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Posts Tagged ‘Garden of Gethsemane’

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  

and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. (1)

 

Christiaan Beker, the Dutch theologian and one of the most respected Pauline scholars of the 20th century, advised his students to never quote this passage when ministering to the suffering unless you want the sufferer to spit in your face.

 

Dr. Beker suffered through the Nazi destruction of Europe during the reign of Hitler.  He had zero tolerance for anyone who thought we should welcome suffering into our lives as a gift from God.

 

As a passionate believer who clung to God through his own difficulties in life, Dr. Beker was never able to justify human suffering with a loving God.

 

If nothing else, Dr. Beker taught me to walk through the valley of the shadow of death with others with tender compassion and with my lips sealed.  He was an advocate of silent compassion as opposed to know-it-all comfort.  Your presence is more helpful than pitter-patter.

 

Why does a loving God permit suffering?  

 

My stock answer is, “I do not know, but I do know that God loves you! I know that God is hurting with you!”

 

Today I read a quote of Frederick William Robertson, which looks at suffering, not from it’s cause or purpose, but from what it does for us.  He speaks about how suffering makes us a better and more compassionate person.  He writes:

 

If you aspire to be a person of consolation, if you want to share the priestly gift of sympathy, if you desire to go beyond giving commonplace comfort to a heart that is tempted, and if you long to go through the daily exchanges of life with the kind of tact that never inflicts pain, then you must be prepared to pay the price for a costly education, for like Christ, you must suffer. (2)

 

While Robertson avoids answering our why questions about suffering, like Paul, he points us to one of the hidden blessings of suffering.  

 

The most compassionate people I know are those who have personally experienced the horror of unexplained and undeserved suffering.

 

Perhaps we will never find comfort in suffering, until it allows us to compassionately comfort those who suffer.

 

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  1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Romans 5:3–4.
  2. Reimann, Jim; Cowman, L. B. E. (2008-09-02). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 313). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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My temptation now is not to doubt Jesus, 

but to doubt myself. (1)

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You know these were spoken by an individual who lived in the 1800’s because you would never hear them voiced in America today.

In today’s world, any individual who would dare voice any thoughts about doubting himself or herself would receive an avalanche of scolding and correction.

Believe in yourself!

You can do it!

Go for It!

These are the epitaphs which drive our personality-centric culture of today.  

We have turned the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power of God for salvation, into a gospel of self-actualization.  

The church, which is quick to join the chorus of culture, has added to the frenzy of proclaiming the omnipotence of the individual by misappropriating Paul’s words in Philippians 4:13.

Paul wrote:

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (2)

God does not give us strength to do anything we want to do.  Instead, He strengthens us, He works through us, and He works in us to accomplish His will and His will alone.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed for the strength to do God’s will.  Even Jesus needed God’s strength to complete His journey through the cross.

Anything important which we accomplish is because God has strengthened us, not because we have an endless reservoir of inner personal strength and resolve.

When faced with the dilemma of whether to doubt yourself or to doubt God, doubt yourself.

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  1. Hannah Whitall Smith and Melvin Easterday Dieter, The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life : The Unpublished Personal Writings of Hannah Whitall Smith (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Philippians 4:13.

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He is not afraid of bad news; 

his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.

Psalm 112:7

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Frequently, I will be told, “I do not think I can handle anymore bad news!” 

As a Pastor I have stood and wept with friends who are bearing more burdens than is fair nor than I can imagine bearing myself. That’s the key word, myself.

God has done two things to make sure I am never by myself during times of difficulty.

First, He has promised to be with me always (Matthew 28:20), to share my burdens (Matthew 11:30), and not to let anything separate me from His love (Romans 8:37-39).  When I remember these promises, I am confidant of His presence and am not afraid when the darkness of the world overshadows me.  I know He is with me.

This is when David’s affirmation in Psalm 112:7 makes perfect sense in my heart, mind, and spirit.  I am never alone because God is with me.

However, I must confess there are times when shadows are so deep and threatening that my heart, mind, and spirit cannot fathom the presence of God.  Even though God has always proven Himself to me during seasons of difficulty, there are times when my faith wavers and dims and I feel horribly alone.

This is when God’s back-up plan is a blessing which overcomes my overwhelming sense of loneliness.  His second blessing is that He has placed me within a community of faith.  In His gracious mercy, He has brought me into the Body of Christ, the Church.

Frequently, I am told, “I would have never made it without my friends in the church!”  

God envelopes us in His loving arms through sisters and brothers in the Church.  God makes His presence real, fleshy, warm, and fuzzy through the Body of Christ.

The Church is God’s Body, His presence with us, when to our insides, in our heart, mind, and spirit, God seems absence.  When we are alone on the inside, God is with us on the outside through brothers and sisters in His Church.  Friends who care for us with their bodily presence.

Frequently, I will say to a member who has stopped participating in the church, “We miss you!” 

In response they will tell me, “All is going well in my life … I do not need the church, right now!” 

I sigh, grateful that all is well with their soul today.  Then I simply say, “But some body in the church needs you to be His God-in-the-flesh, today!”

God still needs you to be His blessing to someone in need, even if you do not need His blessing today.

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Are you prepared to let God do as He likes with you?

I am prepared for God to:

Bless me,

Humble me,

Give me wisdom, and

Use me in His miracles.

However, I am not prepared to let God do as He likes with me.

Jesus was, I’m not!

Jesus prayed:

“Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (1)

Jesus may not have wanted to drink the cup God had prepared for Him, but He was willing to drink it.  His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was the final piece of His preparation.  It was His final prayer before His arrest and trial.

Death by crucifixion is one of the worst forms of dying.   It is a most dreadful instrument of torture and suffering. It was such a terrible form of dying that no Roman citizen was ever crucified; this horrible death was reserved only for Rome’s enemies. (2)

I have endured suffering as a servant of God.  I have been persecuted for righteousness sake.  But I have never said to God, “Bring it on!”

This is what humbles me when I remember Jesus’ crucifixion.  Jesus was willing to die for my sins.

Dying for my sins is an act of love which I can barely fathom.  Being willing to die for my sins remains unfathomable to me.

In response to such love I sing and pray the words of this American spiritual:

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

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  1. Mark 14:36
  2. Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace : 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1990), 107.

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The jewels of a Christian are his afflictions (1)

We tend to believe that the most Christ-like people are those who love others graciously and generously.  A Christian’s love for others, always receives the praise of the world.

However, the most Christ-like people are those who suffer unjustly because of the sins of others.  In the eyes of the world, we call these people fools, if they suffer quietly and do not seek revenge.

Jesus suffered unjustly because of our sins.  He died on the cross, not to get revenge, but to secure the forgiveness of our sins.  This is suffering love.

Most Christians refuse to suffer.  If suffering comes to us unjustly, we seek to throw it off and we whine to God about the injustice of it all.

Jesus suffered quietly because of our sins.

Jesus considered suffering unjustly and quietly for love’s sake to be the best:

Blessed are those who suffer for righteousness sake.  

Blessed are those who suffer when falsely persecuted.

There is no greater love than to lay down your life for others.

The glory of Jesus is revealed not in His resurrection, but in His crucifixion.

God proves Himself, not by flexing His muscles and revealing His death-defying powers, but in His willingness to suffer, to die, as an innocent man.

In his great hymn about Jesus, Paul writes:

Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him. (2)

As you move into Holy Week, remember that the most holy day is not Palm Sunday’s Parade, Passover’s Feast, or Easter’s Resurrection.

The crowning jewel, the most holy moment of Holy Week is on Good Friday when Jesus cries out, “It is finished!”

There is no greater … anything ….  than a crown of thorns.

The crown of thorns is a Christian’s halo.

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  1. Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006).
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Philippians 2:8–9.

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Never live above your means!

Always live above your circumstances!

When I took a month long mission trip to Malawi, called the Warm Heart of Africa, I encountered the happiest people I had ever met.

Malawi is one of the 10 poorest countries in the world.  In Malawi people still live in mud huts, walk barefoot, do not always know when they will have their next meal, lack clean water, and have a short life expectancy.  Yet they were the happiest people I every met.

Why?

Genuine happiness belongs to those who live above the circumstances.

How do you live above your circumstances?  Find your joy in heaven and live with faith, hope, and love.” These are “the treasures of heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20)

My friend Earl lived 15 years bedfast, unable to do anything for himself.  Yet he radiated pure happiness, deep joy, and love to every person he met, 24/7.  He lived a bountiful life.

My friend Kitty fought cancer for 20 years, but no one ever knew.  She spent her years caring for and encouraging others.  No one never heard a peep of complaint from her.

Earl and Kitty often put me to shame, when I listen to my whining while enjoying good wine.

People who live joy-full lives in the midst of poverty and difficulty learn to live above their circumstances.

Those of us who live blessed lives often dig around our circumstances, looking for one difficulty to bring our whole house down.  We depress ourselves in the midst of God’s blessings.

Instead of lifting our eyes up to the Lord in gratitude, we look down at the stormy waves of the sea and flood our hearts with worry and despair.

Jesus had it all in heaven, yet chose to empty himself, by taking the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7)  Then, when He knew His enemies would soon betray, arrest, and crucify Him, “He washed His disciples feet! (John 13:5)

Jesus never let circumstances affect His spirit.

Neither did my friends Earl and Kitty nor those in Malawi. They chose to live above their circumstances.  They chose to live with faith, hope, and love finding their joy in heaven.

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Today’s post are my preaching notes for my sermon at Kishwaukee Community Church.  If you are at Kishwaukee today, you may follow these notes as I preach.  If you are not at Kishwaukee today, click here to go to our  website on Monday and follow the links to hear the sermon. You can then follow these notes as you listen to the sermon.

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How We Hear God Speaking to Us, Part 2

I.  Review from last week

Hearing God speak to you,

should be a common experience to all Christians

This is a tough issue for us because

  1. Unfamiliar territory for most – for me a common experience
  2. Spirit driven – we prefer certainty and precision – never vague
  3. Abuse by others for personal gain

Three Areas which I will cover

  1. How God Speaks
  2. How to Hear God
  3. How to confirm it was God speaking

4 Boundaries to confirm God spoke and I heard correctly

Whenever God speaks to you, what you hear will be:

  1. Consistent with scripture
  2. Confirmed with a specific scripture
  3. Confirmed through someone else or the body
  4. Requires you to change plans

How God Speaks to You –

1st Way Through Scripture

Tells us His Heart/Will – His will for you

If you tell me, “God does not speak to me!”

Then I know that you are not reading the Bible

II.  2nd way God speaks to you – Prayer

Jesus frequently withdrew to pray alone

Prayer not only to commune, share heart, ask for intercession

Prayer to shape your heart

Transform and conform your will to His

2 prayers –

Lords and Garden “Your will be done”

John 17 – “I have done your will

The greatest issue in hearing God is the battle of wills

Confusion of my agenda as His will

Allow God to speak – not a jabber-hour prayer

Instead a Psalm 46:10 prayer

When seeking guidance

Read scripture and then pray

Present question don’t sell the question

Listen, listen, listen

Do not be in a rush – several prayer sessions

(My worse decisions, rushed out of hunger, want, envy, pride)

III. 3rd way God speaks to You – Worship

God will speak to you every week at worship

Despite what does or does not happen up front

Worship praise – any style

Prepares and softens the heart

Provides God an entry

Makes space for the Holy Spirit to speak

Personalize your corporate worship

God will use your Pastor, even a bad one to speak to you

My lifelong preaching experience

Parishioners telling me That was just for me

Then restating points, I never spoke

I simply Praise God

IV. 4th way God speaks to you – Dreams, Visions, and Theophanies

SVHS Play Joseph – about his dreams and interpreting

God continues to speak through dreams and visions

Theophanies – God appearances in our lives

I had some – shared one last week

Many highly personal to you or one you love

Still will be confirmed by God

Scripture, consistency, others, call to change

V. 5th way God speaks to you – Circumstances and Life Events

God puts you in a place to act at a particular moment

Usually obvious

Frequently serendipitous

Pulling together what He spoke to you recently

Making sense out of purpose of previous message

How we see, hear, and observe daily events in our lives

Critical to hearing God

Which will be our focus next week

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