Hope in the Darkness

Tonight I feel convicted to discuss a certain topic. Suicide. Now don’t see that word and shy away from this post. It may not be what you think. I’m not sure if the conviction comes in lieu of the Robin Williams tragedy or a recent discussion I had with my dad or the sermon preached this past Sunday. Either way, here goes.

Suicide by definition is taking one’s own life. Whether this is by accident or intentional, the end result is the same. Permanent separation from your earthly body.

First off let me say that feeling complete loneliness has to be the absolute worst feeling in the world. You see, as humans we are made to need a relationship with others. In Genesis, Adam and God walked together in the Garden. However, even though Adam had a perfect environment, all the resources at his disposal, and adequate power; the Lord himself said that it was not good for man to be alone and therefore made him a companion (Gen. 2:18). Humans need interaction with one another. It’s how we were made. That being said, when a person feels alone, of course depression will set in. And when a person feels that way for so long, I can understand how it would be hard to see your way out of that dark hole.

In the Bible, Paul is a perfect example of someone who had every opportunity to give up on his life. Having endured trial after trial and prison sentence after prison sentence; I would understand it. If I were Paul, I would be TIRED of the fight. The struggle. The race.

However, looking in 2 Timothy 4:6, when Paul is nearing the end of his life he doesn’t give up. Paul NEVER stopped living. He knew his fate. He said, “I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come” (2 Tim. 4:6). Even then, he kept going. He kept the faith up until the very end. He fought a good fight, kept the faith, and finished the course (2 Tim. 4:7)!

When writing to Timothy, Paul begged him to come visit him in prison. He details the whereabouts of all his friends to Timothy, and out of 4 of them, only 1 remains by his side. The other three have left him. Took off to other countries, following their worldly desires while their mentor in Christ sits in a jail cell awaiting his beheading. Paul pleaded with Timothy. Paul needed his friend. He needed that human contact in order to survive in his grim circumstances.

Paul, when previously writing to the people of Philippi said some of the strongest words in the whole book. He said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). When Paul wrote these words, he was already imprisoned for his Christian preaching. Another version says, “Everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a pulpit! Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose” (Phil. 1:20-21, Message).

You see folks, if you keep this conviction in your heart, you will NEVER have to question what is the reason to live. If you do this, your world will be in focus. If not, you may very well begin to worry and debate what’s the purpose of life. The answer is Christ. CHRIST is the reason to live. The Great Commission was given to us all, not just a select few. We are all put on this earth to make disciples of the Lord. To cultivate another’s spirituality and inform them of the works of God and Jesus Christ.

In the second part of this post, I want to address my thoughts on a suicide victim in Heaven. Now I will say, this is merely my informed opinion. I am in no way in authority to say such things. There is an ultimate judge that will do this.

Historically, the church has preached that a person who takes their own life can not be granted access into Heaven. This is because it is a sin that has been committed that they have not repented for. Since you can’t ask forgiveness for an act before you commit it, and once you commit it, it’s too late to ask forgiveness; you blew your chances.

Personally, I believe that a Christian who commits suicide can still be found in Heaven despite all that. You see, the Bible teaches that all sins are equal in the eyes of the Lord. Equal in severity? No. Equal in punishment? Yes. Equal in forgiveability? Yes.

This being said, that means there is really no real difference in a Christian dying before repenting of stealing and committing suicide. For both acts, the Christian was not able to repent before their death. Yet for some reason our society believes that suicide is the ultimate sin. These two are equal. Suicide is equal to murder, adultery, coveting, gluttony….in the eyes of God, they are all equal to the same punishment and same forgiveness if the person is saved. You see, once you are saved, that’s forever. It is by grace through FAITH that you are saved. God never moves people. He is always in the same spot. If you feel you are getting further away from God, it’s not him moving. It’s you. And once you recognize this, it’s your job to get back in line where you belong. But distance from God doesn’t mean you won’t go to Heaven. The only way I believe you truly won’t be in Heaven once you are saved is if your heart changes and you no longer believe Jesus is God’s son and he died for your sins. Then, you got yourself a problem.

This has all been written to bring awareness to the sore topic of suicide. This has meant to put a positive biblical light on it and provide some hope to those who have experienced this in their lives. This is in no way condoning suicide or excusing it. Just trying to make you aware.

If you don’t take anything else away from this, remember that people need people. You need people. They need people. Be kind to people. Everyone is struggling with something. Reach out and extend a hand to those people in your life.

God Bless.

The Rich

This past Sunday I visited a new church. My home church is a traditional Southern Baptist, and I love the people who are there…I just wanted to try something different. I heard about this new church that was fairly young in my area that is a praise and worship type church, with Baptist affiliation. I found myself being very welcomed in the congregation and truly enjoyed the sermon. But wouldn’t you know the one Sunday I visit, the subject is money and being rich.

Smack my head. Every pastor’s nightmare.

The way this pastor preaches, he picks a certain portion of the Bible and goes verse by verse each week. They had been focusing on James 5, and I guess last Sunday was when the dreaded portion of the text arose.

There were many things that stuck out to me during the sermon, but the opening statement really grabbed me. Pastor Daylon said, “When I say the word “rich”, you automatically had someone particular come to mind.” …..true. So very true. As a full-time graduate student, full-time employee at a nonprofit organization, young adult with a car payment and 2 dogs; I know what it’s like to pinch pennies. Although I am not poor by any means, I can definitely think of someone rich and lots of people richer than me. He then went on to say that in reality, Americans today and people in general are ALL “the rich”. We have free access to things today that the majority of kings, queens, and royalty throughout history has never experienced. At the push of a button we can experience hot or cold air, have our waste swept away from out from under us, and clean water; just to name a few. Stop and think about that for a second.

Wow.

That’s incredible.

Daylon said, “Having riches is not a sin. It’s what you do with these riches.”

This passage in James is eluding back to the story of the Rich Young Man in Mark 10:17-27.

Having riches is fine, as long as you are willing to give them up if asked and share then with others without being asked.

In America, there is always extra. We throw away so much that could be used. Now some will say, “Oh there are starving children in Africa that would love to have your left-overs.” That’s not what I am saying. I say, “There are starving children in your NEIGHBORHOOD that would love your left-overs.” People, we HAVE to take care of our own before we can spread to other nations. Some focus on the ministry to other countries and shoeboxes to foreign lands. I often wonder, would there be children in Rocky Mount that could use shoeboxes? Although every individual, rich or poor, in this country is still technically rich, could I change their way of life and help them just a little?

The main problems that people fall into with their riches is the need for control of those riches, greed in wanting to keep them, and a lack of generosity to share them with others. If any of these three things is you, you are DEAD in your SIN. Your main concern can NOT be you and your stuff. Food spoils, clothes rot, even metal rusts. If our Lord has blessed you with more than you need, give it away. And while you are giving it away, be sure to let that person know that it is God who has provided for you, and in turn, them. Use that giving opportunity to give away more than stuff. Give away knowledge about Jesus.

It is by no mistake that you are blessed with all you have. There are 3 main reasons that we have riches; to meet your needs, to enjoy, and to give generously. Did you hear that? The Lord blesses you with riches not ONLY to meet your needs, but to please you and for your enjoyment. There is no need to feel guilty about being rich. If you can afford to have nice things, buy them. As long as you leave some to give away. You see? God doesn’t want you to starve in order to feed others. He doesn’t want you to gain riches and lead a miserable life because you give it all away. He wants you to ENJOY what he has blessed you with. Just remember to give. As long as you give, you will continue to receive. God pours himself into our emptiness and will continue to bless you if you do His good works.

God blesses us to increase our standard of living and our standard of GIVING!

No matter how financially rich or poor you are, you have something to give others. What you give to others will return to you ten-fold. Never become naïve to the point that you believe you created the riches for yourself. You can do all things through CHRIST who gives you strength (Phil. 4:13). It is not by your mere will alone that you are blessed with riches.

Be thankful for all you have. Even the smallest things. There have been millions throughout history who did not have such things. There are millions today that still don’t.

YOU are blessed. YOU are rich.

Thank God Almighty for that.

Manna is Mercy

In John 6:31 Jesus equates himself to manna to the crowd. Manna is the bread that was given from God when the people of Israel were complaining of hunger. Though the Lord provided this bread for the people, it only lasted one day. After 24 hours, the manna would spoil and was no longer edible.

                At first you might think, why would God only give them bread to last for one day? What’s the use in that? The purpose was so that the Israelites were made to trust God each day for food. They fully relied on God. There was no use trying to save some manna for later. They were forced to divide it up and devour it in a single day.

How does this correlate with modern times?

                Christians receive mercy, grace, and forgiveness from God. These things are given freely. All we have to do is ask. His forgiveness is not finite. Each day, if we repent our sins of the day, they are automatically forgiven. It doesn’t matter the size, big or small sin is the same in the eyes of The Lord.

                Lamentations 3:22 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.”

                As humans, sometimes we default to trying to stockpile our mercy and forgiveness. We think it would be best to save it for a rainy day; a day when we might be extra sinful. We may need all the mercy and forgiveness that we can get.

                Because of this, we find it hard and sometimes even refuse to give that mercy and forgiveness away to others. This is not how it should be. If our Lord’s mercies are new each morning, we should give away each bit of it that we have for today. We can trust that more will come when we wake.

                As Christians, we serve the one true God. The one who selflessly sent his ONLY son to die. For you, me, and each individual that you are reluctant to give forgiveness and mercy to. He could have kept his son on his rightful place of the throne. But instead he sent him down to earth to live as a human, a man who would work with his hands for a living. A man who would receive the worst treatment imaginable, only for telling the truth and trying to help those in the world.

                Isaiah 53:5 says, “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

Our God gave it all. Christ gave it all.

                There is no other religion that I know of that can say such a thing. To have a leader so selfless and giving of himself. What a blessing that is.

                And all we are asked to do is to love the people we love, and the ones we don’t. Respect the people we already do, and those we don’t. Educate ourselves in His Word, and tell others so that they may receive the same gift we have.

We have it easy. So very easy. All we have to do is want it. The gift is there for the taking.

God never moves. He remains a constant help and presence within our lives. If you find yourself drifting away from God, or not as close as you should be, it is not because he moved. You need to bring yourself back to where you belong in your Father’s arms.

If you think your life is hard, when you have a bad day, when you know you have been treated unfairly and gotten the short end of the stick…think of Jesus. Think of all he went through. As unbareable and unimaginable as it is. He did it for you. And me. He did it for those who whipped him, beat him, spat on him. In his final breaths he forgave them.

When you think you can’t forgive, when you are holding a powerful grudge…remember Philippians 4:13 and know that Christ’s power is in you. You have the ability to forgive and show mercy. You may not want to think you do. You may deny them because they don’t deserve it. But remember, neither did you. You have the strength of Christ that allows you to forgive, just as he did. Therefore you must exercise that strength.