“Ah, the dreams of our youth, how beautiful they are,” wrote Mark Twain, “and how perishable.” There is some truth in Twain’s words—but only half the truth. The rest of the truth is what gives hope in even the darkest of times.
Maybe your dream is just to get your PC to work or your car to start today and still it seems life is one slap in the face after another. Maybe there are huge problems going on such as terminal illness or a marriage is in desperate trouble. What does work when life doesn't?
Here is some of the rest of the truth:
Beauty for ashes. Sometimes we would be glad if life just handed us a lemon—we could do the old “make lemonade” adage. When a relationship, a marriage, a job, a plan for the future is nothing but ashes, what can you do with that? A better question: what can the Creator of the universe do with that? The Lord Jesus Christ opened his public ministry, he cited an Old Testament prediction that He would “heal the brokenhearted.” That passage goes on to say that He would give “beauty for ashes.” (Isaiah 61, Luke 4)
Nice promise. Is it for real? Yes. Is it automatic? No.
God is not a genie in a bottle; He is the designer of life. He is not conformed to our will, but when people choose to live life His way, they find that life works.
But what does “life works” mean? No problems? Everything easy, never an uncertainty? This sounds like a recipe for flabby mediocrity. God, in His goodness, intends to show His power to overcome the evil of this world. God’s most special people have suffered: Job, for instance. God does not promise a life without difficulties, but He offers His comfort and help.
Start here. I love those maps in malls or hospitals with “You are here” and a big red arrow. I need to know where I am to know how to get to my destination. The starting place is a genuine relationship with God. It is not going to church, doing good things, giving money, or helping others. Those are good things, but the starting place is not a list of deeds. We start by coming to God with an attitude of wanting to go His way instead of our own.
For more information on knowing for sure of a right relationship with God, click here.
Choose your focus. In the middle of national disaster which had a direct and personal effect on himself, one person wrote, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord.” We choose our focus, what we allow our minds to dwell on. Sooner or later, if things are going to change, we must change our focus. One important element in that processes is expanding our view from our problem alone to the promises of God. (Habakkuk 3:18)
And sometimes it helps to talk to someone who understands God’s Word. That is one reason for the church. Life can be hard, but God never intended us to do it alone. You are welcome at Maranatha Baptist Church, and you will find caring people here. Feel free to contact us. We would enjoy having you visit for a service as well. Our pastor preaches the Bible with practical application for daily living.
“Positive thinking” doesn’t change anything about the law of gravity over the edge of a cliff—it also does not change biblical principles about relationships or any other areas of life. The focus is not on our thoughts alone, but on changing over to “God’s thoughts” as presented in the Bible. Focus leads to thinking, and right thinking is the necessary foundation to positive action.
The beauty of new beginnings. In the middle of a book called Lamentations—a word which refers to overwhelming grief—comes the turning point: “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope: . . . thy [God’s] compassions fail not; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness!” (Lamentations 3:21-22)
“New every morning.” Some things cannot be reclaimed from the past, but the future can be bright and hopeful. God may be offering you a new star today. There is no problem you are going through that is new or unique—and God has led someone else through that problem and out to joy on the other side. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Come as you are. Would it surprise you to know that God has anticipated your needs? At the beginning, He had His beautiful plan: a perfect couple in a perfect place. Yet, before the beginning, He knew they would mess up. And He had a plan for that too. That plan, sometimes called the good news, or “gospel,” involves meeting each of us where we are, right here, right now.
“Come as you are” implies that you really want God to accomplish lasting life-change in you. The transformation is what God does. Our part is simply repentance (turning from the wrong and turning to God) and belief (an internal commitment to God based on what Christ did on the cross of Calvary). If you insist on “cleaning up your act,” on “being good enough for God,” you will never make it. God’s invitation is for those who are humble enough to realize a need. (Mark 1:15)
Twain was good at seeing problems, but he was not as good at offering solutions. But God, in His love, has offered us the fresh start, the mercies which are “new every morning.”
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Easter egg hunts, the Easter Bunny, jelly beans, candy eggs, Easter baskets, and Peeps! All of these are fun and enjoyable parts of Easter, but what if that is all? What if the Easter dinner and the fun were the only things to celebrate? What if Jesus Christ didn’t rise from the dead? What if there were no resurrection from the grave?
In 1 Corinthians 15:12-13, the Bible actually proposes this question. Paul writes,
“…how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen.” Paul then goes on to describe the negative consequences of an Easter that is only about eggs, bunnies, and candy. He describes what life would be like without the truth and reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Let’s remember the following 3 realities of a universe and life without the resurrection of Jesus Christ. These can be found in 1 Corinthians 15.
1. Without the resurrection of Jesus, there is no forgiveness of sin.The purpose of Jesus’ sacrificial death was to provide a completely holy substitute for our sinful failures. God requires the punishment of death for the forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9). No mere human can provide a sufficient sacrifice before God for the sins of others, because each person must die for his or her own sin. However, Jesus, as God and man miraculously combined, could live a completely holy life and thus provide a perfect sacrifice for the sin of mankind through the shedding of His blood and His death on the cross. Romans 1:4 says that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” If Jesus didn’t rise, He was not the Son of God, and thus His death was simply the death of another good man. If He is still dead, then He died for only His own sin but not ours. If this is the case and there is no resurrection of Christ, then we are left surrounded by, captive to, and dominated by our sinful desires and deeds. We are left in our struggle to live with our own guilt and to die condemned by our sin.
2. Without the resurrection of Jesus, our faith is worthless. Our belief in hope, a brighter tomorrow, that God is somehow working all things for good, that death is not the end, and that all wrongs will be made right would all be in vain without the resurrection of Jesus. There would be no reason to hope. We might die in the next moments, and then what? There would be no belief in eternal life, including eternal reward or eternal punishment. If our faith is worthless, there is no hope, no joy, no peace. If our faith is worthless, we should, “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” (That advice may initially sound good to some until you combine it, for all humanity, with the next point that there is no real right and wrong without the resurrection.) If our faith is worthless and there are no moral absolutes, and if others’ merriment includes your detriment, then the world becomes a horrible place. If our faith is worthless, we are, as Paul describes, a most miserable humanity.
3. Without the resurrection of Jesus, the Bible is a lie and there is no ultimate truth for life, living, and death.Paul says that if the resurrection didn’t happen, then truths about God, the Bible, and good versus evil all fall apart. If the resurrection didn’t happen, those who believe the Bible and teach it to others are liars. God, if he exists at all, would be a liar. There would be no bedrock truth for humanity. If there is no bedrock truth, then there is no right and wrong and no true justice for the hurts done to us or those we love. Every person could do that which is right in his own mind. If there is no resurrection, we cannot provide answers for why bad things happen to good people. We cannot teach our children not to kill, steal, lie, etc., nor expect that others should not sin in those ways toward us. ISIS isn’t wrong in their efforts, serial killers aren’t really wrong, corporate greed is fine, and the list could go on to include every horrific crime or sin we could imagine. Without the resurrection, man is left alone in his quest to determine his own way, and there is no direction.
Certainly there will always be those who deny and mock the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We do not have to look far or type too many letters into Google to find them and their arguments. However, we must consider the far-reaching implications of their beliefs and decide for ourselves.
If you are a believer, as you consider Easter this year, don’t underestimate the power of the resurrection or fail to celebrate it. Share the good news of the Gospel confidently, because Jesus did rise and conquer death! Our sins can be forgiven. We can have a relationship with God. We can believe that the Bible is true and an unfailing guide for life and the future.
If you are not a believer, please consider the far-reaching implications of your denial and consider once again the story of the Bible. Please consider the following resources that will at least give you some more information and help you to not make a careless decision.
More Resources on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Answers in Genesis – Did the Resurrection Really Happen?
The Case for the Resurrection – Lee Strobel. An investigative reporter studies the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We can often live in fear and anxiety because of Satan's lies. He seems to use tricks of “smoke and mirrors.” Jesus said that the devil is a liar—and the father of lies. The devil cannot “make” us do anything, but he is a master deceiver who is very much experienced at making people believe anything that interferes with God’s plan. Jesus Christ, in contrast, is called “the way, the truth, and the life,” and his plan is for each person to experience life “more abundantly.”
Here are five lies that cause us to fear and the Biblical truth that sets people free from those fears if they will believe and trust God’s word.
The worst thing about the “I can’t” lie is that it stops us before we start. It fills us with fear as we face our biggest obstacles and challenges. “I can’t overcome alcohol.” “I shouldn’t expect to have a good marriage.” “Everything I touch turns out wrong.” “I’m a failure.” “I can’t follow God.” “I can’t start that business.”
In contrast, God is the creator of potential—and the completer of fulfillment. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me..”  Yes, that verse is specifically about Paul’s learning to handle both plenty and poverty without being distracted from his life’s purpose by either. Still, if God is the great creator, if he knows us, if we will one day be rewarded for what we have done, then we may assume he has a plan for us—something we can do. No, we can’t do everything, but we can do anything he wants us to do. That includes overcoming our sins and failures by his grace and with his help and accomplishing his will for our lives.
Whether it is something people consider to be great or small, God looks on the heart, and the very act of seeking to serve him is a success. And failure is an essential part of success. “ For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity.”  The only way to never fail is to never attempt. So don’t be afraid to attempt that which God is leading you to do through prayerful and Biblical wisdom. Don’t fear and believe the lie of “I can’t.”
“God won’t help me.” “God won’t forgive me again.” “God won’t hear me.” God won’t love me.” These are real cries of the hurting heart. And God is ready for that: “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.”  God is not frustrated at our weaknesses and failing. Ask Peter after his denial of Christ. Ask the woman who was so ashamed that she could not even look up, but washed the feet of Christ with her tears. But he is severe to those who stubbornly persist in rejecting his grace. It’s Okay to be weak, but we must guard our hearts against being willfully and stubbornly resistant of God’s grace. The key differences? Sincerity and repentance. “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.t.” 
This is a lie from Satan, “the accuser,” much too close to the first recorded lie. His approach to Eve was that God did not have her best interest at heart. She could have more than God was offering. Although she had known only good, she could know both good and evil. And that experiential knowledge of evil brought pain and misery.
God cares. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things??” 
And people care. It is natural to retreat from people when we hurt, to hide, to isolate ourselves. It is natural, but it is counterproductive. The healing comes as we choose the supernatural, God’s plan. And God’s plan involves accepting the provisions God has made, including people. That is one function of the church: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching..” That may take letting some people inside your life, opening yourself up, sharing your hurts when you just want to hide. But God intends to use his people. Will everyone respond rightly? Maybe not. In fact, probably not. In any group of people, some will let you down, but in a good church, there will be someone with whom you can connect. One function of pastoral leadership is to help people make those connections. If you are in our area, we would like to help. Please feel free to contact us or come for a visit to a service soon. We are here to listen and we care.
I don’t matter
You matter to God. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  You are worth God assuming human flesh, dying on a cross to take the punishment for your sins, and rising again.
You matter, not because of what you can do, not because of who you are, but because of whose you are, if you are a child of God. A loving parent cares for the child, even in the child’s failures. Your own parents are, or were, fallible. But your heavenly father is not.
Yet we know by observation and by scripture that God’s children—and all people—suffer. The “why” behind suffering is a topic of its own, and has been a lifelong passion of Phillip Yancey, who wrote the book Where Is God When It Hurts.” This is a good source for deeper consideration of this topic.
It’s too late
This is a powerful lie of the devil. The feeling of urgency which should prompt us to action becomes his tool to intensify despair and fear. The feeling of guilt which should prompt us to repentance, this the devil uses to make us hide from God because of fear instead.
But what does God say? The mercy of God is “new every morning.”  I love Psalm 103:8—“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy."
—because it begins and ends its description of God with his mercy.
And lost opportunity? True, yesterday cannot come again. But should we throw away today because of that? You might be surprised at how encouraging it is to do something rather than to stagnate in yesterday’s sorrow.
This has all been written for the perspective of a person who has a relationship with God. It’s never too late to start. The first step in truly dealing with fear based on the lies of Satan is to begin a relationship with God. For more about knowing for sure of the forgiveness of God, having a real relationship with him that can bring peace and relief from fear, click here.
 John 8:44
 Philippians 4:13
 Proverbs 24:16
 Psalm 103:13-14
 Psalm 34:18
 Romans 8:32
 Hebrews 10:25
 John 3:16
 Lamentations 3:23
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Have you finished your Christmas shopping yet? It’s that time of year when many of us are scurrying to find the perfect gift for each person on our list. As we watch the sales and scour the ads, we’re also thinking through our family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc., to make sure we don’t leave anybody out. Most of us enjoy giving presents just as much as, if not more than, receiving them. We love the satisfaction and joy of knowing that the recipient likes what we gave them. But maybe some of us are forgetting a very important gift. This gift would benefit the recipient in immeasurable ways, while also liberating the giver from increasing bondage, providing vivid testimony to the gospel, and showcasing Christ-like love to the unsaved world. What gift could do all this? It’s the gift of forgiveness.
In his book Unpacking Forgiveness, Chris Brauns helps us understand that forgiveness is not only right (in that it glorifies God by obeying His will), but it is also best. God, as the standard of holiness and goodness, will only require of His people those things which are best for them. Our joy is completely full only when we live in submission to God’s design for our lives. And part of God’s good design for us is forgiveness to those who’ve sinned against us. Forgiveness is not a bitter pill to swallow; it is the doorway to maximum joy and peace.
Our ability to forgive others is a result of God’s forgiveness of us, and our desire to forgive others is based entirely on His forgiveness of us (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). Brauns highlights three ways in which our forgiveness must mirror God’s forgiveness of all those who’ve been redeemed:
1. Forgiveness is gracious (Eph. 2:8,9; 2:4; I John 4:10).God’s forgiveness toward us is a gift motivated by His love for us (Eph. 2:4). But though this gift is graciously offered to all, this gift wasn’t free: God paid for it with the blood of His Son’s death (I John 4:10). In the same way, our forgiveness of others must be freely offered even though it is costly. There is nothing that we have done or ever could do to receive God’s forgiveness; He graciously offers it because He is gracious. Our offer of forgiveness toward others must not be dependent upon their efforts, their remorse, or anything else we want them to do, feel, or say. And it will be costly. We will need to die to ourselves, our desire for revenge, and our pride.
2. Forgiveness is conditional.God’s forgiveness is graciously offered to all, but it’s only given to those who repent and believe (Acts 20:21). God’s forgiveness is dependent; it is conditional. Like any present, God’s gift of forgiveness in Christ must be accepted, or “opened.” As we graciously offer forgiveness to those who have legitimately wronged us, we pray and plead that they will accept it by humble repentance, just as God pleads with all to accept His forgiveness by repentance. Forgiveness is conditional in that both parties involved must be committed to the new life together. Forgiveness is not possible where humility is not present.
3. Forgiveness is a commitment. When God’s gracious offer of forgiveness (that is motivated by His love and costs the death of His Son) is accepted through repentance and faith, God justifies that person. He commits that He will no longer hold that person’s sin against them. There is a legal transaction that frees that person from the condemnation and punishment that was deserved. When we forgive another individual, we make a similar commitment. We enter into an agreement that, though wrong was done, we will no longer hold that sin against that person. Our forgiveness has freed them from the debt that they had accrued.
And this commitment is not temporary or insignificant. True forgiveness means that we are committing to never bring up the offense again – not to that person, not to another person, not to God, and not to ourselves. This is the commitment that God makes to us in Christ. He commits to remove our sin “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). What tremendous hope is found in this truth! “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness…” (Psalm 130:3,4a)
Of course, forgiveness does not mean that all consequences of wrongdoing are immediately eliminated. Because sin affects others, consequences of sin must sometimes be carried out. And it is in this very process where forgiveness can be most sweetly displayed: Those who are truly repentant and have been forgiven are most ready to accept the consequences of their sin.
Forgiveness frees us from the captivity of revenge. This world tells us that revenge is our right, and that we ought to get even with those who’ve wronged us. But this is in direct contrast to God’s Word. See, in God’s economy, those who forgive others are carrying out the very essence of the gospel. Those who have been forgiven are to be the ones who forgive, and they are to forgive in the very same way they’ve been forgiven. As a result, joy and peace will flood into our lives.
So, what is forgiveness? As author Chris Brauns has said, it is “a commitment by the offended to pardon graciously the repentant from moral liability and to be reconciled to that person, although not all consequences are necessarily eliminated.” This Christmas, consider giving that gift to some family members, coworkers, neighbors, and friends. You just might be the greatest benefactor of the gift you give another.
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Author & Editor
Articles are written or selected by our Pastor Keith Carnahan