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Category Archives: Encouragement

Pursuing Peace… “No sleep can be tranquil unless the mind is at rest.” Peace is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of God


“God made man simple; man’s complex problems are of his own devising.” –King Solomon.

“Because we lack a Divine Center, our need for security has led us into an insane attachment to things. We really must understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic. It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality. We crave things we neither need nor enjoy. ‘We buy things we do not want to impress people we do not like.’ … We are made to feel ashamed to wear clothes or drive cars until they are worn out. The mass media have convinced us that to be out of step with fashion is to be out of step with reality. It is time we awaken to the fact that conformity to a sick society is to be sick.” —-Richard Foster.

peace
Peace is rare: Less than 8 percent of the time since the beginning of recorded time has the world been entirely at peace. In a total of 3,530 years, 286 have been warless. Eight thousand treaties have been broken in this time.

But we don’t always want to be so grandeur in our thinking. After all, I don’t start wars and I certainly can’t halt them.

We might rather dwell on this little piece of real estate that can be called ‘mine’ and leave it at that…to work on the attainable, casting aside the greater ideals. Why not think more simply?

Well, life doesn’t always allow for that. While it is true that the bathtub was invented in 1850 and the phone in 1875, and in 1850, you could have sat in the tub without having the phone ring, that doesn’t always answer the day’s issue.

Peace is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of God.

Media mogul Ted Turner wanted to see if anybody had a real vision of a future world at peace and in harmony with the environment. He said his quest ended in disappointment. Turner told an Atlanta gathering of contributors to his Cable News Network’s World Report a few years back that he funded a competition to find a book that gave a workable plan for a world of peace.

“With 10,000 manuscripts, we did not have one plausible treatise on how we could get to a sustainable, peaceful future,” Turner told the gathering. The board chairman of Turner Broadcasting System Inc. said that, without a feasible plan, the prospects of creating peace are grim. “You’ve got to have a vision,” Turner said. “We can achieve it.” It’s too bad that Ted didn’t read the manuscript about the Prince of Peace.

In the fall of 1892, D. L. Moody boarded a ship in Southampton bound for New York. Three days into the journey, Moody, lying on his bunk, was startled by a loud noise, and the vessel began to shudder. The large shaft that drove the propeller had broken and smashed through the side of the ship. Water began pouring in and it was soon apparent that the ship would sink.

Moody was no stranger to dangerous situations. He’d been shot at in the Civil War. In Chicago, during the great cholera epidemic, he fearlessly visited the sick and dying. “But on the sinking ship,” Moody wrote in his memoirs, “it was different. It was the darkest hour of my life. I had thought myself superior to the fear of death,” but that illusion quickly vanished. “I could not endure it.”

Moody went to his cabin and on his knees poured out his heart to God. What happened? Moody said, “God heard my cry, and enabled me to say, ‘Thy will be done!'” He went to bed and fell asleep. He wrote, “I never slept any more soundly in all my life.”

At three in the morning, Moody’s son awakened him with good news: a steamer had heard their distress signals. Seven days later, they were towed into safe harbor.

I remember hearing of a young man who went to a minister of Christ in great distress about his spiritual state. He said to the minister, “Sir, can you tell me what I must do to find peace?” The minister replied, “Young man, you are too late.” “Oh!” said the young man, “you don’t mean to say I am too late to be saved?” “Oh, no,” was the reply, “but you are too late to do anything. Jesus did every thing that needed to be done twenty centuries ago.”

All men desire peace, but very few desire those things that make for peace. The second of the two most popular Christian greetings is “peace” (eirene). It is roughly the equivalent of the Hebrew shalom. But, though it is related to this word, it also means more.

Above all, peace is God’s gift to man, achieved by him at the cross of Christ. It is peace with God (Rom 5:1) and is to express itself both in peace of mind (Philippians 4:6, 7) and in a very practical peace between all those who know God.

This latter peace should be seen, as William Barclay notes: in the home (1 Cor. 7:12-16), between Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:14-17), within the church (Eph. 4:3; Col. 3:15), and indeed in the relationships of the believer with all men (Heb. 12:14). The apostle Peter suggested its priority for our life: “.…he must seek peace and pursue it.” (1 Peter 3:11b).

However painful or difficult, or, on the other hand, however inconspicuous or humdrum life may be, the Christian finds his peace in accepting and playing his part in the master plan.

In life troubles will come which seem as if they never will pass away. The night and storm look as if they would last forever; but the calm and the morning cannot be stayed; the storm in its very nature is transient. The effort of nature, as that of the human heart, ever is to return to its repose, for God is peace.

Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes.

I believe it to be a grave mistake to present Christianity as something charming and popular with no offense in it. We cannot blink the fact that gentle Jesus meek and mild was so stiff in His opinions and so inflammatory in His language that He was thrown out of church, stoned, hunted from place to place, and finally gibbeted as a firebrand and a public danger. Whatever His peace was, it was not the peace of an amiable indifference.

Peacemaking is an action that springs out of an attitude. When the heart’s wrong, there can’t be peace. Selfishness is a gangrene, eating at the very vitals. Sin is a cancer, poisoning the blood. Peace is the rhythm of our wills with Jesus’ love-will. Disobedience breaks the music. Failure to keep in touch makes discord. The notes jar and grate. We have broken off. The peace can’t get in. Jesus made peace by his blood. We get it only by keeping in full touch with him.

We would do well to acknowledge that which cannot be changed. Edwin Markham put it well:
At the heart of the cyclone tearing the sky And flinging the clouds and the towers by,
Is a place of central calm; So here in the roar of mortal things,
I have a place where my spirit sings, In the hollow of God’s palm.

A few years ago Ann Landers wrote a column in which she tried to depict what the earth would be like after a nuclear war. And she asked all of her readers to clip the article and to send it to the White House. The President, Ronald Reagan, wrote her a letter about two weeks later in which he acknowledged that he had received over two hundred clippings. But then he went on to suggest, “I think you sent them to the wrong place. They should have been sent to the Kremlin.”

While it may have been true that much of the problem could be laid at the feet of the Soviet Union rather than the United States, it’s also true that we often look at the problem with “those other guys” and fail to examine ourselves.. That’s often the problem about peace, isn’t it? It’s with those other guys.

I’ve been told that there are places in Europe where you can sink a spade into the earth, and in just two or three spadefuls of earth, you can dig up prehistoric artifacts and also bits of metal from much more modern times. In one spadeful of earth you might come up with a flint fist hatchet, which was used in prehistoric times to crush the skull of an enemy, and in that same bunch of earth, you will also find a bit of shrapnel from some shell fired during the Second World War.

Crushing the skull in the one instance, blowing a person to bits in the other–that is a kind of parable of the history of humankind, isn’t it? War after war after war. The absence of peace.

Frustrated? Wondering where to turn? Paul’s formula for understanding peace comes from a spiritual perspective, but we might need to make one more acknowledgement: I’m reminded of the Peanuts cartoon with Lucy saying to Charlie Brown, “I hate everything. I hate everybody. I hate the whole wide world!” Charlie says, “But I thought you had inner peace.” Lucy replies, “I do have inner peace. But I still have outer obnoxiousness”

Paul has the better response: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: {19} that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. {20} We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. {21} God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2019 in Church, Encouragement

 

Is God inclusive or exclusive?


Exclusive Is God inclusive or exclusive? Both! He wants all to be saved but there are “steps of faith.” Peter proclaimed the clear answer in 2 Peter 3: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Churches today are less and less likely to ask “What does the Bible say?” and more likely to ask, “What does the community want?” We need to be reminded that the church belongs to the Lord, not the community. The church is uniquely His and was designed to be His servant to take His gospel to a lost and dying world.

Truth has become trivial, irrelevant. Realize that 72% of Americans between the ages of 18-25 now believe that there is no such thing as absolute truth!

David F. Wells, God in the Wasteland, “We have turned to a God that we can use rather than to a God we must obey; we have turned to a God who will fulfill our needs rather than to a God before whom we must surrender our rights to ourselves. He is a God for us, for our satisfaction – not because we have learned to think of him in this way through Christ but because we have learned to think of him this way through the marketplace.
   “In the marketplace, everything is for us, for our pleasure, for our satisfaction, and we have come to assume that it must be so in the church as well. And so we transform the God of mercy into a God who is at our mercy.”

Jesus once asked regarding John the Baptizer, (Matthew 11:7) “As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?” A reed is a symbol of instability; it pictures that which yields to other forces.

On the other hand, Paul described the church as the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). The imagery here is that of a solid, immovable foundation. It is a question that the church of today must ask. Are we a “reed shaken in the wind,” or are we the “pillar and ground of the truth”?

Real Love – Real love doesn’t leave another person in error. Real love takes the time to show them the error of their way:  (Galatians 6:1) “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”
(2 Timothy 2:24-26) “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. {25} Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, {26} and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

inclusion-wordle11Jesus was exclusive! (John 14:6) “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Unless you believe that I am He (John 8:24) “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.””

One Gospel  – (Galatians 1:6-9) “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– {7} which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. {8} But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! {9} As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2019 in Encouragement, Marriage

 

Six Things To Remember When We Are Treated Unfairly


How do you react when someone treats you unfairly? Let’s say someone double crosses you or cheats you. Maybe someone lies about you and your reputation is damaged. Perhaps your boss chews you out for something you know you didn’t do or singles you out because he doesn’t like what you stand for. What is your typical response? Do you…

unfair

  • Retreat into a depression?
  • Withdraw from human interaction?
  • Look for a way to get even?
  • Vow that you’ll never do anything nice for anyone again?
  • Cheat the next guy down the line because you conclude that it’s a dog-eat-dog world?
  • Become so cynical about the world that you no longer enjoy life?

These responses are all too common. As Christians, we are called by God to be different from the world and this is one area where that difference can really show.

 THE FIRST THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT THIS LIFE ISN’T FAIR.

I suppose some of you might think it is redundant for me to say that, but it never ceases to amaze me that so many Christians get so upset when things don’t come out even.

Whoever said that this life was fair, anyway? I’m not aware of any Bible verse that teaches such a thing. Of course, God will ultimately even things out at the judgment – a point the Bible makes often – but in the here-and-now there are no guarantees. In fact, in a fallen world like ours, with mankind corrupted by a sinful nature and God allowing freedom of choice, it only follows that things are not going to be fair all the time.

Yet, it bugs us, doesn’t it? It bugs me! The bad guy sometimes wins. The criminal gets off Scot-free. The ladder climber who steps on everyone in his path gets the penthouse. The politician lies and gets away with it because the economy is good.

I’m not suggesting here that we shouldn’t do whatever we can when we can to make things right. I’m simply saying that sometimes making things even is beyond what we can do. At that point, so that we don’t go insane at the unbalanced nature of it all, we need to remember that we live in a fallen world and until God redeems this place from the curse and removes sin, it’s not always going to be fair.

I’m not recommending defeatism or fatalism here. I’m simply trying to be realistic. Don’t set your expectations too high. In this life, no matter how you live or what you do, life isn’t always going to be fair.

Matthew 20 teaches us that lesson: a worker who worked only one hour received the same pay that another worker who had been there sincer 9 a.m. received!

 THE SECOND THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT WHAT HAPPENS IN YOU IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU.

Things are going to happen in this life that we are powerless to change. We usually cannot rearrange someone else’s behavior toward us, nor can we undo the moments in which someone has hurt us. Maybe it can be prevented next time, but once it has happened, it has happened. There is no backing up.

If we keep reliving the unhappy moment and devote endless hours to appealing the verdict of a wrongdoing in our minds, we will be left spent and miserable. Though it is sometimes hard to see, time passed in the courtroom of our mind trying the case over and over is really time wasted. Even though we’re sure the verdict is guilty, there is usually no way to bring about justice in this life without becoming guilty ourselves. Our best (and sometimes only) recourse is to ask the Lord to change our inner life – to use this evil to bring about good in us.

We’ve seen that Joseph knew this truth. For all that was done to him by his brothers, he could have died a bitter and unhappy man. He didn’t do that though. At some point along the way he decided he would concentrate his energies on being the best person that he could be for God in whatever circumstance he found himself. Over the process of a lifetime, because of this attitude, God could take him from a pit to a palace. One has to wonder how different it might have been had Joseph chosen to spend endless hours licking his wounds and rehearsing his hurts. After 23 years of living with this choice of betterness rather than bitterness, as his brothers stood before him in a position where revenge could have been a snap-of-the-fingers away, his verdict was this: “…you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…”

Suppose you hold a glass of water as you walk towards me. I carelessly (or deliberately) bump into you. Whatever you have in the glass will probably spill out.

That is the way our lives are. When we are bumped, whatever is inside comes out. For most of us, an injustice done to us personally is a very jarring bump. Sadly, it is disgraceful sometimes the things that spill out.

God wants the things inside the glass cleaned up. From time to time He will allow us to be bumped, sometimes quite forcefully and unjustly, to reveal what is there. A life where the work of the Holy Spirit has been neglected will reveal a cup full of hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissention, faction, and envy. God wants all of that to change. What happens in you is far more important than what happens to you.

THE THIRD THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT GOD IS WATCHING TO SEE WHAT YOU WILL DO.

There is more happening when an injustice is done to us than just the unpleasantness of the moment. God is watching to see what we will do and He sees it all, from beginning to end. As the Scripture clearly reveals, He is testing us. There are so many verses on this subject that I hesitate to pick just one, however, there is a passage that I have found quite helpful at such times. Maybe it can help you.

(1 Pet. 2:19-20) says, “For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.  But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.”

God is watching to see how we handle unjust suffering.  So what does God want us to do when we suffer unjustly? These verses tell us that it finds favor with God if we “bear up under the pain of unjust suffering.” When we suffer, lets make God proud by enduring the pain and handling it properly.

THE FOURTH THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT YOU MUST NOT BOW TO BITTERNESS.

All of us need to set some standards for ourselves. We need to draw the line in the sand and say, “Beyond this point I will not go – not for comfort – not for security – not for revenge – not for anything!

 Paul wrote to the Ephesians “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Eph. 4:31).

 You see there is no part of “all” that allows for an exception. God wants all the bitterness out of you and me.

 ILLUSTRATION:

A doctor told a man that he had rabies. Upon hearing the diagnosis, he took out a piece of paper and started writing on it. The doctor thought, “Oh, he must be making up his will,” so he asked, “What are you doing, making up your will?” The man said, “No, I’m just writing down every person I’m going to bite.”

 Sadly, that is how some folks handle injustice. They are so bitter that they bite everyone else around them. We must never bow to bitterness.

 solidarityTHE FIFTH THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT WHAT YOU DO IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN HOW YOU FEEL.

God has spelled out what our behavior is to be in the kind of situation we’re discussing in many places in Scripture. I’ll mention just a few:

 Matthew   5:44 says, “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you…”

 Luke   6:27-28 says, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…”

Romans   12:20 says, “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink..”

 

It isn’t particularly difficult to figure out what these verses say we must do. The difficult part is our feelings, isn’t it? Why is it so hard…

  • To get on our knees and pray for that person whose carelessness or neglect caused us so much pain?
  • To go down to the store and buy a gift and send it to that person whom we know must hate us?
  • To say something that blesses them rather than cursing them under our breath?

The answer is simple. Every feeling in our bodies is screaming that it isn’t right!

Ah! We’ve come to an important crossroad in this matter. We’ve come to the place where we learn whether we’re serious about our faith or not. The true Christian will strive to do what is right even if his/her feelings aren’t in favor of it.

Many of us have yet to learn this very important part of our faith. Doing the right thing isn’t always the thing that makes us feel good at the moment.

Many of the things God has called us to do require us to go against our feelings for the moment. “Love your enemies?” Who feels like doing that?

But, you see the Christian knows that actions lead, feelings follow. Want to see an example?

 John   3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son….”

 God loved us so much that He gave His Son. How do you suppose that made God feel? Was He jumping for joy when His Son hung suffering on the cross? What do you think would have happened had God acted on His feelings that day rather than His loving commitment to offer a way for the world to be saved?

The right thing isn’t always the thing that feels good at the moment. Actions lead, feelings follow. Where did the good feelings come in then, when Jesus died on the cross? They came later, after the sacrifice had been made and people were coming to God because of what Jesus did!

Hebrews   12:2 says exactly that: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…”

 The joy followed the cross. It didn’t come prior or during. Likewise, the good feelings that result from our doing right usually come after the act, not before. If we wait around in the beginning, hoping to get our feelings to go along with our actions, we’ll seldom do what is right.

How about it?  Are you returning good for evil? Are you turning the other cheek when it is appropriate? Are you walking the second mile? Are you praying for that person who has hurt you so? Are you, like God, allowing whatever blessings you have in your life to fall on the just and the unjust, or are you selective, based on the records you’ve kept of wrongs done against you? Are you blessing rather than cursing? (The word “bless” in this case means literally, “to speak well of.”)

 “But I don’t feel like it!” Welcome to the world of discipleship. It’s that way for all of us.

 THE SIXTH THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT YOU ARE STILL THE BIGGER DEBTOR.

In (Matthew 18), Jesus tells the story of a man who owed a king ten million dollars. There was no way he could pay his debt and in that day, there was no bankruptcy – only debtor’s prison or slavery. As he was about to be thrown into prison, he begged the King to give him another chance and more time to pay. The King listened to his pleading and felt mercy for him. He didn’t just give him more time to pay. He completely forgave the debt. The man walked away free.

You probably know the rest of the story. As soon as he got home he found someone who owed him a few hundred dollars. The man didn’t have the money, so this man who had just been forgiven a debt of millions of dollars had his own debtor thrown into prison. After all, it’s only just. “It’s what the man had coming for what he did to me. He should learn to pay his debts on time! It’s his fault. Fair is fair, right?”

Then the King got word of the whole thing. He was angry and resummoned the man he had forgiven just a short time before. To make the long story short, he called the unforgiving man “wicked” and reinstated his millions of dollars of debt. The man went to prison until he could pay it off – which, of course, was never. He went to prison for the rest of his life.

Then Jesus said, “So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

 My friends, no matter whom might wrong us, we are still the bigger debtor. We always will be. God has forgiven a huge debt that we could never pay on our own. Because of that, is it really that much for God to ask us to overlook some of these hurts we experience here? I think not.

 Are you one who feels you must even the score here? Then expect God to even the score on you when you get to judgment.

 CONCLUSION 

A certain tenant farmer had worked hard for many years to improve the production of the land he leased. Then something happened that caused him to become very bitter. When it was time to renew his lease, the owner told him he was going to sell the farm to his son who was getting married. The tenant made several generous offers to buy it himself, hoping the man’s decision would be reversed, but his pleading got nowhere.

As the day drew near for the farmer to vacate his home, his weeks of angry brooding finally got the best of him. He gathered seeds from some of the most pesky and noxious weeds he could find. Then he spent many hours scattering them on the clean, fertile soil of the farm, along with a lot of trash and rocks he had collected.

To his dismay, the very next morning the owner informed him that plans for his son’s wedding had fallen through, and therefore he would be happy to renew the lease. He couldn’t understand why the farmer exclaimed in agonizing tones, “What a fool I’ve been!”

 Try as we might to even up the score when we’re treated unfairly, the result for us will be the same as it was for that tenant farmer. At the end, we’ll exclaim, “What a fool I’ve been!”

 

The Need For Patience—James 5:7-11


7  Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.
8  You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
9  Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.
10  As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
11  Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

James again directs his remarks to his brothers in Christ. The patience that he calls for requires them to wait under duress. James tells his brothers to be patient, even in the midst of injustice.

The believers need to endure, trust in God through their trials, and refuse to try to get even for wrongs committed against them . But patience does not mean inaction. There is work to be done—serving God, caring for one another, and proclaiming the Good News.

There is an end point, a time when patience will no longer be needed—the Lord’s coming. At that time, everything will be made right. The early church lived in constant expectation of Christ’s return, and so should we. Because we don’t know when Christ will return to bring justice and remove oppression, we must wait with patience

We need patience in every area of life…we spend a lot of our lives waiting…which forces us to develop patience

A lot of your life is spent waiting. As a little kid, you wait to start school, then you couldn’t wait until you got out of school, then you couldn’t wait to fall in love, then couldn’t wait to get married, then couldn’t wait to get a job, then couldn’t wait to have kids….. we spend a lot of our lives waiting.

There are many things in life that test our patience: freeways, supermarket lines, doctors’ offices, irritating people.  We hate to wait.

We’re going to look at what James has to say on How do you develop patience? You need patience in every area of your life. In this passage, James uses the word “patience” or “perseverance” 6 times.  He uses 3 illustrations to teach us when, why, and how to be patient.

Don’t judge the Lord by his unfinished work. Be patient till he unveils the perfect pattern in glory. Await the “end of the Lord.”  F. B. Meyer

WHEN SHOULD I BE PATIENT?  James says there are three special times when you need that extra dose of patience:

  1. When circumstances are uncontrollable: a lot of life is beyond your control?

You cannot keep your thumb on everything. James uses a farmer as an example of when circumstances are uncontrollable. v. 7 “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient.” 

Part of the job description of being a farmer is you do a lot of waiting: waiting to till, to plant, to prune. Yet more than the factors of waiting on things to do are the factors that the farmer has no control over-weather, rain, heat, the economy, labor practices. You too deal with a lot of uncontrollable factors-circumstances-in life. 

Have you noticed that even when we realize a situation is beyond our control, we still try to control it? We do that by worrying. We think that worry will control a situation. To worry about something you can change is dumb, to worry about something you can’t change is useless. Either way you shouldn’t worry. We need patience in uncontrollable circumstances.

Standing firm is difficult in the face of temptation, persecution, problems, trials, and suffering. This challenging phrase literally means “be patient and strengthen your hearts”

8  You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

9  Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

These believers, facing persecution from the outside and problems on the inside, may naturally find themselves grumbling and criticizing one another. James doesn’t want them to be filled with resentment and bitterness toward each other—that would only destroy the unity they so desperately need. Refraining from grumbling is part of what it means to be patient (5:7).

  1. When people are unchangeable.

When people won’t change. He gives an example of the prophets. Look at v. 10: “My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience.”

What was the duty of prophets? To help people change,  bring them back to God, to be different in their behavior. Have you noticed that people resist change?

Do you have anybody in your life right now who refuses to change? You know how difficult it is to live with that kind of person?

We need patience with people. Joyce Lander calls these “irregular people”-they are people who only see their own way. They may never change. What are you going to do about it? James says, have patience.

The word “patience” in the Greek is the word “macrothumos”-“macro” meaning “long” & “thumos” (from which we get the word “thermometer”) meaning “heat”. It literally means “it takes a long time for you to get hot”.

You’ve got a long fuse, you don’t blow up. If you’re going to be a success with people, you have to learn patience.  If you’re going to be successful parents, you have to have a long fuse. Spouse. Christian. In your service.

  1. When problems are unexplainable.

The classic example is in v. 11, “You have heard of Job’s perseverance.”

Job played in the Super Bowl of suffering. He won the championship. He was the wealthiest man that had lived to then-had everything going for him. In a 2 day period, everything fell part. He went bankrupt, his children were murdered, he got an incurable, disease that was very painful.

You think you’ve got problems! He lost his family, his friends, his finances. He was suffering materially, physically, socially. His wife comes to him and says, “Curse God and die!” And that was his support system!

God allowed the devil to take away everything in his life except a nagging wife. The worst part of Job’s suffering was that he had absolutely no idea why it was happening. There was no apparent reason for his misfortune. Of all people, Job had the privilege to say, “Why me?”

Life is not fair! God never said it would be fair. A lot of things in life just don’t make sense. Maybe we’ll never understand on this of heaven.

Job didn’t understand. In all of that unexplained problem, Job maintained his faith. Sometimes we just can’t figure out our problems. When circumstances are uncontrollable, when people are unchangeable, and when problems are unexplainable you really need patience. 

WHY BE PATIENT?

  1. Because God is in control. “Be patient & stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” v. 8.

3 times in this passage, James says, the Lord’s coming is near. That is the ultimate proof that God is in control. Nothing can stop it. The Bible talks more about Jesus’ 2nd coming-when He comes back to judge the world-than it does about His 1st coming.

God is in control of history.  God’s purpose for your life is greater than any problem you’re facing right now. 

God is in control. Though a situation may be out of my control, no circumstance is out of God’s control. 

Although I can’t control everything that happens in my life, God can, so I ought to trust Him.

And because God is in control and everything is working out, be patient.  Job persevered. God’s timing is perfect, He’s never late. Some of you are experiencing a real delay right now but God’s delays never thwart His purpose.

  1. God rewards patience. v. 11a “As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered.”

The second half of Job’s life was more blessed than the first half. God doubled everything he had.

It pays to be patient. There are all kinds of rewards. Your character grows, you get along with people better, you’re happier, you reach your goals. 

There are lots of benefits of being patient.  God rewards it. But not just on this side of eternity, but on the other side you’re going to be rewarded.

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2019 in Encouragement

 

Searching for direction…It involves a decision…and some planning. At the spiritual level, planning means taking the initiative.


A man called his neighbor to help him move a couch that had become stuck in the doorway. They pushed and pulled until they were exhausted, but the couch wouldn’t budge.  “Forget it,” the man finally said.  “We’ll never get this in.” The neighbor looked at him quizzically and said, “In?”

Is it possible that Time magazine was right when they described the Bible as a book “more revered than read”?

The Bible needs to be treasured, but more than that it needs to be internalized. It provides the eternal road-map to heaven, which certainly ought to be the direction we’re wanting to travel.

life-directions1There is something wonderful about a beaten-up heavily marked, tattered Bible. Madeleine Delbrel, the French activist who lived a little more than a generation ago, stuffed her Bible with snapshots, clippings, ticket stubs, postcards and other detritus to remind her that she was praying in the world of people and events. She called these scraps “icons of humanity” that prompted one to celebrate the “liturgy of life.”

It involves a decision…and some planning. At the spiritual level, planning means taking the initiative. It’s not about sitting around until you are absolutely certain God is calling you to a particular task, direction, country, or ministry. Nor is it waiting for the doors to open so you can go there easily. Planning is an act of faith. Jesus never told his disciples to wait for an invitation. He told them to go. [1]

We must realize that you cannot pull people uphill who do not want to go; you can only point up.  We must come to see each day as David Brainerd saw it: “As long as I see anything to be done for God, life is worth having; but O how vain and unworthy it is to live for any lower end!”

Dr. Reid Vipond of Canada shares a story of an oil company that needed a suave public-relations man for its office in the Orient. After interviewing several candidates, the officials decided to ask a local missionary to take the position. Company executives met with this man of unusual gifts. Whatever their proposition, his answer was always “No.” “What’s wrong?” asked one interviewer. “Isn’t the salary big enough?” The missionary replied, “The salary is big enough, but the job isn’t.”

Duke’s basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, gave a great talk to the University Retirees Association. He told them about a friend of his in Southern California who was coaching a basketball team where out of 15 of the young men, 10 had never known a father.  He noted how he and his fellow coaches were spending more time trying to be daddies to their players than coaches.

Then Krzyzewski said, “Things are in too big a mess in the American family for you people to be sitting around playing bridge, or moving to some retirement community in Florida.  We need you.  We need your wisdom, your patience, your free time.  We need you to be adopting kids, stepping up and taking responsibility for kids that, while they may not be your own, they are all of our responsibility.”


[1] Brother Andrew in The CallingChristianity Today, Vol. 40, no. 8.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2019 in Encouragement

 

Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People? James 1:1-5


The Omniscient God knew that His people would have to suffer persecution, and even death for some of them, at the hands of their enemies, in a godless world. He made certain to make known that fact so we’d know that their (our) suffering would not be in vain.

 (2 Thessalonians 3:1-3 NIV)  Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. {2} And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. {3} But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.

 Acts 17:27 (153 kb)(2 Timothy 3:12 NIV)  In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

 (Revelation 2:12-13 NIV)  “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. {13} I know where you live–where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city–where Satan lives.

Life just doesn’t seem fair. It’s often the very best people we know who go through the worst things we can imagine. All too often it seems that the crooks get away with their meanness and even seem to have a pipeline of blessings coming into their lives.

Our human sense of logic would like to pigeon hole everything to such a degree that when people are having troubles we can know they aren’t doing right or they wouldn’t have such things happen.

  • Of a Christian in business and it goes bankrupt. Many will look at it and say something had to be wrong with the way they were living or such a thing would never have happened.
  • Of parents whose children become tyrants. We have a tendency to declare them unfit parents of their children wouldn’t have made such a horrible error.
  • Of couples in marriage. One leaves. The marriage falls apart. People begin to wonder about the Christianity of the one who was left. Must not have been living right or the other one would never have left. In so doing we ignore the teachings of the Bible.

 (1 Corinthians 7:14-15 NIV)  For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. {15} But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.

 Remember the disciples when they saw the man born blind.

John 9:1-5: “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. {2} His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” {3} “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. {4} As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. {5} While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Silly question. What could he have done before birth to have violated God’s will and cause him to be born blind? Jesus declared, “Neither”. They had missed the whole point.

 But there is no doubt good people suffer, are persecuted, are hated by the world, are mistreated by neighbors and fellow workers and generally have problems. Why? Why do bad things happen to good people?

 BECAUSE WE LIVE IN A WORLD INFLUENCED BY SATAN.

When sin entered the world at Eden its affects passed on all, even those who hadn’t sinned.

(Genesis 3:16 NIV)  To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

 God told Adam (Genesis 3:17-19 NIV)  To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. {18} It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. {19} By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

 Much of what happens that is bad is simply because we live in the world we do. Satan is powerful. His reign has been upset and he is like a tyrant over some country who has been voted out of office and is mad at the whole world now. Whatever he can do to cause pain and agony he is ready to do it. This is what Satan does when he controls.

 BECAUSE TROUBLES CAUSE US TO GROW.

If only good came to those who do good, we would become soft and tender footed in our spiritual life. One of the things wrong with the whole health, wealth and prosperity gospel is that it brings people into Christianity for the wrong reasons. They want something, which solves all their problems.

 But trials produce endurance. They bring a spiritual toughness to us.

(James 1:1-5 NIV)  James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. {2} Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, {3} because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. {4} Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. {5} If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

 Persecution causes us to turn to God many times.

(Matthew 5:10-12 NIV)  Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. {11} “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. {12} Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 (1 Peter 4:14 NIV)  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

 Suffering turns our hearts to the Lord.

(Psalms 119:67 NIV)  Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.

 (Psalms 119:71 NIV)  It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.

What needs to happen for us is for us to glory in our tribulation, since such troubles bring perseverance, which produces character, which produces hope, and hope doesn’t disappoint us.

 (Romans 5:1-5 NIV)  Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, {2} through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. {3} Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; {4} perseverance, character; and character, hope. {5} And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

We are more than conquerors in all the tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword.

 (Romans 8:35-37 NIV)  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? {36} As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” {37} No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

 CONCLUSION

Whatever the reason we have the troubles or bad things, which happen, the result can be marvelous. Our light, momentary afflictions work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

 (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. {17} For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. {18} So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

 Our afflictions remind us what we already have in this life and that we certainly don’t want to go to a place where that is all there is.

 I may never understand all the why’s of this life, but God still loves me and  He longs to get me ready for an eternal home with Him. Are you ready to meet the Lord today?

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2019 in Church, Encouragement

 

Searching for that elusive place of contentment


“It is distrust of God to be troubled about what is to come; impatience against God to be troubled with what is present; and anger at God to be troubled for what is past.”

To a large extent, we’re searching for that elusive place of contentment. The Holman Bible Dictionary describes contentment as “an internal satisfaction which does not demand changes in external circumstances.”

Hebrews 13:5-7 summarizes the teaching in advising believers to be free of the love of money and to depend on God’s promise not to forsake His people: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”

PowerPoint Background using 1 Corinthians 13:13Worry has become an obsession in our modern world. A look at the self-help section in any bookstore will reveal its prevalence. Hospitals and waiting rooms are filled with people who have physical problems caused by overwhelming anxiety. In addition, there are many people whose lives are disrupted or made unenjoyable because of paralyzing fear.

Christians like to hide their worry by labeling it Christian concern. In spite of protestations to the contrary, Christians do worry. But, do they have to? Not if they learn from Jesus how to win over worry.

Paul spoke in similar terms in 1 Timothy 6:6-10: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

The believer can be content no matter what the outward circumstances: Philippians 4:11-13: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

When we look at life against the message of the life of Jesus and His teachings, the risen life is not easy: it is also a dying life. [1] We should make it our priority and purpose.

Contentment finds an opposite in the form of worry. The words of Jesus early in His public ministry suggest that food and lodging should be enough for the godly: Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

There is plenty to worry about (vs. 25). There is no shortage of potential items to worry about. Jesus mentions several matters of common concern: life, health, possessions, We could add our own list of concerns: accidents, aging, weather, or criticism.

There is nothing accomplished by worry (vv. 26-33). It is senseless. The rest of God’s creation does not worry, but God provides for them. Will he not do the same for us.

This does not say we should not work, only that we should not worry while we work (v. 26, 28). It is fruitless. It will not add an inch to your height or a hour to your life. In fact, it may well take away from your life (v. 27). It is harmful. Worrying makes us look like the heathen, and it destroys our witness. [2]

Worry, he says, is characteristic of a heathen, and not of one who knows what God is like (verse 32). Worry is essentially distrust of God. Such a distrust may be understandable in a heathen who believes in a jealous, capricious, unpredictable god; but it is beyond comprehension in one who has learned to call God by the name of Father.

The Christian should not worry because he believes in the love of God. Worry gives a small thing a big shadow. Worry is an indication that we think God cannot look after us. Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but doesn’t get you anywhere.

Jesus goes on to advance two ways in which to defeat worry. The first is to seek first, to concentrate upon, the Kingdom of God. We have seen that to be in the Kingdom and to do the will of God is one and the same thing (Matthew 6:10).

To concentrate on the doing of, and the acceptance of, God’s will is the way to defeat worry. We know how in our own lives a great love can drive out every other concern. Such love can inspire a man’s work, intensify his study, purify his life, dominate his whole being.

We must trust the heavenly father to provide for us as he has promised (v. 32b). We also need to live one day at a time. Handle each worry as it comes. Many will never come to pass. Those that do occur can only be handled in the present (v. 34).

It was Jesus’ conviction that worry is banished when God becomes the dominating power of our lives.

Simon Patrick said, “It is distrust of God to be troubled about what is to come; impatience against God to be troubled with what is present; and anger at God to be troubled for what is past.”

What seems clear is that we often worry about things over which we have no control, or about events and circumstances that never occur. For this, we lose the joy of today and add a burden to an already difficult day.

Life’s too short for worrying. “Yes, that’s what worries me,” we reply. Rather we should know that one is given strength to bear what happens to one, but not the one hundred and one different things that might happen. [3]

John Dryden commented that “Only man clogs his happiness with care, destroying what is, with thoughts of what may be.”

Only one type of worry is correct: to worry because you worry too much. We should leave tomorrow’s trouble to tomorrow’s strength; tomorrow’s work to tomorrow’s time; tomorrow’s trial to tomorrow’s grace and to tomorrow’s God.

It ain’t no use putting up your umbrella till it rains.[4]

Solomon got involved in all kinds of projects, hoping to discover something that would make life worth living. He started with great works (4-6), including houses (1 Kings 7), cities (2 Chron. 8:4-6), gardens, vineyards, orchards and forests (1 Kings 4:33), and the water systems needed to service them.

Of course, Solomon also supervised the construction of the temple (1 Kings 5ff), one of the greatest buildings of the ancient world. Solomon accumulated wealth (7b-8a), in flocks and herds (1 Kings 8:63) as well as gold and silver (1 Kings 4:21 and 10:1ff). He was the wealthiest and wisest man in the whole world, yet he was unhappy because activity alone does not bring lasting pleasure.

There can be joy in the doing of great projects, but what happens when the task is finished? Solomon found delight in all his labor (2:10); but afterward, when he considered all his works, he saw only “vanity and vexation of spirit” (2:11). The journey was a pleasure, but the destination brought pain.

“Success is full of promise until men get it,” said the American preacher Henry Ward Beecher, “and then it is a last-year’s nest from which the birds have flown.”

We must not conclude that Solomon was condemning work itself, because work is a blessing from God. Adam had work to do in the Garden even before he sinned. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15, niv).

In the Book of Proverbs, Solomon exalted diligence and condemned laziness; for he knew that any honest employment can be done to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). But work alone cannot satisfy the human heart, no matter how successful that work may be (Isa. 55:2).

Solomon’s conclusion: Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole of man. This is what makes man whole. And the secret is to enthrone God in the days of our youth. If you want to find the secret of living so that the heart is satisfied and the spirit is enriched and fulfilled according to God’s intention for you, then “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come.” Enthrone God in the center of your life and you will discover all that God has intended your life to be. And you will be able to rejoice all the days of your life.

Affirmative Living

Joseph was called, derisively, the dreamer. Some of his dreams were prophetic. He saw himself as a leader of men. Joseph dreamed of using his considerable talents to do great things for God and his family. Joseph’s dreams enabled him to live affirmatively.

Affirmative living means recognizing the presence of God in your life. Whatever happened to Joseph never caused him to give up on God. In fact, everything that happened to him only drew him closer to God. Do you notice the presence of God in your life? Do you believe he has a plan for you? If not, you need to dare to dream again. 

Affirmative living means making the best of bad situations. Joseph was hated and sold into slavery. He was unjustly accused and placed in prison. Though forgotten, he never lost hope. We couldn’t have blamed him if he had. But, whatever happened to Joseph, he kept on making the best of it. He was sold into slavery only to become the head servant. Sent to prison, he took over the administration. Brought before the king, he became Pharaoh’s right hand man.

Affirmative living means maintaining your principles even when inconvenient. Joseph faced his biggest challenge when accosted by his master’s wife. He could have given all kinds of excuses to give in, but he was willing to do what was right, in spite of the consequences. Have you been mistreated? If so, you need to dare to dream again.

Affirmative living means recognizing God is in control. Joseph, when he was finally reunited with his brothers, said to them, “What you did to me you meant for bad, God used for good.” Joseph believed that ultimately God is in control, and that all things work together for good. Have you wondered if God has deserted you, or if your life has any purpose at all? If so, you need to dare to dream again.[1]

I sing with the hymn, “Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come,” but I can also say, “‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”


[1] Sermon Outlines For Seekers by J. Michael Shannon.

[1] Thomas Merton in He Is Risen. Christianity Today, Vol. 43, no. 5.

[2] Sermon Outlines For Seekers by J. Michael Shannon.
[3] C. S. Lewis (1898–1963)
[4] Alice Caldwell Rice [5] Sermon Outlines For Seekers by J. Michael Shannon.
 
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Posted by on March 28, 2019 in Encouragement

 
 
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