“Finding Joy in Suffering”

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“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:6-9)

When it comes to suffering as Christians in this world (i.e. for the cause of Christ, physical, emotional, or spiritual), our God and Savior can sympathize with us (Hebrews 4:15-16). He knows our sorrows, pain, rejection, loneliness, and loss (Isaiah 53). Jesus knows physical pain, what it’s like to be rejected, to be abandoned by His own friends and family, and to know the loss of a parent (His earthly father). Jesus knows what it is like to suffer and to be crushed and persecuted for His beliefs. He even knows what it is like to be cut off from the Heavenly Father when on the cross, to be falsely accused, and to be unjustly tried. The list can go on. No matter what you have suffered, Jesus knows your sorrow.

So then, how can one find joy in suffering? How does one, as Peter stated, “…greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory…?”
First, Peter says you have obtained an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:4). You will not find any lasting comfort or satisfaction in this world. Your joy, hope, and security is found in being “…born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). It’s knowing that your faith in Christ is the most precious thing that you have. Peter says that it is more precious than gold which will perish.

Second, you will be tested in this life. Jesus told His disciples to expect persecution. Why? Because this world hated Him first. Jesus never promises us that we will escape suffering. This world has suffered because of sin and because of the devil, the prince of this earth. Therefore, your joy is this; if God is for you, who can be against you? It’s knowing that there’s nothing that can separate us from Christ’s love for His own (Romans 8:28-37).

Finally, you can have joy inexpressible when you don’t focus on present suffering, but the future outcome of your soul. Paul knew what it meant to suffer and encouraged his readers with these verses he wrote while in prison. “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

One of the greatest benefits of being a believer is knowing that suffering in this world is temporary. The glories of heaven are eternal. Place your faith in Christ for eternal joy in the midst of present suffering.

Grace and Peace! – GT

“Food for the Glory of God”

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“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
1 Corinthians 10:31

Summer break is almost over. Soon the kids will be back to school. Gone will be road trips, campouts, and outings at the beach. Along with this is the food that comes with summer. The BBQ’s, desserts, eating out, trips to the ice cream parlor, and, oh, did I mention desserts? At the time of this article, I have actually lost seven pounds since the beginning of July. Partly because I just did not like the way I was feeling, and partly because I couldn’t figure out why. I felt bloated, fatigued, had heart palpitations, and everything else that goes with those symptoms. I knew I needed to change something so I started my diet. After experimenting with several things, I came to the conclusion the problem was too much sodium. I hadn’t realized how much sodium I was consuming on a daily basis.

To maintain a healthy heart, the National Heart Association recommends just 1500mg daily, an allowance of 500mg per meal. I started with the 2300mg recommended by my fitness app. Now I am keeping my sodium level at around 1500mg. The results have been amazing. Outside of losing seven pounds in just weeks, I also feel better. I have more energy. I am not tired throughout the day. My palpitations have gone away. My mountain biking has gotten better. Truthfully, I feel I am honoring and glorifying the Lord by being a good steward with this vessel He has given me.

Just to give you an example of how hard this is, most Americans consume around 3000-4000mg of sodium a day. That’s over one and a half teaspoons of salt per day. Imagine getting up and swallowing one to two teaspoons of salt in the morning. Basically, that’s what I was doing. At most restaurants, we can easily exceed our daily recommended intake of sodium in just one meal, sometimes with one item. Foods we purchase from grocery stores are filled with sodium.

My point being, like all things, it’s about moderation and awareness. “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable…” (1 Corinthians 10:23). I am reminded of Daniel when he made up his mind not to defile himself with King Nebuchadnezzar’s choice of food. Instead, he offered to test and compare their own appearance to those who were eating the king’s food (Daniel 1:12-13). The result was that they glorified the Lord by not defiling themselves, and their appearance seemed better than those who consumed the king’s food (Daniel 1:14-16).

Be mindful of what you eat. Glorify the Lord in all things, including your diet. Like sin, we can get used to those things in our culture, and before we know it we are hooked. The way we thought was good was actually leading us to destruction. The food is the same. I started at 202 pounds, and this evening I weigh 195. The goal for my age and height is 175, but my personal goal is 185. I will report later on my progress.

Grace and Peace! – GT
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Sola Gratia

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“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

As stated in the previous article concerning Sola Scriptura, this October 31st will mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. By stating Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), the Reformers rejected anything or anyone who contradicted biblical authority.

Sola Gratia (grace alone) is the second of the Five Solas. This one is important because it distinguishes the true gospel that saves from false gospels that cannot save. Sola Gratia simply acknowledges that the Bible teaches that salvation is a gift of grace from God through faith. The passage above is one of many that support this claim. The grace of God is based on God’s mercy and not on anything good in us. This is the reason we cannot boast in our works.

Why do we need God’s grace, and why not rely on our works? It is because the Bible clearly teaches that we are all sinners. There has been placed on the human race an imputed condition since the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden (Romans 5:12-21; Genesis 3). We are hopeless and helpless without God’s grace. We would die in our sin and face His judgment for all eternity.

There are those who do not want to accept what the Bible teaches about man’s condition. They want to be the masters of their own destiny. There is something in man that says, “I need to work out, or earn, my salvation.” The problem is that no matter how good our righteousness is, there is nothing good enough that allows us to enter into God’s blessed holiness in heaven apart from Christ’s righteousness.

The Apostle Paul states: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world…But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)”… Ephesians 2:1-2, 4-5.

Therefore, the free gift of God is His grace (God’s riches at Christ’s expense). When you believe what Christ did on the cross, and that He rose again three days later, the Bible says you will be saved. Since this is the case, we are saved by grace alone so that we may boast (proclaim) about the works of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, rather than anything we could ever boast within ourselves.

This is God’s grace, His gift to you. It is unmerited and free to whoever believes and calls on the Lord Jesus Christ by faith.

Grace and Peace! – GT

Sola Scriptura

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“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

This year, October 31, marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. On October 31, 1517, the posting of his theses sparked a revolution that initiated the Protestant Reformation. What were these 95 theses? They were Luther’s calling for a “disputation on the power and efficacy of indulgences out of love and zeal for truth and the desire to bring it to light.”

His initial purpose was not to separate from the Catholic Church, but to reform it. Luther’s strong stance in the Word of God led to him being labeled a heretic and condemned by the church. When asked why he had done what he did, he answered, “I never wanted to do it, but was forced into it when I had to become a Doctor of Holy Scripture against my will.”

From the Reformation came the Five Solas. These five statements from the early Reformers distinguish them from the Roman Catholic Church. The word “sola” is a Latin word that simply means “only” or “alone.”

• Sola Scriptura: “Scripture alone”
• Sola Fide: “Faith alone”
• Sola Gratia: “Grace alone”
• Solus Christus: “Christ alone”
• Soli Deo Gloria: “To the glory of God alone”

In light of this, the church where I serve is celebrating the Reformation by memorizing Scripture based on the Five Solas. This month’s memory verse just happens to be Hebrews 4:12. The other two were 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 1 Thessalonians 2:13. These verses emphasize that the Bible alone is the only source of authority for Christians. By stating “Scripture alone,” the Reformers rejected any religious tradition or authority that claimed to have divine power as declared by the Roman Catholic Pope. Thus, anything or anyone who contradicts the Bible is to be rejected.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 reminds us that the only divine authority we have for the church is not found in man’s wisdom or declarations, but in the divinely inspired Word of God. For “All Scripture (Old Testament and New Testament only) is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

These words are life to the Christian. They teach us about God, man, sin, Jesus, salvation, the church, eternal life, heaven, and the Christian’s walk. They are our counsel as the Holy Spirit guides and teaches us how to walk in a way that brings glory to God through Christ. Therefore, if you believe in Christ alone, you only need His Word alone to live and hope for eternal life.

Grace and Peace! – GT

Freedom to Serve through Love

“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13

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How are seniors in churches perceived?

One statement I often hear is, “I can’t wait to retire so I can travel and play games like our seniors do.” Another is that seniors do very little, assuming that because they are retired from their vocational labor, they have also retired from spiritual labor. Or, that they are too old to serve at church.

There is always a little truth in perception, but if one broadens their scope they might be surprised by what they see.

Seniors at my church are examples, not of those who use their “freedom” as “an opportunity for the flesh,” “but through love serve one another” in ministry. Here are some examples of how our seniors serve through love:

  • Sunday school (teaching children and adults)
  • Worship and media (singing in choir, lights, cameras, graphics, instruments, serving and prepping communion, stuffing worship folders, and greeting)
  • Hospitality (cooking, cleaning, waiting on tables)
  • Caring (visiting, praying, preparing and delivering meals to shut-ins, widows/ers, and those who are sick)
  • Memorials and funerals
  • Missions (personal, local, and global)
  • Biblical counseling
  • Retirement centers (leading singing, teaching, visiting, praying)
  • Major outreach events
  • Community groups

These are just a few areas that I can think of right off the top of my head. The amazing part of their service is that many have been serving for decades simply for the glory of God. I thank the Lord for all these senior adults who choose to use their freedom to honor the Lord and who demonstrate love by serving the body of Christ.

I close with this final note. The Apostle Paul expresses through exhortation that if you are able and not serving, find a place to serve. Not only will you be glorifying the Lord, but you will be loving His church. Start using your freedom in Christ to serve and love others today.

Grace and Peace!

Glenn Tatum

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Comfort as We Have Been Comforted

“Blessed be the God and Father our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 1.3-5

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Once during Queen Victoria’s reign, she heard that the wife of a common laborer had lost her baby. Having experienced deep sorrow herself, she felt moved to express her sympathy. So she called on the bereaved woman one day and spent some time with her. After she left, the neighbors asked what the queen had said. “Nothing,” replied the grieving mother. “She simply put her hands on mine, and we silently wept together.” – source unknown

Sometimes the giving of comfort involves the simple act of just being with someone. No words of advice, no action to follow up on, just the simple act of being with someone and holding their hand during their time of grief. Especially if you have been in their place, you know what you would have wanted in being comforted.

The word “comfort” is mentioned six times by Paul in these few verses. The word itself means to be called alongside. The word pictures two objects paralleling each other with the weaker one leaning on the stronger one for support.

I have used the idea behind this word numerous times while cycling with friends. Some days you feel good while riding, but some days while climbing a hill you don’t seem to have the energy to make it up. I have on occasion come alongside a weaker rider and placed my hand on their back and using the strength in my own legs pushed them up the hill. Why do I do that? Because someone else has done that for me.

Probably every one of us has experienced afflictions in life. Paul promises that God will “comfort us in ALL our affliction” with the sole purpose “that we will be able to comfort those who are in ANY affliction.”

Where does the source of our comfort come from? From Christ and His sufferings and they “are ours in abundance.” They are excessive and abound more than we could ever imagine or think. This is the beauty of God’s grace and the church.

What is our role as comforters? To come alongside others and share in their suffering so that they may share in our comfort that comes from God (2 Cor. 1.7). A great book on this is Comfort the Grieving by Paul Tautges published by Zondervan.

Therefore, comfort one another in Christ.

Grace and Peace!

Glenn Tatum

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