Archives for category: Suffering

5The Wise men knew something was different about the star that shone in the night.  They had done their homework, per se, and they intellectually knew all the right things and had knowledge of the writings of the Israelites.  They knew these writings pointed to a king. These scholars wanted to dig deeper and it cost them their time, talents, and treasures.

You see one part that is overlooked often times about the Magi is that they had to leave everything they knew behind.  They left their homes, family, friends, and worldly comforts.  Now granted, they had a caravan but if any of you have done any traveling, you know that there is nothing quite like your own bed and having your own daily lifestyle and routine.  All of that had to be left behind to find the King.  Not many have been asked to leave it all, but I know many a called Pastor and family that have been asked to do so for the sake of God’s calling.  So what did the Wise men find at the end of their journey?

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ” ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’” Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. Matthew 2:1-12 NIV

They didn’t find a triumphant kingdom with a strong, mighty man sitting on a throne.  They did stop and talk to Herod but what they found there, though they didn’t know it at first, was a man who’s heart was dark with hatred and contempt for anything or anyone that would get in the way of his power and control.  Herod would stop and nothing to make sure this King of the Jews wouldn’t take His rightful place.  Herod, the one who should have been in the seeking the Lord mode, was as far from it as possible.  The Wise men went to the place that should have known where to find the King but found an empty heart and throne.  A kingdom that had no desire to know their real King.

Things weren’t going as planned for the Magi but what they did we can learn from.  They didn’t let the detours and destruction ruin their quest.  They continued to pursue the Star of Bethlehem to find the answer to the question of “who is this King?”  Once the Wise men found the child at the house with His mother and earthly father, they had to be faced with the fact that the King of the World was a tiny infant.  One with no worldly power, no worldly persuasion, just a humble little family in a lowly habitat.  Nothing fancy, nothing grandiose about it.  See, that is how God most often reveals Himself.  In the simple, in the lowly, in the common, in the still small voice.  What the Magi did was recognize that God was present in the Shack moments of their current lives and they worshiped the Lord in the midst of the unexpected.  They saw God in the humble even though He wasn’t what the worldly paradigms  and their own makings had caused them to seek.

The next huge step the Seekers did is astounding.  They gave the King what He deserved.  They gave Him honor, respect, faithfulness, and honest worship with their gifts.  They didn’t withhold the gift just because the one receiving didn’t meet up with some glorious human view, they opened their hearts and worshiped anyways.  God promises that if someone seeks Him, they will find Him.  That is exactly what the Wise men received.  They might have went looking for a worldly ruler but they were given the gift of seeing the Creator of the Universe, in human, frail flesh, accepting the praise and honor and gifts they presented.  In their giving, they received the best gift in return, the Grace of God.

The Magi, in giving their gifts, were given the Mercy and Grace and Love of God the Father.  They were given the opportunity to be presented with the soul saving Son, Jesus Christ.  When one is in the presence of the King of Eternity, and allowed into His presence, there is no greater gift because no human is worthy on their own merit.  God showed the Wise men that Jesus came even for them!  It wasn’t just for the Jews but it was for the Gentiles.  It was for all of mankind.

The Magi’s thoughts and plans took them on a journey that they weren’t fully prepared for.  What they expected and what they found were far from the normal world view.  They were met with twists, turns, evil intentions, and the likes but it didn’t stop God from being God and it didn’t stop them from pursuing who the King was and still is today and for all eternity.

How are you when your plans, hopes, dreams, and expectations get a sudden, swift change? Do you continue to pursue the King and sift through the rubble of your kingdom and proceed to the Shack of the Savior?  Do you allow life’s collision course to careen you off course or do you set your compass and sights on the Bible and staying true?  God has never failed a promise and He won’t start now.  Cling, like Job, to the Creator and never stop seeking and praising the King of all Kings.  Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised (Job 1:21 NIV).

 

Advertisements

brokenhearted-4If you have ever been a parent, I know you have heard your child or children say “that’s not fair!”  Yourself, as a child, undoubtedly said the phrase more than once.  In looking at things in your adult life, I know you have expressed these sentiments.  You might have not used the exact words, or maybe you have, but when you suffer injustice or it is done to a loved one, you have expressed the concept.

When that job is offered to someone else, when the raise doesn’t come, when the spouse goes looking and grazing in “greener grass”, when your children have walked off into a lifestyle so different from how they were raised, when you get that diagnosis…it often times sends people off into the land of “It’s not fair!”  Let’s face it, what happened on September 11, 2001 was definitely not fair!

In our scripture reading for this week, Paul is writing to the young preacher, Timothy.  Timothy is facing some major things in life that are just “not fair”.  He is being looked down upon, discriminated against, because he is too young.  30 is just too young in human eyes of the day.  He was dealing with false teachings by false teachers inside the church.  He was dealing with disruptions and disorder in worship.  To top it all off, he was dealing with a lack of true leaders to step up and help him carry Christ’s full message.  So what does Paul do?  He takes the time to stop, encourage, and give a personal testimony and witness to Timothy.  Let’s take a look at 1 Timothy 1:12-17:

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Paul takes time out of his very busy ministry life to lift up Timothy and is explaining to him that God is the one who qualifies someone.  Sometimes the best way to lift up someone, who is being beaten down by the injustice of this life, is to remind people who you were before Jesus Christ knocked you off your horse and started you down a new road.  It’s good to take the blinders off and be honest with yourself and with others that you, on your own are a sin-filled, opponent of Jesus Christ. That you before Christ saved you, you lived a life that was far from being holy, set apart, for the Lord.

You might be thinking, “but I was raised in the church and I have never been against God.”  In all honesty, yes you have.  We all have been an enemy of Christ.  Scripture tells us for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23, ESV) and but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, ESV).  We like Paul, are the worst of sinners before Christ.  We deserve all of God’s wrath, justice, and punishment. That is what is fair!

The best part, the part that Satan doesn’t want you to understand and latch onto is that because Christ came into the word to save us, because Christ died for our sins, because Christ is the Perfect Lamb Sacrifice, because of Christ’s love; we get grace, forgiveness, new life, peace, and the Holy Spirit to live out bold lives for His service.  God calls us to live each day for Him.  When we look at who we were, and sometimes who we are in our actions, we can do nothing more than fall down and worship and praise God for His abundant grace that is greater than all our sins.

We are called to live out new lives.  Lives changed and set apart for the work of the Lord.  Don’t hold your testimony to yourself. Share it with people and tell them that in this world much injustice is done but thanks be to God, we also get to say “because of what Jesus has done for me, “it isn’t fair” I get the rewards of what Jesus has done and I am His willing servant!”

In our current culture, it isn’t to hard to find what we would deem the “big sins.”  We see and  hear about murder almost daily.  We see lying, cheating, and just down right ugliness on most nearly all headlines.  We are a culture growing to mistrust and hate everything around us and then we lash out in the most ugly of ways – you know those “big sins.”

fearWe get so wrapped up in the “dramas” of each day that one of two things tends to happen.  We either join in the “drama pool” or we bury our heads in the sand, circle the wagons, and sing “kumbayah” pretending like nothing is wrong.  Both of these are relying on human ways to conquer the issues of the world and our own lives.  In all reality, we are falling victim to the very, very subtle sins of “unbelief and doubt.”

We don’t like to admit it but we make God out to be a hamstrung god who can only do what our minds can think or imagine.  We put God in a box of humanness, logic, and limited power.  We walk around thinking that God might fix that issue but “will He fix it or help me fix my BIG problem?”  It’s easy to forget God’s promises as we wait, move, and trudge through the mountainous times in our lives.  We start focusing on the summit of the problem and doubt the One who created the highest earthly mountains.  We focus on the pain and hurt around us and forget that Christ suffered the mountain of death, defeated Satan, and rose to bring us new life.  Those are no small hills, folks!

We live in a world where struggle and pain and disappointment just aren’t acceptable. We just want pleasure and fun.  Sometimes, God allows or puts enormous obstacles in our way so we have to trust Him and rely fully on Him!  In the struggles and pains and desert times we are taught much more than when life just goes along happy, happy, joy, joy.  Happy, happy tends to make us think “we’ve got this.”  But pain, agony, difficulties, disease, death, and destruction well, these make us stop and evaluate Who can handle this?  In our faith we either start down the path of unbelief or we turn down the road to “Illogical Obedience” Following God when it makes no human sense.

In the worldly view, the entire walk of Faith in Christ is illogical.  But as Christians, we know that nothing is impossible with God!  We have a track record, over 4,000 years old, that proves our God looks at impossible and laughs.  As we walk down the Biblical Memory Lane, we see that God takes and uses all the impossible people, places, and things and makes STUFF HAPPEN!

In our verses from Genesis, we see “Illogical Obedience” in action.  And the Lord appeared to [Abraham] by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on – since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quick! Three seahs of fine flour! Knead it, and make cakes.” And Abraham ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to a young man, who prepared it quickly. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them. And he stood by them under the tree while they ate. They said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “She is in the tent.” The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” Genesis 18:1-14

Sarah doubted God and laughingly mocked at His words.  We might throw stones at her but we do the same thing when we go it on our own because we are tired of waiting on God or believe that He can’t or won’t come through for us in our times of distress.  We know from looking at Abraham and Sarah that when they started doubting God, they started making huge messes.  God allowed the messes and obstacles to happen.  They felt the pain of “their way” and the world still feels the pain of that mess.  The best part of it is, that God didn’t stop His Impossible Plan.

There could be no doubt in anyone’s mind, that knew Abraham and Sarah, that only God could make these two, in their geriatric ward days, become biological parents.  In them becoming parents, God kept His promise and showed His mighty power.  God took the young boy, David, and David’s Illogical Obedience, and slayed the Giant Goliath.  Not in mighty conflict, with brazen weapons, and mass metal armour, but with a simple sling shot and a stone. Again, God showing His Impossible Plan and Power.  The list goes on and on and is recorded in the Bible so that we know where to go to find God’s Plan and Will and Power.  We are never going to find it on our own, in worldly powers and governments, and we will never know the full power of God until we know His Word and it is in our DNA and is our DNA.

So, How Big is God?  Bigger than anything you can dream, think, or work toward.  Our God is so big that He defeated the biggest problem and issue of any day, SIN.  Jesus looked Satan in the eye and beat him forever, not with anything man could do but with His sacrificial blood on the cross, and rose and said I AM the way of the IMPOSSIBLE.  Even in these days of chaos, God still makes it possible for us to live and move and have our being because the Holy Spirit gives us the power to walk on the road of Illogical Obedience and follow in the footsteps of Christ.  So drop the hat of unbelief, take off the armour of doubt and disobedience, and put on the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the clothes of Christ and march on as soldiers of the Cross and carry the banner into the world and show them that with God, All things are Possible!

Lord God, turn our laughing and mocking of You, into pure faith and belief, that You can do anything in the world and in our own lives.  Help Your children in Your Church to believe Your promises, power, and passion to do the Impossible.  You have never been bound by human reason or worldly things.  You are limitless!  Cure the unbelief in Your Church and Your People by returning them into the Banner Barriers of Your Holy Word. Make Your Word our desire to become our DNA for You.  In Christ’s name we pray.  Amen.

Often times we are caught in the currents and crashing waves of chaos in our lives and the out of control world we live in. In times of distress, despair can crawl deep in our bones. Our feelings and thoughts start swirling and it only adds to the intense pain of our situation. In these times, we cannot trust our thoughts and feelings because they lie to us. We feel as if no one else has ever experienced what we are going through.

Not only does our own flesh lead us astray, but satan himself uses it against. He wants us helpless and hopeless. He wants us to buy into the things that get our guts grumbling and our thoughts thrashing. You know these lies ” no one cares”, “you are alone”, “just give up and quit trying.”

If you are experiencing the pain of life and your thoughts and feelings have you isolated, afraid, alone, or perplexed, let read the following words as if God wrote them for you. You see, God did write this story about you and for you! He wants you to know He does come to visit in our every day lives and in our deepest times of despair and need.

Luke 7:11-17

Soon afterward [Jesus] went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.  Matthew 14:13-21

 

The miracle of the feeding of the 5000 is the only miracle that is recorded by all four Gospel writers. I believe that speaks to the importance of this miracle. It was only in this miracle and the changing of water into wine where Jesus actually used his power to create. In all the other miracles, Jesus was simply restoring something to what it would have been  without the effects of sin.

Sermons about this miracle have been written from many different view points. Today, I want to look at the feeding of the 5000 from the aspect of the bread and the fish. We will examine how Jesus took five biscuit-like loaves and two small fish and multiplied them so they might serve a multitude of people. Read the rest of this entry »

Jesus said, I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. [Because] in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (Jn 16:33).

John tells us: Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (Rev 7:16-17).

The songs of heaven will always be sung by those who have felt the pressure and turbulence of human history. They will be sung by people who know they did not suffer in vain. Those songs will be sung by believers who put their trust in God, and found that God was worthy of their trust. Read the rest of this entry »

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:11-12

This summer, we are going to spend eight weeks studying what it takes to be properly armed for spiritual warfare. Today I’ll discuss how to engage in spiritual warfare.

The first thing we need to do is identify our enemy. To do that, let’s see who is not our enemy. Our enemy is not Christians who are different from us.

Listen to what Paul said to the Ephesian church: Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all  (Eph 4:2-6 NIV).

It’s also important for us to understand that our enemy is not bad people. Today, our enemy is not radical Islam. If Satan can get us to think that Muslims are our enemies, we will spend our time fighting the wrong battles. While bad people can do great harm, we must learn to view all people from God’s perspective. God sees all people in only two categories; saved and lost. That’s why Jesus said:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (Jn 3:16-17 NIV).

Our enemy in spiritual warfare is, of course, Satan and his demonic forces.  Read the rest of this entry »