Sunday, November 27, 2022

How to Stay in Hope in a Dark World

Showing up at the first pastor’s job 3 years ago was pretty scary stuff. It was me, a cook, a caseworker, and a driver. That was it. New officer, scared, unprepared, hoping that somehow he can make a difference in this crazy world. Not knowing a single person in the city, driving in late at night, and you get to work thinking to yourself, how can I possibly do this? And you wonder, is anyone going to join me in this mission?

Early on hope was in short supply, and I was scared. But there was one person who came along side me in this mission and really said "yes, I’m in."  His name was Scott. He did every single thing he could to help build the church, pick people up, pick up donations from stores, hand out fliers, come to events, and he never missed.

You have no idea what a big deal that was to me. One time I had asked Scott to stand at a kettle, because someone didn’t show up, just from 10 to noon. But when I came at night to pick up the kettle, there he was still standing there, because no one had came to relieve him. He stayed all day. And I got choked up in the car. I kid you not. And I got out of that car, and gave that guy a big hug. And I said, "I love you Scott."

Because guess what, my hope early on was hanging by a thread, and when someone gives you just a little bit of hope in that moment when you’re about to give up, it’s life changing! And I’ll love that guy til the day I die because of that.

And that’s what we’re talking about today. Today we’re addressing the codeword hope in our Christmas series. What is hope and how can we have it?

Hope is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. Hope is something that inspires people to change the world. It all starts with hope. Hope that something can be better. Hope that something can be different. Hope that in the future we can see something different than what we see now.

In the cold, cold winter season, the sun gets dim, the stars are covered by clouds at night, and the snows cover the ground. Winter is often a hard time for me and many others. Many struggle with seasonal affective disorder, and battle depression over the winter months.

It’s a scenario of loss of hope. You can start to think that winter will never end. Growing up in Wisconsin sometimes it felt like winter was endless. It would be so frigidly cold day after day. And it was brutal.

But if we were wise we’d have hope growing up, that soon spring would come. And sure enough, eventually, spring would come, the weather would change, and it would get warm again.

Sometimes I would lose hope, and get depressed, and then as spring would come I would be honestly shocked, wow, is it really over? I didn’t think it would ever end.

One could say we all have a hope meter inside each of us, the amount of hope we have in any given moment. Maybe my hope meter is at 100% full up, I’m centered on hope, this is where jesus wants me to be, in my mind and heart.

But then I lose someone I love, a grandparent. Then my health is troubled, and I begin experiencing chronic health problems. I begin experiencing spiritual warfare, bad moods, whispering temptations, attacks through people, and such. Spiritual warfare. Then, I start having financial problems. I have problems at work. All these problems become not momentary, but increasingly long term problems that seem chronic and unending.

Often, our hope meter is affected. That hope that was at 100% drops down to about 30%, 20%, then 10% and we are near losing hope. Meaning, we start to surrender to our doubts, we start to surrender to our pain, we start to surrender to negative and cynical thoughts.

And eventually, this is a low place, but the hope meter can hit 0% and we believe in our hearts something very terrible, we believe through and through that this will never change and never can change, and it’s over, and I’m done.

That is a dark place. I’ve been there a few times. Sometimes we can drop down to 0% for a night or a few days and we bounce back up. Sometimes that happens. Theologians call that a “dark night of the soul.” But, when it sticks, and you stay at 0% that’s what you might call a rock bottom.

It takes a lot to get there I think. It’s devastating. And there may be times that the Spirit of God will allow us to get to that point, for some reason, maybe if we’re caught in a sin, the Spirit allows us to spin our tires in the mud until we finally realize, wait, I need to turn this over to God.

So be it. God will use the loss of hope in that scenario to bring us to faith and repentance.

But it is never God’s will that we dwell in a state of perpetual hopelessness. Because we have a rock solid hope. We have our hope stayed on the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ, who has paid our sin debt, and given us new life, granted us the Holy Spirit and now walks with us everyday in victory. That is hope. And that hope is solid.

But the scriptures often speak of hope I think because in this world hope is often affected by the evil and struggle of this life. It’s not always easy to stay hopeful. So the goal here for this message is to edify and build in you a sense of renewed hope for the present and the future. That’s the goal.

What’s the point of this message? Strengthen your hope. We see the battle. The solution is firm, steady hope. Do you have a firm steady hope in Christ Jesus?

When we talk about Christmas, the birth of Jesus 2000 years ago, we’re talking about the birth of hope. We’re talking about a whole new way of life. We’re talking about a different world. In the depths of winter, when all seemed lost, and our sins seemed endless, and hell seemed our only future destination, then Jesus was born.

I never knew what that meant. I didn’t quite understand. Most people don’t it seems. It’s easy to have the TV, the fridge full of food, the nice car, the house, the beautiful family, technology, medicine, science, education, and all of it, and it can seem like a enough. It can seem like, hey, I have all I need. I don’t even need God, is the thought.

But over the years ,the cracks start to appear. The angst begins to grow. The emptiness takes over. The shame grows. We try meditation to fix it. We try soothing music. We try “wellness” or going to the gym. We try yoga. We try reading self help books. We even indulge in new age spiritualism, maybe. We get into politics. We find some charities and non profits and causes to champion. But none of it quite fixes the problem. None of it quite satisfies. We feel empty.

For Israel the hope was obvious, in the birth of the messiah. For us in the wealthy nation of the United States, it’s often less obvious. It seems distant, far away, hard ot understand why Jesus being born was such a big deal. Even growing up, watching the peanuts Christmas special, and Lionis tells us the scripture about the coming of Jesus, I didn’t get it.

For Israel, they were under oppression, under the iron boot of Rome, beset by sin, and darkness, but us today, we seem surrounded by luxury, yet in all that, we find nothing that truly satisfies.

So in the end, we find ourselves, on that dark night in the depths of winter, December 24th, exhausted and stupefied from presents and gifts and money and food and desserts and videogames and toys, and romance, and we’re exhausted, and as we look out into the night, beryodn the Christmas lights, might we realize, that what we’ve always hungered for is really Jesus Christ, a real savior, who can really save us from sin, if we will give our lives totally over to Him?

Could that be the answer we’ve always been seeking? And perhaps you say, well I’ve already received Christ as my savior, but does he really own all of you, or are you keeping him to the side, maybe you need to see again this Christmas, all over again, that everything else pales in comparison to Jesus Christ and your relationship with Him. Nothing else matters. Set it all aside again. Lay it all aside again, and put Christ first in your heart again. Fall in love with Him again. Just like you did at the very beginning, when you first believed.

To realize everything this world has to offer is garbage, trash, nothing ,and only Christ is all, and His Holy Spirit we must submit to fully to lead us, and to see Jesus and love Him deeply, that is the meaning of it all. That is what hope is.

Maybe we lose hope because we lose focus on Him. Maybe we begin cynical because we’ve forgotten our first love. Let us then return to Him in honesty, like a little child, rushing toward Jesus, in total trust, and in total love. Total trust total commitment totally given over. All in for Him.

So this is hope, to believe the promises of God, that’s what we talked about. To believe God’s promises means, because we’re in them through faith, we cling to them. And that hope is belief that it’s really true. And it will really happen. And even, that Jesus is here right now. And loves us. Hope isn’t just in something future, but hope is present now in a living savior who is here now. And faith in His love for us.

We see a great statement about faith in Romans 5, “5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

We find hope here and what it means. We have gained access to a place where we now stand, in the grace of God, under it, in it, awash in it, and we’re exciting celebrating and bragging on the hope of the glory of God, the hope of living in a new reality, a new place, a new future, a hope to live at the center of the glory of God, meaning, in perfect fellowship with God. Living with Him in the place where he is now. Forever.

Until then we know all of this planet growns in anticipation of that moment. We live in a fallen world. As it says in Romans 8:22-30…

It says, “22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”

So secondly today hope is something we wait in. Hope is about waiting long periods of time, waiting for what God has promised to be ours. Hope is a marathon, it’s not a quick thing. I remember counting down the days to Christmas when I was young and it seemed to go by so slowly. But I kept hoping and waiting, knowing it was coming.

That’s how it is for me as well as a Christian, I’m waiting for the City of God. I know it’s coming. Plain as day. Plain as Christmas will come this year, the city of God is as real as that.

But the art and skill of hope is waiting patiently over extended periods of time, staying in hope.

It’s like resting in God’s grace. We’re in it right now. We could step out of it. But we choose to stay in God’s grace, by staying in faith.

Similarly, we want to stay “in Hope” we can leave hope too, and start to doubt, and get cycnical and depressed, and sorrowful. That’s when we start to abandon hope. We give it up, say no, theres no point anymore, I’m done. I’m giving up.

There are always nights and days when I struggle to not give up some level of hope, and allow just a little bit of cynicism in. So the battle of the heart and soul is to stay in hope even when life gets hard and crazy and long and painful and difficult.

But stay in hope. Remain in that place of hope. You can do that. It’s not easy. You can do that. Stay in hope.

Romans 15:8-13 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9 and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written:“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;

I will sing the praises of your name.”
10 Again, it says,
“Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.”
11 And again,
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles;
let all the peoples extol him.”
12 And again, Isaiah says,
“The Root of Jesse will spring up,
one who will arise to rule over the nations;
in him the Gentiles will hope.”

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

I think in Romans 15 we see how God helps us to stay in hope.

Our hope meter starts to drop as we face difficulties. It’s at 100%. But then we get a bad flu. It drops to 90%. Then a family member dies. It drops to 70%, then we have work problems, disagreements with coworkers, 60%, then an argument on facebook, 55% then our bank account drops into the negative 45%, and on and on and pretty soon it’s down to like 10%.

And then God responds by rebuilding our hope. He rebuilds it with two things, joy and peace.

Joy is when we experience beautiful God-led moments. Family. Friends. Conversations. Worship. Excitement. Beauty.

Peace is when we experience a general comfort in life by living close to God in relationship.

Lastly, I want to point you to Hebrews 11:1-2 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.”

Let’s break it down.

Faith is confidence.

In what? In what we hope for.

Faith is assurance of real hope.

Our faith is a commitment to hope.

But it’s hard because it’s in things we do not see.

Hope is confident faith in God’s promises. It’s all connected back to God’s promises and knowing they are true. Then we have hope, which is confident faith.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

What is the Essential Goal of Christianity?

Essentially for the Christian worldview, the goal is to find a world without sin. Every human on planet Earth can easily admit the problem of evil. But by default we seem to resist good, or struggle to understand it, and much more, struggle to live it. 

The Christian worldview says there is no direct solution within ourselves to solve it, of ourselves.

It's both a troubling scenario and also hopeful. Troubling in that the world we live in is hopelessly broken and we are broken and in sin. Hopeful in that there is a solution available, yet there is also a time limit on receiving it. 

As the clock ticks from birth to death, we experience our last opportunity. Our current lives right now are simply our last chance to return to God, because our ancestors rebelled against God. No other worldview, philosophy, or religion so clearly indicates the problem of evil in the world and in our own hearts, as Christianity. 

Most religions say we need to do good works to get back to God. But with Christianity, it's all about what Jesus Christ did. That his life, death, and resurrection secures for us eternal life, if we will believe in Jesus and repent (turn away from, discontinue) our sins. 

Then Jesus lives within us, and changes us from within, to bring us slowly into alignment with the new paradigm God is developing. We receive the Holy Spirit to guide us through life, and this sets us on the course back to Eden, to paradise, a new perfect Earth, where there is no sin. 

Of all religions, this seems to deal the most soberly with the deepest root of the problem. It calls me out on my nonsense directly, instead of dancing around the issue. 

Boiling it down to it's simplest form: Believe in Jesus, repent of sin, and live for God, then we're made ready for paradise. The paradise is a permanent civilizational construct intended to restore order beyond the great controversy of evil and destruction. 

Sunday, November 13, 2022

12 Principles of the Kingdom of God System

What is the kingdom of God exactly? It’s the new kingdom authority in the world that has slowly been replacing the kingdoms of Satan.

For us as Christians though it’s a practical way of life. You could say it’s our rules for life. If you’re a Christian, this is how you do it. This is how you live. Plain and simple, the Kingdom of God system is our rule for life.

Let’s compare it to the American way of life. There are certain rules by which we live as Americans, and when we live these things, we succeed in the American system.

It’s simple stuff. We have a bank account at a local bank. We work a job. We show up to work on time. We do our best at our work. We pay our rent on time. We buy groceries. We do our dishes. We do our laundry. We have some mode of transportation. We regularly clean our homes. We have an alarm clock that is set. We have a cell phone to communicate with others. We’ve learned to read, to write, to understand language. All of these things play into a successful American life. If I stop doing any one of these things, my American life starts to get messed up.

Say that I stop doing my laundry. I’m going to survive for a while. I wear dirty clothes over and over. But pretty soon this causes me problems, and I get into trouble and can’t function right.

Let’s say I don’t use an alarm clock. Ok, I do ok for a while, but eventually I miss work, and eventually I lose my job, and pretty soon other areas of my American life system are messed up as well.

You see this with someone who starts drinking too much, it begins to affect every area of their life. They can’t hold a job. They stop doing their dishes, they pile up, they don’t do laundry, lose their cell phone. And eventually everything is out of whack.

It’s the same way with the kingdom of God. If we ignore certain parts of the kingdom of God system, we start to see our Christian life disrupted. And it disrupts everything else. If we stop praying, it starts to hurt other areas of our Christian life. If we stop forgiving others, we start getting bitter, it hurts our walk with Christ. If we stop going to church, if we disregard prophecy, if we go too comfortable in our salvation, if we start allowing sin a foothold, all these things can cause us to do something the bible calls “stumbling.”

We start to stumble. The Holy Spirit convicts us, to make a change. If we do, we stop stumbling, and we get back on track. If we refuse the Spirit’s leading, we start to stumble more and more, and eventually we start to “fall.” The Spirit urges us to get back up, so we do, and we stumble along, and eventually find our footing again.

In any case, it’s very similar in the kingdom of God, if we live by the teachings of Christ in the parables, we find a smooth Christian life, we walk with Jesus, it’s not easy, but we’re able to fly above the storms of life. If we don’t it starts to get more and more difficult.

The kingdom of God as explained in the parables is kind of like the armor of God. It’s a complete picture of how to live rightly in this world. With all the principles of the kingdom of God, we are able to live a proper Christian life, honoring God in all things.

So let’s take a look at the parables as one big picture.

First the parable of the prodigal son identifies our position apart from Christ, a child who has gone astray. Squandering their inheritance. Ruining themselves. Ruining the gifts God gave them. But God’s heart is for the prodigal to grow so weary in the emptiness of this fallen world, for the prodigal to return to Him. And the Father runs out toward the prodigal, covers him in a new robe, and throws a celebration, he’s so excited we’ve returned to Him.

That’s the heart of God to the lost.

Principle #1 Our Return Home
That’s the first principle today, the ultimate purpose of the kingdom of God is God’s glory and victory in our wonderful return home.

Or not. Free will is baked into this whole equation. We can return home or we can face judgment and condemnation. Oddly enough both scenarios bring glory to God, mercy or justice, but God prefers we return home safely.

The parable of the good Samaritan mirrors the prodigal son, God says, this is my heart toward you, like a Father coming to welcome his lost son home, now do the same with the lost and hurting around you, rescue those who are in danger, show them my love, through your actions.

Principle #2 Redeemed Redeemer
Principle 2 is that once we’ve returned, we help return others. Makes sense. We’ve found precious gold, now help others find it too. Basic.

Remember the parable of the old cloth on a new coat, or the new wine into old wineskins? When the Father puts his garment on the prodigal son, just as when he puts his garments of righteousness on us, we become new people. And we are called to a new way of life. The old human can’t be the kingdom of God in the world. Only a born again person can be.

Principle #3 Transformation
Only the new can inherit eternal life. This can only be accomplished by God changing us inside. The truth is written on our hearts. We are new people, this is God’s work in us.

So as we build this new life, we’re told to count the cost, recognize the cost of being a disciple of Jesus. Therefore be a wise builder, who builds on the rock of Jesus Christ. That’s similar to the wineskins parable, because we can’t build on the old way, we have to build on the new way, having been transformed by Christ. We are a new project, a new creation, and we’re being transformed over our lives into the likeness of Jesus Christ. 

Principle #4 Commitment
Count the cost, and the dedication needed to complete this journey. The way is narrow that leads to life. You must take up your cross daily and follow Jesus. You must forsake the world, and follow the new path completely. It’s a big commitment.

Principle #5 Order of Importance (Value)
The parable of the hidden treasure in the field, or the pearl of great value, reminds us of the immense value of the salvation we’ve found in Christ. It’s everything. We should value it in such a way that our whole way of life is transformed. It’s a pearl of great value, infinite value.

Jesus tells the parable of the good shepherd who leaves the 99 to find the lost sheep. If a Christian gets lost, Jesus comes seeking after them, to bring them home.

The lost coin parable, of a woman who loses a coin of great values and sweeps the house and finds it, then celebrates to illustrate the excitement of heaven when one sinner turns to Christ

Principle #5 is Order of Importance being number 1. Nothing is more important than what you’ve found in Christ. Keep God first in your life, seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.

Principle #6 Humility
Many of the parables indicate the incredibly important value of staying humble in your walk with Christ. Pride is perhaps the single greatest danger to a Christian, pride tells us to take credit, to judge others, to think of ourselves as better than others, the humility of Christ reminds us to stay so focused on the reality that God is all and my job is to love and serve others.

The parable that best displays this is the parable of the Pharisee and the publican, one man beat his chest and cried out for mercy humbly, and the other a Pharisee said thank you lord I'm not like this evil tax collector. Which one did God justify? The humble one.

These are all sidelines and boundaries for a kingdom saint, you, and how you’re so to live.

Principle 6: humility (pride is the chief danger to the kingdom of God system)

Principle #7 Forgiveness
Several of the parables outline the concept of forgiveness, that we must forgive those who have hurt us, that’s how the kingdom works, our sins are forgiven by Jesus own blood so we are commanded to forgive others their wrongs against us, with the caveat, that if we don’t forgive others, we also won’t be forgiven on the last day.

Principle #8 Persistence
Do you recall the parable of the persistent widow? She kept bothering the judge day and night asking for justice, and as a result, she finally received what she asked for. That’s how the kingdom of God on earth works too, we must keep praying, keep seeking God, seeking crying out for God’s help, and he answers. But the key is dogged persistence, never giving up, day and night always crying out.

Principle #9 Faithfulness

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus reminds us that we need to live a faithful life. The rich man lived a self-serving life, rejecting God, rejecting the ways of the kingdom, and he paid for it by being sent to hell. And Lazarus had nothing but God, so he received salvation, because he had faith.

Principle #10 Action unlocks the kingdom
The parable of the two sons, their father asks them, go out and work in my field, One son says yes father but never goes. The second refuses, but later changes his mind and goes and works in the field. Points right at hypocrites pretending to be part of God’s kingdom, and says hey, your words don’t matter as much as your actions. They prove you out. Points to the concept of fruit bearing, you will know people by what their actions produce. A key kingdom secret. These are keys that open doors in the kingdom of God. Without them we’re blind and we don’t understand how to live rightly.

Many of the parables are aimed at Israel and how they had failed to recognize the coming of the messiah, and so the kingdom was being passed on to gentiles ahead of them. This is indicated in the parable of the wedding feast where the people invited to the wedding wont come, so the king sends out his servants to the streets and the markets and invites anyone who wants to come. And they come and they celebrate the wedding.

Many of the parables deal with the end times and the final judgment, Jesus clearly wanted us to consider the day when we’re judged and prepare for it carefully.

It all fits together. The parable of the talents reminds us that we will be held accountable for how we use the gifts God has given us. We must prove ourselves faithful.

Principle #11 Watchfulness
The parable of the wise and foolish virgins emphasizes supremely the concept of watchfulness, of having the expectation that Jesus will return at any moment, and so we should we watchful and ready, seeking God day and night, storing up oil for his arrival, like the wise virgins did.

The parable of the watchful servants also underlines this principle of waiting up late for the masters return, always watching carefully the times which we live.

Principle #12 Preparation
The sheep and the goats reminds us that the proof is in the pudding. A cook can talk about what a great cook he is, but the proof will be in if his food is delicious or not. So, we too, will be proved out by how we live. We can say we’re Christians all we want, but our actions will prove it. Similarly with the sheep, they practically served God, meeting needs, food, water, shelter, visiting prisoners, providing clothing, and the goats did not. So at the final judgment the sheep are accepted, the goats are rejected.

And of course the parable of Drawing in the Nets reminds us that at the end of the age there will only be two camps, the bad fish and the good fish, the bad fish are tossed out, the good fish are brought in. We see this also repeatedly explained as a harvest being brought in, where the wheat is harvested and brought into the barn, and the weeds are burned in a pile.

The final principle is preparation. The kingdom man or woman is preparing carefully for the day of judgment, living a faithful life of love, fearing God, loving God, living in faith, and in deep love with God, while also actively living out what it means to be a Christian through practical acts of service, sharing the gospel and meeting needs in His name.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

10 Questions I would ask Jesus if he gave me a hearing

1. How does salvation work? How does sin work after salvation? 

2. Why do most people end up going to hell, and why is hell so bad? What's wrong with people that they don't want salvation?

3. What happened exactly in heaven when Lucifer's rebellion began? How did it play out? 

4. What will the millennial reign of Christ be like on Earth after the tribulation? 

5. What is heaven like? What's are the adventures that occur there?

6. Why exactly did Adam and Eve turn against God, since they were innocent when it happened?

7. Why did you want to make humans in Your image? 

8. What is the destiny of humanity, what's our purpose beyond death?

9. What does a mature Christian look like practically?

10. Who are you really? What are you, exactly? You aren't human obviously, so what kind of being are you? Infinite in nature, and beyond us, yes, but help me understand more, though I know I can't ever fully understand.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Three Ways to Heal from Traumatic Stress

Today we’ll address the topic of healing. 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 I’m sure could list off traumatic experiences that we’ve been through. Whether we’re soldiers in combat, or children who went through abuse, or those who struggle with 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 16 I saw my parents go through an ugly, protracted divorce. 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 sexually assaulted by a close friend. For years I was estranged from my family. I’ve had serious health problems. When I was 25 I was hospitalized in intensive care for a drug overdose. I almost died in ICU that night. At age 26 I experienced rock bottom, the blackest dark depression. On and on the list goes.

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.

During those years of my struggles, I had dreams. I would dream of walking along a beautiful green path in the forest, along a trail. I would walk through these gorgeous green forests. Sometimes it would be at night. Sometimes I would be afraid, other times I would be filled with wonder and joy. I dreamt very often of the road. It was a respite for me, in my dreams. I didn't know it then, but that trail was the road that would eventually lead me to encounter the living Jesus Christ.

I dreamt many times of walking along this path, in search of the truth. I dreamt one night of ascending this beautiful autumn path, light cutting through the trees, leaves falling, silver birch trees along the road that drifted left and right criss-crossing up a hill. In another dream I saw a beautiful golden meadow, in which I sat down, finally discovering peace.

Yet in the real world my life had become a fading darkness. But reflected in my dreams was a future brighter than I could imagine. In the shuttering cold winds of that dark life, under uncertain skies, in the valley of cold winters, searching for something greater, dying in addiction, in sorrow, finally the twilight broke, the clouds parted, and the light of Christ shined down upon me.

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.

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

The foundation of these three approaches must be laid in prayer, and Bible study. We should be praying at least twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. Preferably 3 times a day, like Daniel did. We should also be attending a regular Bible study, and be regularly studying the scriptures in our personal time as well. Those two practices are the foundation, but sometimes we must go deeper.

1. Deal with the Trauma

One of the best ways to experience healing is through study and writing things down. God has given us wisdom through His word and through the natural world, yet we may also find wisdom in areas like science, psychology, and philosophy. (Note: We can also be deceived by false ideology in many areas, so we must always be aware of the presuppositions of the fields we study.)

When we go through hard times sometimes we don’t really heal afterward and things build up within as anxiety or depression. When we write things down and learn about the inner workings of our mind, those traumas get cleared out, making way for the light of God’s presence.

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.

Or 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.

2. Adjusting our attitude

Philippians 4:4-8 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Our attitude is often default negative. We have to let God adjust that in us. Begin to practice the opposite. Practice positivity. Think about good things. Think about purity. Think about beauty.

Speak those things outloud: Wow, what a beautiful day. That’s really awesome that they did that. Let’s pray for them. God will help them through this. Speak positivity. Speak life. Speak what is good. And soon your whole attitude will change because what is coming out of your mouth is changing.

The tongue can turn the entire ship in a new direction, like the rudder of a giant ship. Says so in book of James.

This one is difficult, I know, I’m prone to reflect on negativity. I’m prone to be cynical and doubtful and pessimistic. But time and again God proves me wrong. See a future where God is there, and you’ll see a bright future, which is true.

Let’s be real, life is hard, and it’s tragic at times, but it’s also very good and full of life. We can be realists, and see the good side and focus on the good. And as we focus on the good, we build toward the good. And it rubs off on others. Project goodness in Christ.

3. Victorious approach to Life

Living a victorious life really does tie into our first point of adjusting our attitude. This is an attitude issue yes, but it’s also a mindset of victory. We have the hope of eternal life because of the victory of Jesus Christ. So because God is now with us, and we are with God, we can expect to live a victorious life. A few scriptures point to this reality:

Deuteronomy 20:4 For the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.’

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Psalm 108:13 With God we shall do valiantly; it is he who will tread down our foes.

There is this holy boldness, where we know Daddy God is with us, and therefore we can do anything. We’re safe in Christ. And so we can strike out from a position of strength. We know Jesus has deleted our sins by paying the price for them, so we know that with God anything is possible.

We’re working from a victorious point of view. We’re people of victory. We’ve found the answer in Jesus Christ. This is cause for celebration and amazement, all day everyday, like the word says, Rejoice at all times, and I say again, rejoice!

In closing, there is something very important to remember about healing. I learned it in the past when I worked at a homeless shelter in Wausau. I remember one night I went to sleep, upset, because I couldn’t seem to reach those I felt needed my help. I fell asleep and dreamt that I was chasing this boy. I was trying to stop him, to help him. And every time I would run fast enough to reach this boy, he would jump through a portal, a wormhole into a different dimension. So I’d jump through the wormhole, and follow him, then when I was just about to reach him again, he’d jump through another wormhole and escape.

When I woke up that next day and shared my dream with a coworker it helped me realize something: A person caught up in the sorrow of trauma, addiction, and depression can’t be helped unless they want to be helped. The human mind has nearly an infinite capacity for self deception. See, every time I tried to explain to an alcoholic about what the issue was and how to deal with it, he would flee my reasoning, he would escape from my facts, into a new thought that protected him from the truth. I saw this again and again. I couldn't corner them with the truth, they'd always sneak out a back door.

The point is this: We aren’t going to really heal unless we get totally honest with ourselves. We have to share what is really going on. We have to stop lying to ourselves, and tell the truth. The truth will set us free. If we let it.

"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."
-John 5:1-9 NIV

What was the first thing Jesus asked the crippled man? The first question Jesus asked him was: “Do you want to get to well?” And that is the first question Jesus asked me when I cried out to him, and he became my savior. "Do you want to be free from drugs and alcohol?" And I said yes, I’m willing to finally get real about this problem.

I need that today too. 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 over time, and then compels us to go out and help those with the struggles we have gone through. As someone who has recovered from addiction issues, I can relate to and reach those with the same problems in a way others simply can not. So let me challenge you, if you’d been through some stuff, think about how God can use that to bless others who are hurting.

The Pharisee & the Woman weeping at Jesus' Feet: The Two Debtors

What does it really mean to say our sins are truly forgiven? In our Christian faith we call that justification. A word rooted in the word justice. Which is what my name comes from, justin, means justice or to be justified.

“What is justification? It is the declared purpose of God to regard and treat those sinners who believe in Jesus Christ as if they had not sinned, on the ground of the merits of the Savior. It is not mere pardon. Pardon is a free forgiveness of past offenses. It has reference to those sins as forgiven and blotted out. Justification has respect to the law, and to God's future dealings with the sinner. It is an act by which God determines to treat him hereafter as righteous--as if he had not sinned. The basis for this is the merit of the Lord Jesus Christ, merit that we can plead as if it were our own. He has taken our place and died in our stead; He has met the descending stroke of justice, which would have fallen on our own heads if He had not interposed.” -Albert Barnes

That is the meaning of the forgiveness we’ve received in Jesus Christ. Our sins those terrible things we did, little, small, big, giant, all forgiven by Jesus. Paid in full by Him. And today we’re going to look at what it means to be so amazed by that blanket forgiveness that it draws great love out of us.

Today we find ourselves addressing the last of the parables, which we find in Luke chapter 7. Jesus was ministering in various ways to those in need of healing and even healed the child of a roman soldier, after he sent a response to a request made by John the Baptist who was in prison at this point. It’s an excellent chapter, your homework today is to go home and read Luke chapter 7 and see all that Jesus did, it's a good round picture of who Jesus was in his public ministry.

But here we find Jesus meeting in the home of a Pharisee. Let’s just dive right in, from Luke 7:36-50

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

So in these first few verses we see the context for our parable today. Jesus is ministering to a pharisee, but a woman who was a known sinner came and wept at Jesus’ feet. The Pharisees response is telling. He is offended at the woman who is there.

Sometimes we can find ourselves offended as well, at those around us who have not received Christ. Or even those who have! Let’s see how Jesus responds.

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Jesus is explaining the paradoxical nature of how salvation in Christ works. We would assume that someone who is in the depths of sin is not worthy of Christ. We’d be mistaken. Paradoxically that is one who will be even more deeply in love with Christ, because they’ve been forgiven such a lengthy list of sins.

Jesus often drew this comparison between the pharisees, the religious leaders of the day, and the common sinners who would often come to Jesus for mercy and forgiveness and to listen to him teach.

Interestingly enough, though Pharisees could just as well follow Jesus and obey Him and find eternal life, often the sinners who came to Christ would find a much deeper love and commitment to Christ, because of the intensity of the amazing grace poured out to them.

It continues, 44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Jesus is drawing a comparison between the woman and the pharisee. The pharisee is apparently a follower of Jesus, but he wasn’t particularly welcoming to Jesus, he didn’t provide the various courtesies, done upon entry, but the woman treated Jesus with great respect and adoration.

And a result this love she showed for Jesus was evidence that her sins were forgiven. They were forgiven by Jesus.

Then in verses 48-50 it concludes like this:

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

So in our parable today we find a fairly basic principle, but I think we’re seeing that it’s not really as basic as we might think, it’s; the concept of the weight of one’s love linked to the amount that one has received forgiveness.

This parable is linking love with forgiveness, if I’ve been forgiven a small amount of debt by someone, my love and appreciation for them will exist, but it will be small. I owe someone $50 they forgive the debt, don’t worry about it man, that’s great, I’m free of that debt. But it’s not the biggest deal.

Now say I owe someone $50,000. And they come along, or a get a letter in the mail, and they forgive the debt, my appreciation and amazement is going to be much higher isn’t it?

How many sins have you committed in your life up to this point? Every lie. Every manipulation. Every ill-spoken word. Every drunken spree. Every theft. Every time you hated someone in your heart. Every woman, or man you used or misused. For some of us it’s a very long list. For some it’s not as long. But we were all in that pit of mud, all had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

That’s why we needed a savior to come, Jesus Christ, to forgive us.

I want to talk about three seats in this parable. Three seats, and which we want to be in.

In this parable, we sometimes find ourselves in the seat of the pharisee, judging someone else who sins differently than us, or more than us, and we scoff at the possibility of them coming to Christ.

There are people who come to the corps, or who I see around town, that I’ve seen and known for years, and I sometimes can end up with an attitude of the pharisee thinking they could never come to repentance. But only God knows. That assumption may be accurate that they have refused Christ, most do, from what I can tell, most people refuse Christ. So it may not be an inaccurate assumption, but that isn’t my position to sit in and make that judgment. I have to regard them in my heart as an opportunity to share the love of Jesus. That isn’t always easy.

Be careful of ending up in the seat of the pharisee. Because our ire for the person Jesus may just regard as ire for him. The pharisee thought poorly of the woman who was a known sinner. This was an attitude predating the incident because we know he did not treat Jesus with the appropriate level of respect, you have God in human form in your home but you don’t anoint his head with oil, or offer him water to wash his feet or even give him a ceremonial kiss. His proud attitude caused him to disregard the savior, or at least not treat him with great respect.

Maybe that’s true for some of us who have bene forgiven a shorter list of sins. We don’t love Jesus very deeply. And hopefully by humbling ourselves, we can learn to love him more and more deeply. Though I don’t know if that’s actually implied in the parable. That may be true though.

Second, some of you may end up in the seat of Jesus at the table. You don’t want to end up this seat either. You don’t want to be in the seat of the pharisee or the seat of Jesus. Some of you may have a savior complex, they call this in psychology the martyr complex, where you’re constantly dying for others, which dying to self and helping others and being poured out for others is vital, but, sometimes we end up rushing toward people who don’t really want to change, and we get the martyr complex, do everything for them, almost dragging them behind us, to try to force them to change, and inevitably, they slide back into the mud and mire, because they were never really ready or even interested, not fully, in salvation or growth or a new life. Many, most are just not there yet, unfortunately.

And we don’t do them any favors by trying to drag them into the kingdom of God kicking and screaming, that’s not our job, let God do that, and sometimes he does. But only Jesus can make people ready to receive salvation.

The parent who constantly rescues her son or daughter from court dates, or jail or homelessness or bills is probably in most circumstances simply enabling their disfunction. Sometimes we have to let people chase the wind, so they can realize just how vacuous and empty it is to chase nothingness.

Thirdly, we want to find ourselves in the chair of the woman. The woman with the alabaster ointment. She is so amazed by what Jesus has done for her, she weeps at his feet, and she anoints his feet with oil, she kisses his feet, she is in total submission to God. She is internally bursting with the life of God, with love itself, bubbling up out of her, like a river, pouring itself out onto the feet of Jesus. Total humility, at the feet of the savior.

And that has been our purpose during this entire sermon series. Parables of Jesus, sitting at the feet of the master. We ought to always find ourselves kneeling at the feet of Jesus.

In tears, amazement, amazing grace attitude at what hes’ done to justify us in His sight. To wash away all our sins.

Listening to him teach, listening and learning from Him.

Kissing his feet, offering up our prayers as a fragrent aroma to God.

Humbly knelt down at his feet, submitted to God, in total subjection to His will and plan for our lives.

In such deep love with Jesus, Jesus says to us again and again in life, Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

The Case for Daily Repentance: Examining yourself Daily in your walk with Christ

Today I’d like to make the case to you for the concept of daily repentance. As Christians we know we must be born again of the Spirit to share in the inheritance of Christ.

We must be truly born again. We must be a new person. And as a new person in Jesus Christ we have the holy spirit within us. The Holy Spirit within us guides us into all purity and holiness.

But we live in a sinful world, where it’s common that we dirty our robes by stumbling into sin.

So the goal for the believer in Jesus is to repent quickly whenever we stumble into sin.

Jesus was always very firm on the concept of repentance. It says in Matthew 4:17 "From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

And the Apostle Paul echoed that concept when he said on mars hill, “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” -Acts 17:30

The goal then is when we become a follower of Jesus Christ, that we repent, we turn away from sins in our lives. We confess them to God, turn our back on them, and we stop sinning.

Just like Jesus said to the man he healed, in John 4:15, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.”

We stop sinning. But for many believers we have certain sins that we need to repent of, but maybe we haven’t done that yet. And yes, it’s a process. God doesn’t remove everything all at once. But when the Holy Spirit is convicting us, we must repent.

How do you go about repenting exactly? Maybe you have a problem with stealing. You quietly steal here and there. Most people don’t know about it. But you do. Maybe you smoke cigarettes. You keep it quiet but here and there you smoke. Maybe you gossip. You gossip about people, here and there, most people don’t know about it. That’s how sin is. We keep it secret.

One of the best things you can do is sit down with another Christian or your pastor and confess the sin. It loses a lot of power when you share it with someone else.

Get some counsel on how to get free from that sin.

But you go to God in prayer and you say Lord, I confess my sin. I sinned recently Lord by masturbating, or by stealing, Lord convict me of my sin. We ask for conviction from the Holy Spirit. Then we say Lord, we repent, we turn away from that sin. We turn our back on that sin. We renounce that sin. We cast that sin off. We repent away from that sin, and toward you God. Please cleanse us from that sin with the precious blood of Jesus, in Jesus name, amen.

We receive his grace, his forgiveness, then we get to work, making sure we don’t commit that sin again. Whatever it takes.

If there is a secret sin in your life right now you should be very concerned.

Let’s consider a scenario, say I’m a Christian believer who is living in secret sin of slander. I’m quietly slandering others that I don’t like. I’m not repenting of it. The Holy Spirit is insisting that I do, but I’m refusing, and hardening my heart. Then I’m killed in a car accident. I’m telling you the truth, that person is going to hell, they died in unrepentant sin. They are going to the lake of fire to endure permenant torment in fire and sorrow.

If you are living in secret sin, smoking, drunkenness, fornication, pornography, you are in danger right now. You need to repent right now. Today. Seek the Lord, to be forgiven anew, and repent of that sin today. Or you will go to hell. Plain and simple.

God has truly transformed us into new people. But the crazy thing is it happens over and over again. I get to watch as God reshapes me over and over again. He continues to mold us and shape us into his kingdom soldiers.

We need repentance. True repentance, deep repentance. We needs tears before the throne of God. I lament for my the state of my soul. I lament for how easily I do stupid things that God calls sin. I lament for any bit of sin in me. I want holiness. Make me holy Lord! Make us holy as you are holy!

We need a time of fasting, prayer, and confession of our sin. We need extended times of openly forgiving those who have hurt us. We need a time of repentance, to confess that we've set God off to the side of our lives, when He should be the center.

It's not to make us feel bad. It's not to hurt our feelings. No. This is about being transformed by God. This is about God clearing away things in us that need to go, so that we can grow in his grace and become all that He has called us to become.

What we have failed to realize in our lost generation of passivity, luke-warmness, and tolerance of sin is that the sins we don't repent of are deadly, and they will take us away to hell. We have a very cavalier attitude toward sin in our modern time. We just promote 'grace, grace, grace' and we don't even teach our people about heaven and hell and the reality of the coming judgment.

If we have sins in our lives that we haven't repented of, do you think God will hold us guiltless? No, he will not. God loves us incredibly, so very deeply, but God cannot allow sin into heaven. Sin is what pollutes the Earth. He has died for us to cleanse us of sin, so we may live in holiness.

Ephesians 5:6-8 "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord."

We have a lot of preachers today who don't talk about sin and accountability. It's just grace through faith, that's all, and it's true we receive salvation by grace through faith. But they leave out the repentance. We have to repent, which means to turn away from sin, and live pure lives. Don't let anyone deceive you with hollow words.

Galatians 6:7 "Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap."

But if we persist in unrighteousness, if we continue to gossip, if we continue to commit sexual immorality, if we continue to slander others behind their backs, and curse, and mock, and get drunk, and indulge in lustful thoughts, we will not be entering the kingdom of God. We will go before God and he will say, "I never knew you, you worker of lawlessness. Depart from me." Now that would be a very, very, very bad day.

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’"

I don't share this to scare anyone, or to hurt anyone, or to be mean or judgmental. But I have to share the truth. We take sin too lightly! And we are in need of a great cleansing in the church. Please take some time to repent of sin. Live in holiness. Reject the enemy and the ways of the world. Embrace Christ, all of Christ. That is the way of love! We must unhook the plugs of this world that pour sin into our souls, and plug into the Holy Spirit, so that we may walk in purity, as Christ walked.

This should be our daily practice. At the end of each day, get down on your knees before God, and ask Him to search you, and put all your ways before Him. God will walk you through the past day. Take an inventory, and repent of any sins you committed that God shows you. Be zealous, be quick, and turn away from sin.

Fight against it tooth and nail. Fight until you're exhausted. Fight until the flesh cries out for satisfaction, and refuse to give in! Fight for your soul, fight for your life, fight for eternal life! We must be Holy as God is Holy! That is our calling. That is our life. And God will help us. Jesus loves us so much. He will be here everyday to help us live holy, though the enemy attacks, and the flesh is weak in temptation, the Spirit is strong in us to resist. Stand firm in the faith. Put on the armor of God each day in the morning. God will help us. Let us live a lifestyle of repentance. Let us unplug from the world, and plug into the kingdom of God! God be praised for the victory. Amen.

1st Peter 1:13-23 "Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially,live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God."

The Parable of the Growing Seed: The Growth of God's Kingdom vs. the Kingdom of Babylon

“Lloyd was proud of his architectural marvel. He called it Taliesin in honor of a Welsh bard and his romantic poems. The Chicago architect planned to enjoy plenty of romance in his Wisconsin getaway. And that’s exactly why the locals were scandalized. Whenever they spoke about Lloyd’s house, they put the emphasis on the last syllable: Talie-sin. Some tried to get up a petition to bulldoze it. Others threatened to burn it down. The school superintendent warned that the goings-on there would corrupt the morals of area children.

What caused this firestorm? After Lloyd had finished the house of a wealthy client, he stole the man’s wife. When he ran off to Europe with Mamah Borthwick, he abandoned his wife and six children. That was scandalous enough in the big city of Chicago. But there was outrage in Spring Green when he built a love cottage for his mistress. Lloyd couldn’t care less. He was the world’s greatest architect. Laws and rules applied to lesser people. He once said to a reporter, “Two women were necessary for a man of artistic mind —one to be mother of his children and the other to be his mental companion, his inspiration and soul mate.” But Lloyd’s plans would be turned upside down on August 15, 1914.

Lloyd was away when his mistress and two of her children sat down to lunch on the porch at Taliesin. Workers were eating in the dining room. Barbados native Julian Carlton was serving lunch. After Julian served the soup, he took an ax outside, where he hacked Lloyd’s mistress and her children to death. Meanwhile, the workers in the dining room saw fluid spreading across the floor. Suddenly, the liquid erupted into a blazing inferno, and the door to the dining room was shut and locked. Some of the workers managed to bust through the door, only to be met by Julian with his bloodied ax. By the time townspeople arrived at the burning love cottage, seven people, including three children, had been brutally murdered. Julian had swallowed muriatic acid. It would take him seven agonizing weeks to die.

The conventional wisdom in 1914 was that Mamah got what she deserved for breaking up Lloyd’s happy family. But what about the man who was above convention? He immediately set about to rebuild his love cottage. A year later he moved in with another lover. The world remembers Frank Lloyd Wright for his wondrous architecture. But few folks remember the getaway that he built in Spring Green or what happened there. Maybe the Taliesin tragedy is a morality tale. Certainly, we ought to grieve for the innocent victims. But we should also question Lloyd’s assumption that we can ignore the laws indelibly written into creation by its Creator. When we are tempted to think that we are the exception to the rule, we ought to recall something Robert Louis Stevenson wrote:

Sooner or later, everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.” -Robert Petterson, One Year Book of Amazing Stories

Today we find ourselves in the gospel of Mark, which is the only place in the four gospels where our parable today is located.

Our parable today is nestled within a discourse of Jesus the messiah, where he teaches several parables in rapid succession. He teaches the parable of the sower, the parable of the lamp under a bushel, then our parable for today.

Jesus defines the meaning of the parable this way: “This is what the kingdom of God is like.”

Just like last week, the parable describes the kingdom of God, and in particular, how the growth of the kingdom of God works.

Last week we saw that the kingdom of God is like a tiny mustard seed that grows into a mighty tree, or like yeast that causes bread to rise. Today, we see the picture of a man growing a crop.

This is what Jesus says, in Mark 4:26-29 “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

Here Jesus is speaking again about the growth of the kingdom of God, and how it works.

When you think of a profession like someone who builds houses for a living, him and his work crew, they put in their bids to build houses, and someone selects their offer, pays them, and they get to work. They come everyday to the worksite building the house.

I recall last year in town Scott and I would go over to starbucks for coffee in the mornings during kettle season and we’d see the progress the workers were making on the Frankenmuth credit union by home depot. Slowly but surely they got the work done.

What would happen if they had just sat at the work site and waited and watched? Would the materials begin assembling themselves? Would the ground be dug out, would the foundation be placed? Would the wood begin to rise and the shingles plop down from heaven onto the roof? Certainly not.

They work with the supplies provided by others, and put it together into a house. It’s a great deal of work, no doubt.

It’s quite different with farming, and growing crops. My great grandparents on both sides of my family were farmers, and came from farmers, one side from Poland, and they were potato farmers, and the other side from France and Austria, and Germany, they were also farmers.

Farming is an interesting profession, because, you plow the fields, you plant the seeds, you water the seeds, and then you wait. You wait and you wait as the crops grow. You don’t go out into the fields with the various parts of the corn stalk and or wheat stalk and begin gluing it all together piece by piece.

The seed grows from the fertile soil and from the nutrition it receives from the sun.

It’s a long, agonizing process, requiring a great deal of patience I assume.

I recall as part of a class project in grade school I was given tomato seeds and attempted to grow them inside in little planters. I cared for them and watered them and over weeks and months they grew. I was amazed and pleased to see them grow so well. Unfortunately then one day I found them knocked over and chewed to pieces by my cats. Which is terribly disappointing for me.

In any case, it takes patience. And if it doesn’t grow, it doesn’t grow. There’s nothing a human can do to make it grow, necessarily.

So it is with the kingdom of God. The man tosses the seeds out everywhere, and it begins to grow. Similarly, when we spread the gospel, God uses those seeds, and causes them to grow. And it does not happen on our time table.

It may happen quickly, even in just a few months and they get saved. Then again, it may take years and years and years. Only God knows how it happens and how it works.

We see this principle used by the apostle Paul in the book of 1st Corinthians 3:6, Paul wrote, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.”

We plant the seed by sharing the gospel with someone, letting them know that they can escape from the empty miserable life of sin they are living. They can escape from a miserable one dimension life, a life of service to self. People of the world live that way, we all used to live that way, we lived to fulfill our basic desires, food, shelter, friendship, influence, romance. 3 instincts of life, security, social, and sexual instincts. Essentially, do what feels good. We live on emotion first, mind second.

We plant the seed. Someone else comes along and waters it. Another Christian comes along and fertilizes it. But God himself causes the seed to sprout up from the dirt, and grow.

And this person is taken from an empty life, to beginning to realize the true nature of the universe and the planet Earth, that it is the design of an infinite creative intelligence. And this God begins to lead them toward the path home, and this leads to the salvation we find in Jesus Christ, for our sins to be washed away.

This 2-dimensional person, living on emotion and selfishness, comes to Jesus, cries out to Jesus, and Jesus gives them a new nature, a new heart, new desires, and washes away their sins.

Suddenly, this person is rocketed into a new dimension of life, they go from desperately trying to fulfill the three basic instincts for security, socializing, and sexuality, to the 4th dimension, the dimension of faith in God, reliance on God. And instead of seeking security, social, and sexual instincts first, instead this approach is completely replaced by seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness.

Instead of living lives of quiet desperation, fearfully trying to fulfill our desires for security, safety, friendships and romance, instead we live by the great mystery of Christianity, we live by faith in God.

We live in total trust with God. And as a result, God causes us to grow into new people, people made for the kingdom of Heaven.

Trust in God, that is what all this is built upon. If we want to be people who are like the growing seed, that is always growing, and if we want to be people who are soul winners, who are drawing people to Jesus Christ, we must have a radical trust in God.

To really trust God when everything is going wrong, to really trust God when we don’t see anything changing on the surface, to really trust God when we keep evangelizing and sharing our faith with people, and we keep inviting people to church but few ever come, can we really trust that our efforts have not failed, that God will be do more than we can imagine?

The farmer has to trust that the seeds are going to grow. No amount of effort over the months can force the seed to grow. They can create to a certain extent good conditions, they can plow good rows, they can water the fields, they can apply fertilizer, they can drive off wildlife, but they can’t make the seed grow and produce it’s fruit.

Only the sun, and the fertile soil, and the DNA of the seed can produce the harvest. Similarly, in your walk with Christ, I can provide a quality sermon, we can provide groups and social media encouragement, and instructions on prayer and bible reading, but only God can really cause those things to flourish in your life, and it also takes your submission to Him and your willingness to live out the Christian life on a daily basis.

If you struggle with that willingness to submit to God and give real time to Him, pray, ask God to help make you more willing to submit to Him. But there is something that will certainly disrupt your intimacy with God, it’s sin, if you allow sin a foothold in your life, it will disrupt your walk with God, and if you fill yourself with the world, entertainment, movies, videogames, music, parties, politics, hobbies, culture, all that, you may find yourself so filled with the world that God ends up with a backseat.

So in your own life, only God can cause your seed to grow, and connected in this is your willingness to let God control your life, practically.

So submit to Him. Make Him the true head of your life. Make Him King of your life. Maybe you’ve never done that. Maybe you’ve received Jesus Christ as your savior, but you’ve never received Him as King of you life, where you literally check your decisions with Him, and do what he wants you to do, well you can do that today, say Dear Lord Jesus, You are my savior, and I make you my King, I give my life to your service, guide me to know your will and do you will, I unseat myself, and give you the seat of kingship in my heart and my life. Use me as you see fit Lord, in Jesus name, Amen.

That is the personal application of our parable for today. Internally it looks like trusting God to do the work in you while submitting to Him. Internally it looks like trusting Him to provide for all your needs as you seek His plan and kingdom first. Internally it looks like trusting Him, as you spread the seeds of the gospel in Owosso, in this state, in this world, that even if you don’t see the fruit, God is still causing those seeds to grow, maybe not right now, but in years, or longer. Trusting God’s word will not return void.

Now, let’s flip to an external perspective on the parable of the growing seed, what does this look like in western civilization, in the United States and our world today?

Yes, this parable is an encouragement for us that God will cause the seeds we plant to grow, and yes it’s an encouragement that God will cause us to grow as we submit to His will, but this is also I believe a statement Jesus is making about the progress of history on planet Earth.

We’re talking about the march of two kingdoms, the march of God’s kingdom vs. the march of evil.

We’ve seen a battle on planet Earth over the last six thousand years between two kingdoms, the kingdom of Satan, often called Babylon, and the kingdom of God. The entire Earth has been under the control of the evil one since the fall in the garden of Eden, but slowly but surely God’s kingdom has spread, beginning with one man, Abraham, to the nation of Israel, a beacon of hope to the nations, but Israel fell over time to idolatry, which led God to come in human form, Jesus Christ, and his life, death, and resurrection from the grave began the spread of the kingdom of God across the planet Earth. It spread west through the roman empire, into Europe, and eventually to the new world, to the Americas, and then into Africa, and asia, India, Japan, and across the nations of the Earth.

But with the rise of modernism, technology, vast economies and wealth, and world wars, Christendom in western civilization began to decline as sin and wickedness and pride and self-focus spread. Christendom, Christianity as a controlling force in the United States and Europe, essentially collapsed completely in the last 50 years.

So today we find ourselves in an odd interplay between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Babylon. The kingdom of God is spreading like wildfire through the eastern world, China, India, the Philippines, South Korea, and through the continent of Africa, beginning in the southern half and spreading rapidly north, but at the same time in the western world, the United States and Europe, we see the decline and collapse of Christianity, and the rise of the kingdom of Babylon.

This is of course all part of the growth of the seeds of the kingdom of God upon the Earth. Piece by piece and part by part the kingdom of God grows, from a seed, to a sprout, then a stalk, then a head, and full kernels of the fruit of the crop in the head. Until it is fully grown, and then waits as the weather becomes increasingly cold, and windy, and bitter, until the harvest comes.

Perhaps those are the days we find ourselves in, the harvest of God’s kingdom moving toward being fully grown across the nations of the Earth, now waiting, as the weather grows increasingly cold, because, the last days are approaching.

Because we know in the time of the tribulation, the end times in revelation, the kingdom of Satan will have it’s time of control of the Earth, to test those who remain on the Earth, so they may make their choice, whom will they serve, God or Satan, obedience to God or rebellion against God?

That is the fundamental choice before every human soul on Earth. Rebellion to god’s system or obedience to the kingdom of God? What is your choice?

Today in the United States it feels a lot like me, to the kingdom of Gondor in the Lord of the Rings series. Yes, a Tolkien reference, you thought you might escape without such a reference but here we are.

Gondor had once been an incredibly powerful kingdom with vast armies. But over the ages Gondor became increasingly weakened by corrupt leaders, a plague that spread across the land, and a civil war. This had increasingly weakened Gondor. Plus, Gondor as a nation was placed just to the west of evil Sauron’s kingdom. So they had to constantly fight off attacks by ork armies, to protect the rest of the Earth. They grew increasingly corrupt and weak, their armies exhausted and defeated, and soon, even Osgiliath had fallen, the city closest to the capital of Minas Tirith.

Hordes of orks moved freely throughout middle earth, because Gondor could no longer keep the rest of the nations safe.

This reminds me of the state of Christianity today. We’ve grown weak in our constant battles against the kingdoms of hell and darkness. We’re not particularly united amongst our denominations, and western civilization has turned against us, favoring modernism, technology, sin, and debauchery, in favor of truth and beauty and light. They’ve declared their victory of the old fairy tales of the past, and declared that science will now light the way, and Christianity is of no particular value to the west any longer.

And so as we see the west reject Christianity, we see the multiplying of evil across the west, they invent new ways of doing evil says the word of God, that is certainly true of this nation, pornography, human trafficking, domestic violence, abortion of unborn children, gender ideology, relativism, increased crime, assisted suicide, we see all the precepts of Christianity that once held the west together, from the sanctity of life, to marriage and the nuclear family, and the ten commandments and concepts of law and justice, all derived from Christianity, slowly being pulled apart by the west and replaced with Marxist darwinistic theories of justice, truth, politics, economics, psychology, and ideology.

So we find ourselves as Christians, as a holy remnant of God, in a civilization increasingly hostile toward Christianity, hostile toward Christian values, and hostile toward us. We are like a anti-body, or a white blood cell in a system, that once functioned to protect the system, but now is regarded as a foreign adversary to the system, regarded as alien and to be removed, if not now, someday.

Yet still, a holy remnant remains true, maybe only a few million strong across all 50 states, acting as guards and watchmen and women, groups of us fight the kingdoms of darkness still in the fallen lands of the USA, like a resistance movement, like a secret movement, we still fight in these lands, drawing people to Jesus Christ, battling sin in society, upholding what little justice and truth remains in our government systems and law and culture, praying against the kingdoms of darkness, striking at their rulers and authorities and foot demons in the heavenly places across our lands.

It reminds me of groups of soldiers in Tolkien’s middle earth called “rangers of Ithilien.” They would move about secretly in groups of 50 or 100 or 20 or a few hundred, ambushing orcs and enemy troops as they moved across the lands of middle earth.

Though hordes of demons and sin and darkness freely roam across the 50 states of the USA, they are never safe from groups of Christian soldiers, who ambush them and crush them where they are found attacking the free people of the USA. We’re weak, we’re battered, we’re barely holding on, but we have not given up, and we continue to fight the enemy, and win souls to Christ, across all 50 states of this nation, day and night. And we will never surrender, though the night get darker still, we will grow ever brighter, we will not give up, we will keep winning souls to Christ, we will keep casting our the demonic hordes, we will keep praying angels to fight them, we will keep speaking up boldly for Christ everywhere we possibly can.

Because we know that the end is near, and everyone needs Jesus. The harvest of God’s kingdom is ripe, but the workers are few, so we are praying hard for God to send workers into these fields, they are ripe for harvest. One day soon, brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ will return to this Earth, like the man in the parable, to harvest the grain that has grown and been made ready by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony. Praise the Lord!