you may be thinking, why do I need a savior? Why do I need this, Jesus?

Let me share this illustration with you from Ray Comfort because it is very telling:

“What if I were to offer you a handful of $1 000 bills or a glass of water, which would you choose? The $1,000 bills, of course—anyone in his right mind would. But, what if you were crawling through a desert, dying of thirst, and you were offered a glass of water or a handful of $1,000 bills, which would you take? The water, of course—anyone in his right mind would. We call that “circumstantial priorities.” Your priorities change according to your circumstances.

Friend, If there were a way to find forgiveness of sin and life everlasting, would you want to know about it? The answer is “yes,” of course it is—anyone in his right mind would. The Bible speaks of riches beyond our wildest dreams—the riches of “everlasting life”—and they are offered in the form of cool, clear water: “Let Him that is thirsty come, and whoever will, let him take the water of life freely (Revelation 22:17).” 

Right now, you may not be interested in the offer, but if you reject it, on judgment day, your circumstances will radically change, then it will be too late.”

So, please, turn to Christ Jesus; he is the wellspring of living water!

Can you see the importance of this doctrine? One commentator has said that: “the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a bit like a clothesline that supports the clean wash. If the line falls, the doctrines of the faith fall. Where the resurrection stands, everything else stands with it” (Boice Com. Pg. 221).

The resurrection of Jesus Christ proves all the essential teachings of Christianity. 

1. It proves the deity of our Lord (Romans 1:4)

2. It proves our justification before God (Romans 4:25)

3. It proves that the believer in Christ can have a supernatural victory over sin in this life (Hebrews 7:25; Jude 24).

And dear Christian, it is also the un-shakeable evidence for our resurrection!! Because He lives, we too shall live! That is the testimony of Jesus Himself (John 14:19)!

This is why Paul says what he does in this scripture in our text. The truth is, there is an encouragement to press on despite the many obstacles in our way:

1. Jesus is living

2. Because He lives, we shall live

3. And take note: because He was transformed, we shall be transformed! (21)

Jesus is going to transform this body, your body, “in its humble state into conformity with the body of His glory.” (21)

This should encourage those folks to press on and comfort them and anyone who has lost loved ones that were believers.  Death is a scary thing. Attached to the thoughts of it are thoughts of wasting away in sickness, the terror of a sudden accident, its connection to our sinfulness.

But friends, in none of those horrific thoughts, in none of those circumstances, does death have the final word, Amen? That is not the end of the story for those who are in Christ! 

Here and in many other places in our bibles, we are taught that we will meet again in the presence of our savior, Jesus Christ. We will meet in transformed bodies— and sin, sickness, sorrow, and the like will all fade away— and be no more in light of the renewing, holy work of Christ on our behalf.

Jesus said: “I am the way the truth and the life, nobody comes to the Father, but through me.” (John 14:6)

What an encouragement for these believers in Philippi. What a powerful exhortation to “press on to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.” (Phil. 3:14)

So, because of these things, Paul says: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, whom I long to see, my joy and my crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.” (4:1)

We have a glorious savior, the aid of the Holy Spirit to grant us spiritual victory in this life and ultimately the one to come. And, we have a fantastic future with Christ! 

So let us walk with wisdom. Wisdom from the word of God, as we pursue the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

OH, ANANIAS

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Ananias made up the story,

His wife went along with it too;

But Peter knew he couldn’t believe it

Cause the Spirit had said it’s not true.

He said they had sold some property

And all the proceeds were at his feet;

But they kept back some of the money

Sapphira, also this lie did repeat.

Peter wisely called out Ananias,

Revealed Satan had filled his heart;

That he lied to the Holy Spirit

So the two could keep a small part.

The plot that was contrived

Was not against the people, but God;

For the money that they had kept

Came from Him whom they had robbed.

Ananias fell dead at Peter’s feet:

Great fear overcame those around;

Young men came and took him out

And then they buried him in the ground.

As it happens three hours later

His wife Sapphira did also arrive;

Not knowing the fate of Ananias

Or the failure of the scheme contrived.

Peter asks her all the same questions,

She answered in much the same way,

Testing the Spirit of the Lord

She exits the very same way.

Fear came upon the whole church,

Upon all who had heard these things;

May we also learn the lesson given

And hold fast to the truth that it brings.

The church is to be holy and pure 

different than the world, you see;

Not full of lies or compromise

But known for its love and purity.

By: Larry G. Stump Jr.

Acts 5:1-11

Ananias and Sapphira lie to Peter about the money they received from selling some of their property.