- 2014Oct 30
God knows we are forgetful people, even as Christians. Therefore, He is gracious to bring to our minds---over and over again---the abundance of His grace toward us in Jesus Christ, our Lord.
The other day, when I returned home from work there was an envelope waiting to be opened. The return address informed me that it was from the cardiologist who performed the stress test my primary physician had ordered at the end of last year. Two trips to the Emergency Room and two EKGs in less than six months were cause for concern. He was pretty confident that it was Stress Cardiomyopathy, and not heart attacks, but ordered the stress test in order to be absolutely certain. Though we were thankful the stress test confirmed his suspicion, we were left with a bill that exceeded $3300, which our insurance would not cover. As a result, we’ve been making small monthly payments as we are able and communicating regularly with the doctor’s office, making clear our intention to pay off the debt completely, and requesting their patience. As a result, they asked me to fill out an application for a long-term repayment plan. Frankly, the application was submitted so many months ago that we finally gave up that any response would ever come, even a No. But then the letter came. I opened it with cautious anticipation, hoping for a reasonable payment plan that would be workable for us. Instead, I was blown away.
The letter began, “Dear Paul, Balance due: $
3185,28 [the balance was crossed out with ink and followed by a handwritten zero, -0-]. We have granted funds to your account for 100% of the charges incurred.” My breath was taken away. As tears welled up, I quickly photographed the letter and texted it to my wife, to which she replied “Wow! I can’t believe it. Praise God!” The Lord continues to amaze us, as He faithfully cares for us.
God Is ‘Every Day Faithful’
Earlier this year, we went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, which has led us to make a number of small and major decisions in an all-out effort to eliminate as much debt as possible, with the goal, for my family’s sake, of eventually getting completely out from underneath the financial bondage which I had failed to carefully avoid. But God is always faithful, “every day faithful,” as our 7-year old recently said at the supper table when I shared with the family what God had just done through the cardiologist’s gift (They had no previous knowledge of any doctor’s appointments or hospital visits so they listened intently with eyes wide open).
Our little guy is right. God is “every day faithful.” We have a Savior who never gives up on us as He never ceases to patiently sanctify us by His grace. He did not give His life for us, and allow His blood to be shed for us, only later to abandon us to ourselves. No, our Redeemer never leaves us and will never forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). There are so many truths He is bringing to the forefront of our minds as we strive to learn what it means to walk, by faith, more faithfully---day by day---with Him walking by our side. His rod and staff really do comfort, train, guide, and protect us (Psalm 23:4).
Our Sins Are Erased Because Jesus Paid the Bill
The letter from the cardiologist was a shot in the arm in another significant way. Not only did it stimulate within us praise for God’s undying faithfulness to care for His children (Matthew 6:25-34), but it illustrated for us, again, what it really means to be forgiven—to have our sin debt erased. Because of the satisfactory death and resurrection of the Son of God on our behalf, God has personally crossed out our debt and placed a handwritten zero where there was once an enormous, too-big-to-ever-repay balance. Why? Because at the moment of repentant faith; He granted to us (to our spiritual account) 100% of Jesus’ righteousness. “He [God, the Father] made Him, who knew no sin [God, the Son] to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). There is nothing left to pay. On the Cross of Calvary, Jesus took our punishment for us and now, by faith, we are received by God as His adopted sons. What greater treasure could we ever possess?
Friend, do you have this freedom, the freedom that Jesus alone gives? Come to Him today, by faith, and He will release you from the debt of your sin and give to you His gift of eternal life.
- 2014Jul 18
One of the beauties of God’s wisdom is the way he uses our trials to equip us to counsel one another—just as it says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. As a result, many times the best counselors are those who’ve “been there.” When we encounter various trials it is a comfort to know there are others who not only care, but also understand and, therefore, can truly empathize with our struggle. That’s why, as a male counselor, I’m excited to make you aware of a new discipleship counseling booklet for women who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. By admitting her own fears and struggles, empathetic author Brenda Frields comes alongside frightened women to bring them comfort and hope:
“How did you react when you got the news? Even though I had entertained the thought that my biopsy would be positive, I still wasn’t ready when it turned out to be a fact. The words just seemed to hang suspended in space when my husband told me. Everything he said seemed muddled and fuzzy, almost as if spoken somewhere oﬀ in the distance. To be honest, I can’t tell you what he said after he said the word 'positive.' I knew that meant I had cancer. What about you?
- Are you full of fear?
- Are you in denial, trying desperately not to believe what you’ve been told?
- Are you depressed?
- Are you angry?
Angry, that was me! I wondered if God realized I had four very young grandchildren, all between the ages of four years and three months? Their moms needed my help, and, to be honest, I wanted to live to see them grow up. Didn’t God know that my sweet mother-in-law had Alzheimer’s and needed me to help care for her? What about my husband? His job was very demanding. I didn’t want to be the one to add stress to his life. Besides, I had always planned that we would grow old together. I was ashamed of my initial thoughts because I really did know that none of this came as a surprise to God, and I knew I should be trusting him.”
If you know a woman battling breast cancer be sure to give her the gift of another woman who truly understands. Give her the biblical counsel found in HELP! I Have Breast Cancer.
- 2014Jul 17
Several weeks ago, my son-in-law loaned me two CDs from the Christian band Casting Crowns. One disc, Lifesong, ministered to me in deep ways, especially tracks two through five, which I must have played in my car a hundred times. As I listened to the heart-piercing lyrics, I found myself convicted---receiving biblical comfort for the needs of my own heart, counsel for how we are called to minister to fellow sinners, and direction for how we as believers are called to minister to one-another in the church. Here are four ways I am being counseled by four of their songs.
1. There is power in praising God while experiencing the storms of life.
Sometimes, unconsciously, our posture is one of waiting until a storm has passed in order to praise the Lord. “Praise You in this Storm” is a soul-stirring, strengthening prayer that will bring you to tears in the midst of your suffering. Read Psalms 46 and 121 and then ponder these lyrics.
I was sure by now that You would have reached down and wiped our tears away, stepped in and saved the day, but once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining. As the thunder rolls, I barely hear Your whisper through the rain “I’m with you,” and as Your mercy falls, I raise my hands and praise the God who gives and takes away.
[Chorus:] And I'll praise You in this storm and I will lift my hands, for You are who You are no matter where I am. And every tear I've cried You hold in Your hand; You never left my side, and though my heart is torn, I will praise You in this storm.
I remember when I stumbled in the wind, You heard my cry to You and You raised me up again. My strength is almost gone, how can I carry on if I can’t find You? But as the thunder rolls, I barely hear You whisper through the rain “I’m with you.” And as Your mercy falls, I raise my hands and praise the God who gives and takes away.
[Chorus:] I lift my eyes unto the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth.
2. To be like Christ means to be filled with heart-breaking compassion for those in need of the Savior.
If our churches lack biblical compassion then we are not authentically Christian. Do we really see the spiritual needs around us? The song asks, “Does Anybody Hear Her?” Are we so caught up in our busy lives, or filled with such self-righteousness that we can hard-heartedly walk past broken sinners? Are we really content to be Pharisees? Read Matthew 9:27-38 and then ponder these lyrics.
She is running a hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction. She is trying, but the canyon’s ever widening in the depths of her cold heart. So she sets out on another misadventure just to find she's another two years older and she’s three more steps behind.
Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see? Or does anybody even knows she’s going down today, under the shadow of our steeple, with all the lost and lonely people, searching for the hope that’s tucked away in you and me. Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?
3. Life-transparency is a great risk, which will surely result in some deep pains, but the rewards of spiritual freedom and personal growth in holiness are worth every grief.
Let’s be honest; our churches are filled with broken sinners, including you and me, but no true revival will ever come to us as long as we play church---as long as our calloused hearts are content with our “Stained Glass Masquerade.” Who will receive courage from the Lord to take the first step---to take that first great risk? Who will admit their great weakness and thus invite others to join them in the real Christian life? If your church became authentic would the love of Jesus be enough to make you stay? Without transparency, how will our churches become households of grace? Read Matthew 11:28-30 and then ponder these lyrics.
Is there anyone that fails? Is there anyone that falls? Am I the only one in church today feelin’ so small? Cause when I take a look around everybody seems so strong; I know they'll soon discover that I don’t belong. So I tuck it all away, like everything’s okay. If I make them all believe it, maybe I’ll believe it too. So with a painted grin, I play the part again so everyone will see me the way that I see them.
[Chorus:] Are we happy plastic people, under shiny plastic steeples, with walls around our weakness and smiles to hide our pain? But if the invitation’s open to every heart that has been broken maybe then we close the curtain on our stained glass masquerade.
Is there anyone who’s been there? Are there any hands to raise? Am I the only one who’s traded in the altar for a stage? The performance is convincing and we know every line by heart. Only when no one is watching can we really fall apart.
But would it set me free, if I dared to let you see the truth behind the person that you imagine me to be? Would your arms be open? Or would you walk away? Would the love of Jesus be enough to make you stay?
4. When fellow believers are suffering indescribable pain, which they never could have anticipated, stay with them---right by their side. Don’t scold them, or abandon them, but love them.
When a woman in your church is abandoned by her husband or a couple loses their baby, steadfastly remain by their side. Don’t leave them to flounder alone, to suffer in silence; “Love Them Like Jesus.” Read Romans 8 and then ponder these lyrics.
The love of her life is drifting away; they’re losing the fight for another day. The life that she’s known is falling apart, a fatherless home, a child’s broken heart. You’re holding her hand, you’re straining for words; you’re trying to make sense of it all. She’s desperate for hope, darkness clouding her view; she's looking to you.
[Chorus:] Just love her like Jesus, carry her to Him. His yoke is easy, His burden is light. You don't need the answers to all of life's questions. Just know that He loves her and stay by her side. Love her like Jesus. Love her like Jesus.
The gifts lie in wait, in a room painted blue, little blessing from Heaven would be there soon. Hope fades in the night, blue skies turn to gray, as the little one slips away. You’re holding her hand, you’re straining for words, you’re trying to make sense of it all. They’re desperate for hope, darkness clouding their view, they’re looking to you.
[Chorus:] Just love them like Jesus, carry them to Him. His yoke is easy, His burden is light. You don’t need the answers to all of life's questions. Just know that He loves them and stay by their side Love them like Jesus.
Are we truly compassionate, biblical caregivers? What will it take for us to become like Christ? Lord, help us to love like Jesus loves.