Tag Archives: trust in God

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 as a Christian, supported by the Body of Christ, the Church

Despite what others say and might think it’s supposed to be, quite often becoming a Christian does mean that you are going to experience, at least, challenges, if not more. Now before you go running back to your little hiding place, where you’ve been hoping the rest of the world will just pass you by, I ask you, do you have a better idea? I don’t care if you’re a big tough guy, or a little woman, you all have your hiding places, thinking no one will see you and just pass you by. If you just let things alone, pass from life into death, you might just get through life without much difficulty. It is a lousy way to live the life that God has given you, but I guess you managed to get through without having your prissy little sensibilities hurt.  Good for you, you had a sad little life, you’ve sinned against God by piddling away your life and ignoring Him and since you did it all your way, and ignored God, well God has ignored you and let you condemn yourself to eternal separation from Him and eternal condemnation in Hell. You sent yourself there, God did permit it, goody for you, you had your free will.

For those who are in Christ you will experience challenges, there will be difficult times. It stands to reason, if you put yourself out there and are serving others you are going to take hits, you just are. In fact if you consider yourself a Christian and have just been cruising through, you might want to take a serious look at your relationship with Jesus, been a little too much about you and not really much about Him? I would question if you are still in relationship with Jesus and have slipped into the nice, cozy little world of condemnation.

My theme, lately, has been about the Body of Christ and how we all seem to feel like free agents, it’s all about me and Jesus and forgetting that it’s really about Jesus and His Body, His Bride, the church. All those fellow believers who are all experiencing challenges. Doesn’t it make more sense to turn to and rely on Christian brothers and sisters in times of trouble? Who else would know better the attacks of Satan and the world then someone else who has undergone those attacks? A brother or sister, someone who is in the Body, who also hurts when another part of the Body, you, me, brothers and sisters, has been hurt, we should be there to support others and know they support us.

We certainly have the Holy Spirit who is watching over us, we are protected, although we will stay take shots and hits in the world. But doesn’t it help more to have a flesh and blood brother watching over you and you watching over him? To build each other up and support each other? that other person may not be in the same church. I may not totally agree with him, but if he is genuinely in Jesus, we need to have each other’s “six”.

Whether you are new or been a long time in the Body of Jesus, you will experience adversity in the world. If the world rejected Jesus, it will challenge and reject you. That’s why you have the church and brothers and sisters. For those guys who think they’re so tough and can do it on your own, don’t be surprised when you are chewed up and spit out and leave yourself condemned to hell also, it will happen, I see men and women like that all the time. Tough guy, know it alls who end up flat on their back looking up at the sky and then expecting someone else to pick up the pieces because they were smart guys. If not for yourself, be there, at church, daily lives of Christians, for others to help them. I will bet an enormous amount you will be blessed and start wondering how you ever survived without brothers and sisters in Jesus.

Real truths need to be poured over and really absorbed. Not superficially like the world.

Listening to Radical Grace Radio Podcast which is done by a Lutheran pastor and lay person down in Florida. Matthew Pancake says the Magnificat never meant much to him until he had to learn it for choir. We learn things by repeating them over and over again. He says he suddenly realized what it was saying.
Hmmmm isn’t it so true. That is what liturgical worship is all about. Liturgy is deep, it is full of meaning. If people would stop treating it as just rote and really think about what it’s saying, what it means in our life, it will impress Biblical teachings and elements, God’s Word into our soul.
The problem is that our world wants a blunt ten second sound byte, tell me and I will decide whether I want it or not and move on. Yea, and we wonder why we are becoming more superficial and frankly crude. No one really makes us think, except that the church should be making us think through Biblical teaching and through fundamental Christian worship. But we want everything dragged down and diluted to make it easy for us. Sorry, but church is not ding-dong school, like too much public education. It’s intended to push, to make you think, to constantly have God’s Word hard-coated into your very soul.
God is not superficial, He gives us what we need in order to be pressed into our brain, heart and soul. For us to repeat over and over and when those times of trial come, we have God’s teaching right where we need it. When we have it hard coated it comes right back to us when it matters. We have taken the time to repeat it, to think about it, to let the Holy Spirit have time to really drill it into our head and soul. Something that we don’t do in our superficial, tell me something new and easy right now, world.
Liturgy, Bible study, prayer, may all seem rote, even tedious. But when it really is impressed on our brain, heart and soul, through regular worship, repetition, prayer then we truly begin to live in a way that is responsive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and become less responsive to the leading of the world. We begin to realize more and more how deep God’s Word is and how superficial and tedious all the blah, blah of the world really is.

We are of good courage as His children 2 Corinthians 5: 1-17 First Saint Johns June 14, 2015

[For the audio version, click on the above link]

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 are courageous in the Lord said … AMEN

“At our daughter’s high school graduation, I couldn’t help noticing a young man sporting a long bleached blond ponytail sprouting from the top of his otherwise shaved head. A heavy link chain hung around his neck, and one ear displayed several earrings.

I had to smile when I heard him say to his friend, “Man, I feel so out of place. I’m the only guy here not wearing a tie.”

There is such a thing as clueless courage, hey God bless him, frankly, it seems to me that there’s a lot of clueless courage in the world. It’s somehow “courageous” to be in favor of things that the Bible clearly calls sin, but because it’s what everyone else does, it’s somehow courageous.

When I was a boy, we moved a lot, seemed I was always the new kid on the block. Well you know how the “new kid on the block”, gets treated. I always found it amazing how these guys would pick a fight and think they were being courageous picking on me with six of their friends standing around. There’s just a whole lot of that today, everyone likes to think they’re a tough guy until they look and realize their posse isn’t around them.

Paul put up with a lot of bullies, people who would abuse their authority by abusing Paul, or people who would just try to bully him into shutting up. There’s a lot of that today. Those in the world love to think that they are so marvelously open minded, it’s rather shocking how rigid and close minded people are today. They will criticize anything a Christian says as “judgmental” and then turn around and judge them by telling them how judgmental they are. There is one big difference between a Christian and those in the world. When I say something and tell someone what they’re doing, or teaching or selling is wrong, I’m not making it up, or at least, as a Christian, I better not be. Anything I say to anyone better be something I can back up in the Bible. Part of the problem in that is that even those who are regularly part of the church, really don’t know the Bible. For most, they may have a knowledge of the Bible, but not sufficient to feel confident about sharing it with someone else.

Much as I’d like to think that I’m an absolute expert, I’m not, and there are times when I am witnessing to God’s will and I feel like I’m on shakey ground. I have to trust that the Holy Spirit put me in front of someone in order to witness to them. Matthew 10:19: “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.” Jesus is, of course, saying, that the Holy Spirit will guide you in what He wants you to say. It does take courage, we often summarize courage in that Christian word we call “faith”. Permit me to give a little longer quote from Dr Luther, because what we as Lutherans think of as faith is very different from what those in the world think of and actually, even most Christians: “Faith is not what some people think it is. Their human dream is a delusion. Because they observe that faith is not followed by good works or a better life, they fall into error, even though they speak and hear much about faith. “Faith is not enough,” they say, “You must do good works, you must be pious to be saved.”[1]

It’s interesting how we think in terms of being “pious” to have “faith”, whereas both Luther and Paul say, it’s not so much being somehow so humble, bashful, even restrained, sure we aren’t called to be obnoxious, but when we are witnessing to God, we are called to be assertive, positive, uplifting, but in no way bashful or pulling our punches. Many might see being reserved as being somehow so much more “Christian”, but I have yet to have anyone show me in the Bible where Jesus, Paul, Peter, John the Baptist, the Old Testament prophets were somehow piously quiet or bashful. Plenty of people thought they were more than sufficiently obnoxious. But they weren’t, they were being courageous.

I even hear Christians say this: “Well you don’t want to impose your beliefs on others.”????? Let’s understand this right off the bat, I’m not imposing my beliefs on anyone! If I can’t back up something I say in a very straightforward and unambiguous way from the Bible, then I should not be saying it. If I am faithfully and yes, courageously, speaking and witnessing for God, if I’m being led by the Holy Spirit to share Christ with someone else, how is that imposing “my beliefs” on someone else? They are “my” beliefs to the extent that as a temple of the Holy Spirit, I am faithful to Jesus Christ my Lord and I certainly have been imbued with those beliefs, but where did those beliefs come from? Me? No! They are what Jesus taught, God the Son, they are what He expects us to live by and to actively share and live by with others. Just like my faith, how I know to live and serve as a Christian is because the Holy Spirit has guided me and you, to live and serve and speak that way to the world. We need to faithfully follow what Jesus tells us and to stop living by the world’s uninformed opinion. More often than not when I am sharing Christ with someone, they don’t even know why they believe what they believe or even what they believe. They’ve heard someone else say it that criticizes Christians and they simply accept what they’ve heard.

We are called to “always be of good courage”. Paul goes on to say, “we walk by faith, not by sight”. That does make us very different from those in the world. They have no faith, they have no discernment, they accept what the world imposes on them and they expect others to just shut up and listen. If what you say is opposed to them, you’re wrong and will be slapped with however many nasty, intolerant labels those in the world will impose on you. While the Holy Spirit guides you to speak, Matthew 10:19 ; “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.”  While we have the word of God in the Bible to tell us God’s will, while we have the preached word, teachers who are there to help you understand God’s will and word, the world has only what’s been made up. The world will ignore God’s word, tell you what the real “truth” is, and has no basis for telling you anything.

Faith is the courage the Holy Spirit gives us in order to stand against a dark, sinful, ignorant world, the courage to tell the world what God’s will is. The world likes to think it’s will is important, in the end those opinions change, are proven wrong and are just ignorant of the facts. God’s will has been what matters and has been consistent for eternity. The world’s opinion lasts for a season and then is completely different a short time later. The world’s “truth” can’t be counted on for more than a few months, God’s truth has been and will be forever. Luther says: “Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you

freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace.”[2] These aren’t your words or actions, they’re God’s, you’re not “imposing” anything. God is giving you the faith and courage to tell those around you the truth. If they want to treat you rudely, bully you, impose their groundless beliefs on you, that becomes their problem. You have courageously, faithfully and strongly pointed to the truth that God Father, Son and Holy Spirit guide us in. You’ve done your part courageously, not imposing, now we leave it to the Holy Spirit to do His part. If that other person can’t, won’t accept it and continues to act like you’re wrong, they’re the ones that will pay the price. You have been faithful and courageous in sharing Christ and He will tell you “’Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ (Matthew 25:21) Take out your journal, how can you be more faithful in the courage God gives you to share the truth of God’s will and with whom will you share it?

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

[1] Rev. Robert E. Smith Walther Library Concordia Theological Seminary

http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/luther/luther-faith.txt

[2] Ibid

It’s not The banal, provincial and idiosyncratic, it’s about true Christian worship.

It’s about the infinite, the whole Body

One of the main points of Christianity is its universality, it’s timelessness, about being so part of something so much bigger, infinitely bigger. Christianity is not limited to a time and place, it is worship that we share with all the generations of brothers and sisters in Jesus who have preceded us, all who will follow us and all who are around the world.

That connection surely is in Jesus, the Triune God, but it is also in shared worship. Be honest, if Augustine showed up at the door of First St Johns today, he would get it.  Yea there are variations, especially since the time of Martin Luther, but Augustine would still understand that this is Christian worship. If someone from Liberia, Thailand, Russia, South America showed up at First St Johns they would recognize what is going on, they would be comfortable that they are with fellow Christians and know the point of what we are doing at worship.

When we do our provincial, idiosyncratic, bouncing around that is only meaningful to your particulaf generation, in your little part of the world, to your little culture, that doesn’t apply geographically, generationally, that is only about your tastes, your preferences, you have limited yourself. It’s really not about worshipping Jesus, it’s about worshipping your preferences, and Jesus just happens to fit those preferences.

Liturgical worship is not about “little ole me”, it’s about being part of something infinitely bigger, that cuts through time, generations, thru space, across cultures, both now and through history. Liturgical worship, genuinely ties me to the worship of Christ, to hundreds of millions of people in time and space.

Sure would I like a time where I’m being entertained by Michael Card, Rich Mullins (yes I know he is in the presence of the Lord)’ Chris Rice, John Michael Talbot, Carmen. All due respect but those musicians are part of an older generation and now it’s about Mandisa, King and Country, David Crowder. Sorry for most out there, they are only going to recognize the names of their generation. Sorry, I’m much more interested in being tied to brothers and sisters in Jesus around the world and down through history, than those who are Michael W Smith fans talking about Jesus.

As much as many would like to think that “worship” today is oh so cutting edge and meaningful, be honest it’s really not. It’s all about you, all about your entertainment, and not really not about worship. You may think your praise band is the most plugged in, but to Christians around the world and through history it’s not! Not even recognizable, to most Christians and to the vast majority of Christians even offensive.

Yea, you want worship your way, but it’s time to recognize that it’s not about you. Christian worship is and always will be about Jesus first, then about you being part of the “catholic” that is “universal, authoritative ” true Christian church that is about serving Christ and His people and not about your provincial, narrow tastes. You may think new is somehow more enlightened and applicable, but it’s only to you and your big box church are a tiny part of the universal church in time and place. Maybe it’s about time, for you to become part of the universal church and save the entertainment for afterwards. By all means Michael Card coming to your church, invite me. I’m inviting you to real worship, that will unite you with Christians throughout the world and history at First St Johns.

In Jesus we get the attitude we need. Then it’s up to us.

It really is about attitude. Sure people with bad attitudes succeed, but you also know that they will never be content, they will never know trust, promise, they will always be insecure. They know that even if their lives appear to be a “success”‘, that they will never have peace. Peace doesn’t necessarily mean complacency. In fact it seems when the Holy Spirit gives me peace is when I get excited and driven to take on the next challenge. Too often I just really don’t “see” it and can’t get motivated.

This leads me to a bit more of a mundane subject. “in a landmark 1967 study. Australian psychologist Alan Richardson chose three random groups of students. One group practiced basketball free throws daily for twenty days. Two other groups shot only on the first and last days. But one of the no shooting groups spent twenty minutes per day carefully visualizing foul shots. At the end, the non-practicers hadn’t improved at all. No surprise. The hands-on practicers improved 24%. And the visualizers? They improved 23 percent… ”

“…mental training will boost performance. Psychologist Steve Ungerleider recommends regularly sitting in a quiet, comfortable space and spending 20 minutes mentally walking through ever step of your upcoming bike, run, or ski before race day.” – Outside Magazine. P 66 January 2015.

There are times when I am kind of wondering about what the Holy Spirit is leading me to do. Too often what’s anyone’s response? Fight or flight? You either just plunge right in or you pull a Jonah and head west. Seems to me most of the time we need to spend time being guided by the Holy Spirit in how we should do what we are being guided to do. Certainly it will take away a lot of your anxiety, it’s just not going to be as bad as you think. “If I go and talk about Jesus to that person what will happen, how is God helping me to visualize that?” Sure they could just brush me off, but now that I’m visualizing it, it’s really not that bad. But if I keep thinking about hitting those free throws, seeing some genuine trust, hope and promise in the person I’m talking to, wow! Won’t that be so incredible? Win the game, see the Holy Spirit bringing someone to salvation. “jje

Spend some time on what the Holy Spirit wants you to do and how that would look. No, it’s not always going to be what we think we want. The results may not always be enough, at least to our standards. But knowing that it is the Holy Spirit moving, seeing that, mentally and then being there seeing Him work, these are things that we are way to quick to throw cold water on. Spend some time to see it the way the Holy Spirit wants it and follow through.

Remember and record how God has moved in your life.

I really encourage people to journal. It’s a rare sermon when I’m not encouraging the congregation to do take the sermon topic and write about it from their own perspective. “Spiritual memory is crucial in the Christian life. Do you vividly recall times when you know God spoke to you? It would be tragic if, in your haste to advance in your Christian faith, you neglected to leave spiritual markers at the key crossroads of your life.” (Henry and Richard Blackaby Experiencing God Day by Day p 174).

“Hearing God” means a lot of things. That movement in your soul, heart, head however you put it, when it’s almost impossible to resist that you know God is moving you. The Blackabys refer to spiritual markers in physical terms. God picked me up and moved me from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania, so I’m not going to see physical markers. But there are those markers I remember, I think the Holy Spirit brings them, to mind as a way to keep me on course.

We need to do a much better job of remembering the times when God moved us in our lives. That doesn’t mean the tedious evangelical testimonials, “God spoke to me because I’m special and He told me to tell you”‘ ya? No! God speaks to all of us, sure share what He says to you; Mark it down in your heart, mark it where He’s doing it, why, what’s going on around you. God moved you, He moves all His children, so for the tedious, self-absorbed types get over yourself and develop a spirit of humility and grace. I’m really tired of the big mouths that make Christians and Christianity look like buffoons.

“A spiritual marker identifies a time when you clearly knew that God had guided you.” I know exactly what Blackaby is saying. I can’t pinpoint it and I’m not unique because God did it to me, but I am loved by my Father who takes an interest in all those who He has made His children and is constantly working in their lives. We should keep track of those times. As I’ve written, I make a point of what the people in the congregation should take home and journal about. I have no doubt that God will use that to reach each person and guide them the way He wants them to go. Sit down and journal about these times in your life and use them to grow in spiritual maturity. Praise and glorify God for the things that He has done in your life and encourage others to learn from what you’re doing and apply it in their own lives. Go back on a regular basis to see what God has done in your life and raise up thanksgiving and share those with others. Not that you’re somehow spiritually superior, but to encourage them to see God working in their own lives.