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Posts Tagged ‘Suffering’

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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“Isn’t it glorious to know that no matter how unjust something may be, even when it seems to have come from Satan himself, by the time it reaches us it is God’s will for us and will ultimately work to our good?” (1)

 

How would your life change if you assumed everything that happened to you was God’s will for you?

 

Everything?  

 

Yes, everything!

 

It’s a question that gives me long pause and few words.

 

Anytime someone glibly says, “It is God’s will” in the face of tragedy or disaster, I cringe.  

 

When bad things happen, questions flood my heart: 

Would God? 

Could God? 

Did God? 

Why God?

 

If it was God’s will and He would, could, and did, how would your life change?

 

I’d turn to God.

 

I’d cry out to Him?  

 

I’d stand with Habakkuk and wait for God to answer me. (See Habakkuk 1:1-2:4)

 

I’d cling to these scriptures:

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” 

 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son” 

 

“We know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” 

 

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (2)

 

On the other hand, how would your life change if you assumed everything that happened to you was NOT God’s will for you?

 

In the center of the circle of the will of God I stand: 

There can come no second causes, all must come from His dear hand.

God is Love, and God is faithful, so in perfect Peace I rest. (1)

 

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  1. Reimann, Jim; Cowman, L. B. E. (2008-09-02). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 311). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Psalm 23:4, John 3:16, Romans 8:28, and Romans 8:38-39.

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Self-sufficiency is a myth perpetuated 

by pride and temporary success. (1)

John Wayne is The American Hero.  He is strong, compassionate, firm, gracious, and independent!

Most Americans are raised to be self-sufficient.  I was, so was my wife, and so were our sons.  My parents poured the importance of fierce independency within me.  Dependency was never reinforced at my house.

Independency works well when all goes well, but when times are difficult, we learn that if it were not for others we would have not survived.

Pharaoh’s dream in Genesis 41 reminded him that his years of fertility and gluttony would be followed by years of sterility and want.  With Jacob’s help he planned ahead and survived this crisis.

However, hardship can come in an instant and endure for seasons leaving no time for planning and the storing up of adequate reserves.

Most of us deplore relying upon others for help.  I do.

When I am strong and self-sufficient, I forget that I need God because I am confidant I can pull myself up by my own boot straps without Him.  This is a deadly presumption.

I once went through a 4 year struggle.  I was convinced the world was against me and that by simply enduring and plugging away, I’d reach the end of the tunnel.  Whenever I saw the light at the end of the tunnel it disappeared.

Only when I when I reach a point of desperation did I acknowledge that I was in spiritual warfare.  I was in a battle with Satan and the forces of evil and darkness.  This is a battle which none of us will ever win by ourselves no matter how strong.

It was Jesus, not John Wayne who said to me:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” (2)

I may manage meeting most of my earthly needs on my own, but the day will come when only God will be able to help me.

My success is always less than His.

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  1. Young, Sarah (2004-10-12). Jesus Calling: Seeking Peace in His Presence (p. 127). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
  2. 2 Corinthians 12:9.

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Christians should not be surprised 

when the world treats them with hostility. (1)

Why?

Why doesn’t the world appreciate and honor Christians?

I do not mean to brag, but:

  • I am a good husband, treating my wife (and all women) with honor and respect;
  • I am a good father, who taught my boys to be men of character with values;
  • I give my time and money to care for the poor, hurting, and homeless;
  • I am a good citizen, volunteering to help those in need;
  • I promote fairness, justice, and strong values;
  • I forgive others and confess my mistakes.

Yet the moment I mention I am a conservative Christian Pastor the world turns on me.

Why?

Is it my faith in Jesus which offends?

Is it my endorsement of family values which offends?

What is it?  I am not the holier-than-thou type.  I am an ordinary person seeking to live my life as God desires, which should be a blessing to all.

Why is the American media on a campaign to attack Christians, the Christian faith, Christian values, and the Christian Church?

Behaviors and beliefs which were honored when I was a child are now scorned.

Why?

Jesus told me that I would be persecuted for righteousness sake!

He was persecuted and suffered, why should I expect any less?

Peter wrote:

Have a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. It is better to suffer for doing good, than for doing evil. (2)

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  1. John MacArthur, Truth for Today : A Daily Touch of God’s Grace (Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman, 2001), 117.
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Peter 3:16–17.

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Easter Sermon Notes

Remember What He Said

Scripture: Luke 24:1-8 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, 54-58

To listen to this sermon, click here on April 9 and click on link for sermons

.

I. Don’t you remember what I said ….

A.  Words we have all heard

B.  Luke 24:5-6 – The 2 men/angels to the women at the tomb

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

He is not here!   He has risen!

Remember how He told you …

C.  The women had already forgotten

When reminded by the angel

=> 24:8 Then they remembered His words

D.  Regarding His death and rising

Matt 16:21, Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:34, and Luke 9:22

Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

E. Regarding His Resurrection

Matthew 22:31-32

I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. I am not God of the dead, but of the living.

John 11:24

I am the resurrection and the life.

II. Paul writing to the Corinthian Church

A.  1 Corinthians 15

Reminds us of the reason for the season

What are we celebrating today

Everyday within the church

The resurrection of Jesus

B.  He reminds them to believe in 15:1

The good news that I proclaimed to you, 

which you in turn received, 

in which also you stand, 

And by which you are saved,

C.  ==> theological discourse on the resurrection …

3 sections in 1 Corinthians 15

1. 1-11 – The Truthfulness of the Gospel

2.  12-24 – The Resurrection of the Dead

3.  35-58 – The Resurrection of the Body

D.  Crescendo of chapter 15 is reached in verses 54-57

When he speaks of the victory of the cross

Listen to Paul’s summary about

what the resurrection of Jesus means for us:

Death has been swallowed up in victory.

Where, O death, is your victory?  

Where, O death, is your sting?

The sting of death is sin, 

and the power of sin is the law. 

But thanks be to God, 

who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

E.  The resurrection of Jesus represents the two victories of the cross

Over two powers/realities which deeply affect our daily lives

1.  Over the power of sin to cause our spiritual death

2.  Over the power of physical death to end our life

III. The Resurrection gives us victory over Sin

A.  Sin has incredible power over us

In Romans Paul tells us about the realities of sin

Romans 3:23 – All sin and fall short of the glory of God

Romans 6:23 – The wages of sin is death

B.  While we like to argue about what sin does to us,

We all know deep within our souls

What sin does to us, to our relationships, to our lives

And to our relationship with God

C.  Sin destroys life,

it weighs down life,

it takes life away,

it kills life

D.  While we may bravo in our sin when committing it

We regret our sin when is shatters our life

E.  Examples of sin destroying life

1.  Zacchaeus – the tax collector

Cheated and greedy, loathed by the people

Found forgiveness and restoration in Jesus

2.  Former Illinois Governor – Rod Blagojevich

Now serving 14 years for corruption as governor

Affect on his 2 daughters

I will guarantee you sin is weighing him down

3.  The Woman caught in adultery

Leaders wanted to stone her to death

Have you ever been in room

When spouse reveals/confesses adultery to spouse and family

Looks could kill – pain, anger, grief

Weeping of regret for sin … Weighs down heavy

4.  Even unintended sins ==> deep regret

Elderly priest – Good Friday – ran over 5 parishioners,

killed one, imagine the weight on him

9 year old playing with gun kills his twin –

Imagine the weight on his shoulders

and father who left gun loaded and available

F.  Anyone who says sin is

without consequence without victims is deceived

G.  Every sinner prays for a do-over

All of us in this room have done something we regret

It hurts … It pains … It weighs us down

H.  The wages of sin is death

But because Jesus died for us

Took on the death of our sins

And because he rose from the dead

The death of our sins has been removed

==> why Paul proclaims

Death has been swallowed up in victory.

Where, O death, is your victory?  

Where, O death, is your sting?….

But thanks be to God, 

who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

I.  At Easter … because of Jesus’ death resurrection

We celebrate the forgiveness of our sins

The removal of the wages of sin from us

J.  This news, this fact, causes many in the church

to move from lamenting

to singing and rejoicing

Examples:

1. African-american spirituals:

2. The American spiritual

3.  Those whose lives have been broken by sin

shame us in our ho-humness of Easter Hallelujahs

Friday at Rockford Rescue Mission

Weeping, wailing, dancing, shouting

Genuine joy … lives saved by God’s grace

K.  If it weren’t for Easter … The resurrection

We couldn’t sing these songs

IV.  Resurrection gives us victory over death at the end of this life

A.  As believers and by God’s grace

We share in Jesus’ resurrection

John 11:25-26

Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.

B.  I have spent much of my ministry with people as they deal with death

C.  Death not only ==> grief and sadness

it also ==> anxiety, worry, fear in all of us

What comes after death?

Is death the end?

Is this all there is to life?

D.  Jewish faith places emphasis on remembering

Because no belief in an after-life

Jesus teaching about resurrection, an after life

was something people had never heard

People do not simply live on in the memories of others

there is life after our physical, earthly death

E.  Easter – Jesus’ resurrection

Is more than Jesus telling us

It is Jesus proving for us that

There is more to life on earth

than death at the end of the day

F.  Paul said in Philippians 1:21

For me to die is gain, for me to live is lost

G.  Jesus’ resurrection becomes

The resurrection of our bodies after death

The gift of life eternal

The communion of the saints

H.  Life in and of itself is hard

For most people in most cultures

Negro spirituals sung while toiling in the fields as slaves

Joyously sing of resurrection and better heavenly world

Three most moving ones are:

The Gospel train’s comin’ 

Swing low, sweet chariot

Soon and very soon.

V.  These two victories of the cross

A.  The forgiveness of sins

The resurrection of the body

Are not victories everyone will celebrate

B.  Do not be fooled by sentimentality that says

the forgiveness of sins

the resurrection of the body

is for anyone

We love to say …

Pastor, you know 

the friendly neighbor, the nice lady down the street

their spouse, the caring coach, my good muslim neighbor

they’ll be heaven!  

Won’t they?

C.  We may wish it, but scripture teaches differently

Scripture teaches – Only for those who believe in JC

will share in the victories won by Jesus in His resurrection

D.  These victories are for those who believe

In Jesus as God’s Son, as Lord and Savior.

As the two angels at the tomb said to the two women:

Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee:

This is what Jesus said:

Mark 16:16

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned

John 3:16-18

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Jesus to Martha in John 11:25-26

Reveals the importance of belief

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. 

Do you believe this?” 

John wrote his gospel so we might believe and be saved

John 1:6-7  => belief

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.

John 20:30-31

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

VI.  The Easter Invitation

A.  Easter is a celebration

For believers and followers

B.  Not only is Easter a time for celebration

But it is a time for commitment

for recommitment

C.  Perhaps

You have taken the Lord for granted

Jesus died for me but I am going to do what I want

You have fallen away

Placed distance between you and Jesus

You know you have not been a faithful follower

D.  Now, today is the time

To commit yourself to the Lord

To accept Him as Savior and Lord

To recommit yourself to follow him

If you have not professed your faith in Jesus

as God’s Son, as your Lord and Savior …

If you have not repented and confessed your sins

asking for God’s forgiveness through Jesus …

Do so now, today

so that Jesus’ resurrection, His victories

Over the power of sin to cause your spiritual death

Over the power of physical death to end your life

will be yours

Do so now,

so that Jesus’ resurrection and forgiveness

will be your resurrection and forgiveness

Paul put it this way:

This is the good news that I proclaimed to you, 

which you in turn received, 

in which also you stand, 

And by which you are saved

That Christ died for our sins 

That Jesus was buried

That he was raised on the third day 

Just as He said,

in accordance with the Scriptures.

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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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Not only must the inner sanctuary be kept right with God, but the outer courts as well are to be brought into perfect accord with God. (1)

In these words Oswald Chambers states the obvious, your outer life needs to match your inner life.  In many cases it does.

However, we have become so adept at constructing facades and wearing masks that our outer shell glistens while our inner being is decaying.

How many times have we heard individuals use these words to report astonishment that their neighbor was a the mass murderer?

    • He seemed so happy!
    • He was always friendly!
    • He never yelled at his kids!
    • His yard was in immaculate shape!
    • He’d have neighbors over for a cookout 2 or 3 times a summer!

Beauty and fame on the outside, ugliness and shame on the inside.  This is a curse.

I am frequently surprised by the people who are hurting the most.  Their external life shines and encourages others, while they weep and struggle on the inside.

Why do I miss seeing their agony?

I have a friend who is always smiling, always laughing, always thinking of others.  Inside he is weeping and wailing.  I would not have known this, but I kept watching him, I kept listening to him.  I eventually realized that he was uncomfortable smiling and laughing.  The smiles and laughter were meant to cover his pain.

His outer courts are in order, while his inner sanctuary is a mess.

He has yet to tell me what is tormenting him.  It breaks my heart to see him hurting so happily.  What can I do to help him?

Jesus said,

Come to me, 

all who labor and are heavy laden, 

and I will give you rest. 

Take my yoke upon you, 

and learn from me, 

for I am gentle and lowly in heart, 

and you will find rest for your souls. (2)

I will go to my friend with Jesus at my side.  Perhaps he will open the door and let Jesus in while I am there.

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  1. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest : Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1993).
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Matthew 11:28–29.

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