Handling Suffering as a Christian…

James 1:2-4 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

James 4:13-15 “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”

Handling Suffering as a Christian

The title of today’s challenge sounds a bit strange. And if you are not a ‘born again’ Christian you have no chance of understanding and accepting it. We live in a world where many teach that health, wealth, prosperity and the total absence of suffering brings fulfillment. And of course, our human nature totally agrees with that thought. There are even teachers professing to be ‘born again’ that teach the same. They teach that to experience otherwise reflects a weak faith or sin. While it can be a result of sin the scriptures never proclaim that if we suffer for the gospels sake it is a lack of faith. Actually, it is just the opposite.

When we are drawn to Jesus as our Savior and we dig into His word to find meaning for our lives and we hear that, “”Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Wow, that stops us dead in our tracks. Many, who never study and never grow from the milk of God’s word to being able to handle the meat of God’s word never even address this question.

Can it really be true? If I am to live for my Savior who died for me can I expect some level of persecution? The answer from scripture is a loud yes. If the world disliked and even hated Jesus and we profess what He professed then the world will not like us either. That’s a tough one to swallow. Like you my flesh prefers that people would like me. And what if I am experiencing zero persecution. Does that mean my spiritual priorities are not correct? Yes, that could be the case. Ouch! We can only know that by asking God to answer that question and then we must do something contrary to our human will. We must truly be open to the answer. Remember the answers to prayer are yes, no and wait. Yes, is not the only option God has. When I hear no or wait it does not mean that God did not answer my prayer.

There are promises in the word of God that don’t seem much like promises to many believers. Persecution is one of them. Scripture proclaims that all whose purpose of heart is to live godly lives in this present world shall (certainly) suffer persecution, as did their Lord. Maybe we contemplate such verses and think they should say something like, “And all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall be appreciated for their goodness and rewarded with approval, good health and fortune while in this world.”

The Holy Spirit through Paul said to the Philippians, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” We probably would be more comfortable if that were to read, “For unto you it is given…not only to believe on him, but also to be blessed with health, wealth and prosperity.” But it doesn’t say that. Reading and allowing the Word of God to change our lives are two entirely different things. Are you a reader only? Ouch, another convicting question.

So why would I want to be open to persecution??? As noted in James we are in this life but for a short time. Our lives are but a vapor that comes and disappears quickly. Our time to serve our Lord is short. This time on earth is but a grain of sand on the beach in comparison to eternity. And if you are a believer you will spend eternity with God. There is also a judgment seat or awards ceremony for believers. The judgment seat is not to judge our sins that Jesus took care of but to award us for services rendered while on this earth. I would rather hear, ‘well done’, than to hear how I missed the prize or to hear a silence because of lack of commitment on my part while on this earth.

We are to serve out of obedience. Disobedience is viewed by God as a tragic sin. Check it out over and over in scripture in both the OT and the NT. God never accepts disobedience. Our sins are washed away by Jesus blood so my salvation is secure. While works cannot save us they are very important after being ‘born again’. Serving Jesus while on this earth is now or should now be my focus! And when done correctly it will bring some level of persecution.

Remember persecution comes in many different ways including verbal, lost friendships, physical punishment, lost job opportunities, etc. In America at least for now the verbal, peer pressure and life style issues are the greatest persecution we see. So maybe all is not lost with that slap in the face that you just received, literal or figurative. Pray and think before you allow your fleshly frustration to take over. It may be that you are doing exactly what you should be for His glory!!!!!

Romans 12:1, 2 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

God knows ALL…

Mat 11:28, 29 “Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and
I will give you rest.

Who knows All

When you are tired and discouraged from fruitless efforts…                                                       God knows how hard you have tried.

When you’ve cried so long and your heart is in anguish…God has counted your tears.

If you feel that your life is on hold and time has passed you by…God is waiting with you.

When you’re lonely and your friends are too busy even for a phone call…God is by your side.

When you think you’ve tried everything and don’t know where to turn…God has a solution.

When nothing makes sense and you are confused or frustrated…God has the answer.

If suddenly your outlook is brighter and you find traces of hope…God has sustained you.

When things are going well and you have much to be thankful for…God has blessed you.

When something joyful happens and you are filled with awe…God has smiled upon you.

When you have a purpose to fulfill and a dream to follow…God has opened your eyes and called you by name.

When you realize life is for eternity and only Jesus can save you…God awaits your calling upon His Son to save you.

Remember that wherever you are or whatever you are facing…GOD KNOWS ALL!

Mat 11:28, 29 “Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and
I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am
gently and lowly of heart, and you will find rest unto your soul.”

The Importance of Israel…

The Importance of Israel….

Is our nation’s support of Israel important? As with all of the important questions in our lives the word of God holds the answers. You do not have to depend on the feelings and emotions of our world. So, listen carefully. Much depends on it.

Zechariah 14:12 “Now this will be the plaque with which the Lord will
strike all the peoples who have gone to war against Jerusalem; their
flesh will rot while they stand on their feet, and their sockets, and
their tongue will rot in their mouth.”

God has a special place in His heart for the Jewish people.

Exodus 6:7 “Then I will take you (Jewish Nation) for My people, and I
will be your God; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who
brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will
bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
and I will give it to you for a possession; I am the Lord.”

Some say, well yes but that was in the Old Testament. How about today?
The scriptures proclaim that because of sin the Jewish people lost their
promised land and were scattered throughout the nations. They also
proclaim that God will restore them to their land in New Testament times.

In 1948 Israel once again became a nation recognized as such and the
struggle to survive continues.

Jeremiah 3:3 “For, behold, days are coming, ‘declares the Lord, when I
will restore the fortunes of My people Israel and Judah (OT Northern &
Southern Kingdoms)’. The Lord says, ‘I will also bring them back to the
land that I gave to their forefathers, and they shall possess it.'”

The caution for us……..

Gen 12:3 “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses
you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

But how about the Gentiles? Does that mean we cannot be a part of God’s family?

Fortunately no, it does not mean that. When Jesus came the first time He died, was buriedand rose again so that all of mankind has the opportunity to be a part of His Church and family by placing their faith in His sacrifice for our sins. The following verse is just one of many in the scriptures talking about the gospel going to both Gentiles and Jews.

Acts 9:15 “But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel:

God can use everyone, if…

Heb 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him.”

God can use everyone, if…..

Have you ever felt like you were too small in the Christian community for God to do His mighty works through you? You feel that your level of scriptural knowledge is inadequate or that your looks or speaking abilities are such that God could never work out His will using you as His messenger.  I have felt that way many times and it is comforting and challenging to see that so many others who have portions of their lives recorded in scripture have felt the same. The question this morning is this; Can I be used by God regardless of my spiritual level of training and regardless of my abilities.

I have recently been moved by God through His word to see that God uses the weak to accomplish much. I find that if I make myself available to Him and depend on His wisdom instead of my own that I can be used by God to perform His will and it does not get any better than that.

The following are just a very few of those mentioned in the Bible with the same issue. Many did not question that God could use them but many did. And regardless of their level of faith our God was able to mold, change and use them.

  • Joseph was the youngest of 11 sons prior to Benjamin being born (Gen 34-37). God used him to save His people from the slavery that Israel would later in history be subjected to. He went through many terrible experiences from being sold by his brothers as a slave to lies him from Potifers wife causing him prison time as a result of God’s plan for the restoration of Israel. He accepted those trials (James 1:2,3) and stayed faithful to God.
  • Moses said when told by God that He was going to use him to lead the rescue of Israel from Egypt;

o   Ex 4:10 “And Moses said unto Jehovah, Oh, Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant; for I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue”

o   In spite of his early level of faith God used him mightily and he is one of the major names in scripture of those who served our God.

  • Ruth was not even an Israelite but God used her as a part of the family line to send His Son to a lost world through. (Mat 1) And all of us Gentiles say; Thank you Jesus…….!
  • Rahab was a prostitute in Jericho and not an Israelite but was used by God as a part of the family line to send His Son to a lost world through. (Mat 1) And all of us Gentiles again say; Thank you Jesus…….! Rahab is mentioned in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews chapter 11. Wow!
  • Gideon felt based on his families’ standing in Israel he could not be used by God to lead them. God showed him that if he depended on God it was possible. He was used by God to lead Israel in conquering the Philistines while being outnumbered 300 to 135,000. That’s a ratio of 450 to 1. It leaves no question about Who defeated them.  Listen to Gideon’s first reaction to the call of God;

o   Judges 6:15 “And he said unto him, Oh, Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is the poorest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”

  • King Saul of the OT is a name we typically relate to a troubled man but did you know that he started off on the right foot in serving God but quickly fell into the sin of pride. But yes, he was one showing us a servant coming from a family with that type of high standing in Israel. God truly chooses His servants from all levels of society and not just the philosophers or those with very minimal spiritual knowledge.

o   I Sam 9:2 “And he had a son, whose name was Saul, a young man and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people.”

  • Mary a young woman who loved God was not from any family of high spiritual importance within Israel but was blessed by God her Savior and used as part of the family line that introduced God the Son to a lost world.

o   Luke 1:47 “and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,”

  • Saul of the NT soon to be renamed Paul was a Pharisee or a Spiritual Leader in Israel who as a Pharisee did not believe Jesus to be God. God changed all that and he became one of the mightiest servants of Jesus found in scripture.
  • The 12 Apostles included 7 Fishermen, 1 Tax Collector and 4 with unknown occupations but probably tradesmen with limited to no spiritual training.

o   Acts 4:13 “Now when they beheld the boldness of Peter and John, and had perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.”

o   Isn’t it awesome our Savior can use folks such as us fishermen…………..!?

o   Mat 4:19 “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.”

  • Elijah a mighty prophet of God was only one of two people to ever be taken from this earth without dying physically. Much can be learned from his service for our God when we commit to the same. (1 and 2 Kings)
  • Solomon was the son of King David who had wisdom according to God that no man could match or ever will be able to. The Holy Spirit using Solomon’s life left for us (II Pet 1:20, 21) the following truth for us to follow;

o   Eccl 12:13, 14 “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. 14 For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.”

From those mentioned above you can see that God can use people from every level of society to accomplish His will. So, we should never say never to being able to used by God. There is one very important ingredient in each of the above being used by God and it applies to our lives as well. You must 1st;

  • John 3:3 “ Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

And then you must;

  • Rom 12:1, 2 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, and ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

You must then recognize Who will be the source of strength to accomplish God’s will.

  • Phil 4:13 “I can do all things in him that strengtheneth me.”
  • II Cor 12:9 “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me”

Where do I and you stand on these requirements this morning?

Finding the Real Problem in America…

Daniel 12:4 “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.”

Finding the Real Problem in America

Progress and change. How would you define them? Do they apply to technology only or to God’s truths also? Does truth change down through the ages? Think about it. The answer drives a lot of our decisions.

The past few generations have been viewed as very progressive. While they have been on the technology side how have they stacked up on the spiritual side and do values and truths change in God’s eyes? Let’s look at some of the changes in values over just the past few years.

The 1960’s were the time everyone broke out of the family mold of “Father Knows Best” and “Leave it to Beaver” because those were “old fashioned” molds. For those of you too young to remember those were TV programs with zero obscenities or sexual innuendos. And they were wholesome and fun to watch.

The 60’s taught, “you are free to do whatever you want”, and, “if it feels good, do it”. Those years taught that nothing should stifle your creativity. After all, what you do only affects you. Right? We turned self needs and accomplishments and material things into our gods. And if you look down through history mankind has always done that, so it was not exclusive to the sixties. The battle cry of many is the fad of what to collect or keeping up with the neighbors because after all, I deserve it! What we forget is;

Ex 20:5 “you shall not bow down to your god, I am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.”

The 1970’s was the decade of elevating self or the “me” generation. The most important
thing in the world is me and my situation and my self view. I wonder where this all started? Sounds like a natural progression. And again, it started way back roughly 4-6000 years ago with Adam and Eve. They first decided that their way was best for them and we have kept pace ever since.

Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

There really is nothing new under the sun! Look where we first see this attitude!

Isa 14:12a, 13 “How are you fallen from heaven O Lucifer son of the morning! For you have said in your heart; I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will also sit on the mount of the congregation, on the farthest sides of the north.”

The 1980’s was the escalation of all that was learned in the 6000 years preceding them. The cry was, “I am most important and I can do whatever I want. No need for commitment if I am happy. If I am not “happy” in marriage I can get out. If a church is convicting I will find one that meets my needs. I am most important and I can do whatever I want. My job and my career come first and I will run over anything and anyone that gets in the way, family included. Sounds terrible and it is.

Listen to God’s word describe it.

II Tim 3:1-4 “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come; For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, without self control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”

So what did we see in the 1990’s and beyond? More and more kids are growing up in single parent families, with the family under heavy attack. 50% of both and Christian and non-Christian marriages ending in divorce. Our nation struggles with what is the makeup of a family and continues to murder millions annually. In the interest of making sure everything and every person’s thoughts are accepted our nation has legalized sin and has outlawed God from our education systems and government. Many children of the people who grew up in the 60’s-80’s feel there really are “no wrong answers”.
You can say anything you want, dress any way you want, pierce anything you want, just make sure you take care of you. Discipline of children was labeled as abuse. Yet a loving God continued to say if we do not love our children we do not discipline them.

With the concept of no absolutes people were taught that there were no authority figures to be accountable to. They turned to emotions, feelings and human teachings or philosophies as their source for direction. The doctrine of no absolutes and ever-changing truths was applied to self, family and religions. I wonder why business doesn’t buy into that? Children and adults were taught that there are no consequences for their actions beyond themselves. And of course, with no absolutes then everyone’s ideas are correct and every religion is heading in the same direction.

Can that possibly be true or is it a strategy to keep the creation from seeking the Creator?

Revealing passages not well received by our world are;

John 14:6 “And Jesus said unto them, I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes unto the Father, but by Me.”

So much for all religions lead to one God.

II Cor 4:3,4 “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to those who are lost, in whom the god of this world (satan) has blinded the minds of those who believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”

That reveals the source of these errors.

Might this description fit the age?

Romans 1:21-23 “because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man and birds and four footed beasts and creeping things.

Not a pretty picture! But, there is hope!

II Chron 7:14 “if My people (are you one of His?) who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn (revival) from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

And it starts with_______?

Malachi 3:6 “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed.”

Do you need a Counselor…

Do you need of a Counselor…

Where do I turn when I need help? When it seems like everyone and everything has failed me and I am lost for a solution. And yes, we all regardless of our mental state need counsel. So, where does the counsel we need come from?

Psalms 1:1, 2 “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.”

Psalms 119:9-11 “How can a young man cleanse his way? BY TAKING HEED according to Your Word. With my whole heart have I sought You; Oh, let me not wonder from Your commandments. Your Word have I hid in my heart, that I may not sin against You|”

There is only one Counselor Who never changes His counsel down through the ages and He recorded His counsel for us!!!!!!!! So the question this morning is where will I turn for lasting and true counsel. Much counseling in our world treats the symptoms and not the root cause of the issue.

Our God and His word will search for the root cause rather than treating symptoms. If your counselor does not have Jesus as their Savoir they can only treat the symptoms because God’s truths seem foolish to them. Why is it that those who have not trusted Jesus as their Savior cannot give me counsel that will help me with my issues?

I Cor 2:14 “But the natural (unsaved) man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Why would God direct us to not listen to the counselors of the world? As with all important questions we find the answer in God’s word. Real and lasting truth cannot only be found there.

John 8:32 “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

The counselors of this world by not knowing Jesus as their Savior do not hold the word of God to be their source of knowledge and truth. So they counsel you with the best they have which can never get to the root cause of the problem and solve it. Their counsel is based on the wisdom of the world. Which is ever changing. God’s truths or absolutes never change.

Malachi 3:6a “”For I am the Lord, I do not change…”

While there are some government organizations that can offer assistance in trying times our ultimate and only pure source of help is found by seeking a loving God who wants to restore the relationship with Him that sin broke and ever recorded and protects His word of truth so that we have it.

Mat 5:18 “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one title will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”

Enjoy your reading today and listen for its truths and directions. God’s word is our Counsel! If you need help check with your church to identify counselors who will guide you with truth that never changes and to counselors who understand where lasting help comes from. And remember, no reading or studying equals no enlightenment from God!

2 Tim. 2:15 “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Who Packs your Parachute…

I John 5:11-13 “And this is the record that God has given to us Eternal Life and that life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life and he who has not the Son of God has not life. These things have I written unto you who believe on the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have Eternal Life and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God.”

Who Packs your Parachute…

Charles Plumb, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, was a jet pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands.

He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal and now lectures on lessons learned from that experience.

One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, “You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk, You were shot down!”

“How in the world did you know that?” asked Plumb.

“I packed your parachute,” the man replied.

Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, “I guess it worked!”

Plumb assured him, “It sure did, if your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb says, “I kept wondering what he might have looked like in a Navy uniform: a white hat, a bib in the back, and bell-bottom trousers. I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said “Good morning, How are you?” or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was a sailor.

Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent on a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn’t know.

Now, Plumb asks his audience, “Who’s packing your parachute?”

Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day.

Plumb also points out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory-he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute. He called on all these supports before reaching safety.

Sometimes in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss what is really important. We may fail to say hello, please, or thank you, congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason.

The real parachute!

Mat 11:28 “Come unto Me all you that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest…”

I John 5:13 “These things have I written unto you who believe on the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have Eternal Life and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God.”