Posts Tagged spiritual growth

The Fear of Pain and Suffering

Series: Fear vs Faith
This week: The Fear of Pain and Suffering
Sermon-in-a-Nutshell #5

“No pain, no gain.” While that motto might look great and be motivating on the wall of a workout facility, most of us want to steer as far away from pain as we possibly can. In this message, we are referring to physical pain and the prolonged suffering that can accompany it. Web MD lists almost 350 different types of pain medications available today. Gone are the simple days of taking an aspirin; we want the strong stuff (Extra-strength Tylenol; Advil; Percocet; Demerol; Vicodin; etc. all the way to legalized marijuana). The stark humanity of us is seen in the way we fear pain brought to our bodies and the possibility of being in a continued state of suffering. Frankly, we don’t like it!

The REALITY of this fear is that we are not exempt from accidents, health issues, surgeries, disease, harm from others, old age, threat of persecution, fear of being handicapped or becoming an invalid, etc. Satan uses these to create an unhealthy fear of strokes, heart attacks, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and all kinds of detrimental health problems.

The RESULT is that our age is plagued with all kinds of physical and emotional suffering due to pain: addictions; dependency on drugs of all kinds; alcoholism; panic attacks; hypochondria; mental stress; depression; feeling helpless and hopeless; suicides; overcompensation on safety; fear to take risks; robbing Christians of their joy; the list goes on and on….

We need the FAITH TO OVERCOME these fears. When you suffer, remember you can have:

1. FAITH IN GOD TO HEAL. James 5:15 says that we can say a “prayer offered in faith that will make the sick person well.” Don’t discount the power of prayer (James 5:16). And don’t discount the power of God to heal the body. That healing can take place in a number of ways: 1) sometimes God will allow the body to heal itself; he has created the body with that amazing ability; 2) sometimes God wants you to use the medical advances that are available in our world (they used what they had in Bible times, so why shouldn’t we?); 3) sometimes healing will come in direct answer to prayer; and sometimes it comes in ways we don’t comprehend or understand. By God’s sovereign power and will, he can heal! Believe that!

2. FAITH IN GOD TO APPEAL. This appeal comes through prayer, but prayer that is persistent, passionate, and powerful! Jesus told his disciples that some things will only happen through faith and prayer (Mark 9:14-29) so the continual appeal needs to go out. There’s an amazing story in 2 Kings 20:1-11 when King Hezekiah was told he had a short time to live because of his illness and to put his house in order. He appealed to God and God blessed him with 15 more years of life! Appeal!

3. FAITH IN GOD TO REVEAL. This is the hardest one to do. But there comes a time when we accept our situation in life even if it means poor health, pain, and suffering. Then we ask God to reveal to us the strength we need, the character to develop (see Romans 5:3-4), and the unseen purposes that we may or may not understand. Such was the case when Paul suffered from his “thorn in the flesh” (discomfort in his body), and he “begged” God to remove it, but the Lord revealed his purpose in teaching him that “my strength comes into its own in your weakness.” Paul concluded in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10: “Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size – abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks (note: see 1 Corinthians 11:23-30 for more detail). I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” (Message Bible)

Remember from 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 – don’t lose heart! Our bodies will waste away in time, but renew the inward person daily! These pains are light and momentary, compared to Heaven itself where there will be no more pain, sorrow, or suffering! Fix your eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen!

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The Fear of Poverty

Series: Fear vs Faith
This week: The Fear of Poverty
Sermon-in-a-Nutshell #4

First, an overview of this new series. Our lives are gripped and many times crippled by our fears. Satan uses common fears to undermine our faith in the Lord. Often Jesus would say, “O you of little faith!” It has been said that there are over 365 scriptures that have some form of “fear not” in them – one for every day of the year! This is a battleground between the forces of evil and good, between Satan and God. We must not discount the damage that fear can bring to our minds, bodies and souls. So during this series, we are going to highlight the “Top 7 Fears” that are common to people everywhere. Let it be noted that there is a difference between “phobias” and “fears”. Our phobias are many (fear of snakes, darkness, heights, public speaking, etc.) and are more from the natural man. But fears are from within the soul and are the ones Satan feeds off it to destroy and discourage our faith.

Countdown of the Top 7 Fears begins with #7 – The Fear of Poverty.

On one hand, how can anyone living in the United States be in fear of this when compared to the rest of the world’s economies and lifestyles? So consider this fear as being defined more as the fear of not having enough; the fear of financial hardships; the fear of being deprived of resources both needed and wanted.

This is a REALTIY in our world. Never has a society had so many things to be fearful of. How many of us have not expressed some kind of thought patterns where we see ourselves being affected by homelessness, natural disasters, bankruptcy, foreclosure, loss of job, loss of ability to provide, health care issues, the demise of social security, not enough to take care of us in the retirement years. One author states, “We’re tied in Gordian knots over climate change fears, vaccine fears, bioterrorism, your kid passing his finals, cyberterrorism, grey hairs, the grid going dark, drivers who text, stock market collapse, gluten, debt, that guy eyeing your job, E.coli in packaged salads.”

The RESULT is fear that expands into the sin of WORRY. Yes, a sin. Jesus says in Matthew 6:25, “Do not worry.” And then describes this as a lack of faith! One definition of worry is “to allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.” In verb form, it means to fret, agonize, overthink, brood, panic, stew, get worked up, and to torment oneself. In noun form, it equates to anxiety, distress, uneasiness, restlessness, nervousness, agitation, edginess, tension, and stress. Satan uses these to go far beyond the element of being concerned and taking appropriate actions, to a sin that destroys the mind, body and soul. He elevates it above the faith that is God’s antidote to fear and worry.

Here are three steps to gird yourself with more faith than fear, all taken from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:25-34.

1. Trust God to PROVIDE. Matthew 6:26-30 (“..don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, and do his best for you?” MSG)

2. Trust God’s PRIORITIES. Matthew 6;31-33 (“What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving.” MSG)

3. Trust God to PROTECT. Matthew 6:34 (“God will help you deal with whatever hard thingw comes up when the time comes.” MSG) It’s the concept of “We may not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.”

Remember the words of Paul in Philippians 4:11-13: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

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Give Me Jesus’ Resurrection

Easter Series: “Give Me Jesus”
This Week’s Topic: “Give Me Jesus’ Resurrection”
Sermon in a Nutshell #2

Everything in Jesus’ life has a corresponding application to our lives. As we consider the Resurrection on this Easter, what is my personal response? How does it change me? How do I experience resurrection? As we considered in our last lesson, to follow the life of Jesus is to choose the best, the lasting, the eternal life that gives joy, love, peace, etc. now and the promise of eternal life in Heaven In 1 Peter 1:3-4, we read, “In his great mercy God has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you.”

I can’t imagine any right-thinking person who wouldn’t want to live a better life now and to have assurance of life after death. In other words, we desire the “resurrection” life, BUT are we accepting the processes that lead to it? Here are five things about Jesus you need to know and the corresponding response each of us need to make.

First, Jesus LIVED; therefore we LEARN. His life was like no other, superior in every way – “we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) Jesus once said to the weary and down trodden, “learn from me.” (Matthew 11:29) A disciple is one who follows, but also is a student and learner. As the Bible unfolds the life of Jesus, learn from it by absorbing every facet of his time on earth. He came “leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21)

Second, Jesus TAUGHT; therefore we BELIEVE. Peter once said in awe, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69) He taught in parables – earthly stories with heavenly meanings. He taught so the common people could easily understand. Following the Sermon on the Mount, the people were amazed at his teaching! Paul says, “Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) Do you believe his teachings? Do you believe he is the Son of God? Do you believe in the virgin birth, his atoning death on the cross, his overcoming Satan and death through the resurrection, and that he now reigns in Heaven?

Third, Jesus DIED, therefore we die a spiritual death through REPENTANCE. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree (cross), so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness, by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24) Movies like “The Passion of Christ” and the recent “Son of God” depict very graphically the horror of his sufferings: beaten, mocked, thorns on his head, nailed to an “old rugged cross”, painful death, in the middle of two criminals depicting him as the worst! But why? What was different about this death than what other martyrs have gone through? It’s because he was bearing “our” sins in his body (the “sinless” one), taking the punishment he didn’t deserve but doing it on your behalf. Imagine, being separated from God – the Son of God – literally going to Hell for you! So what should I do? You must die as the verse says, “to sin”. You have a choice: you can either die TO sin while alive on this earth, or you can die IN sin when you depart. For those who die “to” sin, they receive the benefits of his death. “We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with…because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7). The Bible calls this repenting – indicating a change, a turn in direction, leaving something behind, like an old life with old values, attitudes and sins. You then are “crucified with Christ” (spiritually speaking) so that “Christ can now live in you.(Galatians 2:20)

Fourth, Jesus was BURIED, therefore we are BAPTIZED. That’s what you do with a dead person – you bury them. That’s what baptism is – a burial of the old self. God chose water, symbolic of cleansing, and immersion, symbolic of a burial as the elements in baptism. But it becomes much, much more than some ritual or Christian sacrament. It is the surrender of your body and spirit to be baptized by another as a connecting point to Jesus. “We died to sin…were baptized into his death. We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead…we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:3-4) Baptism has symbolic elements, but note that it is much more than that – it is a participation in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ! We go “into Christ”, “buried with Christ”, “raised with Christ” and are “united with Christ”!

Fifth, Jesus was RAISED, therefore we are raised to enter the NEW LIFE! “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him…count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:8-11) That’s where the best life is! That where Heaven is! “Give me Jesus’ resurrection!!!” The tomb is empty; he has risen; the resurrection changes everything!

Now one closing thought. Remember that before you can have a resurrection, there must first be a death, and then a burial. Many want the end results without counting the cost of what it means to follow Jesus. Change is perhaps the hardest thing for us to do, but there MUST be a death to sin before one can experience the glory of the resurrected life!

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Sermon in a Nutshell

It seems to be a recent trend among a lot of contemporary churches to not inundate people with multiple messages each week, but to be more intentional about the teaching path that is presented each week.  You see this most in two fairly common practices:  1)  preaching in series to stay focused on a core theme for a few weeks; and 2)  having small groups discuss the past Sunday’s sermon to personalize the message with practical application as well as delving deeper into the message and passages.

We are not that far removed from the church practices that I cut my teeth on as a young preacher a few years ago.  I remember on one occasion I sought to determine how many lesson plans and delivered sermons/classes that I would do in a year.  It went something like this.  I had to prepare for a Sunday morning Bible class, the Sunday morning sermon, a Sunday afternoon training class, the Sunday night sermon, the Wednesday night Bible class, the Wednesday night “sermonette” when all the classes came together, plus for a number of those years a lesson for the young people on Friday night.  That’s seven lesson preps as well as weddings, funerals, seminars and brotherhood speaking engagements.  While some of this didn’t happen every week, you can see the strain on the preacher to come up with 300-400 different lessons each year!

But what about the overload on the hearers of those messages?  How could one apply the Sunday morning lesson when you didn’t have time for it to germinate before another lesson flooded your brain?  No wonder we had a lot of shallow Christians, or had many with a certain retention of Bible knowledge but weren’t very focused on applying it to their daily lives or sharing with a lost world.

I like the simpler approach of today’s churches:  develop an appropriate message for the week and have practices that help implement it into the lifestyles of the members.  Currently, I preach a Sunday message; it’s taught again in our small groups; and many people use the materials for their daily devotional times.  It’s also posted on our website in audio form with downloadable printed notes.  And now, we’re going to expand the weekly message to this blog where the sermon each Monday will be presented in a concise “sermon-in-a-nutshell” form for you to absorb even more.

Some call it the “Big Idea” approach.  Whatever, it’s good to take time to process and practice what’s preached.

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