Tag: persistence

Remembering Those Who Have Tread Before Us – Matt Miller

It is Memorial Day weekend in this country. Often, there is confusion among our youth surrounding this day, as it seems to have taken on different meanings and the reasons for its observance have been diminished over the years. The observance of this weekend was originally called Decoration Day and was established following the American Civil War, as a day when veterans would decorate the graves of their deceased comrades. This great conflict in our country had members of families even divided and fighting on opposite sides of the battlefield. Many pioneer Christian preachers took the stand that Christians should avoid serving in the militaries at the time of the Civil War.

While Memorial Day is a time to remember those who have sacrificed their lives for our nation’s freedom, it also provides an opportunity for us to reflect on the spiritual legacy of those who have gone before us in faith. The Bible speaks of a “cloud of witnesses”(Heb 12:1)—those faithful individuals who have run the race before us and whose lives testify to the enduring power of faith. Among the Christians here at Elm Street, there have been a number of individuals who were responsible for starting the work in the Lord here.  Men and women who taught their children and younger Christians those values and traditions which we labor to apply and practice in our lives, and in our worship. People who instilled within us the need to look to God’s Word and follow only it.  People who taught that God’s Word and truth are always superior to traditions of men.  People who lived in a time when not only they, but the world around them conducted itself where a man’s word was his bond. I suppose that we could very easily romanticize a time gone by as we remember the legacy of our forebears.  We often times do that to the 1st Century church don’t we? 

The world around us certainly does.  If you visit with others about the church and what it should be and how people should conduct themselves in their Christian relationships within the church, very quickly, those people around us will be quick to point out any hypocrisy.  They will be quick to express a desire for a romanticized church, one that people could not be involved in because they have heard just enough to know what the church is supposed to be, while they ignore that for all the things written in the “letters” of the Apostles, most of it was to correct problems that existed across the various local works of Christ. 

Certainly, we are not perfect, and although we strive to follow everything by command, example or necessary inference as it is laid out in the New Testament, there is always room for improvement and growth for each member of this local body of Christ.

The beautiful thing about the Bible is that while it was written to a different age of men, it still applies and guides and provides all that men need even in this present age. The words of the Hebrew writer still rings true for us today.  [Heb 4:12 NKJV] 12 For the word of God [is] living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. On this Memorial Day weekend, remember the loved one’s of our faith who are asleep in Jesus.  Look forward to the day of rejoining them, and more importantly joining the Lord at His return for that eternal day. Stand fast in your faith, and be encouraged by Paul’s words of truth in the first letter to the Thessalonians: [1Th 4:13-18 NKJV] 13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive [and] remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

These words do not always comfort, because we know those who have passed from this life had no regard for their Creator. Some become forlorn at the thought, but we would do well to remember the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31).  Those in the suffering of the Hadean realm clearly would want you to know that the only thing that matters in this life is to serve God and keep His commandments (Eccl 12:13).  No doubt, they would conclude that they would want you to know Jesus Christ and to be saved by Him. Just as Peter declared in [Act 4:12 NKJV] 12 “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

The facts are that we must prioritize serving God in this life.  We must make Him more important than every relationship that we might have.  Certainly, as life progresses, the older that we get, the more real the certainty of life’s end becomes.  We observe others who pass on from here and we grieve and mourn for our losses.  Let us put those griefs in their proper place with the contrasts found in the story of Lazarus.  As we remember those who have given their lives for our nation’s freedom, let us also be inspired by the “cloud of witnesses” who have faithfully run their race. Their legacy encourages us to persevere in our faith, laying aside every weight and sin, and looking unto Jesus, the ultimate example of sacrifice and endurance. This Memorial Day, let us honor both our national heroes and our spiritual forebears, recognizing the profound legacy of faith and freedom that we have inherited.  Let us search the scriptures and live our lives in the way that God would have, for anyone who has passed from this life and was not right with God, whatever their relationship with you, would desire that you know the truth and come to obey Jesus, the King.

Coveting Time

Before I put this into the universe, let me disclaim what follows.  I am in no way judging those who choose to fight, who choose to undergo radiation therapy, chemotherapy, homeopathic/natural therapies to fight and treat cancer. I pray that you will not find it in any way critical of those enduring cancer for that is not the intention with which I write it.  I have nothing but love and respect for the cancer survivors (especially those close to me in my life).  This is simply a contemplation that struck me as I meditated on scripture, who we are and who we should be, what our focus and desire should look like.

In my life, I have seen so many from family members to friends, to mere acquaintances who have suffered from cancer. 

Certainly, it is one of those ominous words in our vocabulary. When a doctor comes in and shares their opinion with you that you have cancer.  The “C” word. When they proclaim that great pall over your head that it is a terminal condition. They give you a professional estimate of how many months or years they would expect you to remain in this mortal flesh.

I have observed at times in these patients that they will talk to all the experts and gather up all of the opinions and then comes nothing but bad choices.  They must choose to take care that is made up of poisons and toxins which are documented to kill at a cellular level.  These compounds are administered to the patient stealing their hair, their clarity of thought, their strength, energy, and zest for life.  They steal away appetites for food, company, and are a kind of suffering at least as equally terrible as the disease they are purported to fight. 

The alternative choice given by the experts is to go and enjoy the few days, weeks, or months that you have left.  The experts paint a bleak picture as though we were meant to roam here indefinitely and should seek to stay bound up here at any and all costs.

Everyone who fights against this disease regardless of treatments that they choose does so for their own reasons.  They know the people and the causes for which they fight. They fight so bravely and hold onto their loved ones and this life with all they have. Again, I have nothing but respect for these and the situation in life that they face.  It is a reminder of the darkness of this world and was brought upon mankind because of sin.

But there is another outlook on all of this.

We, in human flesh are all terminal.  We suffer from a terminal condition which is bound to this earth and brought on by sin. We can none of us know the ending, yet we all understand that before us lies an end. We scratch and claw and fight to remain fastened here.  We long for so much of our lives to prevent change and keep ourselves rooted to this existence.  So much is done in our ignorance of what we have been created for. 

God made us in HIS image.  HE breathed into us the breath of life. HE molded and formed us.  We were made for HIM.  To honor Him; To serve Him; to glorify Him.  He loved us so much that He sent His only begotten to redeem us from sin (Jhn 3:16).  Redeem us and restore us to His own (1Jo 3:1).  He made a way to escape sin and overcome death.

He provided to us the test case and the testimony is real and true.  Jesus of Nazareth, the first fruit of the grave to never die (1Co 15:20-22). The sacrificial lamb (1Co 5:7) who’s death overcame sin and the temptations of this life (1Jo 3:16). The Son presented in glory overcoming both sin and death is our way to overcome these ourselves.  These shackles and weights of sin.

So we should cease to covet time here. Prolonging and increasing our suffering by accepting the poisons of this sinful world.  Rather, we should as Paul says, redeem the time (Eph 5:15-21). Make the most of the minutes and moments of our walk on this earth.  Live life to its fullest knowing that we are dying here and in faith knowing that we will live eternally with Him.

The Apostle Peter, in his letters, gives us these perspectives:

[1Pe 4:1-6, 11-18 NKJV] 1 Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 that he no longer should live the rest of [his] time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3 For we [have spent] enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles–when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. 4 In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with [them] in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of [you]. 5 They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. … 11 If anyone speaks, [let him speak] as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, [let him do it] as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed [are you], for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 16 Yet if [anyone suffers] as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. 17 For the time [has come] for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if [it begins] with us first, what will [be] the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

[2Pe 1:5-11 NKJV] 5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, [you] will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

So let us not covet the time here along with its suffering here; let us seek our entrance into everlasting life and the reward of the crown of life by dying daily to sin and this present age; putting on Christ and His perfection.