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!

Sunday, October 16, 2022

The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Leaven Dough

Our parables today, we’re looking at two, are both illustrating the same point, and are found in both Matthew and Luke’s gospel recordings of the life of Jesus the messiah. We’re going to look at these parables from Matthew’s gospel, found in Matthew 13 starting in verse 31.

Jesus is teaching the crowds at this point, he was actually standing in a boat so he could speak to the crowd more clearly because it was such a large crowd, most likely in the thousands.

Jesus is telling several parables in Matthew 12 and 13 referencing seeds, and planting and growing crops, and he had just told the parable of the weeds among the wheat, and so nestled among several different parables talking about how the kingdom of God works, we find our two parables today. Let’s take a look.

From Matthew 13:31-33: He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

What is Jesus talking about? Well, Israel had been hoping and dreaming of the messiah to come, but in their theology, their understanding of scripture, they believed the messiah would come and take military and political control of the nation and the world. That was the dream. They wanted total victory over the nation of Rome which had control of Israel at that point in history.

So when Jesus spoke of the coming of the kingdom of God the crowds assumed that Jesus would lead a rebellion against the roman empire, overthrow them, and begin conquering all the nations of the Earth.

So Jesus is clarifying what the kingdom of God really is. In previous statements and other parables Jesus had said the kingdom of God isn’t something you’ll be able to point to and say there it is, because he said the kingdom of God is within you. And you don’t know where it comes or where it goes, like the wind, you don’t know for certain those who are born again of the Spirit, and who are truly a part of this kingdom of God that has come.

The seed that Jesus planted seemed very small. He had 12 disciples, he had a larger following that were called the 72. He had crowds of hundreds and thousands following Him, but in the grand scheme of Israel and the planet Earth it didn’t seem that large. It was a small seed, and after Jesus was crucified many would depart, the 12 went into hiding, and the early church faced unprecedented persecution and harassment from the Jewish authorities and the roman empire.

Jesus identifies the growth of the kingdom of God as something similar to a mustard seed. The mustard seed is very, very small. Yet it grows very quickly, and can become up to 9 feet tall. So large in fact that birds may come and find shelter under it’s branches.

The mustard tree then provides nutrition to those who feed from it. But the mustard plant is by others viewed as a weed, it grows very very fast, and when it’s seeds drop they germinate and grow immediately. A gardener may have a difficult time getting rid of the mustard plant once it’s growing and releasing it’s seed. So it is as well with the body of Christ, as it spread across the world, many a time, and even to this day countries, peoples and governments try very hard to get rid of it. They try to uproot and destroy the body of Christ, this is common in today’s world in countries like China, Iran, Afghanistan, India, North Korea, Russia, and other nations. The early church was severely persecuted by the roman empire. Yet even when believers were killed for their faith, it would just seem to cause the body of Christ to spread even further.

So two thousand years ago, the body of Christ seemed to be only a tiny, tiny seed, you could say, it began with one man, the God-man, Jesus Christ, who was planted, He was crucified. Jesus himself said in John 12:24, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

Jesus our messiah’s death, and his resurrection from the grave, became the seed of the body of believers to this very day. It began with Jesus, one man, one mustard seed, planted, and this one seed became a giant tree over the last two thousand years, to the body of Christ in the world today, about 2.7 billion people on the face of planet Earth claiming Jesus Christ as their savior.

What do the birds symbolize in the parable then? The mustard tree could represent the nation of Israel being gathered unto Christ, and the birds could represent the gentile people across the planet coming to find safety in the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

Similarly, we see the parable of the leaven, a large amount of flour, 60 lbs., or 3 portions, and a woman takes yeast and mixes it into the flour, making it into a dough. And the yeast mixes throughout the flour and causes the dough to rise.

In tying these two parables together Jesus is speaking to two different occupations, one to a farmer in the fields, a predominantly male profession, and to a cook in the kitchen at the time a predominantly female profession. So he’s speaking to both men and women, addressing it in two different ways as well, so people could understand in plain terms.

So you’ve got the whole world, as a chunk of dough, flat, and the living organisms the yeast work their way through the dough and the dough rises as a result. And this is for me how it is to live in the world today. A non-believer in Jesus seems to me to be flat, empty, sorrowful, afraid, and often quite uninteresting. Yet when someone believes in Jesus and they are filled with the Holy Spirit, they become quite alive, Spirit-filled, alive, and active in the work of the kingdom. So it is with the living organisms the yeast working through the flour, it causes it to rise.

How fitting then that after we die, Jesus promises to raise us from the dead, to eternal life.

So that is how the ancient audience may have viewed these two parables, as speaking of the rapid growth that would take off from the kingdom of God, something that seemed small, with only a handful of disciples led by Jesus, to becoming something that would spread rapidly to many peoples everywhere.

In a moment we’ll talk about how to apply this to our lives today, but first take a look at verse 34-35 which are connected with these two parables.

It says, “Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.” 
-Matthew 13:34-35

Jesus taught the people in parables, and this was a fulfillment of Psalm 78:2. He taught in parables, knowing that some would believe these things, and some would reject these things, the universal truths of the kingdom of God and indeed universal truths about our world today.

So how can we apply this to our lives? Three areas, I want you to consider, personal, body of believers, and world.

Personal application, recognize that the smallest seed that you plant, by sharing the word of God with someone, sharing the gospel with someone, praying with someone, posting something on social media, sending an email to a friend, blessing someone with your good deeds, that tiny little seed can accomplish much more than you realize.

That single moment will become for them a link in a chain that is leading them to salvation in Jesus Christ. When I think back on my salvation journey I can remember each of them, one by one, who tried in various ways to share the message with me. I bet you could look back as well and consider people who shared it with you, and it’s become part of your testimony. So remember that, even something small can make a big difference.

Secondly, body of believers
, specifically let’s just talk about this church, three years ago, we started to work building up this corps. When we first started, there were only a few people who came to dinner church, 5 or 6. There was no morning church service we drove to Flint on Sunday mornings. We didn’t have a bible study, we didn’t have a womens group or a recovery group. Today three years later we have a morning church of about 15 believers. We have a dinner church of about 20 believers. Our groups have 5-10 believers attending them depending on the week. We went from 2 employees to 4 employees. This was all a work of God almighty, all glory goes to Him, I didn’t do anything, we didn’t do anything but obey our master, that’s it. But look at how just a small group of people can make such a big difference in Shiawassee county. God has impacted thousands of lives through you. That’s miraculous. That’s the tiny seed of a small body of believers, surrendered to Christ, and the footprint Christ leaves on a community through them.

Now imagine if we stay faithful and firm to Christ for another three years, or five years or ten years, we’re a little mustard bush now, but we could become a tall mustard tree.

But it’s up to us to be surrendered to God. As many as have stayed with this little church the last three years, just as many have drifted off, fallen away, and abandoned us over the years. The enemy has attacked us severely. Yet we’ve stood the test.

What will your legacy be? To drift off and quit? Or to stand firm? That is the challenge to all of us in Christ today.

Thirdly, world application. We often see things going on in the world, in culture, in politics, in crime, in the economy and feel powerless don’t we? The thing is we’re not powerless. We have incredible authority in Jesus Christ, as His body of believers, to pray to God, and things change on the national and worldwide stage. Do you believe your prayers can change the world? Change the united states? Change the state of Michigan? Or do you think of prayers as well just thoughts and prayers? Wrong! If you pray in Jesus name, God answers, and the world changes. I’ve seen it time and again, what if we as believers united in prayer and said no, in Jesus name, we will not allow this corruption. In Jesus name we will not allow crooked politicians in office. In Jesus name we will not allow Michigan to become an abortion hub of the Midwest, what if we said in Jesus name we disallow false teachings in the church. The whole world would change. Believe in the power of prayer. I dare you to believe that your prayers can change the world in Jesus name. Because they can. I’ve seen it happen. You have authority in Jesus Christ to win the world for Jesus, so pray, and pray, and don’t stop praying.

That prayer may seem like a tiny little mustard seed that couldn’t possibly affect anything in the world. But it actually can. That tiny little mustard seed will become a tree in the spiritual realm as your pray and cry out to God for mercy on this land. So I call you to do that today as a believer in Jesus Christ. Cry out to God, when you see something sad on the news, some corruption, some evil agenda taking root, instead of getting angry stop in that moment and say Lord, In Jesus name over that evil, in Jesus name I stand against that, in Jesus name, may those evil schemes come to nothing. And watch the world change. Amen.

Names of God: Jehovah-shammah, God who is there

In the beginning God made the universe, the heavenly reality, and the planet Earth. God was there, and it was so good.

God made the human race, Adam and Eve, the first humans. God dwelled with them. In the garden of Eden, God was there. And it was good, so good beyond words. Beyond what we could imagine.

Then Adam and Eve sinned against God, and all of the Earth and the universe became broken, and death entered the world. And God was no longer entirely present. He was not there. And everything suffered as a result.

Sin became the great barrier between God and man. And God was not there.

Yet God called a nation, from one man named Abraham, to become Israel, a nation where God would dwell. God dwelled in the tent of meeting with Moses, on the way to the promised land. And it was good. And when Solomon built the temple, God dwelled in the temple, and it was good.

Yet Israel still rebelled against God, and followed after other gods. Thus the nation went into slavery in Babylon, and the north to slavery in Assyria. Yet God was there, with them in slavery, and so there was still hope.

During the captivity in Babylon, during the 25th year of it, a prophet named Ezekiel served in the remnants of Jerusalem, a city that had been completely destroyed by Babylon, and the temple itself had been destroyed. The walls of the city had been destroyed, and the all important intellectuals and leaders had been taken to Babylon, leaving only the most poor and destitute people to remain. Ezekiel prophesied that one day the Jews would return to Israel, to Jerusalem, and they would rebuild the city, rebuild the walls, and the temple, and in that place, which is described in detail in Ezekiel, it would be a place where Jehovah-shammah.

Jehovah Shammah, our last name of God in our names of God series, Jehovah Shammah means, “The Lord is there.”

But there was something more indicated in the prophesy of Ezekiel. He was saying that Israel would return from Babylon, yes. But it also pointed to the earthly reign of a messiah, who would rule over the entire Earth from the city of Jerusalem, a millennial reign of 1,000 years. And even in the prophesy, it talks of a new heavens and new earth, where humanity and God would dwell together forever in peace.

Jehovah-shammah, God is there, that is the perfect way to end the names of God in the Old Testament.

“…the names of God compounded with Jehovah reveal Him as providing redemption for fallen, sinful man, and depicting every aspect of that great transaction of redemption by which man is fully restored to God – healing, victory, peace, sanctification, justification, preservation, care, and guidance.” -Nathan Stone, Names of God

Jehovah jireh, our provider

Jehovah-rophe our healer

Jehovah-nissi our banner

Jehovah-M’Kaddesh our sanctification

Jehovah-shalom our peace

Jehovah-tsidkenu our righteousness

Jehovah-rohi our shepherd

Jehovah-shammah is present to us

Then, there was another beginning, in the beginning, was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God, He was in the beginning with God, through Him all things were made, in Him was life and that life brought light to all mankind.

A son of man came, named Jesus of Nazareth, and God was there in human form, and it was very good.

Jesus the messiah lived a life of perfection, healing the sick and hurting, teaching in parables, discipling his disciples, and then offering up his life freely on a cross, pouring out his blood, and dying, to be a blood sacrifice to pay off your debt of sins, pain in full.

Jesus died, and then rose from the grave 3 days later, to demonstrate to us that after we die if we believe in Him he will raise us to eternal life.

Jesus is alive right now in heaven, and will return again to rule and reign on the Earth for 1,000 years, from the city of Jerusalem, theologians call this the millennial reign of Christ. This millennial reign fulfills the prophets which spoke of a time when the messiah would rule and reign and put everything under his control.

Yet it would all begin with the church spreading across the face of the Earth, and the church would be the body of Christ. And in the body of a single believer, you or me, God’s presence would dwell, and God was there, and it was so good.

God’s temple had been the garden of Eden. Then man fell.

God’s temple became the tent of meeting with Moses.

God’s temple became the temple built by Solomon where God dwelled.

God’s temple was then Jesus Christ the God-man come to Earth.

Now today, God’s temple is the human body, the human soul, the human spirit, God dwells within His church on Earth, in the hearts and minds of people surrendered to His will.

We call these people Christians. God is there, in them, and he is here now, and it is very good.

But today it’s still through a mirror dimly. We aren’t in the full presence of God on this fallen Earth. Only after the rapture, the tribulation, and the return of Jesus Christ, and after the millennial reign, will everything be made perfect, a new heavens, an entirely new planet Earth, remade, where God will dwell.

This is talked about in the book of Revelation, when it says, Revelation 21:1-4, “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

And it continues in Revelation 22:1-5, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”

That is the goal, to be with God in perfection, Jehovah-shammah, God is there. No temple, no place to go to, but God perfectly present with us, permanently, forever. And at last everything is OK and Right once again.

Jehovah shammah. “And the name of the city from that time on will be: the Lord is there.” -Ezekiel 48:35. The last verse of the book of Ezekiel. Forever. Maranatha. Amen.

Monday, October 10, 2022

Quick Answer, Claim: Science disproves God

Claim: Science has proven that everything is physical, science disproves God exists. Scientists have shown the myths of the past are false and unproven. 

Answer: Science has not proven that religion and it's teachings are "wrong and out of date." In fact, most of the great scientists of history were Christians or at least deists, including people like Einstein, Pasteur, Galileo, Newton, and hundreds of others. 

Also, 60% of Nobel Prize winners are Christians. The first scientists looked for order in the universe because they knew there was an intelligent designer behind the universe. 

The more scientists study DNA and the complexity of human life, the more it becomes clear that all life is designed by a creator, a God of the universe. 

Particularly, when Einstein discovered that the universe had a definite beginning at a "big bang" it became clear, God does exist, and he created the universe from nothing, at a finite point in time.

Increasingly as well, we see massive manuscript evidence for the Bible, thousands of manuscripts, and the dead sea scrolls confirmed that the Bible hadn't been changed or manipulated, because they matched what we have today. 

Not only that history and archaeology continue to confirm the biblical narrative as true and historically accurate. More and more we see, God is real, and Jesus Christ is really real, and really rose from the dead. It's astonishing!

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Names of God: Jehovah-rohi, God our Shepherd

"The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” - Psalm 23

A song written by David. David must’ve looked back on his life at a ripe old age, and looked back at all the ups and downs of his life, from being the youngest son of the family, while his brothers fought in the army, he was left alone to watch over the sheep.

From God raising him up and making him a hero of Saul’s army, to the incredible show-down with Goliath, and then leading Israel’s armies, then Saul’s growing jealousy.

And David having to live on the run, living in caves, gathering a band of misfits around him, fleeing from Saul who tried to kill him numerous times.

To seeing Saul die, and then becoming king over the entire nation. Seeing great victories, God protecting him and guiding the nation, even to his mistakes, his affair with another man’s wife, and God forgiving him, and to the birth of David’s son Solomon, even seeing Absalom his own son rebel against him and try to drive him out of the capital, to seeing Absalom killed by his own soldiers, and planning for his son Solomon to one day build the temple of the Lord.

David must’ve looked back on all of it and said, the Lord is my shepherd, through all of it. He is Jehovah-rohi, God my shepherd.

Nathan the Prophet said to David, in 2nd Samuel 7:8-9, “8 “‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth.”

God guided every step of David’s life, he shepherded David through all the highs and lows of life. That is who God is. He is our shepherd in life.

It says of the Lord in Isaiah 40:11 “He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.”

What does a shepherd do for the sheep he cares for?

He protects them from wolves, coyotes, from bears and snakes.

He feeds them, leading them to plenty.

He speaks to them, so that they know his voice.

He cares for them. If they are wounded he bides up their wounds.

If they go astray he goes after them.

He guides them on pathways between water holes

He keeps them together

He is vigilant, present, watchful, wise, and strong.

That is who God is to us.

Our God is present with us. The shepherd was always present to the sheep. And the sheep were watching for his presence and felt safe when they knew he was near.

Similarly God says in Exodus 29:45, “I will dwell among the children of Israel.” And the Hebrew word for “dwell” there is Shekinah, which tells us God’s presence was gloriously with the people. Just as He is gloriously with us today. And we can sense His presence.

We jump over to the New Testament, and we see that Jesus our savior completely affirms this concept of who God is as Jehovah-rohi. Jesus says of himself in John 10:11-18:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

God with us, Jesus, lays it out plain as day, this is who I am to you, I’m your good shepherd, I lay down my life for the sheep, and I take it back again. He’s talking about his crucifixion for our sins and his resurrection for our eternal life.

Jesus also soberly reminds us that there robbers out there, and wolves in sheeps clothing. So we need to watch out for false shepherds, false teachers, and false prophets.

It says in Acts 20:29, Paul speaking to the elders of the church in Ephesus, “29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.” And Jesus himself said in Matthew 7:15, ““Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”

So we know there are dangers as Jesus shepherds us toward paradise. We need to watch out for wolves and false teachers and false prophets. We do that by staying close to the true shepherd, Jesus Christ.

“Do we know his voice as we should? Do we trust Him and follow Him as we should? Is there the beautiful intimacy between us that there should be? Do we love the shepherd’s presence? Can we distinguish His voice from the voice of the wolf in sheep’s clothing who comes among us to wrest and wreck our faith?”

“…when we are sorely tried He will lead gently on. When we are weary and wounded He will anoint our heads and heal our wounds and refresh us with tender care. As His sheep we are led by many a way. Sometime the path is through fresh green meadows; sometimes over rough, steep, rocky paths, perhaps through dark places where the sun scarcely shines. But we are ever being led to one place.”

“So the Lord Jesus, our Jehovah-rohi will lead us into that final fold and rest “before the throne of God” where John says, “they will serve him day and night in his temple; and he that sitteth on the throne shall spread his tabernacle over them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun strike upon them; nor any heat: for the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall be their shepherd” (Rev 7:15-17) S we “shall dwell in the house of Jehovah forever.” -Nathan Stones, Names of God, p. 147-148.