Friday, June 22, 2018

Heavy burdens these days? Dr. Jesus to the rescue!

Dear friends and readers,

Peace and grace to all of you in Jesus name.

Are you a follower of Christ who somehow doubts that He loves you or that you're life is important to the kingdom of God?

Many within the church do have those feelings but the question is, does God see you in the same way you see yourself?  Are you feeling worthless and irrelevant? And are those feelings valid?

As a pastor, I run into this problem frequently. In these troubled times, the problem of doubt seems to be growing within segments  of the church so I want to address this issue  from my heart to yours.

All of us have gone through things in our lives that can and often do bring us to areas of self doubt.  I fully understand---been there and done that.  As I was growing up I was told several times by my parents that "you were just an accident".  I was dropped at an orphanage at the age of 5  (although through family pressure was redeemed somewhat later).

My parents were both severe alcoholics with terrible bouts of  violence in their relationship.  Each of them seemingly took turns running off---disappearing from my life  for weeks on end.   I can remember only one time that my father told me he loved me and on that evening he was drunk on a bar stool.  In short I had a painful youth and very much regret that I have little good to say about my parents, both of whom died very early from substance abuse.

In my own case, I made up my mind early in life that I would not be defined by the opinions of others including my own family.  I determined that I would not use the failures of my parents as an excuse for my own failure. I was 7 years old when I made that pledge to myself.

I had my own job at 14 while attending school. And have basically been on my own ever since. Putting myself through the last year of high school while working full time till midnight 5 days each week. I joined the Marine Corps Reserve at 17 while still in school.  After boot camp the only job I could find was breaking rock 1600 feet under the ground in a limestone mine. Taking classes in the evening to get through Jr. college and was sworn in as a Policer Officer at the age of  21. I understand the challenges that life can throw at you. In those days I thought I was a pretty good over comer. Little did I realize that the Lord had His hand on me even during the years I was not walking with Him. I have been asked if I still have pain from my early experiences? The answer to that is no because I used those things to help me help others along the way.

It was not that I did not love my parents but I refused to go down the road that most people would think was preordained for them.  At some point during those years my Grandmother told me about Jesus and after all, who does not believe Grandma?  I did not know much and really nothing about the Bible, nor did I  walk with the Lord until much later in life, but I did always know He was there. Who would think that one day the Lord would call me into His service? Certainly not I.

Over the years as a pastor, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard variations of that story but in far too many cases people DID become defined by the actions of others and this tragedy has followed them through their entire lives, lurking in the background as an anchor of self defeat.  Frankly why I was spared from all that I may never know but what I do know is that each and everyone of us really were created in the image of God and He has a far better opinion of us than most people have of themselves.

Before I served the Lord, I served in a career of law enforcement so between the two I have seen just about every example of marriage and divorce, tragically broken abused women, sexually abused children, drug or alcoholic destruction and many other miserable things that have happened to people in all walks of life.   Some people, but very few escape the carnage that these horrible circumstances bestow upon their lives.  Most, unfortunately carry unspeakable emotional, social and spiritual baggage with them throughout their entire lives.

Many unfortunately are Christians who are somehow unable to accept the redemption that was guaranteed by a merciful God who paid the price for all of that with His own life on the cross of Calvary.

Oh, how I have counseled people going through those terrible times, as have many of my pastoral colleagues.  We have taught and explained relevant scripture.  Encouraged and provided opportunities for healing, or rehabilitation.  But sadly in very many cases children of God cannot bring themselves to believe that God really does love them.  I fully realize that you cannot simply throw scripture at very real human problems and expect them to disappear over night.

It is so simple from a scriptural point of view.  James 4:8 tells us "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you".  Ah, but there is a catch;  How exactly do we accomplish that?  The problem is that healing of emotional problems plays out very differently for each and every person.  Scripture also tells us to simply give our problems to the Lord.  Great advice but unfortunately easier said than done.

The Hebrew word "RAPHA" in the Old Testament means heal and when coupled with a Hebrew name of God is JEHOVAH RAPHA, or the God who heals.  This word Rapha is used in various Biblical scriptures as PHYSICAL HEALING, EMOTIONAL HEALING and SPIRITUAL HEALING.  When we look at a New Testament scripture in Luke chapter 9 verse 11 we see a picture of Jesus Christ healing the multitudes.

Obviously there is healing available at all levels when we draw close to God.  SPECIAL NOTE: Some folks become discouraged when loved ones are not healed.  All too often they end up blaming God. I cannot explain why every single person is not healed other than to say that "SOMEDAY" we all come to the end of our lives but none of us know when that time will arrive.  I personally have learned not to second guess God.  I may not care for the outcome of a particular problem but second guess God, I do not. We all must find our own solutions in drawing near to God and that plays out differently for all of us.  I will share with you some things I do and hope they will help someone reading this article.

1).  I have chosen a life of service.  Not everyone can do that full time but we can always help those around us.  Speaking only as one man, I have discovered that when I am concentrating my efforts on helping someone in need, even though my own problems do not disappear, they do fade into the background and are no longer the central focus of my life.  If nothing more than a  commitment to pray for someone, it concentrates my own efforts on that person or problem and not upon myself.

2). I enjoy pondering just how grand, how big, how magnificent and powerful is a Creator who gave me life and is able to keep a huge universe running smoothly.  When my wife and I sit quietly on our patio in the evening and have tea, we have absolutely zero sense of movement.  And yet scientifically that is far from the truth.

I can look up into the night sky and  clearly see the "MILKY WAY" which is a Galactic plane encompassing an area so immense that it occupies an area including 30 constellations.  The constellation Sagittarius is roughly at the center and we here on  Earth can see it all. Except we can't see it all because the planet Earth upon which we sit is also included as part of the Milky Way which is hurtling through the universe at 190 miles per second while it also rotates at 140 miles per second.

At exactly the same time, the Earth we are sitting upon is rotating on its axis at 1000 miles per hour and orbiting around the sun at 66,000 miles per hour.  But the liquid in our tea cups does not slosh around because we feel zero movement.  God has created an order within the Universe that has enabled it to function perfectly and has for untold gazillions of years.  Planet Earth is a huge ball suspended by absolutely nothing, except the will of God. That knowledge helps me keep things in perspective.

3). It is that very same God who gave life to each and everyone of us.  At the moment of conception he gave us a human soul and a body that is exactly imprinted with the same DNA as our relatives who may have lived thousands and thousands of years ago.  Our human families cannot be confused because DNA cannot be confused.

It is important for us to try and view ourselves from the same perspective that our Creator sees both in us and about us because then and only then do we realize that we are not an accident.  We are not worthless.  We were created for a very special purposes that sadly very many people during their lives never realize.

I learned a few things during my Law Enforcement career that left an incredible impression on my soul.  And helped me see myself as yes, a flawed human being but one in whom our great God has hope and a plan for my life.  AND YOURS.

Perhaps you have heard the statement than in all the world no two snowflakes are alike?  That is not an accident because God is capable of creating an infinite number of anything.  Including human beings, and each and everyone is special and distinct from all other humans who have ever been created. NOTE: Want to blow your mind? Take a close look at these snowflakes. Each and everyone is in the exact shape of a Star of David. And yet distinctly different from all others.

Many people when born have their foot prints placed upon their birth certificate.  The reason for that is Gods desire that no two human footprints are alike and have not been since Adam and Eve.  But that's not all;  Did you know that your individual finger prints, exact shape of your ear and  imprinted coding within the corneas of your eyes are all specific to you and only you?

You are a one of a kind and there has never ever been another exact replica of you that has been made nor will there ever be.  You and I and all of mankind were created in the image of a Holy and Righteous God who has a plan for our lives even though we are drastically flawed.  And as far as the flaws of mankind are concerned, God even provided a way for us to escape righteous judgement through a simple, heart felt prayer of repentance of our sins and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives.

That tells me that God also has something specific for me---and you to do in our lives that will glorify Him.  Something absolutely no one else that has ever been created is capable of doing.  At least not in the same magnificent way that you can because you are the only one He created with the abilities to do it.  Oh, others might do the job, but not the way you can because you were created to do so.

Sad that so many folks have never discovered what it is that the Lord created them to do.  By the way, that special job might be finding the cure for cancer, bringing peace instead of war, creating a painted master piece, writing an inspired book, Being a good father or raising your children as a Godly mother who's legacy might be told through the lives of a Godly great grandson or daughter.

Of one thing I am certain;  God really does not make any accidents and you are special.  There is a supernatural plan for your life.  God does not want you bound in yesterdays pain, agony and carrying emotional baggage thrust upon you by either accident or design through the thoughtless acts of others.

How do you discover your calling regardless of age and history?  Well, how is this for a starter?  Ask the Lord and keep on asking until He tells you.  John 10:27 (Jesus speaking)  "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me". NOTE: Prayer is a wonderful thing and is required of us. But some people spend so much time talking that they could not hear God's voice if He beat a brass drum. Say your prayers and then be quiet. Spend some time and Listen for the still small voice of God just like the Prophet Elijah.

Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you.  Have hope, you are special.

God bless you all,
Pastor Rance.

P.S. Trust in the Lord with all your heart.

Friday, June 15, 2018

SUICIDE! WILL A BELIEVER LOSE THEIR SALVATION?

Dear friends and readers,

Peace and grace to all of you in Jesus Name!

Recently a dear lady wrote and said she knows of several cases of recent suicide and wanted to know if I thought a believer who took their own lives would still go to heaven? I answered her of course but began thinking that perhaps this issue may also be of concern to other folks in the body of Christ.

Some topics inspire far more finesse than others to answer and for some people who have experienced a suicide in their family, even discussing it can dredge up a plethora of horrible feelings that can plague a person an entire lifetime. Very many years ago I myself had a relative who took his own life at the point of a gun. I will always wonder what it was that drove this really nice guy to the point that he could no longer cope with life.

Suicide in any form is a horrible thing. But it is happening more and more throughout the world by both believers and even more so unbelievers. The Center for Disease Control in the United States (CDC) released statistics from 1999 through 2016 in which there was an increase in American suicides that rose nearly 30%. They claim that suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.A.

How long do you take to drink your coffee in the morning? 30 minutes or a bit more of quiet time perhaps? Well during that 30 + minutes roughly 3 people have taken their own lives because it is happening everywhere at a rate of 1 death every 12 minutes around the clock.

Many people are feeling deeply entrenched inner pain and choose forms of escape through alcohol, drugs, or eventually self inflicted death. What brought that on for these people? Health issues? Loneliness? Despair, Mental problems? Hopelessness or even a deep seated feeling that their lives are meaningless?  Of course every case is different and unfortunately in many cases there is no warning for loved ones or friends. Feeling desperately sad or lonely is an uncomfortable thing for many folks to discuss rendering them in the end with no help.

Bottom line; In 2016 alone at least 45,000 Americans took their own lives and those numbers are
going up. Of course the question for us today is whether a follower of Christ would lose their salvation because they took their own life? I thought long and hard about writing this because I certainly don't want my opinion to push someone over the line and say "well if that's the case why not? If you are reading this and are contemplating taking your own life, please don't. Get some help and that could easily begin with your pastor, a friend you can trust are even if that is not possible, there are several Governmental agencies who have counselors for these things. Look in a phone book, check your computer,  or call a Police department and ask for "suicide prevention hot lines".

As to followers of Christ committing suicide? I can only answer from a Biblical view point and having said that I believe in teaching what the Bible does say, not what it does not say. A note however regarding this subject; This is one of those hot button topics and has been for millennia past. Lots of opinion one way or the other but the Bible is as always that real source for life's problems.

Every human being, including followers of Christ still bear within themselves the marks of a fallen nature that we all inherited from our forbearers, Adam and Eve. And we know that Christ can overcome ANYTHING! But sometimes in the "heat of battle of everyday life" we can lose track of that---all of us can and no one is immune!

Ask yourselves what the requirements are for eternal salvation? 1). Both John the Baptist and Jesus Himself said "Repent for the kingdom heaven is at hand" Mathew 3:2. 2). Then in Romans chapter 10 verses 9-10 the requirements of salvation are clearly stated "That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, YOU WILL BE SAVED"!

PERIOD, no exceptions! Our relationship with Christ should be a matter of complete and utter joy but for some folks, even though they love the Lord with all their hearts, sometimes events of life can surge to the point of breaking. An utterly sad situation yet true.

There is not one single word, sentence, paragraph or scripture that says a believer who commits suicide will lose their salvation. If someone tells you there is, tell them to show you because they will not be able to do so. O, they may try and give you some obscure denominational stance but you will not find it in the Bible. Jesus said  in John 18:9 (speaking to the Father) "Of those whom you gave Me I have lost NONE"!

No a true repentant follower of Christ who commits suicide is not automatically consigned to an eternity in hell. To say otherwise is blatant false doctrine.

I will leave you with a scripture that simply cannot be argued with or against; John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life".

Fear not, if you have endured the pain of a relative or friend who is a believer in Christ but took their own life, YOU WILL BE REUNITED WITH THEM FOR ALL ETERNITY!

There is always hope in Christ.

God bless,
Pastor Rance.