Monday, April 30, 2007

Love Your Neighbor

I do a fair bit of counseling as a pastor, though not as much as I would like. By that, I mean there are those who could use more counseling but refuse it. One thing that I have noticed over and over again is that the old addage, "Familiarity breeds contempt" is grievously correct. May God use this thought to banish this danger from our hearts.

In my office, I have heard people say things about their spouses and their children that it would shame them to say before a stranger. I have seen sons do things to parents that they would not dream of doing to someone unfamiliar. I think that this is diabolical, and I believe that this perversity affects us all, and as I outline what I've seen and heard; I hope that you will committ to stop doing this yourself.

I live everyday with my wife, thank God. The intimacy of our relationship means that she has shared things with me, and I with her, that no one else is ever privileged to know. This sweetness of sharing can be one of the most joyful things in life...or it can be a weapon used to absolutely destroy someone in a fit of anger. Have you ever said something so mean to your spouse that would shame you if a stranger heard it? Why do you treat your loved one so viciously? Why do we act as if we aren't accountable because we are so familiar?

Why is it that a child on drugs will steal from their parents? In my opinion, this is manifestly worse than stealing from a stranger. The reason that they steal from parents is because they are abusing the love that the parents have showered upon them from birth. They are too cowardly to steal from others, and so they take the easy money from mom's purse, knowing that her love will compel her not to press charges. Hearts are broken, and wicked crimes are perpetrated taking advantage of love for the doing of evil. How hideous this is and awful to behold! How many of you have seen children steal with abandon from parents, only to be bailed out again and again and again because of love and for hope that this time will truly be the last time? I grieve with those parents, I truly do.

But I find this same sin at work in my own heart in my own home towards my own wife and my own son. How carelessly I often treat those who are closest to me precisely because they are close! We know that we can get away with harsh words and sulkly silence and selfish neglect because they are family, when instead they ought to be treated with tenderness and affection and honor.

Think on it. If an aquaintance dropped by to say hello, good manners dictate that you should drop what you doing to greet and welcome them. How many fathers come home to plop down in front of a TV without a grunt of acknowledgement to wife or children? How many husbands come home to children who do not hug and wives who will not kiss in greeting? Our depravity is clearly seen, not just in how we treat strangers, but in what passes for love of those we should cherish.

So my encouragment for today is to wake up and love those precious people that God has placed in your lives to be the objects of your affection. Honor your spouse, respect your children, pay attention to them when they come home and hug them before they leave. These people are the grandest of all earthly gifts and treasures above all price; treat them as such. It is the least that we can do.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A New Reformation?

What did Martin Luther have that John Huss didn't have? Approximately 100 years before Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door, Huss was burned at the stake for espousing some of the same beliefs. Indeed, when John Eck debated Luther at Leipzig in 1519, his coup-de-grace in the debate was getting Luther to refute the Pope and side with John Huss. This put Luther into the camp of an executed heretic who was condemned by the Catholic Church.

The easy answer is that it was the providence of God that caused Luther's reformation to spread where Huss had less success. That's certainly true, but I believe that it would be a mistake to overlook one of the means that God used to effectively spread the gospel of salvation by faith alone: the printing press.

I am not the first to point out the radical nature of the printing presses invention nor its tremendous impact on Reformational teaching. The press made books more abundant, cheaper, and it increased the capacity for copies astronomically. Who knows how many thousands of Christians were affected by the writings of Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli? (The latter were directly influenced by Luther's publications as well.)

My point is that I believe that we have a similar technological marvel today that is comparable to that press. You're looking at it right now. Obviously, I'm referring to the internet. The internet, for all the evils that have come with it, is a virtual treasure trove of free information in an easily accessible format. If you can peck the words "John Calvin" into a Google search bar, you can essentially access anything that he wrote.

Flash back 40 years to the average bi-vocational preacher in the mountains of Alabama. Such a man would not have had the means to travel to seminary to study. The only tools he would have had to learn from were other uneducated preachers. Certainly, many of these men were steeped in Scripture, and they were used greatly of God. But I have never in my life met a saintly, uneducated pastor who did not greatly esteem sound theological education, and most wished that they could have had such training in their younger days.

Today, a pastor in that same position does not have the same challenge. He can read the brightest minds, hear the most wonderful sermons via podcasting, access inexpensive education online, find a wealth of free commentary, and he can network with other pastors like no other generation before. All this adds up to some very profound changes in the theology of the modern pastor. To put what I'm saying in perspective, I will confess that I probably own five times the number of books that Jonathan Edwards owned when he died. (I think I read once that he only had a hundred or so, someone correct me if they have the exact figure.) That may mean that I'm wrong about all of this, and that the access to books and information doesn't necessarily help. I prefer to marvel at what Brother Edwards could have done if he had the access to the things that I have been privileged to read and see.

I am greatly encouraged by things I am seeing and reading here in the blogosphere, and I am awed by the depth of knowledge that many "young people" have today because of all they are reading. I hope that, whether I am right or not, this trend continues and we see genuine revival here and around the world.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Responding to the Tradegy and to the IMonk

Before you read my response to this, go and read the article for yourself and come back here. I would have left a comment on his blog, but I'm not signed up to leave comments there. I have some serious issues with what was written there. (Hopefully its not because I'm a mini Fred Phelps.)

As I read the article the IMonk wrote, I see a few focuses of blame coming out: unresponsive parents, an ignorant culture, foolish gun laws, and a lack of psychiatric evaluation due to a failure of the legal system. I think that this puts the blame in the wrong place: the guy with the gun who killed 33 people will bear the penalty for his crime in Great Judgment.

I couldn't help but get the feeling that the IMonk felt that this murderer was as much victim as killer. I seriously doubt that this will get him off the hook before the Lord in the Great Day when He judges the secrets of men. I'd like to hear your input on this, if you are willing.

Here's the real question: Are such rampages caused by willful sin or mental problems? Is the answer for such horror to get people more informed about mental illness? I would submit that people know more about mental illness now than ever in history, and yet this hasn't seemed to curb people's appetite for carnage one bit.

The simple question here is whether or not this guy is accountable for what he did, or does his mental condition absolve him of responsibility. I'll withhold further commentary on this until I hear back from some of you.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Lesson from a BallPark

Summertime meant several things for me as a 12 year old boy. One of the most exciting was the prospect of sleeping ridiculously late because there was no school to go to. It also meant bike-riding, fishing, and a host of other wonderful activities. Top on that list of activities was Dixie Youth Baseball.

In the summer of my 12th year, I played on the lousiest baseball team in the city. I played for Dendy's, and that year we went an ignoble 0-15. We did not win a single game. We were so awful that I was actually one of the better players on the team, and I promise that isn't saying much. But still, baseball was baseball, and to me, the ballfield was like Disneyworld. There was Big League Chew Bubble Gum and baseball cards for a quarter. The baseball cards also came with a rectangular piece of pink gum that lasted approximately 1 minutes and left a terrible aftertaste with pasty saliva. That just gave you another good excuse to spit, and a twelve year old ballplayer doesn't need much of an excuse to do that.

So I was happy on my losing team. We still got free cokes for shagging foul balls between games and after every loss. Sometimes we even got free hotdogs for our losing effort. I even got my fair share of game balls that year, seeing as I was one of the few who could actually hit the ball occassionally. It was like heaven.

On one particularly hot July day, the Home Bank boys were giving us a pretty good beating. I had the privilege of playing hind-catcher that game. You get a good view of the field from there, but that equipment gets hot and miserable after a while in the sun. It turns to sheer torture when your team is too awful to get anybody out.

Due to an umpire shortage, my stepfather was calling behind the plate that day. He was a fair umpire, fair in the best sense of the word as I recall it. He called'em like he saw'em. He called strikes on me like anybody else, and so the potential for favoritism was lessened by his honorable view of the game.

That's what made the thing that happened that day so difficult. A schoolmate of mine, I won't name him but I know his name and can see his face today, stepped up to the plate a nodded at me. The pitcher tossed floater down the middle, and my schoolmate slammed it over the center field fence. I must admit that it was a beautiful stroke. There's no more lovely picture than watching a homerun from behind home plate.

It was, as I recall, my friend's very first home run. And so the opposing team was particularly excited for him. They all rushed onto the field to high-five him at the plate. Two others were on base, and they stopped to applaud him as well. He was positively delighted with himself as he rounded third base and headed home to the whoops and applause and the atta boys of his teammates. In fact, he was so happy that he forgot himself. He didn't step on homeplate at all. He stepped right over it, high-fiving all the way.

So there I am, watching my happy guy head to the dugout and thinking that things are about to turn ugly. I knew that my stepdad saw him miss the plate. He knew it and I knew it and God knows it. So I did the only thing that a twelve year old boy knew to do...I appealed the run at the plate.

The process of appeal is pretty simple. The one who is appealing the run declares that the runner failed to touch the base. With the ball in hand, he steps on the base in question. If the umpire saw that the base was indeed skipped, the runner is called out. If he didn't see it, or if he saw him actually touch it, the runner is safe.

The pitcher tossed me the ball, and the field grew silent. The parents stood. All the wind was sucked off the field with the intake of so many breaths as I stepped on the plate and looked at my stepdad. (At least it seemed that way to me.)

I remember the look on his face at that moment as if we were standing there now. There was no joy on that face. He knew the consequence of this call and how questionable it would look. He knew that it would rob that boy of the delight of his homerun. He knew that angry parents might well storm the field and throw him into the dumpster.

To the neutral observer, that moment that we stood there looking at one another over home plate was quite brief. But for me, that moment is timeless. Somewhere in my mind we're still standing there looking at one another, counting the cost of our action before the storm hit. With sadness in his eyes his clenched his fist and said, "He's out!" It was absolute pandomonium after that. The coach threw a bat against a fence and came onto the field screeching a protest. The players on both sides were hollering, and the parents were going nuts.

After all these years I'm still a kid with a ball standing over home plate. The joyful, breezy summers of youth have passed me by. The stakes are higher than Dixie Youth baseball, and no one is giving out free hot dogs. I have to call'em as I see'em, and my Father is watching the plate.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Perfected by a Hopeful Dream

I am a daydreamer. On my weekly commute to New Orleans, exactly 84 miles one way with no radio, I have plenty of opportunity to spend time with this great pastime. I confess that my daydreams are a source of great hope and joy for me, and I believe that they are an essential part of my sanctification and perseverance.

When I was a youngster, my "backdoor" neighbor came home one day with an old rusty car frame. All that separated our yards was a chain length fence, and that fence had a gaping hole in it so I could pass between the yards without hindrance. This neighbor's daughter and I were about the same age, so I spent a good deal of time playing over there before I figured out the differences between boys and girls.

That frame was an item of curiosity for me, and so I asked my neighbor about it. He told me that he was going to build a car out of it. I was amazed and excited about the prospect of seeing him build a car out of that old rusty frame. I had no idea that this project of my neighbor's would consume a good deal of his free time for the next few years of his life.

At first, I didn't notice much progress. He'd go out after work and sand a little, and occasionally he'd bring in more rusty parts. It quickly became far more tedious and boring to watch than I had anticipated. I turned my attention to baseball and bike-riding within the first week. But my neighbor had a vision to see his dream become a reality, and so he persevered.

Little by little, that rusty frame turned into a rusty looking car with holes in the floorboard and doors as I recall. But those were soon filled with bondo, and it wasn't long before the rust was all replaced with candy-apple red. The vacuous cavern beneath the lifeless hood was filled with a living, breathing fire machine. The rusty frame had become an awesome machine. As I recall, it was convertible, red, and some sort of 40'ish Ford. I believe that it had a rumble seat. I don't remember. What I do remember is that my neighbor didn't have it very long. One day, someone of means dropped by and made him an offer for that road machine that he couldn't refuse, and so he sold it.

My neighbor could never have completed that car if he didn't have a clear vision of what that rusty frame could one day be. Michelangelo saw an angel in marble block, my neighbor saw his childhood dream in a rusty frame, and by keeping that dream in his heart, he turned a worthless thing into a treasure.

I don't dream much about hotrods. I dream about people and potential. I dream about what I can be and what my local church can be under the sculpting influence of Spirit and Word. I dream about what each shall become at the moment they are transformed into perfect Christlikeness, even though I have no real idea what that will look like. Here's how John said it:

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. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3).

Do you see that "what we will be has not yet appeared"? I have never seen Jesus with my physical eyes. Only by the eye of faith have I observed Him in the pages of Scripture. I have read that John saw that "the hairs of his head were white like wool, as white as snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters" (Revelation 1:14-15). Can you imagine that? Can you image that the most mewling, sniveling, aggravating Christian will be made like that in the twinkling of an eye?

I take that dream and I drive to New Orleans with it. I take that dream to church with me on Sunday. I keep that dream before my eyes when the rust of others begins to show. I take that vision with me to my prayer closet when I see rust in myself. I am trying with all of my might to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus laid hold of me. Don't lose that dream. Keep it safe in your heart and think on it often. When the music at church is lousy, when people complain, when no one volunteers, when the students are rowdy and rebellious, when the pastor is distant, when your spouse is annoying, and when you feel that your own sin stinks to high heaven, pull out that dream and gaze at the glory of God in Jesus Christ, and know that one day you and everyone who calls on His Name will be made like Him.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Laboring through Church

My point in the previous post was not to criticize churches concerning how many services they may or may not have. Rather, I was criticizing the cancelling of services based on the fact that people have other places that they want to be. In other words, it seems to me that people want church services to be cancelled, more often than not, simply to alleviate their obligation to go. Isn't this a signal that something is terribly wrong with our attitude about the local church in general and of our attitude toward the fellowship we have covenanted with? After all, there will be no break from church in heaven. Why will you enjoy it more there than here?

The question is not asked in sarcasm. I ask in all earnestness. Why do you believe that you will enjoy "church" more in heaven than here on earth? The short answer probably revolves around the fact that church in heaven will be worship without bother: all the hypocrites will be purged, the teenagers will all be respectful, the music will be jamming, and all the attire will be modest. Being in fellowship here is hard.

I believe that part of the reason why people experience "church burnout" in the here and now is because we want heaven without suffering and without working to enjoy it. Track with me, and I think you'll discover what I mean.

The spotless bride of Christ will provoke much praise and glory to the Lamb of God, especially from worn out saints who worked with her on earth. Why? Because saints who labor in the Church see how blemished she is. Her members are sinful, selfish creatures who left to their own devices would ultimately devour one another. The fact that she is presented to the Father by Jesus Christ without spot is a miracle, folks.

Imagine for a moment our reward in heaven for being a good and faithful servant. (This is a practice I heartily recommend.) Perhaps the Lord Jesus, filled with pleasure at your faithfulness, will say, "Beloved, you remember that $200 you gave to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering? I used that to keep Joe Missionary in Country X so that he might preach my gospel to my children. Your stewardship brought much return for my money! Well done, good and faithful servant." I suppose that your joy in that moment would be quite great at hearing what those resources you gave accomplished.

Imagine now that you see Joe Missionary and hear the Master, filled with joy, honor his stewardship. "Beloved, do you remember the people of Country X that you prayed for day and night. The ones you left home and family to serve? The ones who you loved even to the death for my sake? You did not labor in vain, for I birthed many children through your faithful service to them and to Me. Well done, good and faithful servant." You sacrificed $200. He sacrificed his life. Who will have the greater joy at seeing the hosts of Country X praising the Lamb of God before the throne? Whoever invests the most in Christ's kingdom will see the greater return of joy in the end.

Bring that down to the pew where the average church-goer simply shows up on Sunday morning "to get fed." They expect a good, non-sleepy message from the pastor. They want friendliness in the Sunday School class. They want a phone call if they miss church. They want their children taught by the Youth Minister and the babies kept in the nursery. They want the music jamming and they want their songs sang and they want no griping or hypocrisy. Here is the typical attitude, "Church is about me worshipping the Lord and hearing good preaching and frankly, your sin distracts me."

I have more bad news, beloved. The pew-sitter is not the only problem. Another problem is the person who volunteers for nursery out of mere obligation and not because they view babies as precious image-bearers to be prayed over and cooed at and loved like the most valuable things in the universe. Or adults who sit trhough the Youth Pastor's sermon more intent on critiquing his short-comings than loving him like a servant of God. This has been true of me more times than I care to remember. I have found that my criticism of others has decreased significantly since I have been in the ministry. (Much like my criticism of other people's parenting skills since having a child.)

I'm willing to bet that there are problems in the church you are attending, and they probably have nothing to do with doctrinal heresy. If this is the case, then I say that you are blessed because this will mean fruitful labor for your soul. Serve like an instrument of righteousness. Let God use you to polish His bride. Just remember that while you are rubbing on others that they are rubbing on you.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Calling off Church?

It seems so strange to me that regular services would be cancelled due to a holiday set aside to adore Jesus Christ. I can understand cancelling a regular service if the "Sunrise Service" has taken the place of something, but simply to cancel is bizarre to me. I know that the reasoning behind it is "so we can spend time with family." But I feel that this is flawed for several reasons:

1. The Church is our family.
2. Time spent with family in corporate worship is time well spent.
3. Christmas and the Resurrection Day are times to focus on Christ Jesus, not ourselves.
4. You have 363 other days to have family time. Use them.

Perhaps I live too close to depravity, but I fear that the cancelling of corporate worship signals that we would rather be at home than at worship. Perhaps your family actually has a family worship service when things are cancelled, but I know that this would be the exception rather than the rule. If I could get all of my family into a corporate worship service on Sunday, any Sunday, I would count that a joy far above eating leftover ham, turkey, or cobbler.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Suffering as the Means to Endurance

I know that you have probably heard the old addage, "Don't pray for patience because God will give you trials to make you patient." While I agree that it takes a trial to make us enduring, persevering Christians, I vehemently deny that we should avoid trial for the sake of ease. The reason, if not explicit in the last post, is that if we do not learn to endure, we will lay hold of no other virtue..

Notice the progression of these two verses:

We glory in tribulations, know that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4)

Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-3).

So we see that trials and troubles are to be rejoiced in, not because we are masochistic weirdos who love to suffer for suffering's sake, but because we are big picture Christians. That is we know that every difficulty that comes into life is a tool in the hand of a gentle God to shape us into His glorious image. We also see in James that trials are a "when" issue, not an "if" issue. You will have trial, prayer prepares the heart of faith to be ready to grow in them.

From what I read here in these passages and others like them, I understand that patience and spiritual fortitude are foundational for spiritual growth and personal holiness. I also see that trials are instrumental in bringing about patience and spiritual fortitude, and therefore I rejoice in them. I confess that I pray daily for patience with the expectation that I will be heard and my request granted. I also confess that I know this means enduring hardship, and so I pray that I may benefit from difficulty and become by them a Christian of virtue.

Here's the thing that I believe most Christians miss; there is no circumstance in your life right now that is not a potential trial of your faith. Not one. I pray that God will grant me more children; if He doesn't, then I must endure life with no more children. Could such a circumstance lead to bitterness on my part or my wife's? Certainly it could.

Of course, God could grant my request and give us children. Yet, is it not possible that a little bundle of joy could distract me from my devotion to the Lord? Is it not true that every child's rearing brings pain to the heart of a parent? A rebellious child is certainly a trial to a parent's heart, and I believe that every child is born with a sinner's heart. So I will face trial if God grants or denies my request. How, then, shall I pray?

Some pray for financial deliverance. If they get money, then it may tempt them to pride and to forget their Provider. If they go poor, they may become bitter and curse God (see Proverbs 30:8-9). We may learn patience and endurance no matter the circumstance if we learn that every worldly thing is a potential obstacle between us and our Savior.

I am also convinced that I experience trial as I walk with my family in in the body of Christ. The Bible commands us, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). If one comes to me in mourning, should I not mourn with him? When one rejoices, should I not rejoice? The alternative would be sinfully selfish and repugnant for a believer in Jesus Christ.

I conclude, then, that we are not to say things as silly as the old addage about not praying for patience. Trials are an inevitable part of this fallen world. But patience is a holy virtue that not everyone can obtain. Only those who seek wisdom by faith in Christ will grow to have proven character and virtue.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Very Encouraging Sermon

And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:21-23).

That was our text this Sunday as we make our way through the book of Acts. I was very excited to preach this message of Paul's because it is a stark contrast to what we see on television and hear in most evangelical circles. The Bible says that Paul encouraged the people by telling them that they must suffer, and apparently they took encouragment from such a sermon. Isn't that wild? How long could a person stay on TBN preaching that kind of message?

It is a gospel fact that we are ordained to suffer as Christians. There is no avoiding it, and we should not avoid some suffering even if we could. Paul compared suffering for Christ to rejoicing in God Himself. Here's the quote in case you don't believe me, "We have acces by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice int the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations" (Romans 5:2b-3).

Was Paul some sort of masochist? He actually gloried in his suffering? If he was, I guess we will have to add James to that category as well. He wrote, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various trials" (James 1:2). Here's part of Peter's take on it, "Rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy" (1 Peter 4:13). It looks like Paul is not the only one who experienced and gloried in suffering, but also that of the entire line of inspired writers.

Can you imagine this sermon being preached?:

"Oh that I may know Him!" (Hoots and amens)
"Oh, that I may know the power of His resurrection!" (More hoots and amens)
"Oh, that I may know the fellowship of His sufferings!" (Couple mistimed amens and more than a few confused looks)
"Oh, that I might be conformed to His death!" (What does he mean, conformed to His death?)
"And finally, that I may attain the resurrection of the dead!" (Amens all around, though perhaps less enthusiastic)

Of course, that's taken from Paul's letter to the Philippians in 3:10-11. How is it that suffering is encouraging, and why should we remind one another and encourage one another with this? And why is this idea so alien to the American evangelical church?

Honestly, this may not be so encouraging at first, but it pays large dividends for the suffering servant of Jesus Christ. Beloved, we are in the all-powerful grip of God's grace. He loves us with an everlasting love that never fails nor frowns. So when we find ourselves suffering, whether it be bodily illness, hostility because of the gospel, or whether it be the death of a loved one, we can know that it certainly isn't because God is angry with us. He loves us in the trial and He is close in the dark place of despair. And He uses the fire and flame of trial to mold us into the glorious image of His Son. The worst terror of Satan and the greatest heartbreaks of the world are gentle tools in the hands of a loving Father to make us shine. What do we lose that isn't rubbish in comparision to having Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and Friend?

So this sermon of Paul's is encouraging for those whose hearts have been broken and are being mended by God. It is encouraging for the pastor who sheds tears over the state of the congregation. It is a balm for all those who suffer, and we need to remember that God walks with us in the dark valley of the shadow, and that no pain is wasted on the saint of God.

That is why prosperity preaching is an abomination and a dismal failure. It is an empty promise that cannot deliver the package. It promises success and wealth and delivers despair and pain. How many of God's sheep have struggled in trials because they believed that the pain came because they were personal failures and faithless Christians? How many of God's children have faced death without comfort because they believed that they died because their faith was weak? Instead of facing death with the boldness of a lion, they were reduced to whimpering like dogs because they thought the Lord had abandoned them because they were pitiful and faithless? Even death, despite its raging and bluster, is God's tool to free the saint from the body of sinful flesh and escort them into the joy of the Master.

So hold on, dear brother or sister, we do not suffer in vain. Our groanings are heard by the Lord, and He will not lay on us more than we may bear. Look to the promise with which Paul concludes this thought, "We also glory in tribulation, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Rom. 5:3-5). Hope for what? What does the Holy Spirit do in trials and groanings? "You received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together" (Rom. 8:15-17). He tells us that we are His, and the we will be glorified and sit with Him on His throne. Our suffering leads to our glorification. Now that is an encouraging message!