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No Generation Gap in the Body of Christ September 26, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Apostle Paul, Body of Christ, Discipleship, Second Timothy, Suffering.
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2 Timothy 2:1-18

In the last Olympics, it was fascinating to watch the 4-by-100 and the 4-by-400 track and field races. In all of these races there is a baton that is passed on from runner to runner. The baton is essential to successfully completing the race. If it is dropped the race for that team is over. It doesn’t matter if the drop occurs during the exchange of the baton or during the running of the race. The minute the baton is not where it is supposed to be, the team is out.

In the same way, Grace Bible Church is running a relay race. There is, however, a difference in that we are all running at the same time, we all have our hand on the baton. Some are ready to let it go. Their time in the race is almost over. Others have their hand fully on the baton. Still others are grasping at the baton so that they can get a greater grip on that baton. If, however, a generation drops the baton, the race for Grace Bible Church may be over.

A. The oldest of us need to be imparting their most important lessons (doctrinal/practical) because we will soon be gone (verses 1, 2a, 7-9, 11-13). These lessons are threefold…

1. Be strong in God’s grace (verse 1).
2. Remember God’s gospel (verses 2a, 7-8).
3. Be willing to suffer (verses 9, 11-13). By the way, the creed in verses 11-13 indicates that there was a generation before Paul, a generation that passed down truth in the form of hymns like this one and creeds like the ones found in 1 Corinthians 15 describing the gospel. Let us like Paul look forward to the future but let us also forget that the truth of our message is anchored in the early church who received it from our Lord Jesus Christ who confirmed what the Old Testament prophets revealed in their message from God. If God never speaks to you with a direct message you still have a message from God. Just because it is mediated does not mean it is not God’s word.

B. Those of us following need to be strong in the truth (doctrinal/practical) as we focus on entrusting those less experienced among us who are found faithful in the truth (verses 1-13). Paul, writing from prison, had just related how he had been encouraged by Onesiphorus, who had come to Rome, to his prison cell, and had ministered to him. Who, however, is going to encourage Timothy? Paul volunteers but just in case encouragement from a prison cell is not enough, Paul reminds him that there is grace to be found in the Christ, Jesus.

“The… movie “Black Hawk Down” contains a scene that is quite instructive at this point. A vehicle filled with wounded American soldiers has come to a stop in the middle of a street where Somali bullets are flying in every direction. The officer in charge tells a soldier to get in and starting driving. ‘I can’t,’ the soldier says, ‘I’m shot.’ ‘We’re all shot,’ the officer replies. ‘Get in and drive’” (from Ray Pritchard). Paul is encouraging Timothy to get in and drive.

If the first generation reminds us that we should be willing to suffer, this next generation reminds us that we should be down in the trenches suffering with others. We get tired, we get frustrated, we get discouraged but we need to remember that’s the way the Christian life is. We are soldiers in battle, athletes in competition, farmers laboring for the future. The reward is after the battle, after the game, after the harvest. Now, we need to be strengthened in the grace of Christ.

C. The less experienced among us need to focus on learning to be faithful (verse 2, doctrinally/practically) so that we will be worthy to teach others (verses 14-18).

Have you heard “about the Chinese Bamboo tree[?] When you plant it, it doesn’t come up for five years. The first year—nothing. The second year—nothing. The third year—nothing. The fourth year—nothing. Then in the fifth year, it grows 90 feet in six weeks! The question is, ‘Did it grow 90 feet in five years in six weeks?’ Obviously, it took five years, even though for most of the time it seemed as if nothing was happening” (Ray Pritchard). We give up much too early. We forget that much of the work of God is like the Chinese bamboo tree.

How do you learn to be faithful? (1) You learn the truth of the Bible for that is where faith, the foundation of faithfulness, is to be found (2:15); (2) you learn to give of your time, your money, and your relationships by spending time serving God, including him in your plans, and committing yourself to his people.

This faithfulness, however, is not only talking about what we do but also what we believe. This week we heard in the news that it was discovered that Jesus had a wife. If that worried you, then there are some things that you need to know.
1. The supposed evidence is no bigger than a business card. There is so little text, we don’t even know what it says about Jesus and marriage.
2. It was supposedly written well over three hundred years after Jesus died and it is not certain that it is authentic.
3. If it is authentic, it may well be produced by Gnostics who were heretics and did not even exist until the century after Jesus lived.
4. Jesus was a common name during that time. Just like the grave of Jesus, so what?
5. If Jesus was married, so what? Do we not believe that Jesus was a man like we are in every respect except that he did not sin? What is so sinful about being married and having children by your wife?

Paul says do not waste your time within the church debating things like this that you know are not true. Teach faithful doctrine. Yes, answer the questions of those from outside, defend the faith, but don’t tolerate such foolish teachings within the church. They are not to be tolerated.

D. Those not yet among us must receive that which is true or they will be damned (verses 12, 18, 26). The snare of Satan is a snare that leads to eternal damnation.

How do you assure that those not in this auditorium today will receive the word? By not wasting your time with those things that corrupt the gospel of Jesus Christ. What does that look like today? It looks like a return, not to the culture of the previous generations but rather to the truth that is eternal, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Many years ago, when [Ray Pritchard] taught through Colossians in a Wednesday night Bible class in Oak Park [near Chicago], a small group of people would come to the chapel for the lessons… [They] often only had 20 or 30 people there…One year [he] spent a long time going through Colossians verse by verse…[One] night [he] came to Colossians 1:28… Bob Allen was there that night. Bob must have [been] around 80 years old. He had come to Christ in a dramatic conversion many decades earlier. His faith was deep and genuine, and he was by nature a modest man who didn’t talk about himself very much. Because there weren’t many people there that night, [Pritchard] roamed up and down the aisle of the chapel, waxing eloquent about the true purpose of the ministry. At one point [he] had Bob stand up to portray the day he would stand before the Lord. [Pritchard] imagined [himself] saying, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, this is Bob Allen. I present him to you as complete in Christ.’ A hush settled in the room as the magnificence of that day dawned on [the congregation]… Bob whispered, “Thank you,” as he sat down.” Will the generation following you say, “Thank you” to you and your generation?

What We Share In Christ September 5, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Apostle Paul, Body of Christ, Faith, Gospel, Hypocrisy, Reward, Second Timothy, Suffering.
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2 Timothy 1:3-12

One of the biggest misconceptions of our modern society is that we have to feel good about each other in order to have true community or, to use a biblical word, true fellowship. As often happens, we get the cart before the horse. We often compare the church to a family. Yet we would never say that it is good mutual feelings that form a family. We recognize that love for one another is characteristic of a good family but we also recognize that a dysfunctional family is still a family.

Perhaps I can explain it this way. When our children are conceived or adopted they become a part of our family, not because they feel good about life or about the faces that greet them when they come into the world but because they are conceived into or adopted into a family. At that moment they begin to share everything with their family. In the same way, the moment one is born again they begin to share with other believers. Today we want to look at some of those things we share with one another as members of the Body of Christ gathered together at Grace Bible Church.

A. We share with each other a genuine faith in Christ (verses 3-7). The word genuine means without hypocrisy, without pretending. Faith is either genuine or it is not. Genuine faith might be strong; it might be weak but it does not pretend.

1. Our genuine faith is characterized by a pure conscience (verses 3-5). In 2 Timothy 3:5 Paul describes those without a pure conscience. They have a form of godliness but deny its power. They say I have faith but they live differently.

“Major Osipovich, an air force pilot for the former USSR, planned to give a talk at his children’s school about peace. But he would need time off during the day to give his talk, so he volunteered for night duty…Soon the Soviet pilot was caught in a series of blunders and misinformation. In the end, Major Osipovich followed orders and shot down [an] unidentified aircraft. The actions of an air force major preparing to talk about peace plunged 240 passengers to their deaths and sparked an international incident that pushed world powers to a stand-off” (Leadership, Summer 1994). We may say we have faith but our actions demonstrate whether our faith is real or not.

Those without genuine faith are “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 2:2-4). If, however you have a genuine faith, the power of God will help you to love others rather than yourself or money or pleasure. If you have genuine faith you will live humbly, in submission to and thankful for authority. If you have genuine faith you will find a way to forgive and control your temper and your tongue.

2. Our genuine faith is characterized by a powerful spirit (verses 6-7). A genuine faith does not fear because it is confident in Christ. A genuine faith produces power in the form of love for others and for God. A genuine faith protects your mind from the deception of the devil.

B. We share with and in Christ the sufferings of the gospel (verses 8-11). Paul writes Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:3, “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” Suffering with Christ is not optional.

1. It is our calling (verses 8-9a). Christ has enlisted us as soldiers. Soldiers suffer. They don’t take breaks during battle. At Petersburg, Virginia the Union soldiers had dug a 500 foot tunnel to a chamber under the Confederate army. In this chamber explosives were placed in preparation for a surprise attack. When the explosion was set off there were immediately 278 casualties and a huge crater formed where the Confederate soldiers had been posted. Four Union divisions were to attack immediately after the explosion to take advantage of the confusion and to hopefully bring the war to an end. The first division belonged to Brigadier General James H. Ledlie but Ledlie was not with his troops. “He was immured in a bombproof [nearly a quarter-mile away], swigging away at a bottle of rum… joined [by another of the four divisions’ commanders, Brigadier General Edward Ferrero]…It…cost Burnside 3828 men, nearly half of them captured or missing” in great part because two commanders took a break during the battle (based on Shelby Foote’s account of the battle in Volume III, The Civil War: A Narrative).

2. It is our privilege according to His purpose and grace (verses 9b-10a). Before time began God purposed to give us grace through Jesus Christ. When Jesus came, that grace and love were revealed to the world. He “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” We have done nothing to deserve this calling but called we are nonetheless. We will suffer but it is a privilege that will be rewarded throughout all eternity.

3. It is our necessity (verses 10b-11). It is one thing to be called. It is another to fulfill that calling. Paul says, “God has appointed me to suffer for the gospel but I can do nothing else.”

C. We share with and in Christ a glorious certainty (verse 12). Only the soldier who fights receives the glory of the soldier. Only the athlete who competes wins the gold medal. Only the farmer who sows, reaps a harvest. The hymn Paul quotes from in 2 Timothy 2:12 says, “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.”

“Mario Cuomo, governor of New York, writes in Life magazine about…Poppa…We had just moved to Holliswood, New York…it had some land around it, even trees. One in particular was a great blue spruce that must have been 40 feet tall. Less than a week after we moved in, there was a terrible storm. We came home from the store that night to find the spruce pulled almost totally from the ground and flung forward, its mighty nose bent in the asphalt of the street…We stood in the street, looking down at the tree. ‘Okay, we gonna push ‘im up!’ [Poppa said]. ‘What are you talking about, Poppa? The roots are out of the ground!’ ‘Shut up, we gonna push ‘im up, he’s gonna grow again.’ …So we followed him into the house and we got what rope there was and we tied the rope around the tip of the tree that lay in the asphalt, and he stood up by the house, with me pulling on the rope and Frankie in the street in the rain, helping to push up the great blue spruce. In no time at all, we had it standing up straight again! With the rain still falling, Poppa dug away at the place where the roots were, making a muddy hole wider and wider as the tree sank lower and lower toward security. Then we shoveled mud over the roots and moved boulders to the base to keep the tree in place. Poppa drove stakes in the ground, tied rope from the trunk to the stakes and maybe two hours later looked at the spruce, the crippled spruce made straight by ropes, and said, ‘Don’t worry, he’s gonna grow again…’ If you were to drive past that house today, you would see the great, straight blue spruce, maybe 65 feet tall, pointing up to the heavens, pretending it never had its nose in the asphalt” (Leadership, Winter 1993).

This is what we share in Christ. We share in a genuine faith in Him, a faith that produces suffering here on earth and a glorious reward in eternity. We will reign with Him in His kingdom here on earth. We will celebrate with Him the great Passover, when He for the first time drinks of the fruit of the vine with those of us who have put our faith in Him and have been translated from the kingdom of darkness into His kingdom of light.

Does God Hate Some People? April 23, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Esau, Genesis, Isaac, Jacob, Malachi, Rebekah, Suffering.
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Genesis 25:19-34 with Malachi 1:1-5

The Bible says that God hated Esau. What does that mean? Does God hate any of us? Our hate usually involves a sinful attitude. What is involved in God’s hate?

“Helen Rosevere was a British medical missionary to the Congo during the uprising of the Mau Mau revolutionaries. Though she had gone to the Congo to serve God and to share the gospel, she was personally and brutally…raped, but hung on with her life to a faith in God that refused to be shaken…Recovering from her ordeal in the Congo, Helen wrote a statement that each of us should consider. She wrote a question as though spoken from God’s own mouth: Can you thank Me for trusting you with this experience even if I never tell you why?” (taken from Gripped by the Greatness of God by James McDonald, 2005).

A. There are many things about God’s dealings with us which we do not understand. When we look at life, there are times when God seems good and other times when He seems cruel. We could easily draw the conclusion that we cannot trust Him.

1. We may not understand why answered prayer results in pain (Gen. 25:21-22). Isaac prayed for his wife to bear a child. The couple knew that they were praying according to God’s will; God had promised that the world would be blessed through Isaac’s seed. Abraham had given Isaac everything (Genesis 25:5-9; see also Genesis 17:18) because he was the promised seed and Abraham’s other children were not. God answered Isaac’s prayer but the answer was so painful for Rebekah that she began to question the answer.

How often have we longed for God to answer our prayers and then when he answers them, we are disappointed because the answer brought its own set of problems. God did not have to allow Rebekah to have twins. There needed not to be an Esau. What blessings has God given you that did not work out (from no fault of your own) the way you had hoped?

2. We may not understand why God blesses one and curses another (Gen. 25:23-24). Who decided that Jacob would continue the promised seed instead of the older brother, Esau (Genesis 25:21-23, 29-34; 27:1-17, 27-41; 28:3-4, 10-15)? God. Neither son is presented as particularly spiritual. God, however, laid his hand on Jacob.

Are we then just puppets on God’s string? Certainly not. Our choices may not be capable of changing God’s plan but that does not mean that they are not our choices. James McDonald tells of being “in Indonesia and [getting] to play against a chess master…There were ten [players]…and he played [them] all at the same time.” McDonald writes, “He would walk down the row of boards, crushing each of us with his speed and incredibly insightful moves. In fifteen minutes, we were all out of the game” (taken from Gripped by the Greatness of God by James McDonald, 2005).

3. We may not even recognize God’s blessing (Malachi 1:2-5). Israel was so obsessed with their own problems that they did not recognize that God had blessed them above all other nations, but particularly over Edom, the nation descended from Esau. God’s purposes are too great for us to grasp but it is clear that God wanted Israel to recognize their honored position and live accordingly.

B. Whatever God does, we should be prepared to live according to what He reveals of His ways.

1. What we know God has favored, we should favor (Genesis 25:27-28, 29-34).
a. Is it good when the parents favor one child over another? Is it possible for a parent to love all their children the same? Why or why not?
b. How do you think the children would react to being the favorite? How about not being the favorite?
c. What if one parent loved one child more and the other parent loved another child more?

Obviously we see this as a negative thing, yet Rebekah showed more faith than Isaac. She saw that God had chosen Jacob and she was going to go the way of God. Isaac should have known better, after all, he himself was also the chosen one of God and selected by God over all of his brothers. Yet he allowed his personal desires to get in the way of God’s will.

2. What we know God has commanded; we should do (Malachi 1:6-8). God had favored Israel, destroying Edom and yet they did not honor him but rather gave him what was inferior in their lives.

a. If God is the one who decides things and not you, what should you do? Submit to God’s will, His ways, and His Word.

b. What if you don’t understand or don’t agree with what God has decided? Ask him for mercy (Malachi 1:9) and seek to obey His word (Malachi 2:4-9).

c. What will happen if you fight against God’s chosen ways (Esau would be a good example)? You will be cursed (Malachi 1:14-2:4).

In today’s bulletin we have a synopsis of the life of Fanny Crosby. Fanny wrote a poem at the age of eight:
O what a happy soul am I!
Although I cannot see,
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be,
How many blessings I enjoy
That other people don’t!
So weep and sigh because I’m blind,
I cannot, and I won’t.

When it seems that God is frowning on you, you can get closer to God or push back away from Him. There is mercy for those who get closer and only a curse for those who push back. Which path will you follow.

Next Week’s Sermon: Tears of Regret

Jesus Among Friends (Luke 22) April 7, 2011

Posted by roberttalley in Atonement, Blood of Christ, Body of Christ, Christ, Communion, Covenant, Crucifixion, Death of Christ, Falling Away, Jesus, Lord's Table, Luke, Messiah, Millenial Kingdom, Passover, Suffering.
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(Luke 22:1-62)

A couple of weeks ago I asked for questions from the congregation to be written out on a 3” by 5” card. I received a card with the following question, “Is it sinful to “befriend” persons outside the faith or should we see this “opportunity” as one to bring these people to Christ?”

Now I don’t know what provoked this question but it does address a real problem. As believers in Christ, what should our relationship be to those outside the faith? One of my biggest concerns as pastor is that most of us do not bring many unsaved friends to church. There are many possible reasons for this but one of them could be that we tend to isolate ourselves from sinners.

Jesus, however, was known by his enemies as a friend of sinners (Luke 7:33-34). Was this a just accusation? In this chapter we find Jesus with twelve of his closest friends; men who He chose to follow them. One of those men was a man named Judas.
How did Jesus show friendship to Judas (22:2, 21, 27)?
I. Jesus chose a sinner to be His friend, to be one of the twelve (22:2). Sometimes we forget that Jesus knew all along who would betray Him (John 6:64-71). He chose a friend who he could never help. It is interesting that Jesus knew also that Judas would never believe, Jesus befriended a liar, a traitor, a thief simply because it was God’s will.
This helps us to answer the first part of our question. It is obviously not sinful to befriend a sinner. It also helps us to answer the second part but not directly. We are not just to look at people as “opportunities” but rather we are to live in God’s will and be so full of a passion for Jesus Christ and His gospel that we become the “opportunity” for them to hear the gospel of Christ.
II. Jesus shared His table with a sinner (22:21, 27). It was such a high honor at that time to be invited to eat with someone that to refuse the invitation opened one up to the revenge of slander and defamation. Jesus gave Judas a place of honor.
Judas seemed to be singled out by Jesus for honor and intimacy at this feast (John 13:26). Based on this chapter, it appears that Judas has been given by Jesus, the host of this feast, the place of honor on his left. In addition, Jesus gave Judas the sop. The sop was a piece of bread that was dipped into some type of sauce or mixture. To give the sop to some one was not only a great honor but symbolic of a close friendship. Jesus treated Judas at this festival with the greatest of honor and signs of friendship.
III. Jesus served sinners (22:27). When Jesus washed feet, He washed Judas’ feet also. When Jesus instituted the Communion that we celebrate today, He did not withhold it from Judas but rather served him also. Jesus, the King of Kings, served Judas in whose heart the devil had accomplished an awful work (John 13:2).
What ended the friendship between Judas and Jesus (22:4-6)? There are a lot of theories about Judas’ motivation, money being the most obvious. I think money certainly played a part (John 12:6). There was something deeper though for all of the disciples were tainted by their desire to be important in the kingdom and they certainly could have assumed that great riches would come with the kingdom. What ended the friendship was Judas’ lack of faith in Christ (John 6:64-71). Oh, he certainly began believing but he did not have a faith that would last.

This tells a lot about true faith. True faith that lasts is not dependent on excellent surroundings. Judas heard the Creator of the universe teach truth and wisdom. His faith, however, did not continue to respond. There was an initial response but it was broken easily on the banks of a few coins. What will break your faith?
What was Jesus’ desire for His friends (22:14-30)? He desired that they be a part of His eternal kingdom.
What is the kingdom of which Jesus is speaking?
a. It is a coming kingdom (22:15-19) Last week we saw where Jesus said that the kingdom is in the heart of those who believe but it is also a future eternal kingdom. This coming kingdom must be prepared through suffering (compare v. 15 with 17:22-25). Hebrews 1:8a-10 describes this kingdom through suffering in this way, “But now we do not yet see all things [in submission to Jesus]. But we see Jesus…for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him…in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”
b. It is also a new covenant kingdom (22:20). I do not have time to go back to Jeremiah and look at these Old Testament passages but the main characteristic of the new covenant kingdom is heart transformation. Jesus died so that I might be born from above, regenerated in heart, passing from the kingdom of darkness into His eternal light.
c. It is a caring kingdom (22:24-27). Service is more important than authority.
Leroy Eims of the Navigators tells about a man who came to Christ and desired to serve Eims. Because he was young and inexperienced in the faith, there were not a lot of opportunities at the Navigators office for this man to serve. Winter was coming though and the man greatly desired to serve in some way. Leroy Eims gave him the task of shoveling the walkway to the office building. The man was very zealous in this service. In fact he was so zealous, Eims quipped, that not a snowflake hit the walkway the whole winter long. Eims said that such valuable service could not go unrewarded and they brought him into the office to train for service within the Navigators organization. The young man cared enough to serve.
How do we show friendship to Christ (22:28)? We show friendship to Christ by continuing with Him even in His trials. Can we do that? Absolutely, Jesus said, take up My cross and follow Me.
“They tried my Lord and Master with no one to defend.
Within the halls of Pilate He stood without a friend.
I’ll be a friend to Jesus, my life for Him I’ll spend.
I’ll be a friend to Jesus, until my years shall end.

The world may turn against Him, I’ll love Him to the end,
And while on earth I’m living, My Lord shall have a friend.

I’ll do what He may bid me; I’ll go where He may send;
I’ll try each flying moment to prove that I’m His friend.

To all who need a Savior, my friend I recommend;
Because He brought salvation is why I am His friend.”
Sometimes, however, even the most loyal of us fail Jesus when He needs us most. Peter is a true example and Jesus knew Peter would fail. Yet He showed friendship to Peter anyway. How did Jesus show friendship to Peter (22:31-34)? He warned him, He prayed for Him to endure in the faith, He gave him a positive hope for the future, and He was honest in telling Peter what he did not want to hear.
Let us return to our question about befriending sinners. Here is a good plan to follow them. We must warn them. Only a friend will warn someone of the dangers of hell. We must pray for them to come to faith. We cannot argue them into the faith. We need God’s help to bring them to faith. We need to give them hope, let them know that there is a purpose for them in this life and the life to come. Finally, we need to be honest even if they do not want to hear the gospel. It is possible to antagonize people but if you are a real friend who lives out a real faith in Christ, you will figure out how to give them the gospel of Christ.
As we come to the close of our service, we come to the time when we celebrate the Lord’s Table. How does the Lord’s Table or communion show our friendship with Christ and with each other (22:19, 26)? It shows our friendship with Christ according to verse 19 by remembering what He did for us. It shows our friendship with each other in that each one of us comes together to the table. We are all equal in Christ’s kingdom. It is interesting that the only people unworthy of this bread and juice are those who considered themselves above others (1 Corinthians 11). Today, I want us to take a few moments and ask ourselves, not if we’ve sinned but if there is anyone here today who we consider ourselves superior to. Think through the rows of seats. If you find anyone who you feel you are above, would you not repent of that ungodliness now and humble yourself before God in silent prayer?

Taking Our Turn at the Plate from Colossians 1:23-2:3 October 4, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Body of Christ, Colossians, Crucifixion, Religion, Sermons, Suffering.
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Taking Our Turn at the Plate
Colossians 1:23-2:3

As we began our study of Colossians, we found that Paul was praying specifically for the believers in Colosse that the Lord would increase their knowledge of His Father’s will. He knew that they must understand their calling in Christ if they are going to live in this world in a way that is pleasing to God.

After his prayer, he then explained in detail the Father’s plan:

1. His Son would create the universe.
2. Sin would corrupt the universe, especially and specifically mankind.
3. But Jesus would reconcile men to Himself through His death on the cross;
4. …then through His resurrection He gives life to His people, the church.
5. Finally, Paul explained that faith in Christ is necessary to entry into the body of Christ. We find in verses 23b that Paul’s life was given to bringing men and women to faith through the gospel of Christ.

That is what Paul is speaking of in verse 24 when he says, “I…fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.” He means it is time to take his turn at bat (verse 24). You see, Paul wrote this epistle from a prison cell. He was suffering bodily in prison but he did not consider this as unusual. After all, Christ suffered death for our sake. Why should it then be thought unusual for a follower of Christ to also suffer for the body of Christ?

What might be consider unusual is that Paul rejoiced in his physical suffering. He said, “In this prison in suffer but I rejoice.” Was Paul nuts? How can he rejoice in suffering? I think his short answer would be, “My suffering is purposeful.”

Now in this, Paul was also like Christ. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that “…Jesus…for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame…” The point of both Hebrews 12 and of this verse in Colossians is that Christ’s suffering had a purpose and because it had a purpose, there was joy even with suffering.

I. We, like Paul, can also rejoice in physical suffering if it results from a spiritual purpose (1:23-27). There are many possible purposes for suffering. Sometimes it causes us to grow in our faith. That is actually the point of Hebrews 12. Suffering can come because God wants to be glorified. When Jesus was asked about the man born blind, He said this man did not sin nor did his parents’ sin but this blindness is to the glory of God. He then healed them man as a sign that He was the Messiah. There are situations where sin is obviously to blame for suffering and there is suffering that goes beyond any explanation. That was Job’s situation. But Paul’s suffering was different. His suffering was the result of his spiritual purpose.

Have you ever asked yourself this question, what in life is worth dying for? How would you answer that question? If we were to go through the congregation this morning, we would have a limited number of answers. God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, family, country, these are the things that would be mentioned most often. Would you mention the church, the body of Christ, the people for whom Jesus Christ died? Paul would have the church right at the top of his list.

I realize that this is first of all applicable to those of us who are preachers and leaders and teachers. I, as pastor, must be willing to suffer for the sake of God’s people. The deacons also bear that same responsibility. The Sunday School teachers, the nursery workers, the Kid’s Klub leaders on Wednesday night, and the pre-school nursery workers all bear this stewardship, this responsibility in a specific way.

A. Yet, the spiritual purpose of every believer, like Christ’s, should be centered on His people, on His body, on His church (1:24-25a). Let me give you some bibilical reasons. (1) The Great Commission and the promises of the Holy Spirit’s power in witnessing and the presence of God wherever we go are given to all of us for the purpose of building Christ’s church. (2) It is the church that is given the responsibility in the book of Hebrews to pay attention to the faith of fellow believers to see if there is something lacking and a need for help in the lives of another believer. (3) It is the church that is given spiritual gifts for the purpose of edifying and building one another up. So all of us, like Christ should center on His people, on His church.

B. Our method is to fully reveal the mystery of Christ (1:25b-27). This is why the passage we looked at last week is so important. Everyone of us needs to understand what God is doing in this world so that we can do our part in sharing the gospel with the unsaved and in building and encouraging one another in the faith. We need to understand this mystery that Jesus is the divine Creator but that sin has damaged His creation. He came to the world as a man to die for our sin and to give His church, His people life through His resurrection but we can only access forgiveness of sin and eternal life through faith in Christ. This mystery is the gospel of Christ. The riches and the hope of glory that Paul writes about in this epistle is Christ, our Creator and our Lord and Savior. This gospel is a called a mystery because it was not fully revealed until Christ came.

Now you might ask, “How can I do this?” I am not a teacher like Paul. Let me give you a simple plan of action. Tell people you are a Christian. They will expect more of you but they need to know that you are a Christian and that you are not ashamed of being a Christian. They need to be watching you, scrutinizing your life. Secondly, invite them to church, to Sunday School, to Great Night services, to anything that you might think is appropriate for them. Then tell them why you became a Christian. If it was fear of hell that drove you to Christ, tell it. If it was the guilt of sin, tell it. If it was frustration with the emptiness of your life, tell it. Whatever or whoever it was that motivated you to trust Christ, let people know about it. Then tell them the mystery of Christ. Tell them that Jesus came to save them from sin and give them new life through His death and resurrection. Finally, invite them to put their faith in Christ alone.

Is it possible that some will not like it? Absolutely! May there be some unforeseen consequences for you? Yes! But the bringing of people into the family of Christ is the greatest task in the world. It is why Jesus suffered and died, to bring people to himself.

II. Not only is it worth any suffering that we might experience, we can, like Paul, continue despite exhaustion (1:28-29). Paul makes it clear that the life of a believer focused on the Body of Christ is not easy but that its purpose is makes the weariness worth while.

A. Our purpose is the presentation of completed believers (vs. 28b). Let me explain what I mean. A game is complete when the game is won. That is what the word “perfect” here means, complete. In baseball a complete game is when a pitcher goes from start to finish. Paul says that his goal is, and certainly this should be our goal also, that every believer to whom we minister should finish the game. We are not responsible to win the game; that is Christ’s responsibility; we are, however, responsible to finish.

B. Our method is public proclaim Christ through warnings and wise teaching (vs. 28a). Now every believer is responsible for his or her own growth in Christ but we as fellow believers can help them to complete the game. Although only the pitcher can throw to the batter, he has fielders behind him and bench players and coaches, all there to help the pitcher to win the game. In the same way, we are responsible to help. Some things we can do personally, others we can do as a church. Verse 28 describes for us what we as a church should do. We need to warn one another and teach one another of the truth of Jesus Christ. That is the one truth that Satan cannot stand, that Jesus Christ is the King of kings and Redeemer of all who trust in Him. We must warn against those who deny this truth and teach the truth of Christ as the Scriptures teach it.

III. This responsibility to spread the gospel and faithfully proclaim the truth of Christ, however, extends beyond the walls of Grace Bible Church and even beyond the Lansing area. We can even struggle hard and should struggle hard for saints unknown to us (2:1-3). Now there are many ways that we can do this. One of the key ways is by sending out missionaries. Paul mentions two specific purposes of such work.

A. Our purposes are brotherly love and full confidence in Christ (2:2-3). If we are a family in Christ, one body, then it is imperative that we promote true brotherly love. That is why we support missionaries who plant churches and baptize believers. That is why we support missionaries who are faithful to teach the truth of Christ because it is that truth that promotes love among the brethren and that gives us confidence as we look forward to our eternal future.

These are not just nice things to have but these are characteristics that result from a full knowledge of the gospel of Christ. Paul was thankful that these things were true of the Colossians and he desired that they would be true of all believers. He knew, however, that brotherly love and a confident faith did not just happen but were rooted and grounded in the truth concerning Jesus Christ.

B. Our method is to come to their aid, to encourage them (2:2a). Again there are various ways to encourage one another but Paul is talking about encouraging people who we do not know and perhaps will never meet in this life. He says, I pray for them, I write to them, if there is anything more that they need, whatever it may be, I will strive, I will struggle, I will make it a priority, to meet that need of encouragement.

As you can see, this is a team effort and everyone one of us is in the game. Are you going to follow the example of Christ and of Paul and give yourself to spreading the gospel and encouraging those who believe in the truth of Christ and helping them to complete their game? Are you going to witness and pray and give and warn and teach or enable others to teach the truth of Christ? We only have one life in which to do these things. Let us give our life to Christ as He would have us to, by giving our life to His Body, to His Church.

Weak Credentials (2 Corinthians 12:1-10) March 8, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Suffering.
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“WEAK CREDENTIALS (2 Corinthians 12:1-10)

We should gladly prefer humiliation with God’s power to exalting experiences.

I. Because only God can evaluate our experiences (verses 1-7). The scientist cannot evaluate religious experiences. It is beyond his area of expertise. He may or may not believe in them but there is no way that they can be scientifically evaluated.

So we are on our own when evaluating religious experiences. One of the bestsellers on the Christian market for several years now has been Don Piper’s “Ninety Minutes in Heaven.” It is the story of a pastor who is pronounced dead at the scene after an automobile accident. He tells of what went on during a ninety minute time period before he was brought back to life through the power of prayer. For a while there was another book on the market, where a man claimed to have spent thirty something minutes in Hell. How do we evaluate these experiences. Paul would argue, only God knows. Paul’s believes that he himself was possibly taken to heaven for a short time but he says, I really do not know how to evaluate this experience. It was wonderful, it was amazing, I heard things that I cannot repeat. It is my own experience but I do not even know if it was a vision or if my body was taken up to heaven. I cannot tell if it was a mystical experience or a miraculous one. I just do not know.

That is a wise attitude to have when looking a religious experiences. Seeing is not believing. As important as miracles are as proof of the truth of Christ, miracles alone prove nothing. The Bible makes it clear that Satan can work miracles. The first miracle after creation may have been performed by Satan when he entered the serpent and made it talk.

For that reason, we should be cautious about exalting our experiences or exalting people because of their experiences. That was part of the problem that was being faced in Corinth, they were evaluating apostles by outward appearances which is why they put themselves in such danger of deception.

A. The natural mind cannot comprehend the supernatural (verses 1-4). One can tell that Paul hesitates to discuss his experience. He understands that in reality, talking about such experiences is not profitable yet he does it, likely because his enemies were performing or at least claiming to have performed miracles among them. In verse 11, Paul describes for us the types of apostolic works which he himself performed among the Corinthians. Such works were used to confirm the truth of God. We generally do not need such miracles now because we have the word of God which we are responsible to believe.

But Paul does not attempt to discredit their credentials of miracles but rather reminds the Corinthians that he also has such credentials but that revelations and miracles are impossible for our natural mind to evaluate. In Germany we had a good friend, not a believer, who claimed to have psychic healing powers. This person was not only convinced but could also give you examples of healings that they had performed. There is not argument against such a thing. Either you believed or you did not. Man cannot adequately evaluate supernatural or psychic experiences themselves. One can perhaps evaluate the honesty and veracity of the one performing or experiencing the miracles but the experience itself our natural mind cannot evaluate.

B. The natural mind tends to exalt the outwardly superior (verses 5-7a). It should not be disturbing that the natural mind cannot adequately evaluate supernatural experiences. What should be disturbing is the tendency of our natural mind to trust itself and exalt those who appear through such experiences to be superior to others.

Paul recognizes this in verse 5. He understands that there are certain aspects of his life that call attention to themselves. He knows that these are the things that attract the natural man and that would build him up. That is why in verse 6 he refrains from giving the details. There is great danger in being exalted by man. It serves in bringing neither the exalted nor the exalter closer to God. Paul had likely had this experience while he was in Tarsus, before he began his ministry in Antioch. Fourteen years he had preached Jesus but had neglected to preach his own experience, an experience that perhaps had exceeded every miracle that Paul had ever performed.

Paul perhaps recognizes that not just his hearers are susceptible to exalting the outwardly superior but that he himself is also might be in danger according to verse 7 of exalting himself beyond measure.

Whoever it is that might tend to exalt Paul, there is one who knows how to prevent that exaltation, the Lord Himself. We do not know much about this thorn in flesh, although the word infirmity used later on indicates that it was a physical ailment of some type. We do know that in Paul’s case, Satan himself had a hand in the suffering.

That does not mean that all suffering is from Satan. It does mean that God, just as He did in Eden allows Satan to work but that God’s purposes are accomplished through Satan’s work. Believer, I can no more tell you whether Satan has a hand in your suffering than I can tell you if your mystical or miraculous experience if from God. Such things only God knows. What I can tell you, however, is this, your suffering is not without purpose. God knows your suffering and he allows it because through it, you can, if you will, glorify Him.

II. Only the Lord can empower us through humiliation (verses 7-10). This is not the only purpose of suffering but this is what Paul focuses on in these verses. Paul goes to the Lord in prayer three times, each time asking for the pain to be taken away. The Lord’s answer is shocking! You have what you need. You have my grace. I am giving you what you need Paul. I am going to accomplish my power through your weakness. Paul, you do not need this experience. You simply need me to take care of you. I can accomplish everything through you that I need to in the midst of your pain and suffering.

A. The Lord gives humility and power through suffering (verses 7-9). Paul talks about this earlier in 2 Corinthians 4:7-10. Paul tells us that this is part of God’s plan, that the abundance of the power of God to change lives is realized in us despite the weakness of our earthly bodies (verse 7) so that He is the one who is honored and glorified and not we ourselves. You see, it all comes down to this, people seeing Christ in us as we witness to them of His life-changing power. Jesus promised in Acts 1:8 that we have power through the Holy Spirit in us to witness of Him. That Holy Spirit power, however, becomes focused in our weakness. In humility that power is revealed in its fullness. You see, suffering is sometimes necessary so that God might show to others the power of Christ in our lives.

B. That is why we, like Paul, should prefer humility of suffering and the power that comes through it to the luxury of freedom from pain (verses 10). Paul did not want to hurt, yet he loved Christ and Christ’s people so much that he gladly preferred pain so that he might have the fullness of the power of God.

Now you may, like Paul, suffer an infirmity, that is, suffer physically. You are allowed to pray that God would take away the pain. There is nothing wrong with that. When you pray, though, pray that if he allows you to suffer that the power of God in your life would be revealed by that power. Too often we doubt God. When he does not take away the pain, we assume is does not answer prayer. Remember, it is in that very pain that he may reveal to those closest to us the very power of Christ that they need to see in their lives.

It is not just, though, in sickness. It may be a reproach, that is, a disaster of some type. The loss of a job, of a house, of a spouse. Your pain is not without purpose. God wants to show the power of Christ through your life.

Or perhaps you are in need. You do not have some necessity of life. Although most of us are obviously not in that category, some may be. Even when you do not have food on your table, adequate clothes on your back, or heat in your house, God’s grace is sufficient for even you. His strength is made perfect in your weakness.

Are you persecuted? Are you made fun of at work, at school, or even at home because of your faith in Christ? This promise of power in weakness is to you. Rather than feel sorry for yourself, turn to God for grace and humility in suffering and fullness of power to reveal Christ to your persecutors.

The last word in this list, distress, simply means extreme affliction. Maybe you are not physically sick or going through disaster or persecution or lack of the necessities of life. You see, what your particular trouble is does not matter. That is why we cannot compare our troubles to each other. There is no trouble too great for God not to bring out his fullness of power in you.

“Got any rivers you think are uncrossable. Got any mountains you cannot tunnel through. God specializes in things thought impossible and He can do what no other power can do.”

By Oscar C. Eliason



How God Reveals Himself in Affliction and His Word August 26, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Bible, Martin Luther, Psalms, Religion, Sermons, Suffering.
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PSALM 119:65-72

Martin Luther is reported once to have said something to this effect, that he would not live in Heaven without the Word of God; and with it he could get along just fine in hell. He would certainly agreed with those who call the Bible, “the Good Book”. This is also the message of the acrostic poem that we are looking at today, “God’s Book is a Good Book.” What is it that makes the Bible a “Good Book”?

The Bible is a good book because it teaches a good God’s good dealings with humankind (verses 65, 68).


We received a prayer letter this week from Steve and Becky Diem, missionaries going to Resistencia, Argentina who we support financially and prayerfully. I would like to read two paragraphs written by Becky in which she tells about God’s working in their lives:

“A friend of mine has been trying to have kids for about five years, and her husband isn’t saved. We went out to eat…We were talking about God’s control and plans for our lives. I felt like the Lord wanted me to challenge my friend to give her situations to the Lord. I asked, ‘Have you given it to the Lord yet?’ To make a long story short, her husband has been doing a(n evangelistic) Bible study with us for the past month, and she is two months pregnant. God is good! God is in control!”

“I have been complaining about our small car for the past couple of months; it is very cramped on weekends with all the gear that goes along with two kids and deputation things. I started asking for a van from Steve. He said, ‘Why don’t you pray about it?’ I shared at a ladies tea how God had blessed Steve with an MP3 player that he had been praying for. I told Steve to start praying for a mini van. Yesterday we got an email from someone, and they gave us a mini van. God is good! God is in control!”

Update: Another excerpt from the same letter.

It is wonderful to know that God is good and that He is in control. It is wonderful to see God answer prayer. My wife and I have been where Steve and Becky are at and we can attest to how that the Lord works in the hearts and lives of his children, so that they may accomplish the work which He has for them to do.


I want us today though to think about who is writing this in verse 65 – King David. Can it be said that God dealt well with David, according to man’s idea? This is the same David who hid for weeks on end in caves because King Saul had put a price on his head. Saul hatred for David was so great that an entire town was destroyed because the priest in the town fed David and his men. His friendship with Jonathan was broken off because of the hatred of Jonathan’s father for David. David ended up hiding with Israel’s enemies but because of fear, he pretended to go mad so that the Philistines would not kill him. He experienced an attempted coup twice during his reign, both times led by one of his sons and drawing after him some of his most trusted advisors. At least three times, because of David’s sin, people died through the judgment of God. How can this man write that God had dealt well with him. The answer is in verse 65. God dealt well with David because God acted according to His Word. As he writes in verse 68, “God is good and He does good and because He is good and does good, whatever He promises, whatever He warns, whatever He determines to do, it will be good. God’s character is not different than that of His Word. He never deals differently than His Word reveals. Good deals with everyone on the same basis – His Word.


The more I learn and apply God’s Word, the more like Him I will become (verse 68). David does not just want to memorize and recite God’s Word. He wants to learn it and live by it and become good just as God is good. He does not want a “crisis relationship” with God but a daily relationship with God (adapted from Wiersbe). He wants to take on the character of God and the only way to do that is to become trained in the Word of God.

Warren Wiersbe writes in his book, Why Us?, “Now, we must be careful how we use the Bible when we are going though trials. Unless we are reading God’s Word regularly, listening daily to His voice, we aren’t likely to hear Him say much when the roof caves in on us.”

The Bible is a good book because believing it will teach you good discernment (verses 66, 69-72). The word rendered “judgment,” properly signifies taste. One of the keys of tasting is confidence. I was reading this week an article about a man who had to pass a test in order to become a judge at an espresso making contest in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was interesting to find out that some of the champion espresso makers sometimes could not pass the taste test to become a judge at the very competition that they had won. The article gave several tips for passing the test. (It did not say what you should do after drinking all that coffee.) The most important tip that was repeated over and over is you must have confidence in your discernment.


Spiritually, this is also true. You must have know and have confidence in the Word of God if you are going to develop spiritual discernment. Why is it that some people chase after the prosperity gospel of Joel Osteen? They do not have confidence in God’s Word when it says, “Lay not treasures for yourself on this earth but lay up treasures for yourself in heaven.” Why is it that some gauge their spiritual well being by how they feel? Perhaps because they do not trust God’s Word when it says, “If our hearts condemn us God is greater than our heart.” Why is it that church leader after church leader falls into sin? Because we are not confident that God’s Word can be trusted when it says, “Pride goes before a fall.” I could go on and on.

If you have confidence in God’s Word, you will learn to discern between the profit of physical benefit and spiritual benefit. You will learn that the beneficial result of the Word of God in your life is to be preferred to the prosperity of the wicked (#Ps 119:69-72).

In reading a part of the one hundred and nineteenth psalm to Miss Westbrook, who died, she said, “Stop, sir, I never said so much to you before—I never could; but now I can say, ‘The word of thy mouth, is dearer to me, than thousands of gold and silver.’ What can gold and silver do for me by now?” —George Redford, in “Memoirs of the late Rev. John Cooke”, 1828

If you believe God’s Word you will develop spiritual discernment. If you do not, then you will end up chasing rainbows and fighting windmills and investing your life in things that will not satisfy.


The Bible is a good book because it will teach you how to react to adverse circumstances/affliction (verses 67, 69-71).

Sometimes you will learn to turn from sin through affliction (verse 67). “Whipping will not turn a rebel into a child; but to the true child a touch of the rod is a sure corrective.” In the Psalmist’s case affliction worked an immediate, lasting, inward change towards God. When that happens in your life and in my life, God’s Word will give us an anchor that will keep us from drifting back into our sin. We all know of people showed up and committed or recommitted themselves when things got bad but they did not stick around. I know that every circumstance is different but what often happens is that those who have disappeared did not anchor themselves to the Word of God that was given to establish them and to make them strong.

You learn how to deal with your enemy and the injustice of this world through the Word of God (verses 69-70). We find this so difficult. We look at those who are obviously not doing what they should. Sometimes they make our lives miserable. If you do not have the perspective on the world that God gives you in His Word, you will start mouthing complaints like “It’s not fair!” You will be open to the temptations of this world. That urge to get even with that jerk will grow until you either lash out at that person or so internalize your hatred that it destroys you from the inside out. God’s Word, though, teaches how to react to those people and to those circumstances. You might object that it is two hard. Certainly, for us alone, we cannot do it but we must submit to God’s will in His Word and the Spirit’s working in our hearts. We must learn to say with Augustine, “Let the word of the Lord come, let it come; and if we had six hundred necks, we would submit them all to his dictates.” —Augustine.


You learn that God always intends good to come out of your suffering. Now God’s Word is a lot more realistic about what is good than the descriptions of the world that we prefer. The right guy gets the right girl and they have a few ups and downs but at the end everyone lives happily ever after until death do us part. No life long suffering because of the sins of youth. No unexplainable physical suffering. No mother’s who dreams for a child remain unfulfilled although through no fault of their own. Miraculously healings and answers to prayer are a daily occurrence. In our Christian fantasy world the real issues that people cry themselves to sleep over every night seem so easy to solve. Of course, it is wonderful when such things happen but God’s Word deals with the reality of life. It deals with the hum-drum as well as the exciting. It talks about people who suffer as well as those have their life go as planned. The Word of God is for those who never receive any relief from their suffering as those who seem to never suffer even though they live wicked lives.

Sometimes when bad things happen we say, “I know the LORD wants to teach me something but I am not sure what.” This verse 71 is an answer to that question. God lets affliction come into my life so I can learn His Word so that I can learn Him and become more like Him.

(John Piper on this subject)

Warren Wiersbe also tells in his book, Why Us?, about a couple in a church where he pastored. “Years before…their little boy had contracted a brain disease that left him an invalid. He spent his entire life in bed, unable to speak, read, or use his hands creatively. When (Wiersbe) first visited in the home, the boy had become a man; but he was still lying in bed, wearing diapers, and he needed to have someone with him constantly.

“‘Pastor, don’t feel sorry for us because of Kenny,’ his parents (said). ‘People think he’s a burden, but to us, he’s a blessing from God. We’ve learned so much about God’s grace in taking care of Kenny’”

Whatever you may be going through (and it does not matter whether humanly speaking it is big or small) God wants to teach you to trust His Word, to trust His character, to become more like Him.


Believer, have you learned these three lessons? Have you learned that God is good and does good, not just in David’s life but in your life and in mine and He deals with you well, in a good manner, according to His Word?

Do you have confidence in your spiritual judgment? You can, if you know and are following God’s Word.

Is God’s Word governing the way you react during the tough times of life? Get in God’s Word.

What we have talked about today is how God deals with humankind. He wants to deal with you if you are not a believer in the same manner. He wants you, through thick and thin to learn of Him.

You need simply to trust Jesus Christ and Him alone. He is the only one who can rescue from sin, He and no one else. He died and was buried and rose again to rescue you. Won’t you turn to Him today?


Are you in trouble? One thing both believers and unbelievers share in common is trouble. We all have it in one form or another. We tend to compare our troubles to each other. That is not very helpful. Turn to God, not to get you out of trouble but to give you the forgiveness you need to become His child and the stability you need to glorify Him both inside and outside of any trouble that you might experience.

How to understand God’s Word August 25, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Bible, John Bunyan, Martin Luther, Prayer, Psalms, Religion, Suffering.
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Read Psalm 119:71 in connection with these thoughts from John Piper. They concern John Bunyan and Martin Luther. In it you will find Luther’s three rules for understanding the Bible:  prayer, meditation, and… 🙂


Not many links to sermons from Psalm 119:65-72 but these two are good. August 24, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Links, Psalms, Religion, Sermons, Suffering.
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Sometimes there are more good sermons than there is reasonable space to link to them but this time, I haven’t got a lot to offer you. Ray Pritchard does a good job on affliction. The other sermon is by someone unknown to me but I thought it was well worth reading. I’ll post mine on this passage in a couple of days.

http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermons/read_sermon.asp?id=188 Ray Pritchard on affliction.

http://www.ebfchurch.org/sermon_2007_07_08.pdf Jason Lancaster of Evanston, Illinois

The Last of the Terrible Parables: The Flusher August 9, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Gospel, Religion, Spiritual Growth, Suffering, Terrible Parables.
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I believe all the “Terrible Parables” by Carolyn Houghton are now posted. Most of them are on the Verizon blog (see blogroll) but this and the last one posted are here because Verizon won’t let me edit my blog anymore. I’ve got to contact customer service but am quite busy at the moment.

The Terrible Parable of the “Flusher”


Diary Entry from 1968: Bryan, age 18 months and Jeff, age 4, were in a nice, warm, soaky bath when Bryan suddenly grabbed the drain lever. Jeff — horror dripping from his voice–gasped, “Oh, Mommy! Bryan’s gonna flush it!”How many times have you been in a warm, soaky, relaxing tub of life when some idiot reached for the drain lever to flush your happiness down the tubes? It’s happened to me several times. As a Christian through faith in Christ, I know God has a plan for my life. How can these flushings be in His plan for me if He is my loving heavenly Father?The Bible says, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 Oh. God is different from man. He thinks differently and acts differently (and given today’s messed up humanity, that’s a REAL blessing!) He’s also “one of a kind.” This theory that “God is in everything, therefore everything and everyone is God” is not something people have picked up from the Bible. Cause that’s not in there. What IS in there is: “For I am God and there is NO OTHER; I am God and there is NONE like Me.” Isaiah 46:9Now, if God acts, thinks, and IS different from man, and if He has a plan for my life, why doesn’t He give me sunshine and happiness instead of flushings? What kind of a Father IS He anyway?

Surprisingly, He’s a lot like our earthly fathers. Tell me something…did your father always make life easy for you when you were a child? Did you have to go to school when you really wanted to stay home and watch TV? Did he make you learn how to clean out the car as well as let you drive it? Did you ever get your canoe paddled when you wouldn’t stop fighting with your brothers and sisters? Did you have to get a part-time job to earn spending money when you got older? It would have been a whole lot easier to turn a faucet attached to your dad’s wallet and watch money pour out into your hands. After all, you were a good kid. Some of the things your Dad made you do were pretty hard! And certainly not much fun. You deserved GOOD things!

You know where I’m going with this, don’t you? You wouldn’t have learned anything by doing nothing! You’d have been useless. Now you have turned into a WONDERFUL person by going through hard things in your childhood! (But I’ll check with you about this, just to be sure I haven’t made a mistake here.)

The same holds true in the spiritual realm. If God never made us go through some difficulties, we wouldn’t learn diddly! We’d never grow up spiritually to be good Christians careful to do good works. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Eph 2:10. Kindly note that we are his “WORKmanship.” It takes a lot of God’s WORK to get us whipped into shape. You think you’re EASY for God to raise!!!??? I’m betting you aren’t any easier to raise than I am. And I don’t like to brag, but I’m QUITE the handful for Him!

And I’ll try to break this next part to you easy….He’s not NEAR done raising you yet. Okay, okay, He’s not done with me yet either. But He does have a goal in mind for both of us. “Those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son...” Romans 8:29 A rather lofty goal He has set for us, isn’t it?

Now answer me something else. Did your Dad make the neighbor kids go to school? Get a job? Help around your house? Paddle their canoes when they were nasty little brats? Never! Why should he? They weren’t his.

Same with God. If someone isn’t His child yet by faith (as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born …of GodJohn 1:12, 13) they aren’t HIS to raise yet. So if your life has been all peaches and cream with no problems to overcome or rise above, don’t get cocky! You might not BE God’s child yet. If that’s your case, I’d look into it if I were you!

God doesn’t raise us JUST with discipline and hard times, of course. The Bible also says that He is a wonderful gift giver. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights….” James 1:17 He’s a really well-rounded Father!

I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was 28. He’s given me some wonderful sunshiny gifts since I’ve been His child and he’s also given me some pretty hard flushings – some of which I’ve failed; some of which I’ve learned and grown from. I know I’m in for more gifts and many more flushings of my happiness during the rest of my life. But since I know the flushings will be for my own growth and learning, I’m going to do my best to make Him proud of the way I’ll handle those times.

But keep a towel handy for me, will you? I HATE to drip dry.