Monday, September 30, 2019

The 7 I Am Statements of Jesus

Today we’re going to talk about the 7 I Am statements of Jesus in John. The 7 “I Am” Statements of Jesus are a great way to build in your mind a framework of who jesus is and what his position as our “savior” really means. I’d encourage you to memorize one or more of these “I am” statements. And recite them in your prayers to God. And recite them to yourself when your struggling or in need.

What comes into our minds when we think about Jesus is the most important thing about us. That’s what A.W. Tozer a great Christian pastor said. And it’s true. Everything hinges on our relationship with Jesus Christ.

1. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.”

In John Chapter 6:35 It says: 35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Therefore according to the word Jesus is our sustainer.

He provides for all our needs. Which is why we have food to eat and water to drink. That’s why I always thank God before I eat any meal. I encourage you to do the same. So many people, even Christians don’t pray before their meals. And I think to myself, what are they doing! God has given us such abundant food in this country, yet we don’t thank Him? Are we so entitled, and so snotty to think that we deserve all this abundance? We don’t deserve anything. We receive what God gives us.

Jesus loves us. He is our bread of life. Whoever comes to Jesus will never go hungry or thirsty. Jesus indicates how we should live in response to this gift: Live to do God’s will, and not our own wills. That’s what Jesus did. He did the Father’s will perfectly. We are called to do the same, to live as God wants us to live.

2. Jesus said I am the light of the world. Jesus is our illuminator

From John chapter 8 verse 12: “12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

What a mysterious saying. What did Jesus mean by this, to say he is the light of the world? I think several factors play into this. First, the word of God says that Jesus actually holds reality together. In this way, Jesus is the light of the world, in that he guides reality. Yet we get another clue about light and darkness earlier in the book of John, in chapter three it says:

John 3:20-21 (NIV) says: 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

So we who choose to follow Jesus, step from the darkness into the light. The darkness is a place of hiding, of fleeing from god. We hide the evil we do, and refuse to accept that God is real and that we are accountable to Him. But those of who follow Jesus, are willing to admit, yes we do everything in the presence and sight of God, we step into the light, and say yes, I am under God’s light, I choose to show that what I do is done before God.

3. Jesus said I am the gate.
John 10:7-16 says: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. 9 Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Jesus said again and again, “I’m telling you the truth.” Not my truth, not a truth, not one of many truths, but the truth. I love that about Jesus. I so desperately want to know the truth about this messed up, yet beautiful mysterious world we live in. Jesus gives me the truth. It isn’t always easy to hear, but at least it’s the truth.

The lie of the world this relates to is self-sufficiency. The world tells us, the television, which I like to call the “tell lie vision” tells us we have to do it ourselves. Me, me, me! What I want! I deserve it. It’s all about looking to ourselves and our aspirations and our dreams and our goals. That isn’t what we’re called to. We’re called to look to Jesus, and enter through him. Not our own opinions. Look to Jesus and the word of God, and embrace those views, they are the truth.

4. Jesus said I am the good shepherd.
John 10:11-14 (NLT) says,“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me,

Not only is Jesus our gate of entry, our doorway to salvation, Jesus also goes along with us on the journey. It’s kind of like Lord of the Rings, the heroes go on their quest, and Gandalf comes with. That’s what Jesus does for us. He comes with us, and protects us on the journey of life.

5. Jesus said I am the resurrection and the life.
John 11:25-27 says: 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

We all know the historical event of Mary and Martha. Their brother died. And Jesus came, and raised Lazarus from the dead. Why did Jesus do this? What was the meaning of this event?

One of the worst things about life is that we grow old and die. In fact it’s so normal, that we don’t even hardly think about it. We just assume that we grow up, then start getting wrinkly, then eventually we die.

Jesus is the only one who can deal with this issue of death. And fundamentally at the core of the gospel is that Jesus Christ tells us that if we believe in him we can live forever.

6. Jesus said I am the way, the truth, and the life.

John 14:1-7 says: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”

5 “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. 7 If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”

Jesus is so awesome. He says, dude, Thomas, I am the way. Come through me, I’m your God. You’ve been with me all this time. Thomas didn’t get it. Many of us struggle to “get it” too I think. But we can come to understand these things. If we’re diligent about pursuing Jesus.

7. Jesus said I am the true vine.
In the final I am statement of Jesus, the 7th Jesus is saying, “remain with me.” Don’t get lost, you’ve got to stay connected to me. He says:

John 15:1-4: “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

I urge you, cling to the Bible as if your life depended on it, because it does. Cling to prayer, because communication is the beating heart of our relationship with God. If we aren’t doing this two simple things, we aren’t a Christian, we’re nobody. If we stay plugged into Jesus, then we’re gonna do great things.

So let me present the gospel to you. If you believe three simple things, and insist in your mind that they are true, then you will be saved:

1. Jesus is God and man and lived perfectly, never sinned.

2. Jesus our savior died on the cross paying the debt you owned for the sins you’ve done over your life.

3. Jesus resurrected from the dead and is alive right now in heaven and he is coming again. We believe that through Jesus resurrection we are given new life as well, we are born again by the Holy Spirit.

Believe in your heart, and testify with your mouth. Very simple.

So: Who do you say that Jesus is? I say He is my Lord. I hope you’ll join me. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Top Ten Indie Rock Albums Portending Doom and Rebirth

The Helio Sequence - Keep Your Eyes Ahead
This album expresses the beauty, emotional passion, and sincere battling of youth life, in times of confusion, agnosticism, post-modernism and delight in life. Keep your eyes ahead challenges and rebels against much of life, while hinting at a greater expression of joy elsewhere. Distorted, experimental indie rock with vocals flashing from haunting to rythmic. 

Mew - No More Stories are Told Today I'm Sorry They Washed Away The World is Grey I'm Tired Let's Wash Away
No more stories expresses the beauty of searching, the beauty of life's melancholy twists and turns, toying with self-destruction, joyously walking through solitude, light, darkness, and the danger of living in angst and sorrow.  It is at times a celebration, at times an elegy, at times hopeful, at times dismal, and always mysteriously beautiful. 

Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon digest manages to make us nostalgic for things that never really happened, but isn't that the story of drug addiction anyway? Are these brutal memories truly a halcyon digest or are they sinister crippling sorrows? How easy it is to lie to ourselves about the past.  The electronic/guitar driven tones of the digest are haunting in their mix of hope and fear, delight in joy and beauty while also reflecting on total desperation, crippling sorrow, depression, and repeatedly rippling with cries like "pray for me" and "somebody help me."  I've always loved music best defined as "happy, but sad" because that is how I experience life.  And it tends to a constant that life is both tragic and beautiful, good and terrible. 

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
This classic album needs no introduction. It accurately depicted the mood of an entire generation of millennials born into the suburbs, into modernism and post-modernism, finding boredom out of affluence, and a yearning for justice in a world often populated with corruption, yet also expressing the hope of a generation for greater things.  

Bon Iver - For Emma Forever Ago
Justin Vernon certainly knows how to express the wintery cold of Wisconsin, my homeland, he resided I believe in Eau Claire, just two hours from my home town of Wausau.  The wintery-feeling tones of For Emma Forever Ago jived so well with the angst of lost love, the beauty of the seasons, the joy of solitude and self-expression and an appreciation for the beautiful melancholy of life.  

Boards of Canada - Music has the right to Children
Unlike any other group I think Boards of Canada has the ability to stir in me the most mysterious emotions and appealing twists of reality. The confusion, depression, anxiety, and emptiness of a life without meaning, without truth, and without God are well expressed in the fragmented, gorgeous sounds of Music has the right to Children. No other techno touches Boards of Canada in my view.  It's on another level.  The tones paint landscapes, they express more than mere emotions or ideas, they express dynamic stories, dreams untold, and memories of far away places. There is nothing like Boards of Canada, in an ability to express beauty and horror. 

The Foals - Total Life Forever
Particularly the last four songs of Total Life Forever have a special place in my heart.  The angst, the elegy of the songs, the crying out for a different approach, the beautiful guitar riffs, the atmospheric vibe, it was hopeful while expressing the suffering found in any true growth. The vocals of Total Life Forever seem to cry out to the listener like a lone voice of reason in a cloud of emotional chaos. 

Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
Veckatimest is like an old friend, who was at times playful and fun, and later expresses the most sincere emotions and truth dialogues. It expresses the grit of chaos living, of living on a highspeed blend of drugs, sex, parties, music, depression, misery, and self-loathing. It expresses anger, misery, laughter, mockery, and dismal self-loathing/self-destruction. 

Team Sleep - Self Title
I recall hearing of a project between members of the Deftones and Pinback, and the meshing of those two sounds together truly delivered a vibe beyond beautiful.  My friend and I still speak of the team sleep album as something we still love and truly don't understand. To me, the song Princeton Review perfectly accentuates the vibe of the album: mysterious, melodic, atmospheric, polished, while also seeming to be raw. The album seems like an elegy again. It seems like a funeral, or a reunion after a war, it tastes like a group talking in the night after being at a rave for 12 years, trapped inside, not shackled, but unwilling to escape, whispering quietly in the failing light of the morning, shades drawn, smell of burnt cigarettes, and dried sweat, exhausted, miserable, exhilarated, expressing remorse, while also pleasure and delight, awaiting the end of the world and ultimate judgment that will most likely be harsh. 

Blonde Redhead - 23
The manic, despairing, angsty expressions of 23, by Blonde Redhead certainly epitomized a time in my life when everything was high speed, fear was a constant companion, and there seemed to be a tidal wave of doom threatening just upon the horizon. Mania, mania, mania, confusion, mania, manic, and more manic mania.  Whispers of doom papered over by shallow self-pleasuring. But unable to cover the portent of disaster. "Heroine" and "Silently" perfectly express the album as a whole, whispers of danger, with no response.  Chaos of love, and romantic relationships that are not meant to be, but driven by drugs and loneliness. "You die in my arms" "Your clock is ticking" Madness. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Starting over, Second Chances & Becoming the Hero of our Story

"In February 1980, the U.S. Olympic hockey team slipped its foot into a glass slipper and walked away with a gold medal at Lake Placid, New York. Those collegians had shocked the world by upsetting the powerful Soviet team, and then they grabbed the championship from Finland while the crowd chanted, "U.S.A.!" Before his team's victory over the Soviet Union which advanced them to the finals, the coach of the U.S. hockey team told his players, "You are born to be a player. You are meant to be here at this time. This is your moment."
Today in the Word, July, 1990, p. 11.

In the same way today, I believe God has called you here for a purpose. He’s called you to a new way. You are not here by accident. I would like to talk with you about starting a new life. Coming to the table here is about a new start. It’s about a new way of living. It’s about starting over, and becoming all God has made us to be. Many of you have already begun down this road by participating in soldiership classes on Wednesdays. I’m here to recruit you into a new life. I’m here to recruit you into the kingdom of God. I’m the lieutenant, and you are my army, my army of love and truth.

The word of God says, Jeremiah 29:11 ESV “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

The Lord has a plan for your life, and it’s a good plan. A plan to do great things. But you still have your choice, your free will. You can choose to live a new life, or you can continue the old life. And the old life leads nowhere. Ultimately I ask you this question: What will you do? You gonna walk with God? Or go your own way?

It’s time to get off the sidelines, and become the hero of your own story. I know a lot of you lost hope at one time in the past that things could ever be better. But hope is back baby, it’s back in a big way. It’s time for a new day. It’s time for that fire to burn bright inside of you once again. With Jesus inside you can’t lose brothers and sisters. You’ve got power now. When you hit the ground before ,you’re gonna rise up in strength.

The enemy is gunning for you. That’s for sure. But you’ve got your sword and shield. You’ve got your helmet and your breastplate, you’re ready for battle. A new day is dawning in your life. You’re the hero now. And you’re gonna have to fight. But the battle is worth it. You’re going to become a man of honor, a woman of dignity. You’re gonna become a pillar of this community. I’m looking at the new heroes of the world.

What is your purpose in life? Thomas Carlyle a Scottish philosopher and writer said, “A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder--a waif, a nothing, a no man. Have a purpose in life, and, having it, throw such strength of mind and muscle into your work as God has given you.”

You know, God likes to take people who don’t seem that important and make them His heroes. Jesus didn’t go talk to rich elites when he gathered his disciples. He went to some fishermen, a tax collector, prostitutes, and the sick and the miserable. Jesus flips everything around. He takes the least and makes them first.

Matthew 19:28-30 Jesus said, “You can be sure that when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne in the New Age, then you twelve followers of mine will also sit on thrones, to rule the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake, will receive a hundred times more and will be given eternal life. 30 But many who now are first will be last, and many who now are last will be first.”

I’ve met many of the “important people” in Owosso. I’ve met some of the important people in the United States as well, what we think of as the elites. And they’ve got all the angles. They’ve figured out how to make all the money, how to get the women, how to take the power, and how to win in politics. And most, not all, but most of them think of faith in God as something for simpletons, country bumpkins, and people without a proper education. But that’s what makes God’s plan so amazing. He does something that most people can’t fully understand, like with Jesus and the cross. It seems like foolishness to rich educated people. But it’s a trip wire that God put there intentionally, to trip up the prideful, who think they are better than everyone else.

The kingdom of God is certainly open to the rich and powerful, if they will humble themselves and turn to Jesus. It’s happened before, like with Nicodemus. But overall, the kingdom of God is come to us, average everyday people, who are willing to come to God like children, simply trusting God, and obeying Him. The kingdom of God comes to us. And often times the rich and powerful, the Jeff Bezos and the Bill Gates miss it.

The first, will be last, and the last will be first. Isn’t that amazing? So it’s time to be the hero. It’s time to live the new life. You guys are the heroes now, and I think each of you are going to become mighty warriors in the army of God. So we’ll conclude with this scripture, Ephesians 4:17-24 ERV "I have something from the Lord to tell you. I warn you: Don’t continue living like those who don’t believe. Their thoughts are worth nothing. 18 They have no understanding, and they know nothing because they refuse to listen. So they cannot have the life that God gives. 19 They have lost their feeling of shame and use their lives to do what is morally wrong. More and more they want to do all kinds of evil. 20 But that way of life is nothing like what you learned when you came to know Christ. 21 I know that you heard about him, and in him you were taught the truth. Yes, the truth is in Jesus. 22 You were taught to leave your old self. This means that you must stop living the evil way you lived before. That old self gets worse and worse, because people are fooled by the evil they want to do. 23 You must be made new in your hearts and in your thinking. 24 Be that new person who was made to be like God, truly good and pleasing to him."

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Selfless Holy Light in a Dark Age of Self-Worship (1st Peter 4:7-16)

Audio Message:

We live in a world that is largely dominated by self interest. All around town, up and down, we see self interest at work. What can I get? What can I gain? We gotta make money. We gotta meet the right people, and get what we need from them. Often times it feels like our lives revolve around what we want and how quickly we can get it.

We live in a time of great abundance and technological brilliance in the United States, yet we also live in a time of depravity and immorality that shocks us and amazes us with it’s level of evil, and toxic culture. The “me” culture is quite dominant. Selfie stick, Facebook profile, twitter account, hundreds of pictures of me, me, me, videos, conversations, my perfect scores, my high grades, and we’ll only show the best to others. We never show people what’s really going on inside of us.

We’ve gotta get the right job. And make sure we get married and have the family. Then we gotta keep buying bigger stuff, nicer stuff, more stuff, and show our neighbors, that we don’t really like how, just how important we are. And that’s life I suppose. That’s the American dream, the white picket fence, the sports car, the fancy house.

There is much more to life than that. And it seems like we’ve gotten so bogged down in the material in our lives, that we lose touch with the spiritual. Life is about so much more than our daily routines, it’s about so much more than work, and habits and eating meals and collecting paychecks. We have to find ways to recapture the wonder for life.

Because if we spend everyday circulating between the cubicle to the computer to the television screen to the bedroom and back again, we will go crazy. We will fade away. And that’s no good. There are ways to reclaim the wonder of life.

Something I like to do, is I wait until night time, usually about 8pm, or 9pm, sometimes even 10pm, and I’ll go out for a walk around my neighborhood. And I live in a safe neighborhood so I’m able to do that. And I stare at the sky, and listen to music, and watch the trees, and the shadows they form, and wander down roads, not really trying to go anywhere in particular, just looking for spots of beauty. Then I’ll look at the moon and the stars, and think

On the weekends I will go out and bike ride at the nature preserve on the outskirts of town. And I delight in the sunlight, the beautiful trees, and everything that is so beautiful about the natural world. I watch the birds fly about, I listen to the sounds of the woods, and then later I’ll walk along the Shiawassee river downtown and maybe sit down, and read my Bible, or pray. There is great wonder in life. There is beauty in the world God created.

Our world is full of interesting paradoxes. Darkness, and light, goodness, and evil. Beautiful sunny days, cold placid lifeless winter nights. Beautiful creatures, birds, rabbits, dogs, cats, and ferocious creatures like lions, wolves, rhinoceros. Glorious sunsets, stunning mountain ranges, and terrible diseases that end peoples lives, and violent earthquakes and hurricanes. Life is a mysterious, wondrous, and terrifying adventure And deep down we know that there is very much at stake. In fact, everything is at stake. Somehow when I’m walking alone at night, or staring out the window in the evening, something inside tells me the clock is ticking, and time is running out.

As the scripture said today, “The end of all things is near.” That was written about one thousand nine hundred and forty years ago. How much more true must they be now, than then?

Our scripture today is essentially calling us to live completely differently from the world we live in right now. This world seems to make us think we’re going to live forever. The scriptures say “the end of all things is near.” This world says “you deserve everything you want” and word says “ be self controlled and alert.” This world says “get yours” and the word says “love one another deeply.”

And it continues, in our scripture today, 1st Peter 4: 9-11 “Open your homes to each other without complaining. 10 Each one, as a good manager of God's different gifts, must use for the good of others the special gift he has received from God. 11 Those who preach must preach God's messages; those who serve must serve with the strength that God gives them, so that in all things praise may be given to God through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and power forever and ever. Amen.”

When is the last time you invited someone over for dinner to your home? The word says open your homes to each other, and don’t complain about doing that. That’s a spiritual gifting, certainly, but it’s also something we’re all called to do. It’s the same with evangelism, sharing the gospel, some may be especially equipped to do it, but in truth all Christians must be doing it.

If your gift is to serve, then serve in God’s strength. Serve in the power of the Holy Spirit. If your gift is to preach, then preach God’s messages. And the ultimate goal, to bring glory to Jesus Christ.

If you’re a true Christian, you should be tithing at least 10% of your income. Whenever you get paid, set aside at least 10% of your income to give back to God. It's the first thing we should do on payday, write a check, and set aside at least 10% for God. Of course the New Testament standard is to give all (Acts 2:42-47). But a good starting point is 10%, then slowly work your way up, 11%, 12%, 15%, 20% and more. God has given us everything we have, so it already belongs to Him. Therefore, honor God with your money. For those who reject this simple giving, they may well be called disobedient Christians at the final judgment. Ultimately God does not need our money, this is about obedience, and learning to give.

Unfortunately many don’t believe that Jesus will really return to Earth. Many in fact openly mock the ideas of Christianity. Today they are referred to as the new atheists, they’ve sold millions of copies of their books, like the God delusion. Which is quite interesting, because the word of God actually says, in 2 Peter 3:3-4 NIV, “3 First of all, I want you to know that in the last days men will laugh at the truth. They will follow their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “He promised to come again. Where is He? Since our early fathers died, everything is the same from the beginning of the world.”

This world, this life, everything we worry about and stress about, and strive so hard to get will very soon, be completely destroyed and gone. The word calls this “the day of the Lord” and is referenced many times in the New Testament.

2 Peter 3:10-11 :“The day of the Lord will come as a robber comes. The heavens will pass away with a loud noise. The sun and moon and stars will burn up. The earth and all that is in it will be burned up.

11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, you should think about the kind of life you are living. It should be holy and God-like.”

This is probably the most important thing I’ve learned in my time as a Christian follower of Jesus: How we live matters greatly. Live right. Do right. We will also have to stand before God and give an explanation for how we lived. I remember that everyday, when I’m tempted to live falsely or do something selfish. I remember, and I tremble before God’s throne. God can send us to heaven, or to hell, and he does not show favoritism. He is a just judge, and if we die in sin, that’s it, we’re not going to heaven. So live rightly, live holy, and repent quickly.

As it says in 2 Corinthians 7 “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

In a dark age of selfishness, and self-worship, where we focus on me, me, me and that’s it, when we exhibit the holiness of God, by walking as Jesus walked, we change the world. The gospel spreads through us to others. Nothing can stop it. All of the powers of this world, lies, flesh, evil powers, darkness, sin, nothing can stop that holy light of God that shines from the Father, through Jesus, inside us, through us, and into the world. Lives change. Lost people get saved. Communities are transformed. And new souls are led to a future paradise. Holy light shocks the world, it’s a terrifying brightness to them. They can hardly stand it. Some reject it, some fear it, some flee from it, but some are drawn toward it, those who are being saved.

Holiness changes the world. Jesus works through simple people, like you and me. He is calling people home through us. And if we will walk differently, then we will change the world just like Jesus changed the world when he walked the Earth. Life becomes a holy warfare. And that warfare becomes our lives. We fight, we suffer, we struggle, and we battle for the souls of humanity. We fight against the evil corrupt systems of this world, by shining forth holy selfless light into the darkness. And it changes the darkness into light. All of this brings great glory and honor to God.

As our scripture said today, in verses 12-16: 12 My dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful test you are suffering, as though something unusual were happening to you. 13 Rather be glad that you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may be full of joy when his glory is revealed. 14 Happy are you if you are insulted because you are Christ's followers; this means that the glorious Spirit, the Spirit of God, is resting on you. 15 If you suffer, it must not be because you are a murderer or a thief or a criminal or a meddler in other people's affairs. 16 However, if you suffer because you are a Christian, don't be ashamed of it, but thank God that you bear Christ's name.”

As we shine for Christ, living holy selfless lives, this will lead to suffering. What happened when Jesus began speaking the truth, healing people, loving people, and teaching the multitudes? He was persecuted. He was hated. People plotted against him. People despised the light that he brought. He threatened their power. Jesus threatened the hold they had over the people. So they fought against him. The darkness of this world always fights against the holy message of Christ. It can’t stand it, because it brings to light their own evil deeds, and convicts them of what they do. So they fight against it. And just that same way they will fight against you. And hate you. And mock you. And try to silence you any way they can.

But instead of being surprised by the suffering we go through, we should be full of joy because we are suffering for Jesus. How did Jesus handle it, when he suffered? He prayed to God in the garden of Gethsemane. He continued to speak the truth. He cared for his disciples. And that moment that Jesus was taken to the cross, Jesus fully submitted to the evil of this world. He allowed it to consume him completely. One looks at the morning of the crucifixion and one could easily think of it as the most evil day in the planet Earth’s history. Jesus God of the universe was brutally tortured, and murdered by the people he designed and created, on the Earth he made by the speaking of His voice. What could be worse? It seemed by outward appearance that evil had triumphed. But that’s the surprising victory of Holy selfless light. When it seems like evil has triumphed, by completely destroying good, it’s the blood poured out on the ground by the victorious dead that waters the seeds planted by their voices, echoing into eternity, far beyond their death, that spreads forth as a mighty forest, hundreds, thousands, millions of new voices rise up in their stead, empowered by that martyrs blood, watered and sustained by that paradoxical victory in defeat, that spreads holy selfless light throughout the world, crushing the darkness that had so believed it had won. But instead, paradoxically God’s victory comes through weakness, brokenness, and defeat. When we allow the evil to overcome us, and strike us down, we come to see that we rise again, stronger than ever, having suffered for Christ, and the blood of our wounds spreads the light even brighter, to more and more people. Indeed, as we suffer for Christ, we glorify God, bringing the gospel message to the lost, and changing and transforming the people of the world. Thus we seek to escape this broken place, destined for destruction, and gather humanity to the new heavens, and new Earth, where we will live in peace and infinite harmony with God, for years and years to come, into an incredible future, an adventurous future, that we can hardly imagine. That is your destiny, if you will decide now, that I will live holy, selfless, true to God, in secret, and in public, living by his decries and commands, and living for Jesus, being a light in the darkness of this selfish world, shocking them with a selfless life of love, goodness, service, and holy giving light.

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Sunday, September 1, 2019

Christian Mental Health: Healing from Past Traumas and Hurts

Audio Message:

John 5:1-9 NIV: "Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked."

Today we’ll address the topic of mental health: healing from past trauma. In the fallen world in which we live there are many times when we experience things that harm us. We have to go through hard times. Each of you I’m sure could list off traumatic experiences that you’ve been through. Whether we were soldiers in combat, or children who went through abuse, or those who struggle with drug addictions, or those afflicted with the blackest depression, we all have scars along the journey of life.

I’ve been through a lot in my life. And I’d like to share a bit more of my story, as I have in the past, and then transition into 3 ways of healing.

From birth on, it's been a struggle. Just after I was born, I would experience terrible stomach pains. When I began to learn to talk I developed a stutter, and had to work through that. In school I got bullied a great deal and spent a lot of time as an outcast. When I was 17 I was expelled from my high school and shunned by my former friends. When I was 18 I experienced being locked in a mental hospital. When I was 20 I became a serious drug addict. That same year I experienced serving jail time for the first time, for marijuana charges. I struggled with alcoholism and addiction for years after. I fought severe depression and anxiety on a daily basis. When I was 21 I became addicted to cigarettes. When I was 23 I was physically assaulted. When I was 25 I was hospitalized in intensive care for a drug overdose. I attempted suicide twice. I went to rehab and detox a dozen times.

But, this is key: I’m not a victim. I’m not a victim. I’m an overcomer. I’m a redeemed, born again, son of the most high God. Because Jesus came to save sinners, I need never be a victim, and the moment I let myself believe that I’m a victim, I’m no longer able to heal. Life is messy. And sometimes terrible things happen. But I have to keep fighting. We all do.

Jesus changes everything. The ultimate source of healing is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the doorway, God the Father is the architect & guide of the plan, and the Spirit is the indwelling healing presence.

Jesus Christ does the mighty work within us. But it isn’t finished there. We still need to heal and grow. There is work to be done. Faith without works is what? Dead!

So let’s look at three ways to gain healing from past struggles and traumas in our lives.

First, Step 1: Writing in powerful. Writing in a journal, on a daily basis. One of the best ways to experience healing is through study and writing things down. I keep a journal, where I write down my deepest thoughts and pains.

Write it down. Write down what you’ve gone through. Create a timeline of your life, so you can better understand your story. I did that once in treatment, and it was amazing to see how my life went from good to bad, and bad to good, and all over the place.

I’m convinced many of us don’t experience the fullness of God’s presence because we have too much wreckage from our pasts built up within. But when we clear out those past struggles, we make room for the Spirit of God to fully consume us.

All one need do is write out a timeline of our lives, emphasizing important events, from birth to present. Then working from the timeline, write down in journal format with the deepest honesty exactly what happened. Once having this inventory completed, the writer takes it to a trusted friend, colleague or pastor and “confesses” it to them. And through this, healing is found.

As it says in James 5:16 “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

Pray about it, maybe God is leading you to write out some of your past traumas to gain healing. If you'd like a more detailed inventory guide Google search "fourth step inventory guide." You'll find quite a few documents that you can print out to guide your inventory process.

Secondly, step two: Study, learn and grow. Books, sermons on youtube, workbooks. Get these resources, and use them for healing.

The first book I studied on healing was called “The Bondage Breaker” by Neil T. Anderson. It was an excellent book on how to challenge the lies of Satan with the truth of God’s word.

Another powerful workbook I went through was called the "Freedom from Depression workbook" by Frank Minirth. It helped change a lot of my perspectives about the world.

I could list off a lot of extremely helpful books, I read a lot, but I would recommend the life recovery study bible, and the celebrate recovery study bible. But overall just immerse yourself in healing, listen to youtube sermons on Christian healing. Get that right message in your mind!

Thirdly, make sure you have a good network of support. That is always key. And its usually one of the hardest things for those with past traumas to do. When you’ve been through hard times it tends to make you feel different from others. It makes reaching out and connecting with people a very hard thing to do. But we have to force ourselves to socialize, because hiding away doesn’t help anything.

That is a powerful thing, to have friends and mentors who speak into our lives. We have to have people we can share anything with. Otherwise it stays locked inside of us. A lost art is that of young people finding older, wiser people, who can they learn and grow from. Trust me on this, seek out a good mentor.

We need community, group support. One of the best options for this sort of healing is found at a program called Celebrate Recovery. Celebrate Recovery is a place to come with your hurts, habits, and hangups. It’s a great program. Other programs are also available for those with alcohol, drug, or gambling problems like Alcoholics anonymous, Narcotics anonymous, and Gambling anonymous. The healing is found in these programs through blunt, honest, real discussions. It’s so powerful to open up and talk about these pains, believe me, it’ll change your world.

When I work with teens in ministry, I always try to engage them in deep, real conversations. I try to get them to express their deepest thoughts, and share the struggles they go through. You’d be amazed how these blunt, real conversations can help shine the light of healing.

So those are the three best ways I've found to address the issue of healing from past struggles. And we all have those struggles.

In closing, there is something very important to remember about healing. What was the first thing Jesus asked the crippled man? The first question Jesus asked him was: “Do you want to get to well?”

I say “yes” to God today. With every issue and sin that crops up in my life. Because there are always more things to work on. So I have to say to Jesus time and again, yes Lord, now I’m ready and willing that you should have all of me. I want to get well.

The cool thing about our savior Jesus Christ is that he takes people like you and me, and heals us, and then compels us to go out and help those with the struggles we have gone through. So let me challenge you, if you’ve been through some stuff, think about how God can use that to bless others who are hurting.