Monday, July 31, 2017

Amazing Grace received through Faith: God's Faithfulness during Great Struggles

Accompanying Video:

Message Audio:

Jesus causes the dead to live. He pursues us, faithful to His promises, abounding in love. Though trials and temptations come, God’s grace goes along with us. As Christians we can expect much struggle and suffering. Yet we can also expect to encounter great grace and joy.

As the Apostle Paul wrote: “2 Corinthians 6:5-12 (NLT) We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. 5 We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. 6 We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. 7 We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. 8 We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. 9 We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. 10 Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.”

Today we’re talking about grace in the context of struggle. And we’re going to look at three examples of grace in suffering. 

left- Betsie, middle- Corrie.
First, we talk about Corrie Ten Boom, a young woman living during world war II. She was just an average person, part of a religious family in the Netherlands. When the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, a Jewish woman came to the ten boom home, and asked for help. Soon Corrie was sheltering Jews in her home, with her family.

The Nazis discovered what was happening, and imprisoned the entire family including Corrie and her sister Betsie.

Corrie and Betsie were placed in a women’s labor camp by the Nazis. Not only that, but they were placed in the worst building at the camp; it was infested by lice. Corrie was terribly upset, and complained to Betsie about what they were having to go through. Corrie and Betsie prayed for the jews at the camps. But Betsie also felt compassion for the guards, and prayed for them, because she saw them as lost without Christ. But Corrie hated the guards, because they were treated so terribly.

Betsie and Corrie managed to sneak a Bible into the camp, and they held services. How were they able to do so? The guards never went into their building because they didn’t want to get fleas. So God’s grace was upon them, even in the midst of trial.

Betsie died in the prison. By a clerical error, just before the end of the war, Corrie was released from the camp. This was a simple mistake, and the rest of the women in her group were executed in the gas chambers that day.

After the war Corrie continued to speak for Christ, and one day at a church meeting, a man walked up to her. She realized that this man had been one of the guards at the camp, one who had severely abused her sister Betsie. The man said he had found Christ, and been forgiven of his sins, but he wanted to ask Corrie personally for her forgiveness. Corrie didn’t think she could do it. But she felt a surge of power go through her, and she took the outstretched hand of the man and she said to him, “I forgive you.”

God’s grace is given to us, so that we may share it with others. We are called to a ministry of scandalous forgiveness. And Corrie lived it out, to the very end. That’s amazing grace.

The struggles we go through are gifts from God. And though we are constantly tried, we can have joy.

As the word says, in 1st Peter 1:6-7 “Be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. 7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

God refines his people in the furnace of affliction. We know that here: If your like Bob who was afflicted with a rare skin condition, if your like Stanley waking up one day years ago to discover you have stage 4 cancer, if your like Major Ralph and Debbie years ago coming to a new assignment and being told “we got rid of the last officers and we’ll get rid of you too.” If your like Major Leonard and Major Evelyn battling cancer, if your like us, that’s a great sign, your faith is being refined, built up, to endure the starkest struggles.

A faith untested is nothing. We are tested in many, many ways, to show the genuineness of our faith and to prepare our faith to endure even more difficult situations. Faith is the conduit by which we receive the amazing grace of God. His grace surges through the tunnel of faith. It is built upon the foundation of Christ. The enemy seeks to attack us, and destroy us, drive us from the ladder to heaven. But we keep fighting. So the testing of our faith produces endurance, a willingness to keep climbing.

Richard Wurmbrand
A second example of grace through affliction is the example of Richard Wurmbrand. We’ve talked about him briefly in the past I believe, he was a pastor in Romania during the rise of communism in the east. Russian communists conquered the country and they brought together all the church leaders to hear from the communists about how they ought to behave in their pulpits. Speaker after speaker spoke nothing of Christ, but simply pushed communist ideas and attacked the faith. None of the pastors were speaking up. Richard was there with his wife Sabina and she was very upset.

Sabina told him: "Richard, stand up and wash away this shame from the face of Christ! They are spitting in His face."

Richard looked at his wife and said, "If I do so, you lose your husband."

I love her reply. She says, "I don't wish to have a coward as a husband.” Man, I hope I meet a girl who would say the same to me. Toughen up buttercup.

So Richard gets up and speaks, and he says, a government that embraces this sort of evil deserves our pity and our disgust, and we will never stop speaking about Christ.

One day Richard was kidnapped off the street and found himself in a communist prison. His wife searched for him, but was told that he’d fled the country and abandoned her.

Eventually Sabina was arrested as well and put in a forced labor camp. One of the guards there mocked her for being a Christian, and said he would baptize her. He threw her in the icy cold waters, and the force of the attack broke her ribs.

Richard was kept in prison for 4 years, then released, then arrested again, because he refused to keep quiet about Christ. In total Richard Wurmbrand spent 14 years in prison. He spent 3 full years in solitary confinement in a cell 12 feet underground with no windows. He talks about this experience in his book tortured for Christ. He talked about how the guards would do terrible things, in fact once they forced him and several other Christians to take sacraments of urine and feces. They would beat them to near death, starve them, and on the loud speaker propaganda would play constantly. They knew Richard missed his family, so in the cells around him they brought in children to make noise to remind him of his family. Despite all of this, he never renounced Christ, and he never gave up.

In fact every time he was placed back in the population, he shared the gospel with the other prisoners.

He wrote in Tortured for Christ: “It was strictly forbidden to preach to other prisoners. It was understood that whoever was caught doing this received a severe beating. A number of us decided to pay the price for the privilege of preaching, so we accepted their terms. It was a deal; we preached and they beat us. We were happy preaching. They were happy beating us, so everyone was happy.”

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” -2nd Corinthians 12:9-10

John Newton, portrait of
A third example, is that of John Newton, born in 1725 in England. His father was a sea merchant and John took after him. In his twenties while visiting friends Newton was impressed into the royal navy, a practice common in that time. He was later sold as a slave in africa.

He was rescued in 1748 by a ship captain that had been sent to look for him by his father. On the way back Newton’s ship was struck by a severe storm. A hole broke in the ship and as the waters were rising Newton called out to God for help. Cargo in the ship apparently plugged the hole and the ship was able to make it safely to England.

But this experience didn’t even change him. He then became first mate of a slave ship ferrying slaves from Africa. Eventually he became captain of the ship. In these slave ships there would be as many as 200 slaves packed below decks. They were chained together, underfed, and many died on the way to their destination.

But when Newton became very ill with fever, he once again cried out to God for help, and he finally turned over his destiny to God. He left the African slave trade and became an Anglican priest and a prominent abolitionist, living to see the abolition of the slave trade in 1807. And it was John Newton, who penned the famous words, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.”

We are saved by grace, through faith, this is not of ourselves, of ourselves we are as wretched as John Newton, or the prison guards at the concentration camps, or the communist interrogators. And how does God conclude that classic scripture in Ephesians 2, grace through faith, it concludes: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

He has saved us to walk in good works, to forgive the man who abused her sister, as Corrie Ten Boom did, to preach Christ to the interrogators like Richard Wurmbrand did, and to go from shipping slaves to proclaiming Christ and setting captives free.

I’ve been given such an incredible gift in my life, one that I do not deserve. In the rising flood of my disaster, he reached his hand down into the waters and pulled me out. He brought me here. He knew long before today that he would bring me here.

Two years ago, when I first came here a member of our church came up to me and told me something. He said he used to drive through Wausau, my hometown, and he’d go fishing there. And he told me that one day He almost hit a kid who was standing in the middle of the highway.

That was me.

I remember it very clearly. Because for a moment I locked eyes with the driver. I was trying to kill myself you see. I remember the day quite well, I’d been walking around the city for several hours, all night, and into the morning. Death was constantly on my mind in those days. And I walked out onto the highway to die. For a moment I locked eyes with him, and he with me. And he never forgot that.

When He told me that story I knew God was connecting the strands in my life. He knew even then what He would do in my life, and how he would change my story. He knew everything would be OK in the end, and He would bring me to Escanaba to learn to be a pastor.

I hope your excited for the future because I am. I’m so amazed at what God has done in just five years since I became a Christian!

Spending the last two years with you here has been the highlight of my life. I came here not even knowing if I could do ministry. I came here not evening understanding what it meant to be an officer. I’ve learned about the struggles and joys of ministry work. It’s a whole new dimension of living. I can’t fully explain how much I love it. But each day I woke up here scared and afraid, with a heaviness pressing down on me, a sorrow, depression, a sickness and weakness on me, and in the morning I would say “Lord, I can’t do this. I can’t do this without you. Please help me.”

God is faithful. He promised me two years ago that if I was patient, He would renew my strength. And he has done so. Every promise of scripture is true. Every promise of scripture is ‘Yes’ in Christ. I hazarded my future on trusting God, not fully knowing if He would respond, and He did. Christ picked me up, washed me clean, put a Bible in my hands, and said here’s your new life. Because…

“He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.

Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion.

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles.

They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint." -Isaiah 40:29-31

As I leave you, today, I want to leave you with one thing: Believe. Hazard everything on this Christ you’ve never met. Don’t doubt Him. He is faithful, and His grace is amazing, it is enough for you, and for me.

May the experience of these three saints, and my experience encourage you to trust Him, in joy, in suffering, to trust Him with all you are and place your eternal future completely in His hands.

Related Posts:
1. What is Truth? A Battle of Worldviews
2. Science & Faith: The Existence of God
3. God's Overarching History: The Big Picture
4: Theology: Understanding God
5: Sociology: The Divine Image, the Family & The Social Order
6: Redemption of Man: The Cross (Paradise Regained)
7: Practicing our Faith: Principles to Live By
8: Government & Law: The United States: A Dream Realized 
9: The Future Destiny of Man: The New Heavens & New Earth
10: Everything is about Jesus

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Progress vs. Liberty: Challenging the Politically Correct Cultural Revolution

Augustine the great early church theologian witnessed the downfall of Roman civilization.  He had gone from a harlot, a pleasure seeker, important in the court of Rome, to converting to Christianity.  But things were falling apart, because Rome was about to fall.  In America I often wonder: Are we the Augustines, powerless, watching the fall of the great empire? It was unthinkable then, and unthinkable for us today.  Are we the Jeremiahs, calling in vain in the streets, in synagogues, unheeded, as Babylon lays siege to the city of God?

These are the times that try men's souls. These are the times that drive us mad in speculation and confusion, wondering what does the future hold. What part are we to play?  What is God's will for this era of history?  Do we even have any right to know?

The mass of evil spawning amongst our cities gives one images of apocalypse and a faint of the heart, a sense that all is lost.  My soul trembles and the air rushes out of my lungs, and it seems as if a cold, cold wave threatens to thunder down upon my meek body. Like a starving cripple in the street, utterly ruined and despondent, utterly neutered, useless and unable to even cast a crackling caw to the air, my spirit festers in despair.  Such chaos and confusion in our culture, people don't know which bathroom to use, child sex trafficking and child sacrifice through abortion are rampant, politics are getting even more ugly, the media is biased and crazy, and churches seem to be dividing over the issue of gay marriage as well as other issues.  It's rough out there, and at times we shiver for fear of the future and the world that will be left for our children and grandchildren.  

Yet something within calls, "despair not!"  And something inside rallies like a shining white ray of light, a golden sword of defiance, bright as the sun, and I turn against the wave, suddenly donned in shining armor, strong and brave, blade and shadow brandished, teeth gritted, ready to fight to the death, and that wave of despair vanishes before my eyes, because it was nothing and has gone.

And I realize my true enemy, beyond all the cities, the west coast power houses, the powerful, the rich, the atheists and socialist activists, all the sin, all the multiplying evil and debauchery, I see my struggle is not with man, but with spiritual forces in high places.

I am so small in relation to the swings and tides of history.  Yet I have a part to play, and so do you.  We ought dare to believe that victory is possible.  Or even dare to believe that victory is inevitable.  That is what the patriots believed in 1776.  They believed, even in the face of defeats in 1776, that it was inevitable, their victory was already written.  Could we believe the same today?  

When Churchill fought alone in the depths of world war II, hoping, praying, begging and pleading to get America into the great war, he never gave up. They were defeated at Dunkirk, and driven out. Churchill didn't give up.  Great Britain watched Austria, Poland, and France fall to the Nazis.  They were defeated in North Africa several times. Churchill still refused to even consider negotiating with Hitler. Churchill said, "never, never, never give up."  And "If your going through hell, keep going."

Churchill fought a rear-guard action against the Nazis, fighting, and retreating, fighting and retreating, time and again fleeing at just the right moment to preserve the British military.  Over the skies of Great Britain small bands of RAF fighters climbed to great heights, outnumbered 15 to 1, striking Nazi bombers flying from behind the sun, cutting their enemies to pieces.  They fought, and many died.  The price was high. But they fought the Luftwaffe to a stand-still. They fought to stale-mate. Hitler couldn't cross the channel. The price was dear, and high. But Churchill inspired the people of Britain to fight through intense, defiant speeches to stand against evil.  V for victory.  

The early church father Augustine was there to witness the fall of the Roman empire.  This seemed as impossible to them as the fall of the United States would seem to us now.  The possibility wasn't even considered, yet it happened.  Vandals surged in from every side, barbarians crushed through the gates and Rome in all it's splendor fell to the rust heap of history.  Nothing but empty columns soon enough, upholding nothing.

I believe the United States is so prosperous and filled with personal freedom today because the founders of the country and the framers of the Constitution built a system based upon God-given rights, God-given liberty, and God-given respect for the free will of the individual.  They established freedom of religion, there was no such thing in Europe. If the King was Catholic, guess what, your Catholic!  If the monarchs were protestant, your protestant!  It makes sense really that God would bless a system based upon freedom, liberty, personal responsibility, and personal choice.  

The situation with Charlie Gard is instructive. Many assume in the United States that Europe and the rest of the world have the same freedoms we enjoy as Americans.  Not so, friends, not so.  In the United Kingdom doctors have authority over your child in the hospital.  Even as far as to let your child die if they have decided treatment would have a low chance of healing the child.  They wouldn't blink at that.  It's assumed the doctor would know better, in Europe.  In America it would be madness to assume that parents would lose authority over their own children!  What madness!  Even in Canada, they've passed a law recently that if parents were to disagree with their child transitioning from male to female, or female to male, the child could be taken from the parents and placed in foster care.  That is not liberty, that is state-controlled society.  And it's abhorrent to God-given individual liberty.  Our liberty is a sacred gift from God, for all people, and when countries like Canada and the United Kingdom stomp on the rights of parents, they are violating God-given liberty that belongs to those people.  Those are rights government has no right to take away, yet these despots do just that, because a small elite think they know better than the average person on the streets.  

Yet is liberty even slipping away in the United States, in the face of a new foundation-shifting progressivism attempting to sweep away the old and bring in the new?

Progressivism is based around the idea of the ultimate perfectibility of man.  Essentially the progressive ideal is that humanity is fundamentally good, that there is no truth or higher authority, only the material universe, and that societies tend to move toward progress, toward becoming better and better, and the idea is that the old must be constantly tossed aside to bring in the new "progress."  The theory goes though that apparently the majority, the people, are unfit for the task of bringing about this progress, so it falls to a small elite of intellectual masterminds to bring about "progress" through a large administrative state charged with instigating what is best for the people, by the will of the people supposedly, though this administrative state is said, at least by Herbert Croly, John Dewey, and Woodrow Wilson (among others) to operate beyond the direct sovereign will of the people.  Sounds like tyranny to me.

The survival and prosperity of the United States is of course a secondary concern to the Christian, Jesus Christ centered movements in the west.  The primary concern is evangelism, the carrying of the gospel to unmet people groups, most importantly the young and confused.  

But I would argue that the upholding of society is a valuable role for the church to consider as it propagates this gospel.  The gospel travels freely through free countries, and it is largely imprisoned in tyrannical countries.  One of the largest Christian countries in the civilized world is South Korea.  And it's neighbor the tyrannical North Korea is a country where Christianity is not simply persecuted but utterly crushed through mass murder.  The gospel cannot spread like wild-fire in such tyranny and censorship.  It must be allowed to flow freely, through freedom and liberty.  Thus when tyranny is faced in western civilization it ought to be a chief ancillary concern for the church on Earth, and thus a chief goal of the church to uphold liberty, truth, justice, and morality in society.

Most of us already knew that, but for those who are skeptical, there it is.

We must keep the faith in our struggle to uphold free society.  We will be attacked for it, by secularists and by fellow Christians who don't understand what we're doing.  They don't understand that we're fighting for their rights.  They just think we're being mean-spirited and judgmental, and are nasty "Christian right" types who don't understand love.  Little do they know that their liberty, their right to speak the gospel is under attack everyday.  And if we weren't standing for those rights today and everyday, they'd probably already be gone, or nearly gone.  

I'd encourage you to keep praying and appealing to heaven.  John Locke's formula for the last redress against tyrannical government is sound.  Locke's last redress is prayer, appealing to heaven for liberty.  One of the great philosophers who wrote against progressivism feared that once the wheels were turning it might become impossible to reverse course.  Well the wheels are turning, and it seems that immorality, post-modernism, relativism, debauchery, child murder, child sex slavery, political corruption, and so many other evils are multiplying around us like wild-fire.  The barbarians are at the gates one might say, and they're being invited in, this is true in Europe at least.  But the cultural revolutionaries are rising up from within, dissatisfied with the surpluses of unhindered free-markets they seek to destroy and tear down the society that protects them and gives them freedom to speak their destructive ideologies and remake it into a marxist progressive utopia.  Unfortunately such a transformation would not lead to utopia sadly, but to despotic authoritarianism and economic collapse.  So we pray.  So we pray hard.  So we fast and pray.  In fact I'd encourage each of you to begin fasting once a week as part of your prayer life.  It's a time honored practice.  Fasting strengthens the effects of our prayers.  Do not stop praying.  Keep praying, keep appealing to heaven.  And keep taking action.

I see three parts to the political/cultural conflict.  First we've got the moderate establishment, active in both parties.  They've lost a lot of credibility.  They're wealthy, they control the levers of society, and they tend to be the ones plugged in with K-street lobbyists and special interest groups.  They tend to default to the center left, and more or less slowly move the country toward increased spending, bigger government, and more authoritarian laws and regulations. If there are figures who epitomize this genre, they'd be people like Hillary Clinton, John Kasick, Jeb Bush, Nancy Pelosi, Rhence Priebus, and Chuck Schumer. As far as an ideology, they don't really have a strong ideology, perhaps mostly the accumulating of power, wealth, and the bloating of government. 

Second, you've got the progressive left, they tend to control the colleges and public universities, Hollywood, the entertainment industry, late-night talk shows, and most of the media (though much of the media would fall more into the center-left moderate group.)  These are the progressives who seek to redefine marriage, redefine gender, add new genders out of thin air, they advocate for government control of healthcare, the economy, and pretty much everything.  When there is a problem of any kind, these are the ones who demand the government step in to fix it.  They push for the transformation of America into a socialist-like mega-bureaucracy that they hope will usher in a new era of utopia.  Public figures who epitomize this ideology would be Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Van Jones, Rachel Maddow, Justin Trudeau (prime minister of Canada), Barack Obama, Cornel West, and Bill Maher.  They tend to be openly hostile to religious faith of any kind, as are most socialists/marxists/communists/democratic socialists.  The progressive movement I would argue is the most prescient danger to the world right now as it's powerful across Europe and increasingly in the United States.  Their ideological visionaries of the past include Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Herbert Croly, John Dewey, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, and many others.  They bear a striking resemblance to the French revolution from history, which was a rising up of elites in the society, attempting to overthrow the shared cultural meanings of the past, which ended in the guillotine, and Napoleon taking total despotic control and attempting to conquer Europe through military force.

Third movement is the most hated in the country, which is the constitutional conservative movement based around the tea party, the freedom caucus, the Heritage foundation, talk radio, and other various conservative voices in the culture.  They tend to be strongest in small town America, as well as Texas, the midwest, and the south.  They advocate a reversal of course, being not simply center left or center right, but advocating a renewal and revival of founding principles based in the American revolution, spelled out in the Constitution and specifically the declaration of independence.  This group advocates for small government, personal liberty, free markets, religious freedom, God-given natural rights, and objective truth.  This is the group growing fastest in the United States right now, and the United Kingdom.  Public figures who advocate for this worldview include people like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Jim DeMint, Mark Levin, Robert George, Justin Amash, Jeff Sessions, Ben Shapiro, and others. This group obviously historically can be closely related to the original american revolutionary founders and framers in ideology.  Though more broadly one could list John Locke, John Adams, George Mason, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.

Those are the key players on stage right now.  Donald Trump and his administration would obviously fall somewhere between the moderate establishment and the constitutional conservative movement, perhaps in a category of his own, something like populist nationalism.  Hard to say at the moment.  

The battle is being waged each day.  Most people don't even realize it's taking place.  They have no interest in politics.  Most people don't understand the roots of the cultural revolution taking place, and how to counter it.  But we must understand these issues, as Christians, we must be involved on the front-lines of these issues.  An army needs it's jedi knights, hopefully we can be the jedi on these issues, because we understand the deeper spiritual battles taking place.  Remember these surface issues, even down at their roots are rooted not simply in ideologies like cultural Marxism or progressive human perfectibility, they are spiritually rooted issues, based around the struggle between God's people on Earth and sin, the flesh, the pride of life, and the enemy.  Jesus Christ is at work, so is the enemy.  We must seek to see beyond the physical, or even philosophical battles taking place and see the spiritual battle waging around us.  

Action is needed today.  Good men and good women are rising up right now.  We see the evidence of it on social media, Christians and conservatives are increasingly energized and active, carrying the message of Christ to the world.  We see the evidence in media, on the internet, in our streets and public squares, and in the voting booths.  Please continue your diligence, and continue your prayers.  Trust God, and study the scriptures.  I've been reading a great new study Bible called the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible.  Fascinating stuff, very deep, but incredibly fascinating.  Trust the Bible and trust in God.  He is real and active in the world.  

Keep up the good work friends, never give up.  Never, never, never!  Christ is risen!  We shall win the day.  Amen.

French Revolution, beheadings
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  4. An Appeal to Heaven: The Movement
  5. The Supreme Court, Same Sex Marriage, Religious Liberty
  6. Thoughts on Public Schooling: Should Christians homeschool their Children?
  7. Kim Davis is only the Beginning: Prepare your Ministry for Persecution
  8. A Cause Worth Dying For: Materialism, Millennials, & the Authentic Mission
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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Testimony: How I Met Jesus

Video Testimony:

Life before Jesus, for me, was a living nightmare. And that’s in no way an exaggeration. Even before drugs took control in my story, it was still basically a life of confusion, and quiet desperation. See life without Jesus is simply life chasing 2 dimensional pleasures that don’t quite fulfill. And I wandered along sort of haphazardly blundering my way through life. But I questioned life, I asked often, What is the meaning of life? Why am I here? What should I do next? College? Marriage?

At age 17 I got into drugs. It started with marijuana and smoking cigarettes with friends, after problems in my family developed. Marijuana led to pills, benzos, amphetamines, which led to stronger pills, and eventually my drug of choice dxm. Without the power of Christ in my life, the drugs took total control. Over many years I became detached from society, family, and reality itself.

My body began deteriorating after nearly 10 years of drug addiction. I overdosed, and nearly died in the hospital ICU. I overdosed a second time, and was involuntarily placed in a mental hospital restricted as a danger to myself and society.

About one year later, at rock bottom, a series of strange events led me to fall onto my knees, and cry out to a Nazarene peasant who lived 2 thousand years ago named Jesus Christ.

There were several encounters that were key to this deliverance. First, two trembling teenage girls at the university of wisconsin extension who walked up to me and asked me if I thought I would go to heaven when I died? It got me thinking about if God really existed. Second, my mom bugging me to go to church with her to see this hip young pastor. I went. Third, my grandpa having the guts to invite me over, hand me my first bible, and talk to me about the love of Jesus. Fourth, my cousin Kimberly buying me a copy of the movie called the gospel of John, which is word for word the gospel of John. To this day I’m not good at reading books, but being able to watch this gospel movie over and over finally made it connect in my mind that I needed Jesus. Fifth, while I was in ICU, the chaplain of the hospital came to visit me, talked to me about Jesus, looked at me with love, and called me His brother in Christ. Every single one of those events, were people, probably afraid, who were willing to interrupt my life and tell me about Jesus. They probably went away thinking, wow I really blew it that time. But their feeble efforts, which I thought were so foolish and stupid at the time were in fact the glory of God, forged in courage and a willingness to look foolish to bring a wayward soul to Christ. But probably just as much as any of those encounters, it was the Bible study group at Bethany Baptist quietly praying for me every week, it was my grandmas monica and patricia, my mom and my grandpa Bernie praying for me, praying and praying and praying stubbornly refusing to give up on me, all of that culminating, in the urge to cry out to Jesus and become a saved born again Christian. That’s evangelism.

My life since I’ve accepted Christ has been an amazing, awe-inspiring roller coaster of God’s grace, to the most undeserving of sinners. Fundamentally my life is about joy now, instead of sorrow. It’s like someone flipped on the lights. When C.S. Lewis said, I believe Christianity like the sun in the sky, because by it I see everything else.” That statement is so true. I can see now. I can see who I am and why I’m here.

And freedom from drug addiction. Folks I had tried so hard to break those chains of addiction, they were solid steel, when I called out to Jesus, got into twelve step groups, those chains broke off and fell at my feet like tissue paper. Amazing grace. All of my sins, that endless list of wrongs I’d done, people I’d hurt, family estranged, broken relationships, all forgiven, wiped out at the cross of Christ.

Jesus had saved me, he had set me free from all evil. But my part, my response was to get to work. I fought really hard in the beginning. I went to tons of recovery meetings every week. I joined a church. I prayed every day, on my knees before God. I read my Bible incessantly, constantly. I got to work on myself, reading books on recovery from depression, anxiety and addiction. I began to pick up the pieces of my past, and began to make amends to those I’d harmed. I made a public declaration of faith, and was baptized into the body of Christ. I started volunteering for ministries at my church. I began to address sins in my life, pursuing holiness.

God was opening up doors, and I knew God was calling me to ministry. So I applied to Liberty university and I was accepted. I graduated with a bachelors degree, magna cum laude in Religion. I asked God where he wanted me to serve, and pretty soon I started working at the transitional living center in Wausau. I worked rotating shifts, including Sundays, so I started attending the Salvation Army church there. I fell in love with the mission of the Salvation Army, got more involved, and started attending conferences. I became a soldier. And participation at the Wausau corps led to me applying for the ministry discovery program internship. After several conferences and calls forward, I knew God was calling me to officership. It was radical at the time to leave Wausau and head to Escanaba for the internship. So I’ve been in Escanaba for two years now, and it’s been the most amazing experience. I’ve learned so much. I’ve found so much grace from God when the challenges come. So I know as I head to CFOT that God’s grace and provision will get me through every high and low, and I pray I can bring glory to His name. Amen.

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  5. Quick Fact Sheet: Four Points to Consider
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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Everything is about Jesus: All Things To, For, and By Christ

Accompanying Video:

Message Audio:

We’ve talked about topics like theology, sociology, philosophy, government, and other topics, looking at a litany of spheres of life to discover how our Christian faith impacts all of our lives. As the final message of this series, we address this simple fact: Everything is about Jesus. The scriptures say everything was made by Him, for Him, and through Him.

We worship, adore, fear, and love this righteous God who reveals himself to us as Father God of the heavens, Holy Spirit ministering within us, and Jesus Christ, God coming into human history to set us free from our own sins.

To understand the depths of what Jesus has done we must understand the terrible nature of sin. I’ve watched a wife lose her husband to cancer. I’ve seen drug addicts overdose and die. I’ve seen hurricanes devastate entire communities. I’ve seen young people choose suicide. I’ve seen broken families, hopeless people. These are the effects of sin. So we can only understand the weight of what Christ has done when we understand the full horror of sin. But it’s much more personal than that. See each of us have been enemies of God. We were rebels, and one day we decided to set down our weapons, and stop tearing apart the world He gave us.

"Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation“ -Colossians 1:21-22

I know Christ has purchased my redemption, yet I feel the sorrow of the fact that I fall short of God’s righteous standard. I love God’s standard. I love His holy nature. I love his laws and his commands. I love the savior Jesus Christ. And for those reasons, I lament my nature, and how I live my life, even today. Especially today. Having been given the Holy Spirit to be with me, I feel it now, everyday.

If you constantly feel like you fall short, that your sins drive you nuts, because you love God and you want to obey His way, that is a very good sign. That is a sign that your saved. Romans chapter 8 says We all groan internally, along with nature, creation itself, because of the sin problem. We feel the sorrow of it, we groan and eagerly await the perfection of all things.

If your constantly worried that you might lose your salvation, that you fall short of God, that your weak and trapped in the flesh, then stop worrying, God isn’t going to lose you. He is going to uphold you along the journey. Nothing can separate us from Christ. Our part is to remain in faith. Keep nurturing your faith, keep attending church, and you’re gonna do great. This is a lifestyle. And if sin upsets you, that means your growing closer to God.

Because as the famed preacher Charles Spurgeon said, “The nearer a man lives to God, the more intensely has he to mourn over his own evil heart.”

Yet it is right that we should tremble before a holy God. The only reason every single one of us don’t go into outer darkness is because Jesus Christ did something very special for us. Because we are all justly exposed to the wrath of God. The justice of God was justly raised up against us because of our many, many grevious sins. And I love the justice of God, within I want His justice to reign.

We’ve each fallen short of God’s standard. And to me, when I’m feeling the depths of my own sinfulness, I know I deserve hell. I know it. In fact it would be just for God to send me there, apart from Christ.

Jesus said that the faithful and the unfaithful will be separated, the faithful will go to eternal life and the unfaithful will go to eternal punishment. So we should always seek to be found as one of the faithful.

Don’t give up. Don’t stop walking the walk. It is common for us to feel discouraged along the way, I’m encouraging you to not grow weary, but to continue. God will not forget your hard work. It’s all building up, as treasure in heaven.

So we are called to speak for Christ. To be called to carry His gospel, the good news of his life, death, and resurrection is an overwhelming concept. To live missionally seems overwhelming. It seems like too much at times. Why? Because of my own weakness. Because when things start going well for a while, I tend to begin to push Jesus aside. I tend to want to do things my own way. As much as I try to forsake myself and live for Christ, my own selfishness always seems to be pushing in.

But the amazing thing is that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be. That’s exactly how God set it up. In fact the Apostle Paul was asking God to remove a burden from him, something that made Him feel weak, and God said to Him, “2 Corinthians 12:9-11 (NIV) “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Our own weakness, neurosis, and instability is in fact a gift from God, the result being that God is glorified through our weakness. Why? Because in our infinite weakness we know we are in desperate need for God to sweep in and save us time and again. Christ’s power rests on me in my deepest weaknesses and in my worst burdens. And it’s the same with you. He is glorified through our struggles.

Well we could ask, why do we have to have all these struggles? Why can’t the world just be ok? Well, the human race at the beginning chose to rebel against God. And part of the consequence of that fall was creation being cursed. And the fact is, the way we struggle with creation: our car breaks down, we catch the flu, a loved one betrays us, our spouse argues with us or our boss is harsh with us, all of these effects of the curse of sin are actually God showing us how it feels for Him to have to deal with us. The curse upon earth, nature, ourselves and other people is a reflection, something that shows us how it feels for God to have to chase after us. Probably one of the starkest reminders of this is trying to raise children. They’ve got that sin nature just like we do, and often they just won’t play by the rules.

I was just at camp, and some of those kids were a bit naughty. They’d find ways to be disruptive, and push the buttons of their counselors and leaders. They need Jesus, because of sin. Just like we need Jesus because of sin.

Thankfully Jesus Christ reveals himself to us, and to the children. I had the opportunity to share the gospel with the children during the morning session at camp. And I asked for hands to be raised if kids wanted Jesus in their hearts and lives, and dozens of hands went up. Again that evening I saw the children huddled at the altar at camp, praying, crying, I saw cheeks flush with tears over sin and struggle in their lives.

Here are pictures from that evening.

This is amazing grace, I thought to myself. That I get to witness things like this. That I get to be a part of stuff like this! I got down on my knees after that, and cried to God, saying Lord why me, how could you be so good to me, a sinner, a drug addict, Lord I’m not anyone special, I’m just some guy, some average joe and Lord you’ve given me the chance to carry your gospel, to preach to children, and to watch them kneel before you and call out to you in need. Lord, thank you so much.

That’s all my soul can do is cry out “thank you!” He paid the debt of all sins on the cross, Not only that but he caused me to be born again to rise up out of a 2 dimensional dark world of delusion, drug addiction, caught in the same repeating loop of self destruction. And for me, someone so undeserving of mercy, He not only grants mercy, the remission of sin, He also grants grace, which is relationship with God almighty the sovereign father of life, the mighty Holy Spirit of God living in my very own soul, Jesus Christ as my own personal friend and savior, and even a calling to ministry, to serve and carry the wonderful gospel of salvation. What could be more important? What could be of greater meaning and value? Nothing else. There is nothing else in life. There is nothing but Jesus. Everything is about Jesus.

I encourage you in your life. Do you see everything in your life through the lenses of Jesus Christ and the living gospel of Christ? We’ve looked at Truth, society, philosophy, government, history, and eternal future. Do you see Jesus in everything? Jesus Christ our glorious savior is alive right now. We could see the holes in his hands and feet from where he bore my sin, our sins, on the cross. They were nailed to Him, though He was perfect. God stepped in to take my sin and transmitted it to Himself, and transmitted His righteousness to me. All of this through the conduit of faith. Faith is the pipeline that traffics Christ to us, the Spirit to us, and our sin to Christ on the cross, where it is fully eliminated.

They call that penal substitutionary atonement. Penal, in that we were subject to the penalty of damnation because of our many sins. Substitution is that Jesus Christ the God-man stepped in to take the punishment for our sins. And atonement in that Christ’s sacrifice of dying on the cross, forsaken of God, deleted the list of sins standing against us in eternity. We would’ve been subject to judgment, but Jesus Christ stepped in and received the penalty for us.

Finally, given that Jesus has done it all, given that Jesus holds all things together, and that everything in life is about Jesus, we ought to live missionally. This world is not all there is. Sadly most people in or out of church still live like this world is all there is. They’re busy living for themselves and they aren’t living for Jesus. Don’t be one of those people. Really live for Jesus, really live missionally. Show up to church every Sunday, if your out of town, find a church wherever you happen to be. That’s what I do. Make sure you do pray twice a day and that you’ve got a daily devotional and a good study Bible that you read from regularly. Most importantly, carry the gospel. Think of yourself as a one man, or one woman army for Christ. You’ve got people in your sphere of influence.

Bob our CSM works at McDonalds, one might think how could I possibly witness at Mcdonalds? Bob does it all the time. He’s prayed with people, he’s listened to people when they were lost and upset. He’s been a closet prayer warrior, praying people into the kingdom from the shadows. You can do the same thing. You can be a soldier for Christ, living missionally. Basically, living as if Jesus Christ is alive right now. Good news, that is actually true. Live in light of the fact that people around you are doomed to hell, because they’ve sinned against God. Realize that, pray for them, everyday, hand out Bibles, leave tracts around town, and talk to people about God. Share your faith. Everything is about Jesus Christ, so our lives should reflect that. 

In conclusion, the Apostle Paul wrote in our scripture today: “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Christ, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

"Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.” -Colossians 1:20-23a

Once we were enemies of God, now we are His friends. Therefore stand firm in the faith. Everything is about Jesus. 

A Philosophical Transformation Series
1. What is Truth? A Battle of Worldviews
2. Science & Faith: The Existence of God
3. God's Overarching History: The Big Picture
4: Theology: Understanding God
5: Sociology: The Divine Image, the Family & The Social Order
6: Redemption of Man: The Cross (Paradise Regained)
7: Practicing our Faith: Principles to Live By
8: Government & Law: The United States: A Dream Realized
9: The Future Destiny of Man: The New Heavens & New Earth
10: Everything is about Jesus

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Friday, July 7, 2017

Five Powerful Sermon Videos

I love to watch sermons and apologetics presentations on You Tube.  It's all part of keeping the Christian worldview growing and developing in my mind.  I need to learn the scriptures and how they apply from quality Christian leaders.  I'm a visual learner, that's how I learn best.  I read and listen as well.  But I'm very visual.  So if that's you, I hope these sermons/presentations help you grow in your Christian faith.  

1. Homosexuality and Transgenderism | Dr. Voddie Baucham

2. Temple University Open Forum: Does Truth Matter? | Dr. Ravi Zacharias

3. The Origins of Political Correctness

4. I Used to Be Gay | Dennis Jernigan

5. Doctrine: Revelation, God Speaks | Pastor Mark Driscoll

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