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Eternal Friends

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 BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church 

     In Luke 16, Jesus tells a story that will really make you scratch your head. He tells about a man who gets a “pink slip” from his wealthy boss because he had mismanaged funds and resources. Realizing that he only has a brief time before he would be thrown out, penniless, onto the street, he comes up with a devilishly ingenious plan. He would call in all those who owed money to his boss and offer to settle their bills at as much as a 50% discount. This way, when he lost his job, all his master’s former debtors would owe him big favors, which he could cash in whenever needed. End of story.

     What in the world is Jesus trying to teach us from this story? Jesus doesn’t hold this man up as an example to avoid; instead, much to our surprise, He tells us to be more like this cunning manager. Listen to our Lord’s application of His story: “…the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use your worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” Jesus isn’t telling us to be underhanded or deceptive. He is saying that you should be investing our Master’s resources, our time, money, and effort, “to gain friends for yourselves.” And He is referring to a particular kind of friend, one who can welcome you “into eternal dwellings.”

     This is a corollary to an earlier principle that He taught: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19, 20). In the parable of the devious steward, Jesus illustrates how this principle applies to the relationships in our lives. We should be investing our earthly resources to make eternal relationships. For example, when you give money to missionaries, you are making it possible for more people to hear the Gospel and become, by faith, a part of your eternal family. When you make the sacrifices to teach a Sunday school class for children you are establishing and building eternal relationships. When you take the time to mentor someone who is new in his or her Christian faith, you bond with an eternal friend. The rewards for these kinds of investments multiply forever.

     So, this begs the question…how are your eternal investments doing? Many Christians gripe about not getting much out of their church. Could it be that you aren’t getting much of a return because you aren’t investing much in the first place? “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” Give more of your time, money, and effort to strengthening and growing your church family, and you will be amazed to see how the Lord will multiply your meager resources. Lead a Bible study, share the Gospel with a friend, disciple a new believer, visit the nursing home or prison… There are many ways to put more into your church family and experience the everlasting rewards.

Posted by Rev. Dan Kiehl with

Covenant Hope for Empty Arms

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BY BENJAMIN R. LEE, Assistant Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church 

     It happened again. For the second time in 9 months, there was no heartbeat on the ultrasound monitor. Two beautiful image-bearing babies. Two traumatic hospital stays. Two pairs of empty arms. It’s hard to put into words the heartbreak Maggie and I, our three boys, and our parents have experienced over these last 9 months. How can you? We hadn’t finished grieving the first baby yet. It’s only been a few months since Annie’s due date passed. Annie – that’s what we named her. Our first daughter. We only buried her last Thanksgiving. When we found out Maggie was pregnant a few months back, we feared it might happen again. It seemed like a bad dream that couldn’t come true, but it did. Now here we are again; waiting for another due date to come and go, thinking of all we’re going to miss out on. I’ll never hold those babies in my arms, or dry their tears, or sing them to sleep. I’ll never play dolls with Annie, or send her off to college, or walk her down the aisle. Our arms are painfully empty.

     There was a time when Abraham’s arms were painfully empty, not through miscarriage, but through infertility, an equally acute pain that remained with Abraham for many years. However, at the age of 75, God made a promise to Abraham, a promise that would continue to sustain him for another 25 years until the birth of his son, Isaac. The promise is the covenant of grace. Even when Abraham’s hands remained empty for those 25 years God promised, “I will be God to you and to your children forever” (Genesis 17:7). The covenant of grace was a promise to Abraham that he would be saved from his sin by grace through faith in Christ, and that his children would be included in the covenant community. It was a promise that God would care for Abraham and for his children, for “to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).

     During those dreadfully sad hospital stays, it was this promise that filled me with hope and gave rest to my soul. This same promise is, after all, given to us in Christ. While we are not Abraham’s physical descendants, we are his spiritual children (Galatians 3:7), so the same promises belong to us. God will be God to us and to our children forever.

     It is not wise to pry into God’s sovereignty. We could never comprehend all He is doing through our suffering. I don’t know all the reasons God planned for this to happen. But the covenant promise tells me that one of God’s purposes in this is in his kind sovereignty, God allowed my precious wife to carry these two babies for a short time so that they could be counted as belonging to the covenant of grace. In other words, God used my wife’s womb as an ordinary means by which he grew his kingdom. Through stillbirth and miscarriage, we’ve come to be able to say with the Apostle Paul that what has meant death for us has meant life for our babies, who are now enjoying life to the fullest in heaven (2 Corinthians 2:14). Our arms are empty, but Christ’s aren’t. “Let the little children come to me,” he said…and they have. Our two little babies have been brought safely into the arms of Christ and he will hold them forever.

     But we have an even greater consolation than this in the covenant of grace. God promised Abraham that he would give the promised land to his descendants (Genesis 15:18), but even Abraham knew God wasn’t speaking about an earthly home. The promised land was just a picture of a new and greater promised land – the new heaven and earth (Hebrews 11:10). When we said goodbye to these two little babies my greatest consolation wasn’t even knowing they are with Jesus, but that one day I’ll see them again. That’s why John reiterates the covenant promise in Revelation in his vision of the new heaven and new earth: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3). We were given a painfully short time with our two babies, and oh man, I feel like I’m going to miss out on so much. But I know my Redeemer lives, and at the last, he will stand upon the earth (Job 19:25), and my babies will be standing with Him. On that day, and for another 10,000 years, it will seem as though we never missed a thing.

     In the meantime, as we wait, our empty hands can hold onto nothing more steadfast than the covenant of grace. In spite of all the promises and hope the pain is still real. The tears still burn. Empty arms ache. But we hold on to Jesus because the promise of his covenant is that just as Jesus holds our babies, he’s holding us too. We were not alone in the ultrasound room, or at the hospital. We were not alone when we wept at the graveside. Jesus has been holding us in his mighty hands, and He’s not letting go. His Spirit keeps on whispering the promises through His word. He tells me it won’t be long now. Just a while longer. One day, when we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be.

Posted by Rev. Ben Lee with

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