was successfully added to your cart.




Born on the Fourth of July – 07/04/21

FS Sunday Sermon
Born on the Fourth of July

By: David Mathis

For those of us in the States, the time is here again for our midsummer’s patriotic respite.

For many, the Fourth of July means parades and picnics, hot dogs and Coca-Cola, ice cream and apple pie, baseball and bombs bursting in air. In God’s good providence, the adoption of Jefferson’s Declaration in 1776 happened during one of the best weather weeks of the year in this hemisphere. And so for 237 years now, the significance and seasonal timing of the day have conspired to make it a deeply rooted annual occasion in the American psyche.

While the Fourth’s flood of Americana is all-too-enticing for many, it can rub many others the wrong way. But before thumbing our noses or diving in deep, it’s good to pause to ask whether there’s anything that makes the day different for an American follower of Jesus. Does being born again affect how we view the Fourth of July? Here are four layers of perspective for the Christian in contemplating the Fourth specifically, and human government in general.

Where Our Fundamental Identity Lies

First, let’s be clear about where the Christian’s deepest identity lies. If we are in Christ, joined to him by faith, all other pledges of allegiance have been relativized, whatever our nation of origin or naturalization. We still have our loyalties — they may even multiply — but none goes this deep. No man can ultimately serve both God and country. In Jesus, we have one final allegiance, and thus in this world we will always be, in some real sense, pilgrims, strangers and aliens, sojourners and exiles (1 Peter 2:11).

For the Christian, our citizenship in any nation aims to be “worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27), not merely worthy of that political state. At the most basic level, “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” who will do for us what no political entity in this world will ever do — “transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself”(Philippians 3:20–21).

At the end of the day, we are sons of God, not sons of Uncle Sam. The kings of the earth tax others, not their own sons (Matthew 17:25–26). Let your annual submission to the IRS be a friendly reminder that our fundamental identity is in God, not country.

Which means that as we Americans sing the anthem together and pledge allegiance side by side, and enjoy the parades and fireworks shoulder to shoulder, we create and strengthen ties that only go so far. The blood of Jesus runs deeper than the blood that flows in defining or defending any nation. Our fellows in political liberty are important, but not as significant as our fellows in Jesus from every tribe and tongue. Yes, we seek to do good to our fellow Americans, but especially to those who are of the worldwide household of faith (Galatians 6:10).

Embracing God’s Goodness in the Fatherland

Second, though our embrace of fatherland is relativized by our embrace of Jesus and his Father, it is good and healthy to have real affection for the nation we call our own. It is right for the Christian to be patriotic and reserve a special kind of love for city and country. In fact, it’s a sign that something may be amiss spiritually if the Christian doesn’t have some tempered but tangible sense of belonging to his fatherland. It’s not only okay for American Christians to enjoy being American on the Fourth; it’s commended.

God means for us to be appropriately enmeshed in this world (as Jesus prays in John 17, not of the world, but sent into it). Christ and country aren’t irreconcilable. In Jesus’s perfect arithmetic, there is space not only to render God our everything, but render to Caesar his share as well (Matthew 22:21–22).

Christians render respect to whom respect is owed, and honor to whom honor is owed (Romans 13:7). We acknowledge God’s common goodness when our nation is manifestly “God’s servant for your good” (Romans 13:4) and the authorities are “ministers of God” (Romans 13:6). “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17).

Genuine Gratitude for the Goodness

Third, it follows that as God’s common goodness is manifested in our political state, we should be genuinely grateful. We give thanks when thanks is owed.
Perhaps we balk at being “proud to be an American” — and would prefer to be “humbled” by it. That’s wise and good. And we need not make any such alteration to the call to be thankful.

Given the fallen condition of our world because of human sin, we should be amazed how much common goodness God continues to create and uphold in nations good and even bad. In the same breath Paul instructs Christians to be good citizens — “to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:1–2) — he also reminds us about our native condition:

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy . . . . (Titus 3:3–5)

Given our depravity, and the diabolical desires that have a foothold in humanity for now, it is extraordinary mercy not only that any are saved at all, but also that any of our nations aren’t in worse shape than they are. We betray the far-reaching effects of God’s kindness when we’re so consumed with frustrations about our homeland that we can’t see many good things to be grateful for.

Taking Others to the True Country

Finally, for now, it continues to be legal to speak the gospel in public in these united states, and even to press for repentance and faith. This is a glorious liberty. Let’s make the most of it while we can, remembering that we Christians have a true country, which will satisfy our inconsolable longing like no nation in the present can. And let’s double our joy by bringing as many others with us as we can. It’s hard to say it any better than C.S. Lewis:

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage.

I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same. (Mere Christianity)

If such a perspective would fly as the star-spangled banner over our Independence Day celebrations with family and friends, we might find them richer than ever.

Let’s be profoundly grateful for the freedom we have in this country to recruit for the true one, and let’s be unashamed to seize upon our fellow Americans’ desire for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and show them in whom such joy is truly found.

FS Sunday Sermon – The Only Certain Hope on Earth – 06/27/21

FS Sunday Sermon
The Only Certain Hope on Earth

By: Mark Jones

“It is the hope that kills you,” as many English football (soccer) fans say. Is it not better to have low expectations instead of hoping your team will do well, only to see those hopes dashed in sometimes cruel ways?

The world has an idea of hope that sees it as an optimistic expectation that something good may happen in this life or, for the religious, the life to come.

People cannot help but hope; it is part of our DNA as humans. We hope for good health, a good marriage, good weather, or an enjoyable holiday. Many even hope for a better life after the life they have lived on earth, which explains why so many claim that loved ones (including animals) are “smiling down” upon them after their death. Much of the hope that is found in the world lacks promise and certainty, which is like building a house on sand.

Christian hope is very different from worldly hope. Christian hope is a Spirit-given virtue enabling us to joyfully expect what God has promised through Jesus Christ. It is, therefore, thoroughly Trinitarian.

Height of Our Hope

Christian hope looks to God because he is “the God of hope” (Romans 15:13). Because of the resurrection of Christ, Peter says that our “faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:21). The degree to which we find God desirable and excellent will be the same to which hope plays a role in our lives. Our view of God will affect the hope we possess.

A small god begets a small hope; but knowing God and Christ (John 17:3), which is eternal life, is ground for possessing a hope that bursts forth in our souls on a daily basis. The psalmist describes the blessed person as the one “whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146:5).

Consider the words of Thomas Aquinas on this:

Wherefore the good which we ought to hope for from God properly and chiefly is the infinite good, which is proportionate to the power of our divine helper, since it belongs to an infinite power to lead anyone to an infinite good. Such a good is eternal life, which consists in the enjoyment of God Himself. For we should hope from Him for nothing less than Himself, since His goodness, whereby He imparts good things to His creature, is no less than His essence. Therefore the proper and principal object of hope is eternal happiness. (Summa Theologica, II-II.17.2)

In short, Aquinas is saying that our joy is connected to our hope, which is connected to our Savior, which is connected to our God. Christian hope exists only when we hope in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13). The height of our hope is God himself.

Certain as God’s Promises

Certain conditions characterize biblical hope: it must be good, it must be in the future, it involves some degree of difficulty (for example, patient suffering), and it must be founded on God’s promises. Those who persevere, by faith, shall attain what we hope for: the sight of our Savior (Titus 2:13).

This hope of the blessed vision of Christ is based not only upon the fact that we know he will return, but also on the knowledge that God dwells in us. This explains Paul’s language in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
Hope arises from not only objective promises, but also an internal “pull” toward God and Christ by his Spirit. Thus, Christian hope is not about probable hope or about mere conjecture concerning things future, but about great certainty.

Faith, Hope, and Love

Faith in God through Christ by the Spirit gives rise to Christian hope. Faith and hope bear an intimate relation to one another (Romans 4:18–21; 5:2; 15:13; Galatians 5:5; Ephesians 1:18–19; Colossians 1:23; 1 Timothy 4:10; Hebrews 11:1; 1 Peter 1:21). Faith is the foundation of hope, so that hope without faith is no hope at all. We believe God in order to hope in what we believe. But faith also returns to hope to give it courage to persevere. If faith apprehends God’s promises, hope expects what he promises. In times of trouble, despair, and suffering, faith and hope feed on God and his promises.

The difference between faith and hope is not easy to discern. Simply put, faith believes, but hope waits patiently. (Yet there is an aspect whereby faith also requires patience.) God is the object of hope, as it specifically focuses on his goodness to us in Christ. Faith not only looks to God but also trembles at his threatenings (when appropriate). Hope remains free of such fear. Faith and love can relate to a present or future object, but hope looks to the future alone.

And of course, faith and hope also bear an intimate relation to love. If hope relates to faith in terms of our expectations, hope relates to love in terms of our desire. Love requires desire, so the more we desire the good, the more we will love it. Equally, hope requires desire. The more we desire what is promised, the more we hope for it. Since faith focuses on Christ, hope will always be present where there is true faith. And since faith focuses on Christ, love will always accompany faith and hope because God and Christ are the object of faith and hope — how can we not love the one we believe has saved us and promised so much for the future? Thus, faith, hope, and love give expression to our Christian life (1 Corinthians 13:13; Colossians 1:4).

Hope That Purifies

The life of hope yields many benefits to the Christian, such as the expectation of eternal life (Titus 1:2; 3:7), salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:8), heaven (Colossians 1:5), the resurrection (Acts 23:6), the gospel (Colossians 1:23), God’s calling (Ephesians 1:18; 4:4), and our inheritance (Ephesians 1:18). But there is also a “duty” bound up with hope, namely, purification of our souls: “Everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:3).

This command follows one of the greatest promises of Christian hope: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Those who have the hope of being made like Christ in body and soul must also have the present desire to be pure. While in sanctification the accent is often on what God does, here in 1 John 3:3 the accent is on what we do. Christians, if they embrace a hope of seeing Christ face to face, are to purify themselves.

In other words, hope has a moral effect. The pursuit of purity arises out of our possession of hope. Hope gives birth to sanctification; and as we are sanctified, we hope even more because we get closer to God. Besides John, Peter also makes this point. He speaks of the future promise of the new heavens and new earth to his readers (2 Peter 3:13), and then reasons, “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by [God] without spot or blemish, and at peace” (2 Peter 3:14).

Likewise, Paul writes, “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). The promises Paul speaks of include our adoption as sons and daughters, wherein God makes his dwelling and walks among us (2 Corinthians 6:16, 18). These promises are, of course, realized in this life, but they also await a type of consummation that we can all look forward to (see Romans 8:23).

Christian hope has present realities, one of which includes our sanctification. In this matter, our faith clings ever so tightly to our hope, as we seek to be holy as God is holy.

Hope Unlike the World’s

In the church today, we have underemphasized the future motivation (our Christian hope) for how to live the sanctified life. As with the Lord’s Supper, we do not only look back to Christ’s death but also look now to the risen Christ and forward to the future blessings that await us. This is the purification of the truly hopeful.

Our hope is unlike the world’s. The world’s hope is often vague, uncertain, a wish thrust up at the stars. But Christian hope is solid, certain, future, and cleansing. It lasts as long as the eternal God lives, and stands as tall as he stands. He is our hope, for apart from him, no such thing exists (Ephesians 2:13).

Who Might Find God in Your Suffering? 06/06/21

FS Sunday Sermon
Who Might Find God in Your Suffering?
By: Marshall Segal


Do you feel prepared today to defend your faith in Jesus? If not, what would it take for you to feel ready?

Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:14–15)

These verses are often quoted in conversations about evangelistic and apologetic strategies: Be prepared to make a defense. Meaning, study up on arguments against the Christian faith, anticipate the hardest questions someone might ask, and prepare convincing answers. However, while it is good and loving to carefully think through objections to Christianity, that is not the primary focus or emphasis of this charge. Peter is not encouraging merely a more informed faith, but a more sincere faith — a more fearful, joyful, and active faith.

“Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,” he says, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” This kind of defense is not captured in apologetics books, but in our hearts. It’s not merely a matter of reading and thinking more (though both are essential), but of fearing, loving, and enjoying more.

The best way to be prepared to defend your hope in Jesus is not to learn new, sophisticated arguments, but to honor Jesus as much as possible with what you already know. The best apologetic for Christianity is the real transformation already happening in you.

Honor Christ as Holy

Do you want to be prepared to make a defense for your hope? Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). Not just in my neighborhood, or city, or nation, but first and most deeply in me. Lord, make my heart a deep and vibrant reflection of your worth. Help me honor you as holy.

When it comes to witnessing, some of us might spend too much time worrying about intellectual answers to philosophical questions, rather than meditating on the holiness, the glorious otherness, of God. We may not mainly need to read more but to sit longer beneath the galaxies of what we know of him. We need to linger along the streams of his mercy. We need to sit near the window and listen to the thunder of his justice. We need to hike higher up the mountains of his authority and power. We need to wade a little farther out into the depths of his wisdom. For some, our hearts do not need to be piled high with information to be inflamed with the holiness of God but to take more seriously what we know and ask him to light it on fire.

And as his holiness burns hotter within us, his light will shine brighter and brighter through us. Our passion and devotion will testify that he made and rules over all; that he loves and redeems sinners; that he satisfies the aches and longings we each carry; that he can be trusted, even through suffering; that he’s returning to make all things new. And as his holiness rises in our hearts, holiness increasingly invades our lives — how we speak and act and love (1 Peter 1:15–16; 2 Corinthians 3:18). Those who honor Christ as holy in their hearts cannot help but witness to him. Their lives and conversations are filled with evidence of sovereign love.

Why Would Anyone Ask?

But even if we honor Christ as holy in our hearts, even if we feel ready to give a defense for the hope within us, what would make someone ask (1 Peter 3:15)?

When Peter wrote to these believers scattered across several regions (1 Peter 1:1), they were not safe believers sheltered in secure churches protected by tolerant governments. These Christians were following Jesus into the growing fires of hostility. They were challenging their culture’s favorite sins, claiming a Lord higher than the emperor, and choosing him over friends, parents, and even spouses, believing Jesus when he said they would receive a hundredfold (Matthew 19:29). And in the weeks and months that followed, they inherited not peace and comfort, but insults and slander (1 Peter 3:9; 4:4). And that suffering became a stunning platform for their hope.

Why did anyone ask about their hope? Because they had hope when few others would — when they were treated unfairly. Because they did not fear what man said or did to them. Because trouble did not seem to trouble them anymore (1 Peter 3:14). They should have been anxious, but they weren’t. They should have been defensive, but they weren’t. They should have been bitter, but they weren’t. Their hope was surprising, confusing, odd. Odd enough to pique a neighbor’s curiosity.

And when a neighbor’s curiosity compelled them to ask, they were met with surprising “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). How these believers shared about Jesus proved their hope as much as anything they said about him. They spoke truth to cruelty with kindness. They received shame and yet held out dignity. They had the spiritual strength, by grace, both to endure abuse and to remain gentle.

Do Not Be Surprised

What might all of that mean, though, for Christians in less hostile times and places? If we don’t suffer like they did, should we expect anyone to ask about our hope?

Well, we shouldn’t assume we won’t suffer like they did. Faithful followers of Jesus in Western societies either already have, or soon will, experience greater opposition to our faith — in our families, our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our social media feeds. In other words, we are likely about to experience (apart from revival) what the vast majority of faithful followers of Jesus in history have experienced. As John Piper observes,

The church in America is slowly awakening from the distortion of 350 years of dominance and prosperity. Until recently, being a Christian in America has been viewed as normal, good, patriotic, culturally acceptable, even beneficial. (“Navigating Trials in the New America”)

Christians have always been strangers and aliens in America, but some of us are finally beginning to feel just how foreign we are here. So, “do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).

They Will Malign Us

Also, the fiery trials in Peter’s letters actually may be surprisingly similar to what we can increasingly expect today. While the persecution he was speaking into was pointed and intense, it seems to have been social and verbal, not physical: “They malign you” could be a good summary (1 Peter 4:4; see also 4:14).

And the world will malign us for what we believe about Jesus, about abortion, about homosexuality, about race, about hell. In most places in America today, if everyone in our lives knew what we really believe, many would hate what we believe. And they may hate us — whether loudly or quietly, whether to our faces or to a coworker — for what we believe.

The apostle Paul warns, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Those of us who have not been persecuted in some way ought to begin asking some hard questions about all of the acceptance and approval we enjoy. Jesus said, “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you” (Luke 6:26). So do they? Does the warm admiration of a world that hates God alarm us?

When You Suffer

Even apart from potential social or political hostility, though, every follower of Christ still suffers in various ways.

James 1:2 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” — not if, but when. Peter says that these trials are necessary “so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). For any Christian in any society during any century, the question is not if we will suffer, but when we will suffer. And more importantly, will how we suffer call attention to our hope in Jesus — or call it into question?

Whether our suffering is large or small, whether we endure persecution or infection or some other affliction, our pain exposes the world to our hope. Where do we look when life inevitably gets hard? What do we cling to when all else fails? Can the Christ we proclaim really bear the awful weight of our fears, anxieties, insecurities, and sins?

He can, and he does, and he will. So honor him as holy, especially when suffering comes, and be ready to tell whoever might ask why you still have hope.

FS Sunday Sermon – Every Other Hope Will Disappoint

FS Sunday Sermon
Every Other Hope Will Disappoint
By: Paul Tripp

Probably few days go by without you using the word hope.

“I hope we’re on time.”
“I hope it doesn’t rain.”
“I hope it’s not cancer.”
“I hope she’ll understand.”
“I hope he’ll be okay.”
“I hope he isn’t angry.”
“I hope God hears this.”
“I hope he loves me.”

From the smallest concerns to the grandest ones, our lives are shaped, directed, motivated, and frustrated by hope. Everyone hopes. Everyone hooks their hope to something or someone. Everyone hopes their hope will come through for them. No one ever purposely hopes in what is hopeless. Everyone longs for hope that is sure. Everyone gets up in the morning motivated by hope of some kind or paralyzed by hopelessness of some kind.

For all of us, hoping is so natural and frequent that we lose sight of how significant it is in shaping what we do, how we do it, and how we feel in the process. Yet even though it’s natural and we do it all the time, hope is painfully elusive for many of us.

Unraveling What Hope Is

Hope is always fueled by some form of desire. It may be the desire to be loved, to be cared for, to be protected, to be understood, to be provided for, to be accepted, to experience comfort or pleasure, to have control, to be forgiven — the list could go on and on. Also, hope always has an object. I look to someone or something to satisfy my desire. Lastly, hope carries an expectation of when, how, and where the person or thing in which I have placed my hope will deliver what I have hoped for.
Almost every day, you entrust your smallest and largest longings into the hands of something or someone with the hope that your longings will be satisfied. To be human is to hope.

How God Defines Hope

The language and drama of hope is splashed all over the pages of Scripture. The Bible is a narrative of hope shattered and hope restored, and in telling its hope story, the Bible speaks to each of the three elements of hope.


Scripture has much to say about our longings, that is, the desires that animate us and shape our lives. It tells us what to love and what to hate, what to desire and what to forsake, and what is good for us and what will harm us. Much of the drama of hope in our lives comes not because we don’t get what we hoped for, but because we spend so much of our time hoping for the wrong things.

Do you live with singleness of hope? Is your life shaped, structured, and directed by the pursuit of one glorious, hope-fulfilling, heart-satisfying longing? Or is your life a picture of a constantly changing narrative of fickle affections careening from one hope to the next?

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple. (Psalm 27:4)

It’s an incredible statement, one that I’m not sure I can always make. It’s made even more powerful when you realize that it was written by a man who is under attack. His “one thing” isn’t safety, or vindication, or victory. His one thing isn’t power, control, or retribution. No, even under personal duress, the one thing that David wishes for is to be in God’s house, taking in the grandeur and glory of the beauty of the Lord.

This desire was designed to be the central, motivating desire of every person created by God and made in his image. And yet, on this side of eternity, it seems like a statement that could only ever be made by a deeply devout human being.

You see, in every situation and relationship of your everyday life, there is a “one-thing war” being fought on the turf of your heart. You and I are safe only when the Lord really is the one thing that commands our hearts and controls our actions. Yet there are many things that compete with him as the one thing that your heart craves.


The Bible also has much to say about the object of our hope. It reminds us that, when it comes to hope, there are only two places to look. You can look to created things to satisfy the longings of your heart, or you can look to the Creator. It really is true that when it comes to fundamental, human hope, each of us looks either horizontally or vertically. The Bible warns us that if our hope disappoints us, it’s because our hope rests on the wrong object. There is only one place to look for hope that is secure, no matter what. Consider these verses:

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word. (Psalm 119:114)

O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. (Psalm 130:7)

The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. (Psalm 147:11)

I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:24)

Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)

. . . having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. (Ephesians 1:18)

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)
. . . in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began. (Titus 1:2)

Notice what each of these verses does. Each confronts us with the radical, life-reshaping truth that ultimately true, lasting, and secure hope is a person — the Lord Almighty. Hope — the kind that transforms your life, gives rest to your heart, and ignites new ways of living — is attached to him. Scripture repeatedly invites us, commands us, and implores us to hope in the Lord, and it gives us reason after reason to do so.


Finally, Scripture speaks to our expectations. It promises us that, when we hope in the Lord, we will not be disappointed. No, God won’t submit to our time expectations, and he won’t always deliver what we hope for in the way we expect, but he will always care for those who trust in him. He will give us everything he has promised us, and he will generously provide what is best for us. So, we wait with patient expectation, knowing that our hope is firm when we hope in the Lord.

Many of us struggle with questions of God’s goodness, faithfulness, and love, not because he has been unfaithful to any promise in any way, but because we simply are not on his agenda page. Our agenda, our definition of what a good God should give us, is a life that is comfortable, pleasurable, and predictable — one in which there’s lots of human affirmation and an absence of suffering.

But consider God’s agenda: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2–4; see also 1 Peter 1:6–7; Romans 5:1–5; Philippians 3:7–9).

The message is consistent — God is not working to deliver to you your personal definition of happiness. If you’re on that agenda page, you are going to be disappointed with God, and you are going to wonder if he loves you. God is after something better: your holiness — that is, the final completion of his redemptive work in you, which includes deep and abiding happiness in him. The difficulties you face are not in the way of God’s plan, they do not show the failure of God’s plan, and they are not signs he has turned his back on you. No, those tough moments are a sure sign of the zeal of his redemptive love.

Where Is Your Hope?

It’s wonderful to have hope that doesn’t rise or fall with changing circumstances. It’s a sweet thing to have hope that doesn’t die when trouble comes. It’s good to be free from placing our hope in objects that have no power whatsoever to deliver what we long for. And it’s wise to spend time examining what we hope for, reorienting our hope, and meditating on the one who alone is a worthy object of our hope.
May your Savior renew your hope and, in renewing your hope, renew your courage, perseverance, and joy.

FS Sunday Sermon – The Word of God Comes Alive in Conflict

FS Sunday Sermon
The Word of God Comes Alive in Conflict
By: David Mathis

Our conflicted times may pale in comparison to history’s greatest conflicts, but in our own generation, the stresses, strains, and uncertainties of the last fourteen months have been unusual. Many of us are manifestly more on edge. Fuses seem shorter. Words, harsher. Moods, more burdened. As we’ve run on empty, previously dormant fault lines have opened up in our families, among neighbors, among longtime friends, and even in our churches.

Of course, what we experience as conflict comes in different layers. We experience societal, even global, conflicts, like the pandemic. But when conflicts erupt in our family, on our block, between longtime friends, in our own once-harmonious church, these are personal. They have faces we recognize. When another person, whether far away, or especially so when close to home, seems set on our humbling, silencing, or firing, whether justly so or not, we feel a personal sting unfelt in other trials.

Come Alive

One precious truth to rehearse, and experience, in times like ours — and especially when conflicts and threats become personal against us — is that God’s word comes alive in conflict. God didn’t only give us his word to get us through life’s trials, but he also gives us trials to make his word come alive. In conflict, his priceless comforts fall less on deaf ears than they do during peacetimes.

In his wise plan, severe mercies, and good providence, God takes his children’s lives through cycles of relative peace and conflict, no more than we can bear. Peacetime Christians can find plenty of hope and strength in the Scriptures, but how many of us have discovered how so many parts of the Bible — if not the whole — teem with life and clarity when conflict arises, especially when it’s close to home?

Born for Adversity

The Bible itself was born in conflict. Its heroes did not live in comfortable, peaceful times. Such days do not require heroes. And so too the Bible’s writers, under God, and its first readers were often embattled: from slavery in Egypt, to life under wicked tyrants and kings, to psalmists and prophets running for their lives, to looming exile and oppression, to God’s own Son betrayed and crucified, to Christ’s appointed spokesmen opposed and imprisoned, to his fledgling church straining on the edge of survival.

Consider the patriarchs in the trials and fears of nomadic living. They had no city with its haven from wild animals and marauders. The next stop for God’s people was Egypt, eventually to be oppressed by Pharaoh. Then back into the trials and fears of the wilderness for forty years.

Once established in the land, and having endured relentless conflict under the judges, even Israel’s greatest king, and its sweet psalmist, was pursued by his own friends, betrayed by dear companions who turned into enemies and threatened his life. How many were David’s foes — both before he took the throne, and even as he reigned as king. He was sought by Saul, and fled to the wilderness. Later he was betrayed not only by his own son, Absalom, but also by his most trusted counselor, Ahithophel. Even Joab, his own cousin and longtime right-hand man, proved unfaithful.

Old and New

So too great David’s greater son, Jesus — how many were his foes! The authorities plotted against him. Scribes and Pharisees, on the one hand, and the rulers and chief priests, on the other — political rivals crossed the aisle to conspire against him. Carnal masses came to fill their bellies and dispersed at the word of truth (John 6). In the end, the cowardice of Pilate, the cruelty of Rome’s soldiers, and the taunts at the cross, even from the fellow crucified, would be eclipsed by the pain of his own men betraying him, denying him, and fleeing for their own lives.

Even the early church lived in conflict, under growing threat of persecution. First reviling, then imprisonment, then Stephen, the church’s first great orator, was stoned on the spot. The rulers cut off James’s head, and planned to do the same to Peter. When one of the church’s lead opponents became radically converted on the road to round up Christians, he too was pursued and opposed one episode after another. How many were Paul’s foes: legalists and Judaizers, pagans and licentious scoffers, sophists and apostates.

Then Paul had to deal with young, immature, conflicted churches spread across the Roman world. His cares included not only unbelievers who sought his life but “the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28). Most pressing of all was not conflict with the opponents but conflict in the trenches, turmoil within the congregations, as in Philippi (Philippians 4:2–3), Rome (Romans 14–15), and Ephesus (1 Timothy). Paul himself was no stranger to the sting of personal conflict as he divided with Barnabas over John Mark (Acts 15:37–40) and found Peter in error in Antioch and “opposed him to his face” (Galatians 2:11).

Shine in the Shadows

Yet here, in the shadows of conflict — in its tensions, threats, and insecurities — here is where the light of truth shone out all the clearer. Timeless epistles were forged. Truth took a stand. Light thrashed against the darkness. Conflict clarified not only the mission, but the source of strength: God himself in Christ.

Instead of Christ’s messengers being silenced, they took heart. As Paul said to the Thessalonians, “Though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict” (1 Thessalonians 2:2). Conflict? No, it’s not pleasant. But it is a great opportunity for our God. He speaks into conflict, and his words come alive with fresh power to those who are embattled.

Later, writing from prison, Paul encouraged the Philippians that it was a gift (“granted to you”) to “suffer for [Christ’s] sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have” (Philippians 1:29–30). Moving and speaking to spread the gospel brought conflict. And in that conflict, the word of God did not fade. It flourished.

No Surprise

Our conflicted times, and conflicted relationships, do not increase our earthly comforts, but they need not shake our confidence in heaven. The Scriptures were forged in such times, in the most challenging of days. The lead characters suffered. They did not live easy lives. The greatest figure of all, God himself in human flesh, anticipated as Messiah for centuries, was executed in public on a horrible Roman cross. And no servant of Christ is greater than his Master.

How tragic, then, when we allow the swelling of tensions and the uptick of trials to push us away from God’s word, rather than to him. God gave us his word for pandemics. And for civil and political unrest, and for crises of public information. We see afresh, in such times, how God’s words are the one real rock in a world of sand.

Our foes today may feel like many: from within the church, and without. From professing believers and unbelievers. Perhaps someone we once knew well and who was close to us now has turned on us in some way, whether through betrayal, denial, or abandonment. Our God is not surprised by the many dangers, toils, and snares that come upon us. Neither should we be (1 Peter 4:12). Our conflicted times are in his hands, lovingly sifted through his fingers, in all their pain and difficulty. And they are a setup: for the beauty and strength of his voice.

For Times Like These

As we endure fightings without and fears within, what a Savior we have who has gone before us, promises to be with us (Matthew 28:20), and has poured out his own Spirt on us for precisely such times. In his own conflicted days on earth, he turned to the word of his Father, rather than away, when pain pressed in on him. God’s word was his life and preserved his faith — not just in the wilderness but even at the cross itself, where the Psalms he had learned and cherished from childhood found the very setting they long anticipated, even as they flowed from the embattled life of a great king a millennium before.

God’s words have been a peacetime balm for countless millions. Cherish them, meditate on them, find strength in them on the brightest and warmest of days. And as our days of great peace come, may the clarity and power of God’s words not abate. But when life gets hard, opposition arises, enemies approach, and peace collapses into conflict, lean hard on the words of God. They swell in their power and thrive at new depths in assaulted souls.

God Has Not Forgotten You – 04/25/21

FS Sunday Sermon
God Has Not Forgotten You
By: Vaneetha Rendall Risner

“God has not forgotten you.”

As I heard those words, I was flooded with emotion. I hadn’t realized how much I needed them. As tears streamed down my face, I understood how lonely and forgotten I had been feeling.

I was in the darkest time of my life. My husband had left our family, my body was deteriorating, and I was parenting two angry adolescent daughters who wanted nothing to do with “my” God. I felt unnoticed.

But somehow, knowing that God had not forgotten me stirred me to press into him with renewed hope. Those simple words turned my mind and helped me focus on the truths that I needed to remember. That the Lord was with me and would sustain me through this trial. That God was using my suffering to accomplish something far greater than I could see or understand. And that my pain wouldn’t last any longer than was absolutely necessary.

Those truths grounded me. And those three assurances are still what ground me today.

1. God will be with me.

The assurance that God is with us is the most precious gift we have in suffering.
Of course, as Christians we know that God is always with us and that there is nowhere we can flee from his presence (Psalm 139:7–8), but actually sensing God’s presence and comfort is different. It has given me joy when I was discouraged (Psalm 16:11), refreshed me when I was weary (Acts 3:20), and taken away my fear when I was in deep waters (Isaiah 43:2). God’s presence has been more evident to me in suffering than at any other time, making it a priceless treasure of darkness (Isaiah 45:3).

In Psalm 23, David begins by talking about God and his tender care, saying, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). But when he moves into a place of danger and suffering, he shifts from talking about God to talking directly to him. He says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4). There is a nearness, a personalness to God that David immediately feels in trouble.

The incomparable presence of God in our pain underscores that a day with him in trial is better than a thousand pain-free days elsewhere.

2. God has a good purpose for my suffering.

If my suffering were meaningless, I couldn’t have withstood it. I would have felt crushed, bitter, ripped off, full of regret and doubt, wondering whether my bad decision, or someone else’s, had kept me from the successful life I’d longed for. Life would have felt unfair and even cruel.

But thankfully, I know that the opposite is true — my suffering has been entrusted to me by God, and he is using every drop of it to fulfill his good purposes for me. It is full of meaning and will not be wasted, even if all I can see in the moment is my loss. By faith, I believe that God has a reason and purpose for my pain — perhaps thousands of reasons — and they are all for my good, regardless of what it looks or feels like on the surface (Romans 8:28; Genesis 50:20). While I may not see or understand any of them, I know that the Lord would never make me suffer unnecessarily. Now I see in a mirror dimly. I understand in part. But one day I will see face to face and understand fully (1 Corinthians 13:12).

The men and women in the Bible couldn’t see how God was using their lives and their struggles either. They lived day to day, as we do, disappointed, waiting, and wondering why their lives were so hard. Yet God used their pain for something more glorious than they could have imagined.

And so it is with us. We must trust that God is using our suffering for something greater than we can see now. Our suffering is accomplishing something eternal, preparing for us a weight of glory that is beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17). As with Joseph, our trials may be for the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20), which we may see fully only in heaven. But we can be certain that, as Joni Eareckson Tada says, “We’ll thank God endlessly in heaven for the trials he sent us here.”

3. My pain will end one day.

No matter what pain we are going through, if we are in Christ, we are assured that it won’t last forever. Our suffering is “momentary” and “for a little while” as we consider and experience it in light of eternity. God will make all things new; we have endless and painless joy awaiting us in heaven.

But heaven may feel like little comfort as days of pain on earth stretch into months and even years. All of us want deliverance in this life, and many of us will see it. Nothing is beyond God’s ability to redeem. He gives life to the dead and calls into existence things that do not exist (Romans 4:17). He knows exactly how long our pain will last, and he will give us everything we need as we wait. Nothing is too hard for him (Jeremiah 32:17). We can only live one chapter of our lives at a time, and none of us knows exactly what the next chapter will bring. Tomorrow may bring redemption beyond our wildest dreams, as Naomi, Joseph, and Job experienced. Or perhaps just a needed break from our pain and suffering. We may soon look back at today’s trials and marvel at God’s faithful hand in them.

But not all of us will be able to speak of pain in the past tense. Some of us won’t experience reprieve in this life. We will die from wasting disease. Feel the lifelong pain of acute loss. Live amid broken dreams. Agonize, wondering how our loved ones will manage. Struggle with debilitating physical and mental illness. We may never see the fulfillment of all we felt certain God would do. Like the saints throughout Scripture, who didn’t see God’s promises realized in their lifetime, we will have to trust that God has something better in store for us (Hebrews 11:13–16). A glorious inheritance. Untold riches. Crowns of glory. Pleasures forevermore. If we are his, our pain will most surely and completely end.

God Has Not Forgotten You

God has all of eternity to lavish his kindness on us (Ephesians 2:7). As he has promised, “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). And I am convinced that the less earthly pleasure and reward we have received, the greater our pleasure and reward will be in heaven.

If you are struggling today, remember God has not forgotten you. He has engraved you on the palms of his hands (Isaiah 49:15–16). He will never fail you or forsake you. He will walk with you through every dark valley. The God who has numbered every hair on your head and knows every sparrow that falls to the ground is aware of every detail of your situation. He is using your suffering and pain in ways you would not believe if someone told you.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10)

FS Sunday Sermon – Where Satan Will Attack You Today

FS Sunday Sermon
Where Satan Will Attack You Today
By: Jon Bloom

You wonder why it’s so hard to find some peace of mind? Well, peace is hard to come by when you live in a warzone. And like it or not, you are in a war — a very serious one. This war is cosmic in its proportions. It involves God, humans, angels, demons, principalities, powers, nations, and antichrists.

And do you know where the front of the battle is? It’s in your head.

We Destroy Arguments

Here is how Paul describes it in 2 Corinthians 10:3–5 (emphasis added):
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
What are the satanic strongholds that spiritually imprison people, the strongholds that we seek to destroy? Arguments and opinions. Where is the battle raging? Where our thoughts are.

And arguments are not merely strongholds; they are weapons of mass destruction. Adam and Eve (and all of us with them) fell because of an argument. They believed the serpent’s argument and stopped believing God.

That is the deadly essence of sin: not believing God. To not believe God is to ally with Satan, whom Jesus said is “a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth. . . . For he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

You don’t want Satan as an ally. He’s treacherous. He’s out to murder you with lies.

Watch Your Emotions

Watch your emotions. They are signals of arguments. Your emotions, which can land on you like vague impressions or moods, are usually responses to an argument. Moods don’t come out of nowhere. When we are angry, discouraged, depressed, anxious, self-pitying, fearful, or irritable, it is likely because we are believing something very specific.

To battle sin is to battle unbelief — or destroy arguments. And in order to battle unbelief effectively, we must press doubts and temptations into specific arguments. What specifically is being asserted or promised to us? Only then can we destroy the enemy’s false arguments with true ones.

The Victory That Overcomes the World

The victory that overcomes the world is our faith (1 John 5:4). This is precisely why the devil does not want us to think clearly about sin. He wants to keep things vague so he can imprison or disarm us. But Jesus wants us to think clearly. He wants us to know the truth because the truth brings freedom:
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31–32)
So as freedom fighters let’s fight against “unbelieving hearts” by exhorting one another every day (Hebrews 3:12–13) to live in the freedom — and peace (John 16:33) — of the truth.

Because our most important battles are won and lost with arguments.

FS Sunday Sermon – You Don’t Need to Understand Now

FS Sunday Sermon
You Don’t Need to Understand Now
By: Jon Bloom


Jesus spoke many profound and important words to his disciples the night before his crucifixion. But there’s one statement we might easily pass over, because of the context in which he made it. Yet it is loaded with personal meaning for each of us who follows him:

What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand. (John 13:7)

In that one sentence, Jesus captures a profound reality that is our frequent, and to some extent continual, experience as Christians: not understanding what God is doing (or not doing) and why. It’s crucial that we grasp the wider implications of what Jesus said here, for if we do, it will help each of us immensely during the times we wonder why our Good Shepherd is leading us down such confusing and painful paths.

We often do not know what God is doing now. And the crucial truth is, we don’t need to know what God is doing now to follow him in faith.

You Do Not Understand Now

During that Last Supper, Jesus did something strange. He removed his outer garments, tied a towel around his waist, grabbed a basin of water, and proceeded to wash each disciple’s feet. I doubt this hits any of us with the force it did the disciples since the cultural mores of that region and time are so distant and foreign to us. But to the disciples, it felt more than strange; it felt disorientingly inappropriate.

It sure did to Peter. All his life, he had understood that washing someone else’s feet was about as demeaning a task as anyone could perform — a task fit only for slaves, or, if lacking those, for children. It would have been disgraceful for men of honor. So, as he watched Jesus, the most honored Person in the world, humbling himself by taking the form of a common slave, washing off with his own holy hands God only knew what uncleanness clung to those feet, he felt indignant. This was completely backward! If anything, Peter should be on his knees washing his Lord’s feet.

When Jesus got to Peter, the earnest disciple pulled his feet back and asked, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus looked at Peter and with patient kindness replied, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand” (John 13:7).

And there it is: a massive principle for every Christian’s life of faith, indeed a summary of a motif woven throughout Scripture from beginning to end, captured in a simple reply to a confused disciple’s question.

Legacy of Little Understanding

Peter, in not understanding why Jesus was doing what he was doing at that moment, was in very good company. Redemptive history recounts story after story of saints finding themselves in this perplexing position, being forced to trust God to make sense of it later. Think of:

Abraham, having waited so long for Isaac, only to be instructed by God to offer the boy as a sacrifice (Genesis 22);
Jacob wrestling with God, and being lamed in the hip, just before he was to meet Esau (Genesis 32);
Joseph wondering what God was doing as his young adulthood wasted away in an Egyptian prison (Genesis 37–41);
Moses not understanding why God would choose him to lead Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 3–4);
Gideon being given far more than he could possibly handle (Judges 7);
Jehoshaphat being instructed to send a choir as his military vanguard against an overwhelming foe (2 Chronicles 20);
Nehemiah having to deal with so many seemingly unnecessary adversities, obstacles, and inefficiencies that slowed down the work in rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls (Nehemiah 4);
Joseph trying to navigate so many unforeseen, confusing detours in the first few years of Jesus’s life (Matthew 1–2);
The man born blind, who didn’t know until midlife what purposes God could possibly have in his suffering (John 9);
And Martha’s and Mary’s grief-laced bewilderment over why Jesus didn’t come to heal Lazarus (John 11).

Of course, that’s just a small sample. Not understanding what God is doing now (and having to wait till later to understand) is the experience, to greater or lesser degrees, of every saint in every age — whether “later” means within a few minutes, as it did for Peter during the Last Supper, or in the age to come, as it did for his fellow disciple James, who wasn’t delivered from execution (Acts 12:1–2). It is a necessary, humbling part of what it means for us to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

You Must Trust Me

Being content to not understand now doesn’t come naturally to us. It surely didn’t for Peter. He found Jesus’s reply perplexing. And patience not being one of his strong suits, he didn’t wish to wait till later to understand. So, he declared, “You shall never wash my feet” (John 13:8).

It seems to me that Peter simply didn’t want to dishonor his Lord. This may have been well-intended, but it was wrongheaded. In responding this way, Peter actually became guilty of what he was trying to avoid: dishonoring Jesus. For the great dishonor wasn’t Peter allowing Jesus to wash his feet; it was Peter’s not trusting what Jesus said. And this is a crucial point for us to note: We are never on more dangerous ground than when we believe we understand better than God.

I think Jesus fully discerned Peter’s well-intended motive. But he also discerned the danger of Peter’s wrongheaded, overly self-confident tendency to trust his own understanding. Which is why Jesus’s response was so serious. It shocked Peter to his core. “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me” (John 13:8). No share with me. Distrust in this meant exclusion. Peter got the point immediately and repented by exclaiming, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” (John 13:9).

And what was Jesus’s point? Peter, you must trust me. You must live by the ancient proverb, and trust what I say with all your heart, and not lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). The only way you as a branch will abide and be fruitful in this Vine is if you believe my word (John 15:1–5, 7). If you insist that you must understand now before you will trust me, you will be like a branch broken off, and you will spiritually wither and die (John 15:6).

You Don’t Need to Understand Now

Many of the experiences that confound us as we follow Jesus feel far more painful and confusing than foot-washing. Peter would sympathize; most of his confounding experiences were far more painful and confusing than that too. Just think of what desolation was approaching for Peter in the hours following this brief mealtime interchange. Sometimes it’s lessons we learn in less extreme moments that stand in clearest relief and help steady us during more extreme ones.

The plain fact is, we often do not know what God is doing now. And the crucial truth is, we don’t need to know what God is doing now to follow him in faith. God has his reasons for concealing his purposes. Sometimes it has to do with his timing, as it did for Peter. And sometimes, because God’s ways and thoughts are so beyond ours (Isaiah 55:8–9), it’s simply God’s mercy toward us to withhold knowledge too heavy for us to bear.

We don’t need to understand God’s purposes now; what we need to do is trust God’s purposes now. For it is through our trust, not our own understanding, that God will direct us along our confusing paths (Proverbs 3:6). And we can trust him that later, when the time is right in the near or distant future, he will give us all the understanding we need.

FS Sunday Sermon – How To Redeem a Wasted Life

How To Redeem a Wasted Life
By: Greg Morse

A flower that never bloomed, fruit that never ripened, a womb that never bore, an egg that never hatched: a wasted life.

Perhaps little time remains to say and do what you’ve left unsaid and undone. Perhaps you grimace to look back on a life mostly spent and wonder, “What have I done?” or, “Where did it go?” This is the bed you made; so many petals have already fallen. You are left gripping the thorny stems of memories you wish replayed so differently in your mind. You may now, like never before, regret investing your life in a world that now threatens so soon to evict you.

Perhaps children, if you have them, now spurn you. Perhaps it’s too late to tell your mother you’re sorry. Perhaps the better life that you expected just around the corner never came. Years wasted by some combination of bad circumstances, bad company, and bad choices, your sand has fallen down the hourglass — what was it all for?

No one wants to waste his life — but what if you fear that you have? The thief who died next to Jesus on the cross, and lived a most ravaged and pitiful life two thousand years ago, stands out like a flower grown between cracks in the pavement, showing how, even on life’s final page, even in its final lines, a wasted life can be redeemed.

His Final Page

What an eerie sensation it must have been to wake up that morning knowing that today would be his last.

Unlike most, who do not know precisely when the cold fingers of death will seize them, he knew that within just a few hours he would be dead. His body would be dispossessed, his frame left vacant. His hands would never again clasp the oars of a fishing boat, his eyes would not see the sun fall behind the curtain of the horizon, his voice would no longer be heard in the land of the living.

Soon, he would be gone. No more would the birds wake him with their songs, nor the breeze greet him on early mornings. No more would he playfully argue with his mother about her Scriptures — tomorrow did not exist for him. The rays streaming into his prison held no warmth.

As for man his days are like grass; he flourishes like the flower of the field. The wind passes over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. The childhood lyrics sang involuntarily in his mind.

It was no gentle wind that would soon pass over him, but a Roman tornado. The brutes had sentenced him to a most horrific end, one that made his mother cough up her food: crucifixion. He shuddered to recollect the sights of grown men, naked, squirming as bait on a hook outside of the city for all to see. Bloody, screaming, crying, groaning — he would be one of them.

One of Three

Of the whips and chains and mockery that escorted him to that dreadful hill, his own conscience joined as an invisible, but not unskilled, torturer. He always thought he would amend his ways eventually. But eventually never came. Now, as he trudged up the hill as a sport for cruel men, a still small voice within reminded him that he now dwelt in a land devoid of second chances.

On this day, there were no more do-overs. No time to make things right. The branches would not reattach. The sentence could not be reversed. The shattered vase would not be restored. This world was being pried from his hands. Only hours remained, surely the worst of his already pitiful existence. He would beg for death in the end.

As bloodstained nails invaded his wrists, shock waves of pain he had never known overwhelmed him. His mind spasmed at the flood of hurt only to reawaken as the other two nails impaled him. He could scarcely remember being lifted up from the ground but for the earth-shaking, body-convulsing thud as the cross fell in place. Two others erected nearby. Before again submerging below the streams of consciousness, he caught himself wondering why so many stood around them.

See Him Through a Wasted Life

Many eyes stared at him. He hated each pair. Why did his wretched death have to be attended by such a crowd? Luckily, he was not the main object of their mockery. He played backup in this savage dirge. Who was this man they hated so?

Of course, it had to be the same day. The man who walked around stirring up the Pharisees, pretending to be the Messiah hung next to him. Some destination for a Messiah. Escaping the crowd’s displeasure, he joined in deriding him.

Maybe it was what he heard from his enemies: “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” (Luke 23:35). Wait, even his enemies admit that he in fact saved others? Could he really be the Christ of God, his Chosen One? If he saved others, could he save me?

Maybe it was what he saw. From the throng of weeping women trailing behind him up Golgotha, to a crowd gathering to see whether he would actually save himself, to his enemies surrounding him to hurl assaults at him: Who is this man? A sign above his head, inscribed in three languages read, “This is the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:38). Could he really be?

Maybe it was the supernatural event surrounding his death. Three hours of darkness at midday (Matthew 27:45)? What can explain this blackening of the sun? Who is this that even the greater light leaves his throne and turns to flee at his death?
Maybe it was what he heard from Jesus himself. As men mocked and tormented him, laughing and insulting him, he met their derision with prayer: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He had been cursing the crowd, but this man — with nails in his flesh — prayed for their forgiveness. Who is this man calling God “Father” — even from these awful heights? Could I possibly be an answer to this King’s prayer? Can I be forgiven of my many sins and wasted life?

With Final Breaths

He knew everything had changed in his inner man when he heard himself spending the last of his fleeting strength to make the world his enemy on this man’s behalf.
The third criminal railed, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39). Before he could think, his soul objected: “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:40–41).

He was guilty, but not this man. He was rightfully condemned, but not this man. He was worthy of death, but not this man.

He who wasted millions of breaths throughout his life came to gasp with his final few, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). And from the dying King to his unworthy servant came words to overwhelm his wasted existence: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). At the punctuation of this most miserable existence, he at last found the reason for his life: Jesus Christ.

In the Shadow of the Cross

Have you wasted your life? Are you on the verge of wasting it? Follow this once wretched man to the Savior. Whether you have been a horrible steward of your faculties through sin or through thoughtlessness, run to him who will even now welcome you. He prays for the forgiveness of his enemies. The moment you believe upon Jesus, angels will shout and rejoice over, yes, even you and your new life in him (Luke 15:7).

If you have wasted your life, know that another life exists. There are more pages. Though nothing but regret follows you into glory, you will have lived better than the unbelieving kings and celebrities of this world if you repent of your sin and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. He is Life itself, and only those can die well who, like this penitent thief, perish in peace in the shadow of his cross.

Making it Through the Mountains of Life

FS Sunday Sermon
Making It Through The Mountains of Life
By: Jonathan Munson

Merriwether Lewis and William Clark set out in 1804 to explore the unchartered land west of the Mississippi River. Along with the other members of the Corps of Discovery, they were seeking to find an extended waterway to the Pacific Ocean.

Instead of discovering a navigable trade route, do you know what they encountered? The Rocky Mountains.

One member of the team described them as, “the most terrible mountains I ever beheld.”

The journey behind them had been fraught with challenges, and now they realized the journey ahead was going to be even more demanding. It’s hard to imagine how they must’ve felt.

Though we’ve never trekked across the American frontier, we do know what it’s like to face daunting, unexpected challenges. And just when we think our journey might get easier, life brings mountain-like obstacles we never saw coming.

We can’t avoid them.
We can’t go around them.
We have no choice but to go through them.

So what do we do when we find ourselves traveling through mountains of adversity? The Apostle Peter has good news: We have everything we need for the journey (2 Peter 1:3).

(Notice that Peter doesn’t say the road will be easy; he says we have all that is required along the way.)

The journey begins when we place our faith in Jesus as our Savior and Lord and it ends when He calls us home to be with Him. In the meantime, the Lord hasn’t forgotten to pack something for our trip. Peter assures us that we lack nothing for our time on Earth.

The key is tapping into the “power” of God within us. In and of ourselves, we don’t have what it takes. We must confess our weakness and perpetually depend on His power. This power is meant to sustain us every step of life’s unpredictable journey.
The Greek word for power is, ‘dynameos.’ It’s where we get our word, ‘dynamite.’ If you are a child of God, you have Divine Dynamite within you. The Apostle Paul says this power is an “incomparably great power” likened to the power that raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:19).

The power enables us to live a “godly life.” This is not a life that is self-centered or self-serving. A godly life reflects God’s character, passionately pursues His agenda, and lives for His glory. We should never use the mountains of hardship as an excuse for failing to live a godly life. No matter what comes our way, we are to stay the course and remain devoted to Him.

Tell the Lord that you need His power through the formidable challenges ahead. He longs to not only be your Strength but your Guide. Rest assured, He hasn’t brought you this far only to abandon you.

Lewis and Clark made it through their mountains.

Relying on God’s power, you will, too.