Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Year in Review

This year has been a year of great blessing from the Lord. After several trials in 2009 and 2010 we received the joyful news in February that we were expecting once again. As hard as it was to do, I believe that the Lord taught me through my past experiences to trust Him to bring about His will, whatever that may be. We prayed, our children prayed, our church family prayed, and our extended family prayed for this little baby. There were times when we wondered if the Lord would take this one as well. But we passed each milestone with joy and thankfulness. We had all the rest of our children with us in the ultrasound room when we learned that we were having a girl! Everyone was excited. I think Sarah was the most excited that it was a girl. There's a nine year gap between her and Brianna, the next oldest girl in our family. Sarah was going to have a baby sister!

Sheri was amazing throughout the pregnancy and before. The Lord has given me an excellent wife and a wonderful mother to our children. When our little girl was born on October 18, Sheri was glowing. It was beautiful to see her with yet another newborn baby of our own. Sheri continues to faithfully teach our children each day in our homeschool. I like to tell my sons, "Marry a woman like your mother someday."

We named our eighth child and fourth daughter Melody Hope Southerland. We had pretty much decided on Hope for her middle name early on. We tossed around several name possibilities, including Charity, Geneva, Sophia, Daisy, and a few others. I'm very happy with her name and I know that we made the right choice.

There were many other happenings this year that are noteworthy.

Brittney became our first homeschool graduate. She did a great job on her research paper that I assigned her. She took on the challenging topic of whether the environmental movement has any legitmacy or whether it is simply a tool of oppression by tyrannical government. She chose the topic. I'm not sure I would have been as creative if I had assigned her one. Brittney is still determined to pursue leather working. I'm pleased with this direction. It is a skill that will be very useful. She will be able to earn money, and it is something that she will be able to bring into a new family when she eventually marries, but will not take her out of the home. It will be a family enterprise that can be continued regardless of what her future husband does for a living.

Michael worked for a man down the street from us constructing an airplane hanger. We live in an airport community with a shared runway and taxiways. Noone in our family flies...yet. Michael has expressed an interest in learning to fly. So another one of the neighbors has offered to teach him. He is a licensed instructor. After establishing his reputation in the neighborhood as a hard, diligent worker, Michael's help was solicited to work on building this hanger. Michael has braved extreme heat and cold in working on this hanger. He has learned valuable skills, such as welding. Michael likes the outdoors and does not envy me working inside with computers. He has shown an interest in possible being a firefighter. As his father, I'm proud that he is showing such diligence in his work. Another exciting event for Michael this year is his turning 16. That means...driving. As of now, he's still doing driver's ed. Because of his busy work schedule we got a little behind in getting his permit.

Brianna seems to be following in Brittney's footsteps in many ways. She is enjoying quilting, along with Brittney. Throughout this year, Brianna has enjoyed "sewing days" with Brittney, and their good friends, the Chathams. Brianna is showing diligence in her schooling. She is usually the first child up in the mornings. When I come in to make breakfast and coffee, she's usually sitting at the kitchen table working on her math. She's being a very big help in taking care of her baby sister, Melody. Brianna's favorite hobby seems to be photography. She's always walking around with the camera around her neck snapping pictures of just about any obscure object you can find around the house.

Justin turned 10 years old this year. He's at that age where he's in a transition from being a "little kid" into one of the "big kids." Add to that, the fact that until Melody was born this year, he was right in the middle of seven children. With Melody's birth, he has joined the "oldest four" while the youngest four are Paton, Sarah, Samuel, and Melody. Justin has a very analytical mind. He is good at problem solving. He asks me intelligent questions. I'm looking forward to how the Lord will be using him in the coming years.

Paton has recently expressed his desire to "be a chef." We'll see if he pursues that into adulthood. But for now, it means helping out in the kitchen and trying to learn what he can in there. His specialty is "Wacky Cake." It seems he wants to bring that to church every week for our weekly meal there.

Sarah Grace lost her first tooth this year. We also finished the book, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. She has been doing awesome in her reading! I credit in large part Sarah's participation in reading the scripture during family worship as a major reason why her reading is progressing so nicely. When she finished her reading book, we bought her a 1599 Geneva Bible. During our family worship time we go around the room and everyone who can read reads two scriptures. Sarah takes her turn along with all the other readers.

Samuel, at four years old, has entered the stage of asking a lot of questions. I've heard things like, "Did God make houses?" So I get to explain that God made all things, and I proceed to tell him how He made the resources needed to make a house, and He made people and gave them intelligence on how to build it. So, then a natural question..."How does God make people?" :-)

One little funny bit of news concerning Sarah and Samuel is the episode when they were trying to set up their own Google account. With Sarah's reading skills and Samuel's computer skills, they just about had it, until they were caught!

And...I've already mentioned Miss Melody. Her mere presence is such a blessing. Add to that her pretty smiles and its enough to melt a daddy's heart.

On the job front, there have been changes as well. AnswerSoft continues to grow slowly. But in November, after returning to work after being out a couple of weeks with Melody's birth, I left TransCore in order to work from home doing consulting work for IVR programming. This has been a huge blessing. I've been able to save money on gas and food. I can wear jeans (or even shorts if I want) every day if I want. I'm also doing more of what I enjoy doing, actual programming. I was a little concerned while working at TransCore that too much time was elapsing between my last IVR position and my current position there. IVR programming is somewhat of a niche. After being away from it for a time, I've realized the value in continuing to devlop my expertise in this specialized field.

This year I received a Kindle Fire for my birthday. I already had a Kindle DX. Additionally, Justin and Paton both have Kindle Keyboards Wifi. I'm enjoying the Fire. The best function that the Fire offers is that with the Logos app I am able to access my entire Logos library on my Kindle Fire. This is a great blessing, as I have many excellent resources in that library. Before the Fire if I wanted to read Logos books on my Kindle, I had to copy and paste them into a new document and convert it to a Kindle document. Now I can read them natively, with fully active scripture references while reading Logos books. All of my Kindle library that I've collected through Amazon also exists on my Kindle Fire. So I can read them there. All in all, I still prefer to read on my DX. First of all, the e-ink is easier on the eyes than a backlit screen. It's just like reading a book. Next, the screen size of the DX is larger. So more text can fit on the screen before I need to turn the page, given the same text size. Also, there's a feature I really enjoy with my DX (that's also available on the boys' Kindles). That is the ability to post my notes on various passages into my Facebook account in the middle of my reading. For some reason that functionality is not available on the Fire. So with all things considered, my determination is that if I want to read a book, I prefer my DX. If I want to do anything else (including accessing my Logos library), the Fire offers more options.

Lastly, I want to mention the blessing that GracePointe Baptist Church has been throughout 2011. The men of the church gather on Saturday mornings and do a doctrinal study of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. I've made good friends with everyone in the church. That's a great advantage of a small church. You have a chance to really get to know everyone well. My family has really gotten to know our pastor, Jeff Brown, and his family. For a couple of months during the summer we geographically divided into home groups. Jeff and his family met with us at our house. Those were some good times and we discovered many similarities between myself and Jeff. The desire that God placed within me for eldership that began back in our home fellowship is coming to fruition within the confines of GracePointe. Jason Randall and I are in eldership training. We will be meeting with Jeff over the course of 2012. I look forward to serving the congregation at GracePointe and learning how to minister to God's people.

2011 has been a really good year with a lot of really good memories. Thank you Lord.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Lord's Blessings

Much has happened this year for which I am very thankful. The two major things are:
1) The birth of our newest daughter, Melody Hope Southerland, on October 18. She is one month old today! This was certainly an answer to prayer.
2) Changing my job. I now have a work at home position doing IVR development. AnswerSoft is still going strong, and this new position complements it nicely.

I haven't had much time for blogging, but life is moving full speed ahead. God is good.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Will Your Church Pass the Test?

This Sunday is September 11, 2011. This date marks the 10 year anniversary of the terror attacks of radical Muslims on our own soil in New York, Washington D.C., and in the air over Pennsylvania. Certainly this was a national tragedy. Our children need to be taught this significant historical event. We should talk to them about the so-called “religion of peace” and how radical Islam attacked innocent men, women, and children without provocation. However, the question is not whether these things need to be discussed or taught. The real question is where they should be taught. I submit to you that there is one place where these very important matters ought not to be discussed. That is in the context of the gathering of believers on the Lord’s Day morning. Unfortunately, however, I imagine that the United States will be getting the Lion’s share of worship this Lord’s Day in churches across our land.
Jesus Christ is not an American. Though He gave His life for others, He didn’t die as a result of an act of terrorism against the United States. Neither did He die as a valiant soldier fighting for American freedom. Should we honor heroes who have paid this ultimate sacrifice? Absolutely. Yet, when believers gather themselves together this Lord’s Day, Christ alone should be the object of our worship. I was out of town last Independence Day and visited a church. I was dismayed to witness the congregation standing to pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. It didn’t end there. The majority of the hymns were patriotic anthems, including the Star Spangled Banner. Now I’m as patriotic as the next guy, probably more so having read and studied much about the founding of our country. But in the meeting of the church our allegiance should be pledged to Him alone (actually isn’t that true all of the time? …but that’s another can of worms). The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, chapter 22, paragraph 1 declares:

The light of nature shows that there is a God, who has lordship and sovereignty over all; is just, good and does good to all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart and all the soul, and with all the might.(1)  But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself,(2) and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.(3)

So, do we see anywhere in the scriptures patriotic allegiances to nations or flags prescribed for worship to our creator? I’ve not found such references. In fact, paragraph 2 of the same chapter goes on to declare:

Religious worship is to be given to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to him alone;(4) not to angels, saints, or any other creatures;(5) and since the fall, not without a mediator,(6) nor in the mediation of any other but Christ alone.(7)

So then, we see explicitly that the triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is the only object of our worship. By the way, the Baptist confession is not an inspired text. But the points that it makes are backed up with numerous scripture references.

For just the two paragraphs quoted above, the following scripture texts are offered:
1 Jer. 10:7; Mark 12:33
2 Deut. 12:32
3 Exod. 20:4-6
4 Matt. 4:9,10; John 6:23; Matt. 28:19
5 Rom. 1:25; Col. 2:18; Rev. 19:10
6 John 14:6
7 1 Tim. 2:5

So what is to be discussed or taught on the Lord’s Day? Scripture itself gives us the answer.

1 Corinthians 2:1–2 (ESV)

1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Acts 20:26–27 (ESV)

26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

So then, the whole counsel of God, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ is what should be proclaimed from the pulpit.

Just to avoid any misunderstanding, let me state this. I do not think that a church has violated these principles simply by mentioning the events of September 11, 2001 during the service. However, if these things are mentioned, great care should be taken on how they are proclaimed. Ask yourself a few pertinent questions. Is Christ glorified in what is being said? Are the things being said distracting in any way from the message of Jesus Christ and the glorious Gospel of grace? I believe that these events can be discussed in a God honoring way in the meeting of the church. A point could be made that we live in a fallen world and that sin brought about this catastrophe.  While “innocent” people were killed, in reality none of us are innocent. We all deserve to die deaths like this and die an eternity in hell. But for the grace of God we will. Luke 13 gives us a very good picture of September 11.

Luke 13:1–5 (ESV)

1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

So then, evaluate your church this Lord’s Day. You will hear one of four things concerning September 11, 2001.

1)      You will hear a rah, rah pep rally for USA with possibly a somber remembrance for lives lost and perhaps patriotic song accompaniment.

2)      You’ll hear an appropriate mention of the events declaring the depravity of man and the greatness of our God who is able to save not only wicked Muslim terrorists, but wicked “innocent” bystanders as well.

3)      Or you will hear nothing concerning September 11, 2001. You will hear, as you do week after week, a faithful pastor declaring the whole counsel of God, delivering spiritual nourishment to the congregation with which he has been entrusted.

4)      It’s also possible that you are in one of the many modern pop culture churches where you don’t typically hear the gospel, and you don’t hear a word about September 11 either.

Only points two and three above are valid messages you should be hearing in church. Will your church pass the test? I’m concerned that far too many will fail miserably. Personally I’m looking forward to hearing my pastor faithfully proclaim the Gospel as he always does.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Four Rules of Gun Safety

Presented at my Toastmasters Meeting on June 15, 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Next Story

Tim Challies has recently written an eye opening book, called The Next Story.

This is a book that needed to be written. It is especially interesting to me as it touches two major parts of my life, Christianity and Technology. I can identify with many of the things Challies wrote. While I am not certain how old Tim Challies is, after reading The Next Story I imagine him to be very close in age to myself. For the things he describes, from the introduction of cell phones and the personal computer to the current state of technology where we are all immersed in a world of screens, ring very true with me.

This book commands your attention starting with the preface. Here, he describes the ultimate devastation brought about by a Soviet bomb, called Tsar Bomba, detonated as a test in 1961. Describing a landscape that was changed forever, he likens the bomb of digital technology to this 26000 pound nuclear device.

The Next Story is divided into two parts. Part 1 covers theology, theory, and experience. Then in Part 2, he turns his attention to areas of application specific to the Christian life.

I was given a hardback paper copy of The Next Story. While I appreciate the gift, when I began reading it I immediately desired to highlight sentences, make my own comments, and share them to my Facebook account, like I've become accustomed to while reading books on my Kindle. I thought of the irony of the fact that I'm reading a book about technology using the "old fashioned" method of paper and ink. Yet, even in this experience Challies proves his points. He asks the question, "Do you own your technology, or does it own you?"

Challies gives us a brief history of technology, specifically as it relates to communication, discussing such subjects as the invention of the printing press, including its role in the Reformation. I had never considered that Gutenberg was a devout Roman Catholic, and that through his invention, the church he loved so dearly would suffer greatly as their monopoly on the Word of God was broken through the low cost distribution of Bibles to the masses. Challies made the point that up to the 1800's information could travel no faster than the speed of a horse. Travel took just as long in 1800 as it did when Christ walked the Earth. Yet that began to change in the 1800's. First, with the invention of the railroad, information and people themselves could travel much faster than the horse. Next, as the telegraph was invented, information could travel instantly across wires. Challies labeled the telegraph as the "Victorian Internet." With the availability of instant communication every area of life began to change; industry, crime, education, entertainment, and so on. Life would never be the same again.

History progressed up to the point of the computer age, where we find ourselves now. Challies described two groups of people in this world: "digital immigrants" who were born before 1980 and "digital natives" who were born in or after 1980. As the personal computer first came to the marketplace between 1976 and 1981, the world began to change again. I was born in 1968, so that places me squarely in the "digital immigrant" group. I was born into a world where computers only existed in business, education, and government. I remember clearly our Southwestern Bell issued telephone hanging on the wall of our kitchen. It was bright yellow, and it had a dial that you turned when calling someone. I remember playing early video games with my dad and brothers. First it was "pong" from a dedicated device that connected to our television, then not too much later, it was our Atari 2600 system. My dad was somewhat "ahead of his time" in that he went to Radio Shack and bought the cables necessary to run a power cord from the cigarette lighter in our van, under the seats, and to the back where my brothers and I had bean bags, along with our Atari and a portable black and white TV, would play games "on the road" as we traveled on vacation. I was the main "technology lover" in my childhood home. I was the one who saved my money to buy our first computer, a Commodore VIC 20. This machine had a whopping 3K of memory (2K less than our Atari 2600!). But using this machine I taught myself binary, learned elementary basic programming, and acclimated myself to living in the digital world that I knew was coming. Today, I support my family by writing computer programs. My degree from the University of Texas at Arlington is in Computer Science Engineering. I can also relate to Challies' description of the "digital native." My three year old can walk up to our computer, start iTunes, and begin listening to whatever he wants. He joins my other children in sighing when they see drivers "texting" while they drive.

Through the invention of the personal computer, our world has changed forever. Challies tells us where the term "luddite" comes from, and why it is next to impossible to completely avoid technology.

The computer, like many other technologies, can be a great tool to help Christians spread the Gospel. It can keep us connected as families and as churches. But like so many helpful things, the computer can quickly bring undesired results into our lives. Constant communication disrupts our family time. In fact, it gives us a constant stimulus to the point where we crave communication, and can't bear the thought of being "out of touch." So beyond the obvious evils that a computer may bring to a family, such as pornography, violence, or other such filth that may infiltrate our minds, the computer can often be set up as an idol in our lives. John Calvin said that the human heart is an idol factory. I'm sure that the computer could certainly qualify as an idol in many of our lives.

I am grateful to Tim Challies for writing The Next Story. It is something that needs to be said, particularly if you are 1) a Christian and 2) a technology consumer. It has given me much to think about as I spend most of my waking hours in front of one screen or another. I could certainly relate to the things he describes. Technology is here to stay. We can't control whether it is here or not, but we can work to make wise decisions on how we employ its services in our lives.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Kindle DX on Sale for $299 Today only

Today only, the Kindle DX is on sale for $299. I have really enjoyed mine. The larger screen size helps when reading PDF files. This is important because many old texts (like from the 1800s, 1700s, 1600s) have not been copied over into computer readable text. They are images only. Reading a PDF allows you to read it the way it was originally printed. Some of the OCR (optical character recognition) versions have a lot of "trash" characters that distracts from the reading experience.

I've been reading both Dabney and Manton in PDF version on my Kindle DX.  Here's the link:

Monday, March 28, 2011

GOSPEL SONNETS - Chapter 5 - Section 3

by Ralph Erskine
Chapter 5

SECTION III. - The hurtfulness of not preaching CHRIST, and distinguishing duly between law and gospel.

HELL cares not how crude holiness be preach'd,
If sinners' match with Christ be never reach'd;
Knowing their holiness is but a sham
Who ne'er are married to the Holy Lamb.
Let words have ever such a pious shew,
And blaze aloft in rude professor's view,
With sacred aromaties richly spiced,
If they but drown in silence glorious Christ:
Or, if he may some vacant room supply,
Make him a subject only by the bye;
They mar true holiness with tickling chat,
To breed a bastard Pharisaic brat.
They wofully the gospel message broke,
Make fearful havock of the Master's flock;
Yet please themselves, and the blind multitude,
By whom the gospel's little understood.
  Rude souls perhaps imagine little odds
Between the legal and the gospel roads:
But vainly men attempt to blend the two;
They differ more than Christ and Moses do.
Moses, evangelizing in a shade,
By types the news of light approaching spread:
But from the law of works by him proclaim'd,
No ray of gospel grace or mercy gleam'd.
By nature's light, the law to all is known,
But lightsome news of gospel grace to none.
The dong covenant now, in part or whole,
Is strong to damn, but weak to save a soul.
It hurts, and cannot help, but as it tends
Thro' mercy to subserve some gospel ends.
Law-thunder roughly to the gospel tames,
The gospel mildly to the law reclaims.
The fiery law, as 'tis a covenant,
Schools men to see the gospel aid they want;
Then gospel aid does sweetly them incline
Back to the law, as 'tis a rule divine.
Heav'ns healing work is oft' commenc'd with wounds,
Terror begins what loving-kindness crowns.
Preachers may therefore press the fiery law,
To strike the Christless man with dreadful awe.
Law threats which for his sins to hell depress,
Yea, damn him for his rotten righteousness;
That while he views the law exceeding broad,
He fain may wed the righteousness of God.
  But, ah! to press law-works as terms of life,
Was ne'er the way to court the Lamb a wife.
To urge conditions in the legal frame,
Is to renew the vain old-covenant game.
The law is good, when lawfully 'tis us'd, (1)
But most destructive when it is abus'd.
They set no duties in their proper sphere,
Who duly law and gospel don't sever;
But under massy chains let sinners lie,
As tributaries or to do or die;
Nor make the law a squaring rule of life,
But in the gospel throat a bloody knife.

(1) 1 Tim. i. 8.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Linking to Facebook

Once upon a time every blog post I would write would automatically post to Facebook. Then I shut down my facebook account. Well, now I'm back, and the primary purpose of this blog post is to see if it will automatically update my facebook status. I did tweak a few settings first.

Monday, January 17, 2011

My Best Life...Later

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ”  (Luke 16:19–31, ESV)

There is a famous Houston preacher who has written an enormously popular book entitled, Your Best Life Now.  The premise of this book is that if you come to God, He will give you health and prosperity like you’ve never imagined.  He smiles at his television camera showing his pearly whites declaring, “God bless you…”  Tens of thousands have been drawn to his message.  You may have even read his book and decided to follow his pattern for health and prosperity.  But is Joel Osteen’s prosperity gospel biblical?  There’s one certain way to tell.  We should search the scriptures, as the Bereans in Acts 17:11, to see if these things are so.  We will explore today what expectations a believer may have in this life.  Then we’ll take a look at what unbelievers can expect in this life.  Next we’ll look at what the future looks like for unbelievers.  Then we’ll wrap up with what the future holds for believers.

Our first step in deciding whether we are living our best life now is to examine what believers may expect out of this physical life that they are now living in the flesh.  If you remember our scripture passage at the beginning of this article, we get a glimpse of what life was like for the believer Lazarus during his time on Earth.  Lazarus was poor.  Regardless of how bad poor Americans have it, Lazarus was much worse off.  Lazarus was so poor and hungry that he longed for just a few crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table just to try and ease his hunger.  He had great sores over all his body.  To make matters worse, he was unable to stop the dogs from coming and licking his sores, adding infection to his already open wounds.  So maybe Lazarus was just a special case.  Surely this isn’t normal for Christians.  Is it?  Jesus gave warnings to His disciples in Matthew 10.

Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. ” (Matthew 10:17–18, ESV)

Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. ” (Matthew 10:21–22, ESV)

It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. ” (Matthew 10:25, ESV)

How about the great passage from Hebrews known as the “hall of faith?”  Everyone loves to quote verses 32 through the first part of 35.  But let me read the remainder of this passage and see if it gives us any clue as to what the early Christians endured.

Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. ” (Hebrews 11:32–40, ESV)

How about the Apostle Paul?  If anyone should have lived the “victorious” life, surely he should have.  Correct?  We read the following in 2 Corithians 11:

Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. ” (2 Corinthians 11:23–31, ESV)

Last of all, consider our Great Shepherd Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Did He live a life of “abundance?”

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” ” (Matthew 8:20, ESV)

And of course, I could elaborate on the great suffering the Lord Jesus endured on behalf of His church.  If there is one common thread I see throughout scripture it is that believers have absolutely no expectation of living a life of ease and pleasure.  Not at all.  In fact, speaking of life and pleasure, let’s turn our attention now to the expectations of unbelievers in this life.

Now, before we dig in too deeply and paint too rosy of a picture please know that I understand.  Life is not always peaches and cream for the unbelievers either.  We all live in a fallen world.  Disease, famine, sickness, and poverty afflict all of us, unbelievers included.  However, if you are a believer and you take a look at your unbelieving neighbors, do you ever notice that it seems God often allows them to revel in their luxuries quite often?  I believe we can see a scriptural pattern here as well.  To begin, remember back to our opening story.  The rich man is said to have “feasted sumptuously” every day.  We are also given an idea of what type of home he lived in.  He had a “gate,” indicating that his property was surrounded by a fence, no doubt put in place to offer security and to exclude the “riff-raff” from his presence.

The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends. ” (Proverbs 14:20, ESV)

A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his imagination. ” (Proverbs 18:11, ESV)

Think about this for a moment.  If you are an unbeliever and do not believe in a god, then it only makes sense to do all you can to “have your best life now.”  For all there is is this life.  Unbelievers have a false notion that once this life is over, it’s over.  So they may as well make the most of it now.  In fact, I can’t help but question the professed faith of those who over emphasize the “abundant life” of this world here and now.
As I transition into what unbelievers may expect after their deaths, I want to leave this section with another passage of scripture:

And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” ” (Luke 12:16–21, ESV)

So then, what does the future hold for unbelievers who die without faith in Christ alone?  Think back once again to the story of the rich man and Lazarus.  Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.  Yes, the fact of the matter is that after death we will all get new bodies.  While believers’ new bodies will be perfect in every sense and without disease and blemish, the bodies given to unbelievers are known best for their durability.  They will last an eternity without being burned up.  Yet they will allow the person to feel the pain of burning forever.  This is not reserved only to those who have openly cursed God.  It also includes a whole host of “well meaning” individuals who have done all sorts of works in the name of Christ.

"Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ ” (Matthew 7:21–23, ESV)

This should be especially sobering to those TV preachers who stand up there in their fancy clothes declaring an easy life for all who will just “pray this prayer.”

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ ” (Mark 9:42–48, ESV)

Friends, the fires of hell await those who’ve rejected Christ and made this life their all in all.  Those who would live their “best life now” certainly are, because the life to come will be so much misery that they will curse the day they were born.  And when they’ve been tormented in the flames of hell for 10,000 years, they’ll be crushed by the fact that 10,000 years is nothing compared to the whole of eternity.  We can’t even imagine infinity.  It blows the human mind.  How many of you when accidentally touching a hot stove will jerk your hand back after only encountering that heat for a split second?  Then we spend the next 20 minutes nursing our wound with ice cubes and ointment.  Now imagine the fire turned up thousands of times hotter, and the span of time that you are in contact with that fire an infinite amount of time compared to the split second you experienced on the hot stove.  Friends, please don’t reject my message because it is not comfortable.  Christ has not called us to a life of comfort.  I give you this warning because I care for you.  Throw yourself at the mercy of God and beg for His pardon.  Place your trust in Christ alone for your salvation.  For there is nothing else that can save you from the fires of hell.

Now for those who die having their faith solely in the Lord Jesus Christ, their life becomes so much better than it was before.  It is practically beyond comparison.  Return again to our opening story.  In responding to the rich man’s request for water Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.

Revelation 21:4 tells us:
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. ” (Revelation 21:4, AV)

In my best life later, there will be no more miscarried babies.  They’ll be no more auto accidents.  They’ll be no more dying grandparents, parents, or spouses.  There will be no more hunger, no poverty, no pain.  We will be in the presence of our Lord and King.  And just as the torment of the unbeliever will exist for all eternity, so also will the fellowship of the saints in this perfect home exist forever and ever and ever.  As the final verse of Amazing Grace reads, “When we’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’ve first begun.”

So friend, which will it be?  Are you striving to have your best life now?  Please don’t.  For you very well may find your best life now and your misery later.  Rather join with me.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. ” (2 Corinthians 4:17–18, ESV)