Death and Life

About a year ago I was visiting a museum in New York City and I found myself totally engrossed in the image of a sculpture, a small pieta of Jesus, laying in repose after the crucifixion, with an angel on each side – one in mourning for our Lord’s death, the other raising a hand to signal the coming resurrection.  As I stood in silence staring at this sculpture before me, I was moved to tears as this one image brought it all to the forefront of my mind – “yes, this is Christ, in death, yet still in life with the coming resurrection.”  The most complete visualization of hope – knowing that through his great suffering and ultimate sacrifice of his life for ours, He will conquer sin and death once and for all, so that we may live in grace, redeemed in the eyes of God.

Pieta _ Soldani_terracotta 1715

Pieta in terracotta by Soldani, 1715   The artist depicts the crucified Christ, the angel to the left reflects sorrow and extends a hand in similar repose to the nail-scarred hand of Jesus.  The angel to the right offers a kiss and represents the hope of the resurrection to come.

Today we live with more uncertainty and fear in an unsettled world filled with anger and seemingly without hope – who could even imagine a society in total lock-down as a deadly virus runs rampant across the entire globe – and the recent protests and civil unrest related to race relations and the police.   Many are wondering, is this the end times that the Bible warns about? Jesus told his disciples in Matthew Chapter 24 verses 3 through 8,  And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” And Jesus answered and said unto them, “Take heed that no man deceive you.  For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.  And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.  For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.  All these are the beginning of sorrows.”

Certainly, many things we see today could be a signal that we have indeed entered into the “beginning of sorrows” that Jesus referenced.  Just as our own lives will one day end, we don’t dwell on it, but our own mortality is inevitable.  We as believers also know the end of times will come, as foretold in the Bible, according to God’s plans and no man knows the date or hour, only the Father in heaven.  Based on that, I can’t say “the end is near” or whether or not we are truly entering the “beginning of sorrows” – but given the signs that Jesus referenced, I do feel that we are nearing that time.  So how does that relate to mankind right here and now? To the reader, maybe you aren’t sure about your own condition, spiritually or otherwise, and maybe you would like to know more – I encourage you to read on as we continue with our discussion of death and life.

Every person has the opportunity to reconcile with God through our savior Jesus Christ, but it is not out of fear that we should seek redemption, but from a place of surrender as we acknowledge our own separation from God, our sins and transgressions, and then accept the free gift of salvation through Christ. God does not blame us for existing within this fallen world, but because God is perfection, He can not dwell with us unless we are redeemed within this lost existence – which is why He gave His Son, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, to sacrifice his very life so that we could be made new.  This ultimate sacrifice by God towards mankind is the free gift that brings us into that close relationship with our Creator that was intended from the beginning.  This is the only way to redemption, as pointed out by our Lord in John Chapter 14, verse 6,  Jesus saith unto him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

Plain and simple, Jesus is the answer to that age-old question that we all face – is this brief period of time that we spend on this earth all that there is? What happens after we take our final breath – do we simply return to the earth as human debris buried and eventually forgotten – or is there more? Most people spend their time avoiding that question or they work it out in their own mind, creating their own version of a god – usually it goes like this – “I believe in a higher being that loves us and when we die we go on to a better place.”  This is a dangerous approach to a serious question – one that impacts our eternal life beyond this brief period on earth – but for so many, it helps settle the issue or it provides some form of relief so they don’t have to get down into the weeds of spiritual life.  Honestly, to a certain degree, I get it – many people that I speak with about faith and religion are so put off by the modern-day church in America that they would rather spend their time anywhere else than in a seat on Sunday morning surrounded by all these nicely dressed do-gooders.  I can’t say that I blame them – the church in the last seventy or so years has become more of a club than an outreach to the masses and the message of eternal life, the “Good News” of the Gospel regarding Jesus has been lost in the shuffle.  Television preachers to a great extent have watered down or totally taken the message off course to suit their own desires leaving many wondering why waste their time.  Overall I do not think that our modern-day churches are going to receive the warm welcome by our savior that is expected – collectively so many have dropped the ball.  I could write all day on the topic, in fact, I would encourage you to read our message  Death of the Church – Comfort Zone Christianity which goes much deeper into this sad spiritual decline from within our church of today.  So why should we even bother with these issues? Because we are eternal beings, created by God, and we seek answers because we know there is more, we feel that void in our own lives that can’t be filled with material things or busy careers – we hunger for that fulfilling relationship with God whether we realize it or not.  In this journey of discovery, we need to be careful and heed the warnings of the apostle Paul in his writings to Timothy (2 Timothy chapter 3) – where he speaks of those that will create their own form of religion and will hold to a “form of godliness” but will deny the power of God.  Paul warns to avoid such people and beliefs, for the dangers this represents goes far beyond the simple idea of settling the debate internally – it puts those very people at risk of losing everything in eternity.  We see this all around us and far too often in my experiences I hear from people that have not accepted Jesus into their hearts express a “form of godliness” through their own ideas of what a creator or higher being represents to them.  My response to that is to ask a simple question – what do you truly believe and what is that based upon? Have you taken the time to just stop and consider what path you are taking – have you reconciled with God? We are given the gift of salvation, eternal life through Jesus, not by our own works or good deeds, but because God loves us so much that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  That’s the message of hope – you are of great value in the sight of God, our creator.  It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or how you’ve lived your life, either good or bad or indifferent – God’s love is there for you – this free gift of eternal life that through Christ bridges that gap that stands between us and our heavenly Father.  Simply through your one step of faith, believing that Christ died for you and was resurrected by God, that relationship with our creator is fulfilled.  Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Have you ever just sat down and thought it over – what do you believe?

Jesus says in Revelation chapter 3, verse 20, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him…” 

Think about it in this context, Jesus chose 12 disciples as his first followers while he walked this earth.  They saw miracles upon miracles, the blind made to see, the lame healed to walk again, even the dead returned to life.  One of the boldest among them, Peter, even having seen these miracles first hand, denied three times that he ever knew Jesus as the soldiers arrested Christ and lead him away to his crucifixion.  We know now that Peter went on to be that “rock” that Jesus had described of him, “upon which I will build my church,” but in those days leading up to the cross, Peter cowered in fear for his own life.  But what happened to bring about such change in Peter following the crucifixion? What changed in him, so much so, that he went on to establish the early church and lead thousands to know and accept Christ as Lord and savior? Peter saw the resurrected Christ – on that third day following the cross, Jesus was risen! It was through this miracle of the resurrection that Peter was changed forever – to stand firm in his faith, to preach the good news of the Gospel, to lead the new church even when the Roman Emperor Nero had him arrested.  Peter could have saved his own life at this point by once again cowering in fear and denying Christ – but Peter knew the truth, he witnessed first hand the death on the cross and the resurrection of Jesus.  This faith would not fail, Peter stood firm and declared Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, even to the point of his own death by crucifixion.  By accounts in the public record, Peter did not feel worthy of death in the same manner as his savior, Jesus, and he requested to be crucified inverted as a final act of submission and respect to his Lord.

That is what we, as believers, celebrate at Easter – the confirmation of God’s eternal plan to rescue mankind from the clutches of our enemy, Satan, through the death and the life of our savior, Jesus Christ.  It confirms “the way, the truth and the life” of which Jesus described himself.  This truth continues to this very day as we annually celebrate the Resurrection, for through Him we are saved to eternal life.  Do you know Christ?  Have you made that profession of faith described in Romans Chapter 10 verse 9,“that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;”  I tell you right now, you can have peace, you can be released from a life of fear and uncertainty – all you have to do is take that first step of faith and accept the truth – Jesus is the true Son of God, he gave his life as a ransom payment for your sins.  All you have to do is believe – it’s that simple.  You don’t have to do anything else, in fact, you can’t do anything to earn this gift from our loving God.  The apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 2 verse 21, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” 

You see, if we could earn our way to salvation, if we could uphold the laws or through any other manner of living gain a pass into heaven, then it would mean all the suffering and sacrifice of our savior Jesus Christ on that old rugged cross was for nothing. Our good deeds should come as a result of our salvation, not as a way to earn God’s favor.

So once again, I ask you, do you know Jesus? We sincerely want you to take that step of faith and accept the free gift of salvation through your professed belief in Christ right now…today.  Please don’t let this moment pass, you may never have this opportunity again.  Remember this, in the eyes of God, our creator, you have great value – God wants you to take this step of faith and accept his gift to you.  Salvation.  It is here for you today.  Or you can put it off, tell yourself you’re not ready or you’ll think about it later…you can go back to living in a world filled with turmoil, wondering if these signs point to the “beginning of sorrows.”  Remember, once we reach that point, truly the end is near.  Don’t wait, don’t live another day without facing the question and settling the answer once and for all.  Nothing would be worse than one day to discover, your time has passed and you never settled the issue with God.  

If you wish to know more or want to speak with us about salvation – please reach out through this link  –   I want to know more about Jesus and salvation

We also encourage you to read from these messages that will take you through the simple steps of salvation and even includes a sample prayer asking Christ into your heart.  This is what our ministry is all about, sharing the good news with everyone, so that you might take that step of faith and accept Jesus Christ as your savior.

Pathway to Salvation

The Way, the Truth and the Life

Thank you for reading our message of hope and faith, we hope it speaks to your heart.  Please contact us if you’ve made that step of faith or if you have prayer requests or want to know more about this message.  We are here for you.

John Frey –  Director and senior editor, Life Beyond Horizons Ministry

Trusting in God

faith

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” 
Proverbs 3:5-6

Having grown up in a southern baptist church, I have fond memories of the old hymns, the classics, that we would sing in a regular rotation each Sunday morning.  One, in particular, had this familiar chorus, “trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” Now that might not seem like much, but the meaning of this brief refrain runs deep and true, holding a decisive truth upon which Christ taught throughout his ministry on earth.

Faith is the foundation of our hope, as stated in Hebrews chapter 11 verse 1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” We pray in faithfulness, seeking God’s direction and guidance in all things.  When we are troubled or facing uncertainty in life, we turn to our heavenly Father for his help.

Do we always know how to truly reach out in faith, to petition the Lord and trust in Him to work those things out for the best, according to His will? Over the years I have learned some valuable lessons in faith, having failed many times in my approach to God in seeking help with my problems.  Specifically, praying to God with certain needs and requests, then meddling in the expected outcome because I was not willing to wait, to exercise my faith.  By rushing ahead of God, I spoiled the opportunity to grow in my faith and receive God’s best for my life.

The greatest example we can observe in regards to prayer, faith, and accepting God’s perfect will comes from Jesus.  The hour was fast approaching for His betrayal at the hands of Judas, the subsequent crucifixion, and in these verses found in Matthew chapter 26, verses 36 to 39, we see in excruciating detail the proper way to petition our heavenly Father.

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he told the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”  Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.  He said to them, “I am deeply grieved to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with me.”  Going a little farther, he fell facedown and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  

Gethsemane

Jesus was facing the darkest hours of his time on earth, yet knowing God’s plan and trusting in the Father’s unfailing wisdom, He sought not his own will, but the perfect will of God.  Jesus was filled with sorrow and grieving to the point of death, His own words to the disciples, and he fell facedown and prayed.  Picture that scene and try to imagine that point of grief.  Obviously, this is the extreme of grieving to which we hope never to face ourselves, but we all have times when we are afraid, maybe we have lost a job or face great uncertainty in other areas of our lives.  At that point, we turn to God, earnestly seeking help from the storms of life that rage all around us.  That is when our faith is tested and through these trials, we grow in our faith as God provides for us.  But it takes patience through faith, placing our needs at His feet, then trusting and waiting on God’s perfect timing to deliver us according to His will.  It may seem simplistic, but we should always remember if God all at once solved every problem we would face from this day forward, not only would we not need our faith, we would never grow in that faith which is what sustains us.  In addition, as we are delivered from our suffering through faith in God, our testimony is strengthened and useful in sustaining other believers that will face similar circumstances.

Philippians chapter 4, verses 6 and 7 says, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  

A very important part of the faith process is to be patient, wait and allow God room to work things out according to his purposes for our lives.  Our human tendency is to reason things out, but we are limited in our view of each situation, but God is all knowing and is always at work for the best results according to His plans.  Often we come to God in faith, yet we bring our own solutions and we try to place our requests before God while including the expected outcomes that seem logical in our mind’s eye.  Or we do the same when we step up, with good intentions, to help others in need by praying for a given solution that makes sense to us but may not be aligned with the plans God has for that other person.

Look at the example of Peter, the strong voice that believed in Christ with all his heart, as demonstrated when Jesus asked the disciples who did they believe him to be, Matthew Chapter 16 verse 13, Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Yet we also see the well-intended Peter as he failed to understand God’s perfect plan of redemption for all humanity when he pulled Christ aside after Jesus had shared with them the coming persecution, death, and resurrection.  Peter believed that Jesus was the true Son of God, but he had given up everything to follow Christ, he was unable to reason it out in his own mind that he would have to watch Jesus die.  Peter was bound by his own small view of the world around him, thus remaining blind to the greater works of God.  We can see in hindsight why these things had to happen because we see the entirety of the perfect plan of salvation.  Peter was in the moment, as we are when we are faced with difficulties and tragedies, but we must learn from this lesson and put aside our own reasoning by trusting in God, knowing that His plan is perfect and His timing is to our benefit.  Peter suffered a terrible rebuke from Jesus for not trusting in God’s plans.

Matthew chapter 16 verses 21 through 23, 

From then on Jesus began to point out to his disciples that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.  Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “Oh no, Lord! This will never happen to you!”  Jesus turned and told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns but human concerns.”

So what does this mean for believers and where do we go to grow in our faith? Remember this verse, Romans chapter 10 verse 17, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  We must strive to know God better each day and the way to grow in knowledge and faith is through the study of the Word of God.  Through this, we will learn to understand and trust in God’s will for our lives and the lives of others.  When someone needs prayer for illness, we always go first to the request for healing, but what about praying for the afflicted to remain faithful, humble and steadfast in their commitment to the Lord.  We may pray for healing, but God may have other plans for that person’s life and their testimony.  I’m not saying it is wrong to pray for healing, to the contrary, but in this and all situations, we should strive to put aside our own reasoning and know that God is working all things for the good to those that are called by his name.

We thank you for reading our messages and we hope you find them helpful in your journey of faith through God our heavenly Father.  We encourage you to share our site with others, to use it as a way to witness to the lost and as a resource for learning through the many links shared on this site which you will find here –  “Helpful Resources”

 

 

John Stephen Frey is the author of this message and serves as our director emeritus and member of the prayer team

 

 

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What are you afraid of?

As we grow older doesn’t it seem as if time passes faster and faster? Days turn into weeks, then months, and before we know it, another year has come and gone. What do we have to show for it, other than the realization of being another year older? All those plans we made in our youth somehow seem to slip away as we find ourselves established in a work a day lifestyle, paying the bills, running from one function to another, pushed to the brink by deadlines and unexpected challenges that come at us from all directions. At times it can be overwhelming and we need that place to escape. We find our refuge in sports, movies, television…maybe we get a vacation now and then, but Monday always takes us back to the reality of life.  What does it all mean, what is our purpose in all of this?

For believers, we have our purpose, our commission, as given by our savior Jesus in Matthew chapter 28, verses 18 through 20, 

Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

For those that have not come to know Jesus as their personal savior, the world becomes a road to nowhere. Without God, there is no purpose or meaning, the grave represents the final destination.  I appeal to anyone reading this message if you have not experienced the true love of our heavenly Father, the one who loves us so much that while we were yet sinners, He sent his only begotten Son, Jesus, to live among us and become a sacrifice for all sin so that we can have eternal life, that you would come to know Him.  If you’ve never made that decision, please visit the following link to find out what it means to be saved and how you can take that life-changing step of faith – Pathway to Salvation 

Again, speaking to the believer, have you found your purpose in life? Beyond paying the bills and building your career, what are you doing for the kingdom of God? Have you answered the call or have you become so engrossed in the daily grind that you, like so many other believers, have pushed God into a small corner, a place you visit once a week at best, then it’s back to the world.  What are you waiting for…what are you afraid of? Are you a living testimony to the love of Jesus Christ that resides within you? Have you shared that love with those around you? What are you afraid of?

Lukewarm as defined by Merriam-Webster is to be moderately warm, tepid, such as a lukewarm bath or lukewarm coffee, also lacking conviction, halfhearted, cold, without conviction.  We live in a world of moderately warm Christians, going through the motions, lacking in purpose and conviction. This isn’t how it is meant to be and certainly not what we have been called to do.  

So what are you afraid of, what is holding you back? Why have you settled, you know there is more in life, where is that life more abundant that Jesus promised? The answer may lie with you….why haven’t you answered the call of our heavenly Father and taken up the course which He has laid out for you? For most people the answer is simple – it is hard to walk that line, being a Christian is not easy.  Follow the lives of those first disciples, only John lived out his years and even at that he was exiled to a solitary existence on an island after having survived his intended execution. Watch this short video, listen to the message, then ask yourself this question – am I living the life that my heavenly Father has called me to undertake? What am I doing to add to the kingdom of God? Step up to the challenge, get out of the pew, start living the life God has for you – be the strong disciple that Jesus called you to be – starting now!

Won’t you step up and join us in serving our most loving heavenly Father….reach out to us, leave a message, request prayer, read our message Can I get a Witness?  then seek God in prayer.  You can make a difference in your community, become a Trader, read our message Trader or Traitor?  and join us in the mission field. We encourage you to follow our site and tell your friends, neighbors, co-workers, strangers – use our resources as a place to steer the lost to come to know Jesus Christ. Many of us have that person in our lives that need the good news of salvation, but it never seems to be the right time or place. Maybe it just seems awkward or you’re really not sure what to say.  Try this approach, break the ice by telling them about this website you’ve discovered, how you think they might find it interesting, a site that doesn’t ask for money and allows it’s users to remain anonymous.  That’s why we started this site and it has helped us bring many to the message of salvation – your friend, co-worker, or that stranger that God brings across your path might be changed forever.  Step up and may God truly bless you in your journey.

 

 

John Stephen Frey, Director and Senior Editor, Life Beyond Horizons

J Stephen Frey

*video is provided by our partners at Right Now media

 

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