Friday, August 27, 2010

Everyday battles of life—in weakness & strength

She walked into my office early one morning. She said, “Did you hear?” I said, “Yes.” What did I hear? I heard that her husband lost his job again; the division in which he worked was being relocated to Mexico.

About two years ago, her husband held a union job with a prestigious Minneapolis company. They downsized and the 50 year old computer specialist was out of a job. It took one year to find another job. The wage was about 60% of the previous job with minimum benefits. He was now without work again.

The wife was angry and disgusted. She said they feel weak and vulnerable. They admittedly have lived “high on the hog” as it were when life was rolling along. Now things are different, making “ends meet” the ends are not meeting anymore. She asked, “Why does this keep happening to us?”

In 2 Corinthians 12:7 Paul was given a thorn in the flesh, some painful aggravation. Who brought it on? Satan? No, Satan doesn’t rule our lives but God permits him to bring trials into our life to teach us what we need to learn. It hurts but God intends it for our good. God rules each though what he allows may hurt.

Why did Paul get a thorn in the flesh? To keep him from becoming conceited. In 2 Corinthians 12:7 it says: “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.”

God had showed him things about heaven and a paradise that words could not describe. Second Corinthians 12:1-6 says “I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the LORD. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows. And I know that this man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows-- was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say. Paul may have thought he was pretty “hot stuff” but God’s plan was to keep him humble and useful. Thus God allowed the thorn in the flesh.

I see many people hurting today. Hebrews 12:10-12 says: “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.”

We must pray to be healed. We must not go through these trials as limping victims but be strengthen and healed by God looking at future with hope and purpose.

Oh Lord, this day we pray for your healing and peace in the lives of people suffering weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, difficulties. Even though they are weak, make them strong. Strengthen our drooping arms and feeble knees. Revive our spirit this day; grant us these things if it is your will. We pray this in Jesus name. Amen.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

When the Church Compromises - it has nothing to say

The church’s desire to be “marketable” has come at a great price. In an August 7, 2010, in a New York Times article by G. Jeffrey MacDonald entitled “Congregations Gone Wild,” he talks about clergy burnout, yet MacDonald said the real problem with the church today is how congregations put pressure on pastors to forsake one’s highest calling. Pastors want to “help people grow spiritually, resist their lowest impulses, adopt higher, more compassionate ways” but “church goers increasingly want pastors to soothe and entertain them.”

“Soothe and entertain them,” yes, a hard driving message today may fall on stopped up ears. We do not like to be called to account by pastors or much less be called to account by God’s Word. No, we want Christianity-lite.

David F. Wells wrote a book entitled Above all Earthly Pow’rs - Christ in a post-modern World, published by Wm. B. Erdman Publishing. It says this in part on pg. 314 :

This evangelical version of spirituality, precisely because it has stripped itself of its doctrine – on the fallacious assumption that this doctrine won’t “sell” in today’s marketplace – is the kind of spirituality which has, then, been silenced in today’s culture. It has been silenced in the sense that though its adherents and purveyors may congregate in churches, and though they may sell its benefits and attractions, it remains only one product among many others on the market. It can seduce but it cannot confront. It can lure, but it cannot speak. It is because it has deliberately shed its doctrine, and its discipline, that it can only hold itself out to be taken by those who are the market looking for something to take, but it has left itself devoid of the ability to proclaim. Thus it is that the evangelical churches have made their deal with new generations. The deal, as Barna put it, is that for a one-time confession of weakness, God’s eternal peace can be had. It is a deal in which God has come up on the short end because we get what we want and give up nothing of consequence. That is the inevitable outcome to the marketing of the gospel.

This, of course, cheapens our understanding of God, it demeans the nature of the gospel, and it works havoc in the Church. And what it also does is to leave behind a kind of faith whose central passion is no longer that of truth and goodness. If the Church is not in possession of truth, truth as an understanding that corresponds exactly to what is in reality, and corresponds exactly to what is in the will and the character of God, then it has been left speechless. It has nothing to say. Without this truth, its private insights are no more believable, no more compelling, and no more desirable than anyone else’s. Why, then, has the evangelical Church arranged itself around the marketing dynamic rather than around the truth which it is its birthright to proclaim?
Lord Jesus, revive your Church today. Amen

Thursday, August 05, 2010

When we don’t listen to God

Zechariah 7:12-14 (New International Version):  12 They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry.   13 " 'When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,' says the LORD Almighty. 14 'I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land was left so desolate behind them that no one could come or go. This is how they made the pleasant land desolate.' "

In the last weeks, my heart has been drawn to the Old Testament prophets. As I have found out and most people I speak to have also found out, we don’t like to hear God’s harsh warnings.  

One time when I concluded my sermon someone said “Oh, that’s so Old Testament.” It was, but I have always brought people back to Christ and to grace. The road to Christ and the end of time will be filled with hard times and harsh warnings, yet if we ignore the lessons from the past, we are deceiving ourselves. They were recorded for our benefit whether we like them or not.

1 Corinthians 10:11-12 (New International Version) - "These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! 
The Lord speaks: “When I called, they did not listen, so when they called, I would not listen.” Zechariah 7:13. God is patient and kind but there is a limit to God’s patience. We don’t want to push Him that far. 

If we don’t listen to God, who or what do we listen to?
  1. Each other—sinner in the same boat. 
  2. The world—the world system is of the devil and his ways are cruel and heartless.
  3. Learned men and women—nothing wrong with education, but it does not necessarily make us wise, loving or caring. 
Why not listen to God? He is the Truth and the Light. He loves His creation; He loves us, His people. Why not listen? Because when we don’t get our way we act like spoiled brats, we grumble and complain and stop up our ears. We push God to the limit of His patience and then we have the gall to arrogantly ask why He doesn’t answer our prayers. Sometimes He does; we’re just not listening.  Other times, God would not listen. Meanwhile, as the world goes to hell, we dance in our sin. And this is how we made the pleasant land desolate--ignoring God’s Word.

 Forgive us, Almighty God. Come quickly, Lord Jesus, come.