The Land of Glory

John 14:1-4: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Colossians 3:1-4: Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 

I try to keep up with current and world events, but the news that we hear daily is discouraging and depressing. Innocent people are being displaced and killed throughout the world, as various battles and wars, rage on and on. Individuals, families, and various people groups are fleeing for safety in the midst of many of these conflicts. Christians are under attack for their beliefs and are losing their lives for clinging to and professing their faith. And the men, women, and children of West Africa are faced with the Ebola epidemic that is claiming lives and spreading fear. Death is literally staring them in the face on a daily basis. All of these things have been weighing heavily on my mind and heart for several weeks now, as I consider what kind of world my children and their children are going to encounter. Every day it seems, the outlook for future generations on this earth appears disheartening and gloomy.

When faced with such distressing new, my focus turns to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who has already defeated death, and the pain and suffering of this world. As citizens of this earth, we will encounter many instances of grief and suffering while living on this planet. However as followers of the risen Christ, we know that our “present sufferings” only serve to prepare us for the future “glory” that will ultimately be revealed. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:18: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” We live out our lives on this earth with our attention and our desire fixed firmly upon heaven.

Jesus said to his disciples, “You know the way to the place where I am going.” The cross of Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven. By belief in Christ’s death for our sins and in His resurrection, we find our way to the land of glory. And in that distant land, we will rejoice with all the saints that have gone on before us, and give praise to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Acts 4:12: Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal life and heaven.

Praying for Liberia

2 Corinthians 1:3-5: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

Psalm 23:4: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

As of Monday morning, 1,013 people have died in Africa from the Ebola virus. The four West African countries in which Ebola has spread are Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and also Nigeria. It’s impossible to imagine what these people are dealing with each day, as they attempt to come to grips with the Ebola outbreak. 

In 2006, I had the privilege to travel with the Senior Pastor of our church, to the West African nation of Liberia. We spent almost ten days there with a local church, joining them in worship, learning more about God, and appreciating the bond we share as human beings and followers of Christ. By the end of our time there it felt like we were leaving family. Not many days go by that I don’t pray for and think about our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, in Liberia. I feel deeply connected with the people in the church and community that we visited, as well as the entire nation of Liberia. They have endured great pain and suffering as a result of two civil wars and are now in the path of the Ebola outbreak. They need and desire our prayers.

So I ask you to pray for the people of Liberia, and also the other countries, that are trying to contain the spread of Ebola. Last night, our prayer group, prayed for God to show compassion and mercy upon the people in these nations and to comfort them as only God can. We prayed for God’s powerful presence to come upon them, enveloping them in God’s love and mercy.

The Apostle Paul reminds us that we serve a God who is present with us in our suffering and will comfort us in our troubles. Just as God comforts us in our troubles, we are called to provide comfort and prayers to our fellow human beings around the world that are facing trials and suffering on a scale that we can’t even begin to comprehend. 2 Corinthians 1: 5: “For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”

So let us pray with confidence for the people in Liberia and the other affected countries in Africa who need and covet our prayers. And may we also give praise to “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3). As believers, we serve a God who continues to work miracles in this world that we live in. We often don’t have enough faith to believe that God can overcome any and all of the many sufferings and trials that we face. Pray for God to bring a quick end to the spread of Ebola in Africa.

The angel Gabriel reminded Mary in Luke 1:37, “For nothing is impossible with God.” May each of us remember that as we pray for the people of Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria.

 

Slow To Anger

James 1: 19-20: My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Ephesians 4:29:  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

James, a brother of Jesus, and a leader in the Jerusalem church, writes to the scattered Jewish Christians. He seeks to give them practical advice on how to best live out their life of faith. Those words written long ago still have significant meaning for us as followers of Christ today. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19b-20).

All of us know people who always seem angry at something. Often times even they don’t know who or what they are angry with. They allow their anger to control them and to take up permanent residence inside their mind and body. When I meet a believer that is filled with anger, I can’t help but think about how their anger is quenching the incredible gift of the Holy Spirit, who lives and dwells within every believer. As a follower of Christ, if you project anger instead of compassion, you are setting a bad example for those who do not believe. How can unbelievers see Christ in us if we live a life filled with anger?

James tells us that we should be “quick to listen.” That’s good advice that most all of us could benefit from, especially if we have trouble controlling our anger. I notice people who always talk but never listen. And often the words that they speak serve to condemn themselves even more. But they can’t help themselves and they just continue talking, trying to tear down others with their hurtful and angry words. What they fail to realize is how much they are condemning their own souls. People like this are not “quick to listen”, they have already decided that they are right and the other person is wrong.

James tells us that we should be “slow to speak.” It’s sad that many believers rush to judgment of others and speak harsh words instead of following the nudge of the Spirit and remaining quiet. Being “slow to speak” is a gift of the Holy Spirit. I have had many occasions in my life when I could have said something hateful or hurtful, but instead, I allowed the Holy Spirit to guide my actions and my tongue. The Spirit produces self-control in those believers who rely on the Spirit and they are granted a life filled with peace instead of judgment and anger.

James tells us that we should be “slow to become angry.” I have not always controlled my anger well, especially in my younger years. But as I have matured and more importantly, allowed the Holy Spirit to guide me, I have made great progress in being slow to become angry. I feel sorry for people who live out their days filled with anger. Many of these people don’t even realize how the anger inside them is destroying their soul and their relationship with other people. They become judgmental and point out the imperfections in others while disregarding their own flaws.

Jesus gave some sound advice for those of us who are quick to judge others. In Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

The Apostle Paul, writing to the church in Rome, also gives sound advice on how to be at peace with others. Romans 12: 17-21: Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.