All of You

This is a sermon I preached a couple of Sundays ago.  When I preach I do not preach word for word what I wrote.  I let a natural flow from these notes.  They are much more extensive then what I actually said.

ALL OF YOU. 

Joshua 24:15  If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve

That is all Christ asks of us.  All of you.  All of me.  All.  You.

“Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self—in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Christ has asked us to give it all up.  He says we can not keep any of it.  What do you say?  Are you willing?

Romans 14:7,8 For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s

Is this TRUE?  Have you drawn a line and told God you can have everything on this side of the line but I am keeping my side of the line just for me?  Did you give God the larger piece? (not good enough)  Did you only keep a small part?  One little secret? A little closet in the corner?  Is it TRUE?   Do you wish to honor the Scripture thoroughly or only the part that works for you at that moment?

I Cor. 9:22  To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.

Are you willing to be weak?  What happens if God ask you to be weak?  Are you your own?  Do you want to be a slave of Christ?  OUCH that leaves no room for wiggle. You can not get away from it.  You must look square in Jesus’s face and deny His request or humble yourself and realize your are  not your own.

Are you willing to be weak?  How about humiliated?  Are you willing to be humiliated?  Are you willing to be looked down on? Made fun of?  Harassed? Beat? Jailed, Killed?  How about something so simple as having your family reject you? Or your neighbor be angry with you?  All for Christ?  Are you willing to be weak for those who are weak?

Again Do you wish to honor the Scripture thoroughly or only the part that works for you at that moment?

John 15:16 You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

How will you bear His fruit if you are not willing to be weak for those who are weak?  Remember you were chosen.  God looked straight at you and chose you.  He said He wanted YOU.  Think with me for a minute.  WHY?  Why did God want you?  Were you extremely smart?  or Did you have the best talent in singing? or Writing? or are you the best at what you do?  Do you have your act all put together?  Does everyone love you?  Are you perfection personified?

I think when we wonder why God chose us we have to really question why.  We do not have to question that He chose us we just have to question why?  We may not actually like the answer at first but when we really think of it I think we will with all humility not only like the answer but see that there could be no other way.  Remember He did chose you.

That is important  You were chosen.  You did not have any real reason to be chosen He just did.  He did not chose you because of anything you are.  He did not chose you because of anything you are not.  He chose you because He loves you.

Colossians 1:10 ….. bearing fruit in every good work….

He then appointed you to a task.  He wants you to bear fruit.  How? Remember there is nothing really good in you.  I came to the place where I could accept this long ago that in me there is nothing good.  Now I know some of you out there came to that place too.  The problem is some of you have not.  You still think your skills, your abilities, your thoughts somehow are going to help Jesus.  Remember our ways are not His ways.  

Isaiah 55:8  For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.

We literally have nothing to offer Christ.  Yet some how He wants us to bear fruit.  

Please I am not disparaging you.  I am painting a bit of a bleak picture but only because without Christ the picture is bleak.  We often forget how it really was when He chose us.  Not only does He want us to bear fruit He wants our fruit to remain.

What really remains?  Do our dreams remain?  How about our money? our homes? our children? our friends? our family?  our jobs?  Does any of it really remain? Then what could He really want?  What actually remains?

The only thing that remains is what God does through us. in us and with us.   When we seek Him and only His will then He gives us dreams they are not ours they are His.  He gives them to us.  The more we follow Him the more those very dreams become our own because we become His.  We die to ourselves.  We push the envelope of humanity within us.  We die to all humanity and live only in Christ.   Where we once wanted our way we now want His way.  Where we once thought of ourselves we now think of Him.  Where we once fought for our rights we realize in Christ we actually have no rights.  We are slaves and slaves only live for their master.  Who is your master?

I Cor. 7:22 For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave.

Again Who is your master?  Whom do you serve?  Are you your own master?  Whom do you serve? money? education? family? country? friends? whom do you serve? Who is your master?

Most of you were born free.  As Christians we give up that freedom to serve Christ and fulfill His purpose.  Have you?  Are you willing?  Does slavery repulse you?

It should that means that the old you is fighting God.  This is actually a good thing because that means the old you is dying and the new you is winning.   If you have not struggled with the fight to become a slave of Christ then you have not killed off your old self but have tried to live in two worlds.  Which world are you living in?  Remember You cannot serve two masters.

Matthew 6:24 a “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.

I Cor. 2:2  For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

Where is your determination?  Are you determined to die to yourself?  Live for Christ?  Do you know more than Paul?  Here he says he is determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  Are you there.  The struggle and suffering it takes to get there is fundamentally tough.  There is no other way.  There is not another path.  I do hope we can agree on this.  The God I serve never claimed an easy life for you.  The God I serve never said life is fair or that He is giving us a rose garden.  He did say follow His Son Jesus.  Follow His example.  Remember Jesus was crucified.  Jesus was bruised, cut, beat, nailed stripped naked and hung up high.  That is the example we have.  Are you willing to go there?

Christ calls us each to go there.  Are you willing?  Will you give it up?  You know that piece or pieces of you that you have kept for yourself.  That little lie you tell everyone where by now if you admitted it you would be so very embarrassed that you are not sure you can.  Do it anyways.  Remember know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Nothing leaves nothing out.  That means all those deep secrets and dark spots have to be brought to the light.  Are you willing?  Who will do this with me?  Absolute slavery to Christ.  Regardless of what others say.  Regardless of what others do?  Regardless just Regardless.

Romans 12:9 … Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

Here is where it gets real.  Here is where you have to make a choice.  Remember God chose you are you willing to chose Him?  We must abhor evil and cling to what is good.

to abhor something is  much more than saying you do not like it.  It demands absolute hatred for it.  

Webster says Abhor means:

verb (used with object), abhorred, abhorring.

1.

to regard with extreme repugnance or aversion; detest utterly;loathe; abominate.

Do we do this? Do we have extreme repugnance for evil?  Do we utterly detest evil?  What kind of evil do we entertain in our minds?  What do we allow to enter into our minds?  

Guys do we allow ourselves the secret pleasure of looking at a women in a way we should not?  Do you know why this is evil?  Do you understand that even if they are single they are someone else’s spouse?  Someday they will marry someone else and who are you to lust after someone else’s wife?  Someone else’s sister someone else’s daughter.  

Women who are you to compare yourself to someone else?  God made you you.  Do you detest that?  Then you are detesting what is good.  You are detesting the wrong thing. You are detesting what God said is good.  You are detesting what God wants.

These are only two examples  I can go on all day.  You understand.  

Abhor what is evil and cling to what is good.

Clinging is not just holding hands as you walk down the street.  You cling to the side of a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean when the main ship is sinking and there is no room left.  You cling for your very life.  You cling to the side of a cliff as you hang there waiting for help.

Clinging is not an easy thing it is hard and requires everything in you.  Cling to what is good.  Was not meant to be easy it was meant to be hard very hard.  It was meant to make you squirm and sweat and maybe even cuss or act like a child now and then but in the end you keep clinging to what you know is true.   You keep clinging to what is good.

Remember all good comes from God.  So anything that is truly good has life and has value nothing else does.  

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

Because of all this Paul urges us to present our bodies as living sacrifices.  WOW.  SERIOUSLY.   THIS IS TOUGH!!!!!

To be holy, and acceptable to God.  How is this even possible?  This is spiritual worship.  We must be transformed through the renewing of our mind.  This is tough because without the renewing of our mind we can not be a proper slave.  We are not able to properly serve God. We are not able to do anything we spoke about so far today.

It all comes to this right?  How do we renew our mind?  Great questions glad you asked.  There is only one way to renew your mind.  That is by spending time with Jesus.  You do this four basic ways.  First through the study of Scripture.  Second Prayer and third Fasting.  Fourth is fellowship.  Remember where two or more of you are gathered together in my name there I am in your midst.  

If you focus on these four things your mind in time will be renewed and the more you do this the more you are renewed.  Remember Paul also says we can not be conformed to this world we can not look like the world.  We are not able to act and look like the world and also be a living sacrifice to God.  Whom shall we serve?  To whom are we a slave?

Are you ready? One last scripture

Romans 1:1  Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus…..

This piece is short but strong.  Paul identifies as a slave of Christ.  A willing slavery to Christ.  Can you say the same thing?  He paid the cost with his life.

What cost are you willing to pay?  See Paul understood something that it really was not his to pay.  His life was not his own.  This is why he gave no real heed to paying with his life.  In the end it really cost him nothing.  The problem is when he decided to do this I am not so sure he understood that and that is where many here are at today.

Do you understand that in the end your life is not your own.  So choosing slavery for Christ is easy.  If you still fight like your life is your own then you are not actually able to choose slavery to Christ.  

Okay one more Scripture:

Joshua 24:15  If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve……

The Job of the Christian Abolitionist is not Complete

What is a Christian Abolitionist?

The Christian Abolitionist is a Christian who actively pursues the end of slavery (human trafficking).

Where have the Christian Abolitionist gone?

During the anti-slavery movement, pre American civil war, the Christians were heavily involved in the abolition of slavery. In fact it was largely led by Christians.  They won that battle, slavery was made illegal in the USA.   The problem is that the war was not over, but we became content with our progress.

Today we see human slavery at an all time high.  Presently over 27,000,000 men, women and CHILDREN are slaves.  You can see them chained and working.  You can find them huddled together in factories in 3rd world countries. You will find them on street corners, all over the world, selling themselves. Not because they want to, but because they are forced to.  You will find them in the richest areas and the poorest.  You will find them in your neighborhood and in your city.  You find their bodies thrown out into large unmarked graves when they no longer hold . Slaves are often killed rather than set free.

Folks, less 3% of slaves are freed. That means over 97% (26,190,000) will die in slavery. Where have the Christian Abolitionist gone?

Although everyone should act against slavery,  I will not stand up and condemn people who do not claim the name of Christ. I will not stand up and call them out for not standing up for my morality.  They may have a different morals then I do.

If you are a Christian then we have the same morals. You and I have the same base for morality.  We are commanded to help those in need. We are commanded to protect the helpless.  There is no one more helpless than a child forced into slavery.   There is  no weakness more pure than a child.  How are they (the children) to stop what is happening to them?  They can not. YOU and I can.

stop_human_trafficking.cropped

My heart breaks when I think of the vastness of human trafficking.  When I (even for a moment) ponder the reality of what is taking place my heart aches.  Right now, someone is forcing five year old children to work fields and twelve year old children to have sex. Right now men and women are being sold like chattel.

human-trafficking-victim

What gives another human the right to do that to someone else?  Are we not all progeny from the garden?  Who am I to not do everything in my power to stop this?  This is not something that only happens over seas or in third world countries.   It happens in my back yard.

slavery in the us

How will we as Christians stand before God one day and answer this very simple question: “Son/Daughter why did you not help your brother/sister who was trapped by evil?”

Remember Matthew 25:34-46  ………… ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’………………. ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ …….

Which one do you want to be?  On the right or on the left?  Do you think He does not mean what He says?  Do you believe that judgment does not start in the house of God?

Do you want to receive the judgement of God?    I do not.

We must stand.  We must be heard.  We must be felt.  Our voice can not be drowned out.  Our motion can not be stopped.  Christ is in this movement.  Christ stands with those who are helpless and in need.  He does this by using folks just like you and me.

There is much work that needs to be done. So I will ask one more time “Where is the Christian Abolitionist?”

I pray they are not lost.  There were no slaves in the garden.  God did not create us to be slaves, but He created us as a family.  He created us free.  If God did not create slavery, then who are we to participate in it?

If you wish to publicly make a difference and become a Christian Abolitionist; please visit one of the links below. There are only a few (there are many) organizations that work to end this tragedy.  They work hard. There are simple things that can be done to help.

NHTRC

http://www.trafficking.org/organizations.aspx

A21

Please visit their sites and see what you can do.  If they are not available in your area that is okay.  There are others who are.  Together we can end human trafficking.  We can end slavery here and abroad.  This is doable. All we have to do is stand up.  There are 27,000,000 slaves today in this world.  The numbers of folks who control them are much smaller then that.  There are over 7,000,000,000 people in this world. If we got together the small numbers that support this would end and every child that God created would be free.

We must end this atrocity.  We must fight for the helpless.  We must be the voice of the voiceless. We must end slavery.  We must end human trafficking.

 

What is the difference between Systematic Theology and Bible Doctrine?

The question ‘What is the difference between Systematic Theology and Bible Doctrine?” has as many answers as it does theologians.  They usually come close to each other in meaning.  I am going to keep it simple as is my custom.

Bible Doctrine is about the Bible.  That seems easy because it is.  What I am saying is all Bible Doctrine is found in the Bible usually hard set.

Systematic Theology (the systematic study of God) does refer to the Bible but also can take information from other places.

The other main difference is the method used to study.  Biblical doctrines tend to follow a timeline through history while Systematic Theology usually starts with large ideas and moves to more narrow ideas.

I do hope this simplistic explanation is useful.  Please feel free to comment or even suggest a different answer.

What is Systematic Theology?

Systematic Theology is a big word that can (rightly) scare folks.  They see this and their eyes glaze over and they envision large books that are rather dusty due to lack of use.  They envision Greek and Hebrew (ancient not modern) and they envision hours of laborious reading.  I have to say this is largely true.  This blog is trying to fix that.

So when someone ask us “What is Systematic Theology?” we give a simple and clear answer.  One that says oh not too bad. I can do this.  One that does not immediately scare folks off.

The simple answer to the question is “The study of God systematically”.   That truly is all it is.  A systematic way to study God.

Most Systematic Theology will start with large general categories of studying God and then get more narrow categories as time goes on.  The goal is simple they want to compile a system that tracks all the knowledge we have on God and put it in an order that will allow for easier study.  The problem has been they failed.  They made it so complicated that most people won’t touch the subject with a ten foot pole.

Here we are give Systematic Theology back to the people.

The Destruction of Innocence

As humans, we seem to be at war with all things innocent.   It is as if something is innocent, we must destroy it, so we can feel better about ourselves.  The  destruction of innocence is a result of selfishness, vanity and greed.  The list of immoral reasons could go on, but why?

My heart is crying out and I am broken.  My Spirit cries day and night due to the destruction of innocence in our world.  I wake in the night thinking about it.  My brain can not turn it off.  I could be working and suddenly the crime that is being perpetrated sneaks in. Taking over my thoughts.  My Spirit can not rest.  What have we come to?  What happened to the sanctity of life?  What happened to “Thou shall not murder”?

The destruction of children, by forcibly putting them into the sex trade.  The slaughter of men and women whose only sin was living in the wrong place and believing the wrong thing.  We so easily rush to violence to get our way. (selfish and vain) We rush to murder to fill our pockets (abortion, euthanasia, greed and vanity).   We murder (en masse) babies (defenseless) due to inconvenience or even due to another persons wrong.  We have been taught that two wrongs do not make a right, but we justify it (selfishness) by saying it’s not our fault (vanity and selfishness).  Over 52,000,000 babies are slaughtered, in America alone.  Over 1.7 billion abortions since 1973 world wide.  Why are girls targeted?  Why do folks wait to find out the sex of the child before aborting?  Why are folks devalued just because they cannot be seen?  Out of site out of mind (selfishness)?

The poor are forced from their land so that governments can get more tax dollars. (greed)  The rich take advantage of the poor (who have no education or understanding to fight back) and take what little they even have (greed).  Our society makes laws that protect those in power; while at the same time raping the inalienable rights that have been given by God. (greed, selfish and vanity)  Society says it is okay, so it is okay (it is not).

How about robbing the worker of his wages (greed)?   We abandon Scripture as if there are no consequences.   Deuteronomy 24:15 “You shall give him his wages on his day before the sun sets, for he is poor and sets his heart on it; so that he will not cry against you to the LORD and it become sin in you.”

Who are we to steal and to deprive folks of what is theirs?   Why do you say this does not happen when it happens everyday.  Why do we turn a blind eye?  (selfishness) Is it easier to pretend these things do not happen?  Or would we rather have it not bother our lives since we are busy with our own problems?   Are we like Cain “am I my brothers keeper?”

There is a cry going out day and night directly from the throne of the Father.  “Who will stand in the gap?”  Yet the destruction of innocence grows and those who stand for righteousness shrink back as their numbers dwindle.  The acceptance of this destruction is tantamount to doing it ourselves yet we say we are tolerant (no tolerance allowed).  We say “it’s not in my country” (it is).  We lie to ourselves daily so that we can keep sipping our $5 coffee. Or stream our music on a monthly service as we drive down the road in our automobile; which cost more then 10 years of wages in the vast majority of the world.  I know, I know, you earned it. They have not.  What have you done for the poor?  Matt 5:42  Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

Christians turn a blind eye.  They forget what it means to stand up for innocence and fight for the poor.  They worry about their daily drug of choice (coffee) and whether or not it was made properly.  Was it the right temperature, the correct amount of sweetener, the perfect roast on the glorious been?  Then when it is not right, maybe a bit to cold, or to sweet, or not sweet enough we are up in arms.  We go straight to management and demand they fix it.   We tell all our friends about our horrible experience.  Sad!  We fear losing what we have acquired, but we forget that all that we have acquired came from God and He can take it away if He chooses to.   Job 1:21  And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

Have we forgotten where we came from?  Have we forgotten how much God has done for us? His forgiveness? His blessings (physical and Spiritual)?

Maybe not all Christians are so narcissistic.  I mean after all we pay $5 for that cup of coffee.  While at the same time participating in systems that often rob the farmers of their wages.  I will admit that many Christians have bigger problems then that. Such as paying an electric bill or some how getting their kids through college.  I get it. We live in a society that does not value those that are innocent or poor.  They only value those who are like themselves and they are neither innocent nor poor.  They value money, time and success.  If you do not have money, time, or success then you are nothing and obviously you have sinned. (Job’s friends)

Why should I be held responsible?  Why does it matter if I do nothing? I am not doing it myself.  I have not participated in slavery in any way.  I have not killed an innocent child.  I have not lied to someone to get what I want.  I have not personally stolen wages from a worker or property from someone poor.  I have not participated in the loss of innocence.  Remember Jesus’s words:

Matt 25:45, 46  “Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Sexual slavery (largely children) is on the rise today at a rate not seen in the history of the earth.  Do you realize that porn is the starting point in this (for the west) and that it is largely supported by those in the west.  If we were to end it here then the majority of the children in this world who are enslaved for this purpose would become free for there would be no demand for illicit sex.  Where there is no profit there is no need.  (sad very sad)  Yes selfishness drives our libido so we seem to not care who we hurt and ignore the end consequences.

Or have we forgot the obligation Christ left us with? Have we turned that blind eye?  Have we abandoned those in need and not fought against the shedding of innocent blood?  Why? Because we were busy building our lives, raising our children and filling our stomachs. Meanwhile others (our kin) are being slaughtered by the millions.  Millions more starve and are kept in a position of poverty so that others can have wealth.  What about the slaughter is so appealing? Why have so many participated by either slaughtering the innocent or not fighting against it.  Do you somehow believe that liking a post on Facebook will absolve you of innocent blood? (I really would like to know)  When you stand on judgement day before the throne of God and He ask you why you did nothing what will your answer be?  I could not make folks believe as I do (pat answer).  I did not like it, in fact I like hundreds of post on Facebook against it.  I signed an online petition. I told a friend it was wrong.   I hated those who did it (love your enemy).  What will you say.  It was society, I could not change society (12 did).  Some in our faith have turned the world upside down.   Acts 17:6   And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;

What will you say?  As for me, I want to be able to say I fought hard, even to the shedding of my own blood. (not someone else’s) Our Christ shed His blood, why not I!?!

Why do some believe that others will do it for them? I will give money, now I am absolved of my obligation to my brother and sister (this is a lie).   As easy as this is to swallow, it is wrong and the day will come where you will no longer have that luxury. In fact, the day may be directly upon us.  Heed Joshua’s words  Joshua 24:15 “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

You may not serve the god of the Amorites or the god beyond the River, but if you participate in violence against innocence, you serve a different God then Yahweh.  Do not fool yourselves. Do not allow your brain to trick you into believing that you can serve two masters (yourself and God).  Matt 6:24  “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

Our God is a Jealous God.  He allows us to have no other master.  Repent today while there is still time.  He is faithful to forgive you.  He will cleanse you from the sin of the destruction of innocence.  If you have participated in the sexual exploiting of others, in abortion, or in any other form of the destruction there is forgiveness.  There is hope.  There is repentance.  Turn from your wickedness and find that Christ has a balm of healing waiting for you.  A salve that He will administer made from His very own healing blood and flesh.  He will apply it liberally as needed and you will be healed.  You will be free from these past sins.  I wish to leave you with this tid bit to chew on: John Newton wrote Amazing Grace.  This song has touched generations of folks around the world, Christian and non Christian alike.  Prior to this, he was the captain of a slave ship and he did horrible things.  He did not hold any value on life nor did he care about innocence.  He only cared about the bottom dollar.  In the end He was redeemed and touched the world to such a degree that few have ever seen.  His act of creation still reverberates today, hundreds of years later.  If there was redemption for him then there is for you as well.  He was a true reprobate and God still loved him.  He murdered and spilled much blood. God still forgave him.  He did his part in enslaving our brothers and sisters, but God brought renewal and for my part I am thankful.  The song Amazing Grace has touched me to my depth over and over again.  To know that God’s grace is all I need.

Here are a few verses for you to peruse.  They will help lead you down the path of Righteousness and build life and holiness within.

Exodus 23.7  Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty.

Proverbs 15:17  He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.

Jeremiah 22:3  ‘Thus says the LORD, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.

Jeremiah 26:15  “Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood on yourselves, and on this city and on its inhabitants; for truly the LORD has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing.”

2 Kings 21:16  Moreover, Manasseh shed very much innocent blood until he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another; besides his sin with which he made Judah sin, in doing evil in the sight of the LORD.

Psalm 106:38  And shed innocent blood, The blood of their sons and their daughters, Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; And the land was polluted with the blood.

Isaiah 59:7  Their feet run to evil, And they hasten to shed innocent blood; Their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, Devastation and destruction are in their highways.

Joel 3:19  Egypt will become a waste, And Edom will become a desolate wilderness, Because of the violence done to the sons of Judah, In whose land they have shed innocent blood.

Survivor (post 2 of 3)

part two of my wifes story. Please read and feel free to follow her blog.

Under His Wings

You see there is a second side of this story.  When I was 16 my brother brought my husband, Randall to our Easter dinner.  The rest is history, we got married when I was 19 and he was 21.  As you can  imagine, there were LOT of growing pains.  We were young and immature and plus I had lot of emotional baggage from my childhood of being rapped and molested for years which started to surface after I got married and sex came into picture.

It’s kinda funny but Randall’s heart was ALWAYS in the ministry.  Sharing the gospel and helping  whoever needed it.  And this is why I REALLY FELL in love with this man.  But as life happens, bills and kids,  this is what brought a HUGE gap and resentment in my heart.  I was working full time and Randall was working part time at Shari’s and giving his…

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Being Made Perfect Through Suffering (sermon that was preached)

This is a sermon I preached a bit ago.  I wanted to share it please ignore the improper grammar I did not correct it.  I believe the message speaks to trouble we as a world, but even more pointed as THE CHURCH, are going through today.

“Today I want to speak about suffering I want to speak about grace and our need for both.  The question is how do we act in suffering?  Do we accept grace?  Are we willing to follow Christ no matter what?  If the unreasonable is asked of us are we willing to do this?

Suffering is something everyone goes through.  Some go through more than others but it seems that when we are going through suffering no one else can ever understand.  Lets be honest there is nothing new under the sun.  Sorry teenagers we are not able to understand your angst. We were never teens, we never went through hormonal changes and we were never tempted with things that are sinful.  We never had parents who could not understand. And worst of all Our parents had the gall to tell us that we would have to suffer from our own kids in the same way we made them suffer.  Now that is scary.  Teens think about that before you put your parents through anymore suffering.  I learned that lesson the hard way.

Often times we get so lost in our suffering that we are not able to see others and the suffering they are going through.   We often lose perspective.  We get lost in ourselves to the degree we actually get mad at God or even question God’s existence because we do not believe that the suffering is fair or that if God was good we would not go through this.

Lets be honest sometimes the suffering is not fair.  Bad things happen to us to no fault of our own.  It is true sometimes we do not deserve our suffering.  I know an eight year old who suffered through years of molestation by her father she did not deserve that.  BUT sometimes our suffering is fair.  Sometimes we do deserve our suffering.  Have you ever known that person who makes very unwise choices and gets themselves in all kinds of trouble?  I am sure we all have.  Once they get into trouble they go looking for someone to help them.  Someone usually steps up and helps.  Then they are okay for a bit and get right back into trouble again because they just keep making the same unwise choices.  They are suffering a lot due to their own choices.  On top of that those who are helping them are suffering a lot because of the choices they are making.

If you claim to believe that God is who He said He is then does it matter?  I say this because if He is who He says He is then He knows and has allowed the suffering to take place.  He has a purpose for that suffering.  He is trying to accomplish something and this is the only way it can be accomplished.  He needs something from you or out of you or in you and this is the only way to have it done.

Are you willing to accept unfair suffering?  Are you willing to accept a suffering that is on you because of someone else?  Are you?  Are you willing to accept suffering that you have caused yourself?  Are you willing to accept the suffering you deserve? Are you?  

Often people complain that they are suffering but they caused it themselves and they say it is not fair.  Christ suffered.  He did not deserve it.  He did not earn it.  He did  nothing in any way that would justify His suffering.

Are we not supposed to follow the example of Christ?  Are we not to desire to be like Christ?  Are we not to follow the example that Christ shared with us?  

I Peter 2:21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps

Christ who was without sin still had to suffer to be made perfect.  So why do we think we do not need to be made perfect?

Hebrews 2:10 For it is fitting for Him, for whom all things, and through whom are all things, in

bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.

I want to bring this to our minds so we can think through this.  If Jesus , who did not sin, had to suffer to be perfected how much more suffering do we need to go through to be like Christ.  Even though He was without sin He still had to be perfected for the purpose of satisfying the offering.  So think of it this way not all imperfection is sin.  I know we often think that all the imperfections in us are sin but that is not true.  Christ’s example is proof of that.  

To understand the concept of Jesus needing to be made perfect and how not all imperfection has to do with sin lets take a look at the military.  When someone joins the military they are sent to boot camp.  The purpose of boot camp is to re-educate someone on how to think how to obey.  If they goof up is that a sin. NO.  If they do not know how they are supposed to act is that a sin. NO.  They are trained this is the purpose of boot camp.  In this way Jesus had to go through training to be prepared for the cross.  Remember He was human he had to learn proper grammar, math, reading and so on.  He was not born with this information.  Was He sinning when he misspelled a word? Or got a math problem wrong?  NO of course not.  In the same way He was not sinning just because He was born not able to die on the cross it was a process.  This process He went through was tough.  It brought a lot of suffering to Him and He learned endurance.  He learned how to endure suffering by keeping in good relation with the Father.  He learned that the more suffering He had the closer to the Father He had to be.  Was it sin that He did not know this?  NO.  How would a 8 year old know this?  It took Him 33 years to be ready to die on the cross.  That was 33 years of preparation for His main purpose death on the Cross.   He suffered through out.  He was our example.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer while delivering a sermon in 1934 entitled “Our God is a suffering God” says this:

“I realize that the concept of our God being a suffering God is to many abhorrent but to me it is beautiful.  It is through suffering that we are able to be made ready for God for heaven for life and for Kingdom building.  How else do we expect to be free from sin free from bondage free from this world and wholly Christ, wholly heaven bound, wholly whole.  Suffering is the vehicle our God has chosen and He is participated in this in that He sent His only begotten Son to  suffer and die for us because of us because of our sin.  Without the suffering there would be no forgiveness no grace no mercy no joy.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a man who understood suffering.  He understood what it meant to suffer unjustly.  When he stood up to the Nazis and publicly stated they were evil.  He suffered for that.  He was given the opportunity to leave Germany and escape persecution but chose to stay.  He chose the path of greatest suffering for the purpose of Christ.  In the end he died for his stances but also in the end he gave one of the strongest public examples in the 20th century of suffering for the cross.

There are two types of suffering general suffering and Christian suffering.  General suffering covers all the misery, sickness, pain and death which is part of the human condition.  To some degree we all go through this as did Jesus.   I am sure Jesus had a cold or suffered from allergies or some sort of bodily suffering. General suffering we all partake in is something addressed in:

Galatians 6:2  Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

General suffering gives Christians a great opportunity to help others…. to show the love of Christ without reservation.

It is Christian suffering we must participate in if we are going to follow Christ.  I understand that to some, what I just said is diametrically opposed to what they believe.  They believe that Christians should not suffer and that if we are truly following God all suffering would go away and the only reason we suffer is because of our own sin.  I hope the fact that Jesus had to suffer did not pass you by.  If Jesus had to suffer what sin caused His suffering.  Let me restate this one more time.  We must participate in Christian suffering if we are going to truly follow Christ.  Remember we just read Hebrews and 1 Peter where it clearly states that to follow Christ we will suffer.

Now I know there are folks who hate what I just said but I also know there are folks who know and appreciate what I just said.  Folks who have suffered both of their own accord and from no fault of their own.  They understand suffering.

What is Christian suffering.  This is simple.  Christian suffering is our participation of God’s suffering at the hands of an ungodly world.  The degree we suffer because we identify with God is the degree we participate with Christ in the suffering He had to endure.

Often we ask why is there so much suffering in this world? Fair question.  Oft though we get the pat answer that it is because of sin.  This may be true but it is easy and does not struggle with the very real problem with pain.  This does not struggle with the purpose of suffering.  The answer of “it is because of sin” does not have any struggle in it at all.

We must struggle we must suffer and we must have an answer when someone ask the legitimate question of why is there so much suffering in the world.  I realize that most people will not be satisfied with the answer.  They may not understand your answer.  BUT if your answer comes from the point of being as a result of suffering then it will RING true and they will know that.  Their spirit will testify as to the validity of what you are saying and then a real conversation will be made possible.   Even though often that question is a smoke screen to the real question they have.  The real problem they struggle with and the real reason they do not want to serve God or admit God.  The real question is simple.  Why has there been so much suffering in my life?  They personalize it.   Once someone gets to the point of personalizing their problems then you have made it.  You  now have the opportunity to use that suffering that you have been through to serve someone else.  To help someone else.  To fulfill your Kingdom responsibilities.

People do not want to get to personal.  If they do they will have to address things that they have buried deep.  They will have to face sins they have done and sins that others have done to them.  They will have to come out of the darkness into the full light of day.  Where nothing can hide.  

There are things in life we want to hide from.  We place it up in the proverbial attic way in the back in a box but it is really never gone.  We always know it is there we always are aware that it has some sort of power over us.   That deep in the recesses of who we are there is some evil that has root and is trying to take over.

What do we do?  We hide.  We deny.  We run.  We pretend.  We ??

We need grace.  What is the purpose of grace? unmerited favor to put it simply.    Grace is not easy it is not  a quick prayer one says that will inturn free them from all things that are bothering them.  With grace comes suffering. With grace comes hardship.  This is why so many run from grace.  They run they hide they try their darndest to keep the status quo.   sooner or later it catches up. Grace brings to the forefront all the darkness (thankfully not all at once) and releases you from it.  This is why it is unmerited favor.  You have not earned this but God gives it to you anyways.  The problem comes when you run from it.  When the suffering comes you turn and hide.  You deny.  You pretend.  You do what you have to do so that you can protect yourself how you think you need to be protected. Eventually though it catches up.

Has it ever caught up to you?  Have you been in the deepest darkest night and there it is?  I am sure you understand what I am saying.  That thing that has power over you.  Could it be a lie you spoke?  How about a lie you live?  How about something sexual you have done or something sexual someone else has done to you?  Could it be pride?   Sin brings suffering true even if it is someones elses sin.  You can suffer for someone else’s sin.  

We come back to grace.  Grace is costly and hard.  Easy grace is cheap and has no value.

Dietrich Bonhoefffer states in his book The Cost of Discipleship:

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘Ye were bought at a price’, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

From <http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/29333.Dietrich_Bonhoeffer>

When we understand that last sentence “Costly grace is the Incarnation of God” then WOW our lives are about to change.  We are not able to learn that and stay the same.  We are not able to understand that statement and stay the same we must make a decision and that will either draw us nearer God or we will have to turn our back on Him.  There is no in between with God.

When we understand that God considers grace to be costly so much so that He gave us His only begotten Son to die upon a cross.  The death of a criminal.  The death that you and I deserve not the death He deserved.  He did not deserve any death.  Death came as a result of sin the Garden.  The reason Jesus could not be held the in the grave is because He had no sin to hold Him in the grave.   Christ suffered for us so that we can have grace to be forgiven to be freed to be whole.

Grace is not cheap because God is not cheap.  The work that Jesus did is not cheap.  The cross is not cheap.  The  nails in His hands are not cheap.  The nails in His feet are not cheap.  The thorns in His brow are not cheap.  The stripes on His back are not cheap.  The blood He shed is not cheap.  The hatred that was heaped upon Him is not cheap.  The anger that was heaped upon Him is not cheap.   No friends grace is not cheap and it is not easy.  It is hard.  Hard as nails.  Hard as thorns.   Hard as whips.  Hard as flesh being torn from His back.  Grace is hard it brings suffering.  We must participate in His sufferings to find perfection.  To be made perfect we must live in grace.  The beauty is when we find grace…… we find Jesus is there with us.  He shows us the way the path the center. We were lost and He opens the way.  We were blind and He gives us site.   Suddenly the storm the hardness the suffering is not so bad.  His burden is light His yoke is easy.

Okay friends suffering is a must otherwise we would not grow.   We would not change.   We would not be able to be more like Christ.  In the end our Goal is to be more like Christ.  

Lets switch modes for a moment.  When someone has surgery there is pain and suffering involved.  We find this normally acceptable, because the point of the surgery is to fix us.  We are to be made well through this surgery even though it is painful and will often cause a lot of suffering afterwards.

My point here is that suffering is not always bad.  God uses suffering to refine us and do surgery to our lives both physically and spiritually.  God sees us for who we are and He understands the mess we really are.  In fact He understands our mess more than we do.

C.S. Lewis put it true when he said , in his book The problem with Pain, this:

“I have been trying to make the reader believe that we actually are, at present, creatures whose character must be, in some respects, a horror to God, as it is, when we really see it, a horror to ourselves. This I believe to be a fact: and I notice that the holier a man is, the more fully he is aware of that fact.”

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

From <https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2976220-the-problem-of-pain>

Yes our character is a horror to God.  Sin is a horror to God. Our character is racked in sin and needs to be cleansed thoroughly.  Needs to be completely transformed.  We need to be a new creation. The closer one gets to God the more real this is.  The more we understand the necessity to die.  That there is nothing of myself that is good.   Ouch that is hard. Nothing at all.  Nothing.

Romans 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells with in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.

Romans 3:10 As it is written “There is none righteous, not even one;

Isaiah 64: 4-9  ….. for all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away……..

Is there any doubt.  We can’t be good enough.  We can’t please God by being good or by doing good or by any means that is within us.

The degree we suffer is directly proportional to the degree we fight God in this process.  There will always be suffering in our lives there will always be pain in our lives.  The more we fight God as He uses this pain and suffering to change us the more pain and suffering we feel.

I say to you today.  One simple thing.  Let go of it.  Let go of having to be right.  Let go of the pain someone else put on you.  Let go of your hidden sin.  Your shame.  Your lies.  So what if others know.  So what if you are embarrassed.  So what.  Truly they have their own shame and guilt to deal with.  They have their own embarrassments to deal with.  You have to stand before God and be judged.  You have to answer for yourself they are not going to pay your penalty for you.  They are not going to hell for you.  Be Honest, Be faithful, Be Honorable.  Let go of it.  Let it all out.  Do not hold back be FREE,

I say to you today what Joshua said to the children of Israel thousands of years ago.

Joshua 24:15 “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

God gives this to you today.  Choose make that choice.  No longer sit on the fence but choose you today whom you shall serve.  Do not allow suffering to sway you but grab on with both hands and be excited about what God is doing.

there is an Old Negro spiritual and it makes a simple and pure statement :

Free at Last

Free at Last

Thank my God I am Free at last.

 

Who wants this freedom?”