Tag Archives: trials

Fear and pain are what move you to grow, mature and serve others to your glory and Jesus’

One thing I find odd about people today is that too many of them genuinely think that things are supposed to happen nice and easy, that they’re never supposed to experience any kind of pain, that there shouldn’t be any risk to what they do. Basically we have become unrealistically averse to any kind of pain or risk. An article in “Triathlete Magazine” (October 2015 p 28) written by Jene Shaw discusses the fact that if you’re going to do anything to grow, there’s going to be pain.

It really is called maturing, too many really think that they can really sit back, contribute as little as possible or nothing and expect everyone else to scurry around them. Obviously as a person and in a society, that model is not going to last too long. Only so many people can take, because there are only so many  available to give. In order to grow and become stronger and be better positioned to support those in genuine need. When we all do what is necessary then it’s not just for someone else, be we do become much stronger and a lot better able to cope with life. As a part of that whole we become better.

Too many really believe that pain is bad and something is wrong when they have pain. As the picture posted by someone in the triathlon community puts so well, at the end , when the challenge is overcome, the pain is a sign that you have grown through it. Whether it’s triathlon, basketball, weights, abs, swimming, if I don’t feel some pain, muscular, a little bruising I really don’t feel I’ve gotten the whole experience. That pain in the muscles tells me, that my body will rebuild from that pain and make me stronger.

As Jene suggests in the article, you need to accept the pain, if you fight it or fear it you can’t grow into it. Believe me there have been plenty of times when I’ve stood at the start of a swim at 7am wondering what I’m doing up at this time, knowing that hitting that water is going to be a, yea, painful experience. Knowing that I’m probably going to be kicked and elbowed by other swimmers, knowing that I have to get out to bike and run, yea there is anxiety. But knowing the feeling of accomplishment, success in finishing and knowing what it will do for my physical, mental and yes spiritual growth that will follow (some call it “bragging rights”), helps me to stand up to the challenge. So realize what you love about it, what it will move you to and the heck with the pain. I’ve done 54 triathlons and dozens of other races, so yea, I think I know what I’m talking about.

Jene suggests setting some goals. How can I do the swim, bike, run faster. Isn’t that finishers medal going to look good with my other medals, how great it will be to share with the other finishers, with my family, friends,  others at church? Think about the things you need to do during the race in order to finish as strong as possible.

She suggests relaxing, find some positive way; deep breaths, stretching and shaking, encouraging mental images, encouraging the other triathletes. It will work out and it will be rewarding, even if it’s only for your personal satisfaction.

Yes there is pain that is a warning sign. When you get to the point where you have overcome a lot of fear, anxiety you might think you should push through that pain. You do have to learn the difference, when you need to push through and accomplish, or when you do need to stop in order to prevent further damage. So there is pain that we need to overcome on our own in order to grow stronger, but pain when we do need someone else’s help. Can you say “medical tent, take me to the hospital”?

But in a Christian context it is the same. As disciples we need to grow and strengthen. When we do, those around us can take courage in us, we become stronger to help those who are genuinely in need, we become givers and leaders, not just takers. Yes there is a time in the Christian walk when we do need to take. Jesus has provided those times to be baptized, to be strengthened in His Body and Blood in our body and spirit, to be built up and strengthened in His preached word and in Scripture. To be a part of Christian fellowship that builds up yourself and those around you. There are times when you will feel you can’t go on. Truth is that being a Christian marks you out for attacks by the devil. The upside is that it also marks us out to be protected by the Holy Spirit, and to be strengthened and gifted to be better able to provide for yourself and for others. Certainly Jesus’ disciples started out as kind of weak and petty. Within a few short years they grew to be tigers of the Christian faith who served many others and also stood up to the fear and challenges of being disciples up to and including dying for Christ.

Too many people today make up their minds that they can’t, when it’s really they won’t. They think that they’re too weak, when they’ve never even tried to see how strong they could be. I’ve experienced this a lot: “well you are bigger and stronger, mentally and physically, you’re special so you can”. I assure you the only way I became that way is by pushing myself. There are plenty of times when I could have just rolled over and let it defeat me. There are too many people who’ve already decided they can’t do anything for themselves and let it defeat them. Ironically those will be the someones who decide that you shouldn’t be doing those things for yourself either. You have to continue to strive. Yea, don’t get me started on those people who stand there, find some way to pooh-pooh what you’re doing and give you this “hey! You think you’re better than me?” Me? I really don’t care, but apparently you seem to know deep down.

Ministry has been a very real lesson in knowing who I can rely on and who I just need to keep at arms length. Sure I serve anyone as much as I can. But, especially in an inner-city church, there are a lot out there who simply don’t want to step up and in fact want to take all that you will give them, if not more. They really see others as simply a source to provide for themselves. Again, yes, do what you can and don’t try to make excuses to avoid situations. However, know your limits and what pain is a warning sign. Do you want to beat yourself on some of those people who are hard as rocks? There are a lot of Christian brothers and sisters who do understand their own growth and growth together with others. Those are the ones that you need to pull together with.

Yes, there is pain, that’s a good thing and the sooner you accept that it will build and strengthen, the better for you and those around you. Sometimes you do need to be at that starting line wondering; “what the heck am I doing here”. But you seem to get to the finish and realize how great that was. There is team too. It is exhilarating to win a basketball game as a team, even though you’ve gotten bruised and banged and it’s kind of hard to really stand. Those painful muscles in the morning are a wonderful memory of the things you did to be stronger from the previous day. Find those who encourage and build you up and let them do the same for you. Quit sitting behind that computer looking for that kind of fellowship. It’s sad on your part and it’s just not going to happen.

Celebrate the success you’ve achieved, share it with those who know what it means to be fearful and have pain, it’s a great way to grow in brothers and sisters. Realize that even when there is suffering for Jesus, He knows what’s going on, who is and isn’t His. I’m glad I’m His, I’m glad He’s given me the challenges He has and that He’s been the one to move me through the fear, pain, anxiety and given me the thrill of victory, no matter how small the world sees that victory. Let Jesus move you to where you need to be regardless of the things you have to overcome. When I’ve reached the end of those challenges, I’ve realized that Jesus has done the things necessary in order to get me there. So feel some real pain and fear, join those who know the joy and accomplishment that makes you feel. You will be a far better person and so much of your fear and stress will disappear. Find me at the starting line of the next race, it would be great to obsess and encourage with you. !

Suffering/hardship is often God’s way of teaching

“If you become bitter over your hardships, you close some parts of your life from God.”(Experiencing God Day by Day Henry and Richard Blackaby p 27) And certainly many just close off their entire life to God. Increasingly people really expect that they should go through life with nary a bump, when that bump happens, they often shake their fist at God and berate and reject Him. “How could You let this happen?” They shriek.

“Some place in your soul can be reached only by suffering. The Spirit of God has important things to teach you, you can only learn these lessons in the midst of trials.”(Ibid) I’m not going to stake my theological reputation on this statement, however, it does seem that what we learn through trials/suffering/hardship, does stick with us, makes a more long lasting impact on what we do, then if life is just a breeze and we are handed everything. “Ok, I pick God, OK, now make me happy, healthy, wealthy, famous …” Just doesn’t work that way. Did God put us here just to hand us stuff and then bring us into eternal life in the resurrection? No, we’re here to grow, build character, integrity, follow Him as He makes us worthy of being with Him in the eternal life. That only comes through growth and growth only comes through trials and maturity.

“David spent years in suffering and heartache. When he finally ascended the throne, he was a man after God’s own heart.”(Ibid) Jesus certainly had reason to be bitter, through His incarnation, He was being put upon, pushed, threatened. But even on the cross He says “forgive them Father for they know not what they do”. Clearly bitterness turns us away from what Jesus wants for us, and leaves us to flounder around in our personal pity party. What’s worse we expect to drag others down with us in that pity party. I would submit that God uses the suffering and trials to make us complete. That if we resist what God is doing, sort of like not taking our math finals in high school, then we have not completed what God’s doing in us. If we somehow avoid or chose not to deal with some trial God intended for us do we become that person we should be in Jesus? I think a case could be made that we don’t. Do we want to be a lesser person in that eternal life in the resurrection with Christ? We should try to be as much as we can and trust that God is giving us the faith we need to follow Him while He is teaching us. Sure we don’t want to, but on the other end we become more in Him and less in the world. Shouldn’t we be doing that as we move to eternal life?

Keep moving, trust God to work things out

The Blackabys write: “…We tend to divide problems into two categories: problems that we know require God’s help and problems we can handle on our own.” Sort of I will handle everything God, no need for You. Ah well, in this case, I’m going to need a miracle, so You handle it.

The right answer? Ya, turn it over to God, whatever the problem is. I have to tell you, it is very freeing, and despite what we big, tough, know-it-all guys think, it’s going to work out the way God wants it to anyway. With or without me and I’m probably only going to get in the way and mess things up with my efforts.

No, it does not mean you passively sit there in our little pity puddle just hoping, “how come I always have these problems”, we all do, get over it. Or letting problems just distract us so much, dwelling on them, losing sleep over them and often letting the rest of life pass us by. Yea, we want to be in control, we want everything to work out according to our plan.

OK, guess I’m getting to the age where it’s finally hitting home for me. I can dwell on stuff, or I can keep going in the direction the Holy Spirit is leading me. For those of you who have not had the benefit of years of experience, do yourself a big favor and come to this realization faster than me; you are always going to have issues in your life. You do what you need to do and move on. Dwelling on them is not what God wants you to do. He will work them out. Sure, you are going to, usually, have to do something, but don’t get bogged down in it. There are the things that will need attention. I really have found that what needs attention I deal with, then the Holy Spirit is refocusing me, moving me where He wants me and He’s dealing with the issue.

I would even submit that it seems that it is often some kind of demonic influence that is putting problems, issues, whining and crying in our path in order to knock us off the path we’re supposed to be on. Does God give us trials? Ya, but it always seems you can distinguish between God’s trials to move us, teach us, mature us and demonic problems. The demonic always seems to be about petty nonsense, you can almost feel yourself being dragged down into some insipid silliness intended just to distract. In both cases I submit that you can almost feel the Holy Spirit moving me past the pettiness, but focusing me on what God wants me to do and to learn and not trusting in me, but in Him. I really think God wants us to push through ‘problems’, to not get distracted with the trivial.

Does that mean that some problems are going to “look” bigger more compelling? Sure. Is that more reason to get caught up in them? No. If it really is an evil influence that wants to confuse us, seems that is all the more reason to not get caught up in it. Then we refocus on God and trust that He will work it out and we get back on the track He wants us on and keep pressing ahead on His plan and goal.

Believe me, I know what it is to be distracted by what seems to be more compelling, even though I know it is more about the negative and ungodly. Resist the urge to let yourself be diverted from God’s guidance and focus on His positive influence. Keep in prayer that He will deal with the evil influence, He will.

The Blackabys (Experiencing God Day by Day p 283) end: “If you feel strong in an area of your life, beware! Often your strength, rather than your weakness, hinders you from trusting God. God will bring you to a point of weakness if that is what it takes to bring you to trust in Him. Do not despise your weakness, for it leads you to trust in God’s strength.” For a lot of us, we think we can confront the evil and demonic in our own strength and still follow where the Holy Spirit is leading us. That’s simply not realistic, why we would try to fight something far older, more experienced that can easily outsmart us, when God is there, who is infinitely wiser and smarter than any being, trying to get us to focus on Him. I’m going to stick with Him and in faith trust that He’s going to deal with all the negative and lead me to do the positive uplifting things He’s planned for me.

Temptation Eyes James 1: 12-18 First St Johns Feb 22, 2015

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who have remained steadfast under trial said … AMEN!

In the early 1970’s, one of the first songs that I remember as a teen, ironically, was by a group called the Grass Roots, titled “Temptation Eyes”. It was a hard driving rock song, which, really characterizes temptation. For me, temptation is sort of this hard driving, almost drilling into you this desire, you just have to have it. The lyrics, for a secular song, really do give you a sense of temptation. “She’s got something that moves my soul…”[1] A secular song talking about something that reaches right down into the soul. This temptation that is so compelling is moving this singer with a hard rock rhythm.

Have no doubt that when Jesus was being tempted by Satan, Jesus was feeling temptation that was drilling down into Him. The desert is not a welcoming place, it’s hot, it’s dry (unless of course it’s snowing and freezing rain in York, then it’s almost inviting.) temptation for shelter from the sun, for cool, refreshing water, for food, is compelling in the desert. But as the writer of Hebrews tells us: “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. This passage assures us that Jesus did suffer. He felt temptation deep down. He knows that we are tempted and He knows that temptation can steer us to things that aren’t good for us, that take our eyes off of Him who is our hope and promise. But also because of this we know that we can trust Him.

Too often we deal with things in our lives that reach down into our soul. Others will try to give us comfort and assurance, “oh it’s nothing”, we can stay strong and cope. It’s a big difference between men and women. There are things women contend with, that they are tempted by, that as men we just don’t get. We just cannot empathize with the compulsion they feel. And certainly vice versa. We can tell each other nice things, and think that we are helping, but too often we really aren’t and may be aggravating the situation. However, with Jesus, based on James’ words and of the writer of Hebrews, we are assured that Jesus understands. Too often we get an image of God as angry and vengeful, just waiting to strike us down when we are even so much as tempted. That is God to many, to those who are not saved in Jesus. But we, who are saved in Jesus, who are born again as new men and women, saved in Christ, we have a Savior who understands, who wants to help us push back against temptation before we are overwhelmed and give in. Temptation is not a sin, Mark tells us that Jesus was tempted (Mark 1:13), we certainly know that Jesus did not sin. But for us, who are weak in ourselves, it is much too easy for that temptation to push us into something that is sin. James writes: “…each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (Jas 1:14-15) Temptation is all around us, the Ben and Jerry’s you know is in the freezer, anger, vengeance, doing things that hurt you and someone else. Turn on the television, computer, books, magazines, its everywhere. When we give in to sin, we come up with excuses and rationalizations that push Jesus away and make that sin an idol, and then we cross the line and commit sin.

Our Savior understands that, He’s not standing over us just waiting for us to make that wrong move, that gotcha. He has been there, in this time of Lent we remember His time in the desert. From that Jesus can relate to those who are His, because, as the writer of Hebrews pens: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are,…” (Heb 4:15), but then goes on to say, “yet without sin.”

Jesus knows what confronts us, He does relate to us. Even more, if we let Him, the Holy Spirit will reach down and strengthen us. We often think of that sin as a treat, we pooh-pooh things like over indulging in food. It’s not healthy for us, it’s weakening our body, it makes us less able to serve Jesus and our brothers and sisters in Jesus. Sure in moderation, but in this day and age? We are not a moderate people. Have you seen Ben and Jerry’s concoction, formulated by Jimmy Fallon, it puts me into a diabetic coma just looking at it.

It does make you wonder, why Satan would even try with Jesus. Satan knows as well as anyone how this is going to end up. But he wants us to fail. He wants us to quit. Clearly Jesus had come into the world to mess up Satan’s plans and schemes. You can’t expect Satan to just twiddle his thumbs while Jesus undoes all the evil and sin of the world. You can’t expect him to give up, he wants to unravel the world, he’s condemned, he wants everyone condemned. So he had to push back against Jesus. But Satan isn’t normally over the top, he’s not usually in your face. He is usually subtle, continually trying to undermine us. He’s putting temptation in front of you so that you will quit and give in. You will stop caring about what Jesus wants and only focus on the object of your desire.

Writing about our vocations in life; work, family, church, community; “Wingren says that ‘Temptation in vocation is the devil’s attempt to get man out of his vocation” (121) Dr Gene Veith goes on to write: The devil wants you to quit. He wants you to quit your job. He wants you to get a divorce. He wants you to stop doing things for that ungrateful bunch at church. He wants you to tell your kids to ‘Do whatever you want to do. I give up.’ He wants you to leave that congregation because it’s nothing but trouble.”[2] Is that not the world we see today? Left and right we see this giving into temptation. Not just the obvious temptations, lust, gluttony, greed, anger etc. The more subtle temptation of giving up. Why try? The government will provide for you, some relative will provide for you, the church, should, provide for you. Why try at work? People are just mean to you there. Why try in your marriage? If someone doesn’t make you happy, dump ‘em. Why try with your kids, they’re just going to do what they want. Why try with your church? The pastor is hopeless, nothing good is happening and of course, we know that the church is just full of hypocrites anyway.

Yea, the quitter mentality we see in the world today. You can give into the world, you can let Satan lead you away and give into the temptation that he waves in front of you to quit, to give up. Jesus could have quit out in the desert, just packed it in, “hey, not my problem, they’re going to have to deal with this temptation stuff themselves.” He didn’t! He was faithful to you, to make sure you had that hope and promise that you have a Savior who will not quit on you. He gives us the faith to continue to trust in Him, but we just go ahead and chuck it? Then what? Revelation chapters 2 and 3, Jesus is telling the readers that they will face terrible tribulation. Jesus promises the one who overcomes: “The one who conquers and keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations… He will be clothed in white garments and I will never blot out his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels…Hold fast so that no one will seize your crown… I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God…” Read chapters 2 and 3 in the Book of Revelation. He warns us, but the promises He makes to those who are faithful, are eternal and overwhelming.

The great thing is, Jesus doesn’t leave us to our own strength to overcome temptation and sin. We know we have His promise to defend us, to protect us, to give us the faith we need. But how sad is it, when He is standing there protecting us and we just run away, concerned only about ourself? Mandisa is a great Christian rock singer, these lyrics are from a recent song:

“Everybody’s been down Hit the bottom, hit the ground, Ooh, you’re not alone
Just take a breath, don’t forget, Hang on to His promises, He wants You to know

You’re an overcomer, Stay in the fight ‘til the final round, You’re not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now[3]

Be an overcomer, don’t give into temptation. The lyrics of the Grass Roots song are instructive: “But she lets me down everytime, can’t make her mind she’s no one’s lover…” Temptation will always let you down, will fail you. But Christ will always strengthen you and save you. You can continue to deal with temptation or be an overcomer.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

[1] Grass Roots  “Temptation Eyes”

[2] Gene Veith “God at Work” quoting Wingren “Luther on Vocation”

[3] Mandisa “Overcomer”

Service in to the Lord and His church LWML Sunday Jan 18, 2015 First St Johns

Click on the above picture for the audio version of this sermon.

This sermon isn’t mine, it was prepared by the Lutheran Women’s Mission League national office. It’s a really good sermon, and it honors a great group of ladies who serve their church and community so well and a group that is a terrific part of our church. We had a great dinner after worship. The Men’s Network is making gains!!!

Service in to the Lord and His church   LWML Sunday   Jan 18, 2015   First St Johns

Rich blessings and congratulations to the women of the LWML, our Lutheran Women in Mission, this morning as we celebrate and investigate how we all by faith in the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ are enabled to be fragrant sacrifices and offerings before Him in both His Kingdom and in the earth.

The book of Ephesians, written by Saint Paul, to the saints of Ephesus in the decade of the 60’s is one of the letters that Paul wrote from a jail cell in Rome. He writes, despite his own dire situation, a word of encouragement to the saints. Paul understands this, that since His conversion on the Damascus Road his life has been one of great trial and tribulation. When Saul met the Lord Jesus whom he was persecuting, he was in his own words a premier Israelite circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law blameless (Philippians 3:4b-6).

Paul had come to the realization what all the faithful in Christ have come to understand under the power of the Holy Spirit. We understand that none of our labor is acceptable to God. We understand that none of our carnal, fleshly work is acceptable in His sight. All our works are as filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6) although some men may be very pleased and impressed with our achievements. None of our carnal works rise to the Lord Jesus as fragrant offerings or are acceptable to our Father in heaven as pleasing sacrifices. Our God sees all our work as filthy rags, not one worthy of meriting any attention from Him.

In a sermon on this text proclaimed on the Third Sunday in Lent by Dr. Martin Luther these words were spoken, “This expression Paul takes from the Old Testament. There the temporal sacrifices are described as being ‘a sweet-smelling savour’ unto God: that is, they were acceptable and well-pleasing to him; but not, as the Jews imagined, because of the value of the work or of the sacrifices in themselves. For such thoughts they were chastised by the prophets often enough. They were acceptable on the ground of the true sacrifice which they foreshadowed and encircled.” Dr. Luther well understands that none of our works reach God as fragrant sacrifices and offerings. Those kinds of offerings never did reach the Lord even in the Old Testament.

Dr. Luther continues in saying, “They [Israel’s sacrifices] were acceptable on the ground of the true sacrifice which they foreshadowed and encircled. Paul’s thought is this: The sacrifices of the Old Testament have passed.

Now all sacrifices are powerless but that of Christ himself; he is the sweet-smelling savour. This sacrifice is pleasing to God. He gladly accepts it and would have us be confident it is an acceptable offering in our stead.”

Once again we are faced with the reality of our fallen condition. We are at once sinners and saints. We have the terrible stain of sin upon us and at the same time have the wonderful promise of resurrrection glory upon us through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. This wonderful fragrant and gracious sacrifice on our behalf is the one that God receives as a fragrant offering and sacrifice. This is the ultimate sacrificial offering but there are many others worked by our Lord Jesus in obedience to our Father. Remember? In the beginning the Holy Spirit comes to a virgin named Mary and a Son is born to her and Joseph who is named Jesus. Prophecy proclaims the birth of this Child and angels sing the birth of this Child. The shepherds and wise men rejoice at the birth of this Child and our Father receives this miraculous birth as a fragrant 2014 LWML Sunday Sermon

Theme: “Fragrant Sacrifices and Offerings”

Text: Ephesians 5:2sacrifice and offering. This Jesus at eight days old is dedicated back to His Father in the rite of circumcision, a fragrant offering to the Lord. There is a wedding that is running a bit short on wine. Jesus turns water into the

best wine and the Father catches that scent as a fragrant offering. And there is more!

Blind people see, deaf people hear, lame people have their limbs restored, sick people are healed, lepers are cleansed, seas are calmed, demons are cast out, mute people speak, the hungry are fed, demon possessed are delivered, captives are set free, severed ears restored, and if that were not enough, resurrection and life become the new normal. Our Father receives all these acts as fragrant sacrifices and offerings. They reach to His nostrils and the Lord rejoices, the angels dance, the Holy Spirit rejoices because our Father is well pleased, the incense has been lit, the fire is burning and the perfect sacrifice, the blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12:24) is set to be shed. The perfect offering is so sweet and fragrant a sacrifice to the Father that it has the power to cover and remove the sin of all humankind for all time.

That is the plan and design of God. That Jesus Christ, the perfect fragrant sacrifice and offering, the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world in whose book the names of all who live and die and rise by faith in Christ Jesus have been written. (Revelation 13:8) And not only are their names written in the book of the Lamb and in the heart of the Father but their works of faith, good works prepared beforehand in which they walk, rise to the throne of our Father as fragrant sacrifices and offerings.

Understand that when you in obedience to Matthew 28, As you are going, make disciples-share the Gospel with some soul in need of encouragement-the Father receives that as a fragrant sacrifice and offering. When you, water-baptized, blood-covered, Holy Spirit-filled, consecrated, and anointed Daughters of Zion in the LWML, give your pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars in the interest of missions, our Father receives every single sacrificial mite as a fragrant sacrifice and offering. When we all in faithful obedience, study the Word of God to show ourselves approved, when we dwell together in unity, when we faithfully hold the confession of the church in this perverse generation, when we speak faith, when we love one another, fragrant sacrifices and offerings rise up to the nostrils of our merciful, holy, and gracious God and Father.

I love the testimony of the Gospel of Saint Mark chapter sixteen verses sixteen through eighteen that say, Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Our baptismal faith rises up to our Father as a fragrant sacrifice. Saint Mark further testifies, These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name [the name above every name, the name of Jesus] they will cast out demons; [Hallelu-Jah!] they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it

will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.

Every act of obedience, every work of the saints of God, every act of faith, every word spoken in faith rises up to the Father as a sweet-smelling savor and sacrificial offering. We have the awesome privilege of bringing joy to the heart of our Father by not simply performing deeds of which He would approve but also in the words of Saint Paul to the Romans in the twelfth chapter, I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to

this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

So, dear saints of God, let’s strive with all our Holy Ghost-inspired and Spirit-filled faith to infuse the heavens with fragrant sacrifices and offerings by not simply doing, but by being those sacrifices and offerings in the nostrils of our loving God and Father.

Now may the peace of Christ that passes all understanding rule and reign in our hearts as fragrant sacrifices and offerings to our gracious God and Father, in the name of our matchless Lord Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Sheep protected and led by the Great Shepherd First St Johns, York, Pa. Ezekiel 34: 11-16, 20-24 November 23, 2014

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We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who will be together in the glory and plenty of eternity in Christ shouted out … AMEN

Our readings today are about eschatology, these are eschatological studies, don’t try saying that at home, I’m a trained professional. I’m thinking in terms of the ultimate Thanksgiving. You think you need a big kitchen table at your house for Thanksgiving? Think about how big God’s table is going to be that He will need for His promised time of life in the Resurrection. “And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel.” (Ezekiel 34:13)

If you’ve ever been to Quincy Market in Boston, there is a restaurant named Durgin Park. This restaurant goes back to the turn of the 20th century and if you’re in the right parts, well you can tell how old it is. They have great seafood, they have great prime rib, lots of other dishes, but here’s the deal, it’s served to you family style. You don’t have little tables all around, you have big long tables and you just grab your seat. There’s no maitre di, no pretense, you get a menu on the way, grab your seat, order your food and while you wait get to know the people all around you. It’s one reason you go there. It’s not for the service, the wait staff seems to make it their mission to see how uncomfortable they can get you, the food is great, like I said the atmosphere is early 20th century, but it’s great food, in an “interesting” facility. There are plenty of other people around you and you all know you’re there to meet people and you do, very little in terms of being bashful. Get a great dinner, stay for awhile, you have to because there’s so much to eat, and enjoy the impromptu goings on.

This is what it will be like at the dinner that God is promising Ezekiel. Being invited to the White House for dinner is a series of hoops and rolls, waiting, anticipating. How will the feast that God is talking about happen? “I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out… I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness…” You won’t be expecting anything and then you will be in His presence and He is going to give you the ultimate offer you can’t refuse. Durgin Park’s food is good, but how much better, how much more, how much more fun will the feast, the banquet at the end of time be? The ultimate open menu; You want New England Lobster, here it is. Cheasapeake Bay crab cakes? The best you’ve ever tasted. Chicago prime rib? New York City pizza, … what, huh? Really pizza, at the marriage feast of the Lamb? OK, you got it.

He promises us that we will be with people scattered from all places. Places that for a day were cloudy and dark, that’s where we are right now. Life…, in terms of eternity? It’s a day, it’s over before you know it, life is not reality, the resurrection is reality, this is eternal reality. You may be in those dark, cloudy places where you know you don’t belong. Not because you’re good or too smart or even unworthy, you’re there because He took you up, the Father saw His Son in you. Jesus came to you and said “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matt 25: 34). You will be there for one reason and one reason only and it has nothing to do with anything you did, it’s all about how you were saved by Christ. You were saved in baptism, you became that new creation in baptism, you were faithfully led by the Holy Spirit to worship, to take the Body and Blood of Jesus. Those small bits of bread and wine, His Body and Blood, are only a reminder of the immensity of what you will inherit, of what the Father will bring you to “…the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

In our passages today God is showing you the ultimate Thanksgiving Day feast. You didn’t do a thing for it. Moms, you aren’t going to cook, you aren’t going to serve, you aren’t going to clean up, you will be there with Christians from around the world, rejoicing with each other that you are saved, that you are eternally going to enjoy all the great gifts of the resurrection, the new world, the world the way it was intended to be, life and life more abundant. Abundance you can never imagine in the here and now.

A friend of mine had relatives in Lithuania, his parents were from Lithuania. My friend took them to the grocery store and when they got inside and saw all the marvelous food just waiting to be taken off the shelf and put in the shopping cart they were so overwhelmed some of them actually started to cry. That will be us when we’ve been rescued from the clouds and darkness of the world and brought to the marriage-feast.

I know for many people this may not sound initially inviting, you will be sitting with people that you may have never met, Christian brothers and sister, and they will be from all the places that God scattered them in life. Many will probably have gone through difficult, even serious trials, some life or death trials because of their faith. But they won’t talk about the unpleasantness of those trials, they will talk about how thankful they are that even through difficult times God provided, God gave them the hope and promise of being provided for. They will be celebrating their deliverance, we all will be, we all will be celebrating how faithful God was to provide in life, even in those times of pain and loss. The pain and loss of earth will be a dim memory, even if it was only a few hours ago for some.

The idea of sitting with a bunch of what you might think of as strangers might seem a little uncomfortable to some of you, but if you’ve ever had to do a lot of traveling, which often involves being in an unfamiliar place, with unfamiliar people, meals are often a chore and often uncomfortable. That’s why Durgin Park is appealing to many who are traveling to Boston, they will be with a bunch of other people who want to be with a friendly group and I can assure you I’ve never had a bad dinner there. But in the resurrection we will be with people who are true brothers and sisters in a world that will dazzle even us who think that we’re hard to impress. We will be like the relatives from Lithuania, overwhelmed in delight at what God has provided for us and for those whose earthly life might have been in material poverty and need.

In his book “Heaven” Randy Alcorn writes: “We know that people in Heaven have lots of feelings – all good ones. We’re told of banquets, feasts and singing. People will laugh there (Luke 6:21) Feasting, singing and rejoicing involve feelings.”1

Alcorn quotes Seneca the Roman philosopher who said, “The day thou fearest as the last is the birthday of eternity.”2

I have no doubt that you will enjoy your Thanksgiving celebration with family and friends, it will be a time of pleasure and belonging. But it will be a snack compared to what you will be given when you are picked by the Lord and brought to that banquet, eternally in the presence of the crucified and Risen Savior, our Redeemer. It won’t be a feast of just food and companions, it will be a feast of life and life more abundant, a world that will be just waiting for you to enjoy it’s splendour, its activity and its vastness, a world where even in eternity you will not be able to experience everything it has to offer. God is an infinite God, He delights in the pleasure of His children. To be sure, the world is often not very delightful, if not downright troubling. But the world that God brings us to will be a continuous celebration of life, eternal life to His glory, forever and ever …

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

1Randy Alcorn Heaven p 284

2Ibid p xvii

Unemployment it’s especially hard during the holidays. Enjoy the holidays, but on Monday try this

I have developed a heart for those dealing with unemployment. I worked in corporate finance for twenty years and went through my share of. Corporate challenges  I do know the drill. If you are dealing with this I am sure you have been working hard, doing all the things that are recommended and still keeping a great attitude. I would certainly encourage you to keep trusting in God, looking for His will and trusting that he is moving you where you should be.  I truly hope that you will take your foot off the pedal for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Keep a positive attitude, keep regular hours do what you can do but take time to enjoy family and friends to let a group like ours give support, for your pastor to encourage and give comfort. I know how you’re feeling and you need to stop beating yourself. This time of year is particularly tough for two groups, those who have lost a loved one and those who are unemployed. Please be with brothers and sisters in Jesus and enjoy their support. If you are in the York, Pa area and we can provide support of clothing, food, fellowship, please don’t hesitate to contact me at bm2driskell@aol.com.

Now something to think about for next week, maybe you’re kind of in a rut so try this. This is something we suggest to people in the group we facilitate, but now it is backed up with professional opinion. The following is from “Men’s Health” Jul/August 2014 page 20:

“Donating your time really will help you get ahead. In a study in the “Journal of Career Assessment”, unemployed people who volunteered weekly were far more likely to have a job within six months than those who didn’t lend a hand. Even those who volunteered less than two hours a week had a better shot at being hired elsewhere, says Varda Konstam PhD, the study’s lead researcher. The key word here is “elsewhere”. The ability to ladle out soup doesn’t mean you’re qualified to work only in a cafeteria. Interviewers are increasingly viewing such basic skills as indicators of broader skill sets. That means serving soup isn’t about serving soup; it shows that you’re good at customer service and work well with others. Try telethons to show off your sales and marketing tactics  or find another opportunity in your area at volunteermatch.org ”

i have seen at least two people in our group end up with really great positions by following this advice. One other note we are more and more seeing ages forty and over with this group. Either they’re the only ones taking the initiative to be part of such group or it’s hitting older workers. I’d be willing to be a combination of both. Any discussion on that would be appreciated we would like to get better in this area and input would be appreciated. Again Happy Thanksgiving and God bless.