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Archive for the ‘suffering’ Category

Haunted houses and ghosts are about to become the seasonal rage once again over the next month or so.  Folks really get into Halloween.  I guess if getting the hell scared out of you is the point then perhaps more evangelicals should use scare tactics and haunted sanctuaries to grab the world’s attention.

But seriously, let us consider that those things that haunt us are oftentimes from our own past.  They are either things that we did or things that were done to us.  Both hunt us down in our sleep and haunt us during our waking hours.

Yet, imagine your past hurts helping you.  If your abuse-filled childhood helps you help runaway teens and teen moms without prenatal care, let it do so.  Past and personal struggles can make making it hard or they can open your eyes to numerous opportunities to advance and broaden the kingdom of God as you work through some of your own pain and struggle.

Pray for freedom from the dominance of your past demons over your life.  Fend off the persecution from your past.  Let it help you.

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12  Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon:
13  therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant.
14  And he shall break it as the breaking of the potters’ vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a sherd to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit.

Isaiah 30:12-14 (KJV)

Being broken is a circumstantial condition.  We feel broken due to the culmination of our circumstances.  Based on what has transpired, we feel a sense of brokenness.  We even take on the state of brokenness by taking personal ownership of living shattered and fragmented lives as badges of our broken lives of torment and terror.  We live as broken men and women.

I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel. – Psalm 31:12 (ESV)

We do not have to live that way.

You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. – Psalm 139:3 (NIV)

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18 (NIV)

He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. – Psalm 107:14 (NIV)

O LORD, truly I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant; you have freed me from my chains. – Psalm 116:16 (NIV)

He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. – Psalm 147:3 (NLT)

I wrote Broken Pieces out of my own agony and pain.  As I look back at it, I realized that what I penned in pain was not just for my own sake.  I published this collection and Lamentations in the Storm as I wandered through a deep fog of misery and melancholy much like Broken Pieces.  Both poetic works reveal that we do not have to live broken lives once god has set us free.  These poems and prayers express the depth of life in despair and how faith can carry you through in order to endure through life’s trials.

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For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him (v. 64)

“Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (v. 70)

He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him (v. 71)

 

Jesus knew who it was “from the beginning,” according to verse 64.  He chose the twelve and knew well that one of them was “a devil.” He spoke of Judas Iscariot, “who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.”

 

Jesus knew it and had dealt it with it a while.  We see in John 12 that the objection of the anointing of Jesus at Bethany is limited to Judas in John’s version.  Unlike other gospels, Judas is the singular objector here and John is quick to point out his character here, saying: He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. (John 12:6, NIV).” John even denotes him, in verse 5, as “Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him.”

The Bible is full of bits and pieces about betrayal, especially by those who are said to be close to us.  David says that he could have handled a stranger betraying him, but it was a friend, a “man my equal.” The prophecy of Zechariah points out that Jesus was betrayed for thirty pieces of silverIsaiah presents the “man of sorrows” to the believer as the suffering and sacrificial Savior.  James simply said for us to submit to the Lord and that the devil would flee from us. 

We have to understand that these show us that we can withstand the devil’s attacks.  Just as Jesus withstood him during the temptation presented in the wilderness, we can withstand the fiery darts of the devil as he attacks us from all sides.  We can put on the whole armor of God, as it is written in Ephesians chapter 6, and have our defenses girded up against the enemy.

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18 For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.

1 Peter 1:18-19 (HCSB)

The Law of Moses calls for the best or the first to be sacrificed to God.  The covenant wasn’t asking for leftovers from those who identified themselves as the people of God.  No, the Law demanded that God receive the firstfruits.  Even in our redemption, He demonstrated that best was to be offered as a sacrifice, pure and undefiled.

Peter says that the Lamb of God was a “lamb without defect or blemish.” This sacrifice was perfect.  Peter also equated the blood to be “the precious blood of Christ.” He shares that the blood is the means for us being redeemed, reconciled unto the Father Himself by His own sacrifice of His Son.

I like the simple way Peter puts it here in 1 Peter, but the best description of the “perfect sacrifice” is between Isaiah 53 and Hebrews 10:1-18.  While Isaiah provides the prophecy that reveals the “man of sorrows” who suffered for the sinful and became sin for us, Hebrews chapter 10 gives us a clear picture of ritual sacrifice turned into redemption and reconciliation by the power of God.

But He was pierced because of our transgressions,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on Him,
and we are healed by His wounds.
Isaiah 53:5 (HCSB)

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From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. – Eph. 4:16 (NIV)

As the body of Christ, we have some real work to do.  Our work includes supporting, growing, strengthening, and loving together as the “whole body.” God expects us to do our work under Christ who is the head of the body.  We are to do our work joined and held together under Christ, the head of the body.  Our work is to be done in love.

Our work should lead to the body of Christ’s growth and strengthening.  The body should grow and grow stronger.  We are responsible to Christ for what we do and how we do it as a body of believers.  Paul says that if one part of the body suffers or receives honor, every part is impacted because it is one body with many parts.

  • Does what you do help to grow the body?
  • Does what you do help to strengthen the body?
  • Do you do what you do for the body in love?

Take these questions into careful and prayerful consideration.  Look at how you can help grow and strengthen the body of Christ.  Pray over your role and function within the body of Christ.  Build up and help grow the body of Christ.

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Dear Pastor/ Bishop/ Elder/ Reverend XXXX:

The church that God has blessed you with is sick.

Sincerely,
Concerned Christian

Can you imagine that popping up on your Blackberry Messenger app right before Sunday services? How about if it was a note passed up to you via the ushers or deacons just as you are getting ready to start prayer meeting? Either way, it is alarming. In either case, you are taken aback at least for a moment. You may even be startled.

Someone didn’t send you an instant message on your mobile. No one within your church or outside of it scribbled you a message about it. God didn’t set a bush on fire nor did He send an angel to deliver you the news. It’s been swimming and swirling around in your gut for some time now. It has preoccupied your sermon preparation and personal devotion. The signs are all around. There’s something drastically wrong with your church and your ministry. In fact, it may not just be sick. It may be debilitating to the point of near-death. It may very well be in Lazarus Mode.
 
When I posted Signs of a Dying Church, I was already prepared to go further into it by addressing Lazarus Mode. The scenario is similar to the story. There are plenty of churches who are like Lazarus. The Lord loves them, but they are “sick” and closer to death than they think. Unfortunately, unlike Lazarus, this sickness may not glorify God at all. Such churches and ministries are in need of a “spiritual wake-up call.” You don’t want to look up and discover that your ministry has been declared dead by the Divine.

Keep aware of the signs. Be sure to make the necessary changes. Stay on fire and keep blessing and boasting on the Lord.

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It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.
– Ps. 119:71 (NASB)

 Trouble comes your way.  You may not have done anything in particular.  Trouble found its way to you and now you have to deal with it.  That’s part of how things go down in life.  You may or may not be the cause of your trouble, but it’s right there in your face with your name on it in bold.

The writer of this psalm helps to understand how some people have to be broken down in order to be built up.  Some have to be humbled before they are ready to accept help.  Others  have to be hindered in order to just stop where they are and see that they are in need of help.  In other cases, some folks have to be hurt before they can ever be ready to receive anything that resembles help.  You may not have experienced all of these different changes before God stepped in on your behalf, but I would suspect that you have at least experienced one of them.  Let’s be honest about that.

The issue isn’t whether you had to experience any of these.  The true burning issue is whether you learned the lesson or not.  The psalmist said that his affliction provided an opportunity to learn God’s statutes, His decrees, His Law.  We are not told whether he went into deep, secluded personal Bible study and devotional time during this period or whether he meditated on what he could recall of the Law of the Lord, but it does say that he learned God’s statutes at this point due to being afflicted.  Did you learn your lesson? Did it drive you to seek out His Word? Did it lead you to Him? Check the record today.

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