Monday, June 27, 2011

Suffering = Holiness

by Rev. Brandin Melton

Have you faced some difficult times lately?  Have you ever asked yourself, "Why doesn't God step in and rescue me from my suffering?"  Have you ever considered that God might be using your painful circumstances to make you holy?

The author of Hebrews leads us to believe that God is at work in the midst of our miseries "in order that we may share in his holiness" (Hebrews 12:10 ).  In this we are reminded that God's ultimate goal for our lives is not that we be happy, healthy, and wealthy; but that we be holy.  A little later in Hebrews the author writes, "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).  Since this is the case, it should change the way we look at the difficulties we face in this lifetime, but for most of us this requires a change of perspective.
First of all, this requires us to change the way we look at discipline.  Most of us look at discipline as a negative thing, like we are being punished for something.  Discipline in the bible is not regarded as a punishment, but as a tool used to cultivate our mind, our morals, and our souls. The author of Hebrews encourages us to "endure hardship as discipline."  To put it in my own words, we should look at adverse circumstances as an opportunity for God to shape our mind, morals, and souls to be more holy.
Second, we should see this as God desiring what is best for us.  Hebrews 12:10 says, "...but God disciplines us for our good."  God has our best interest in mind in ALL situations. That doesn’t mean that God causes all situations, but that in the midst of all situations God is seeking to bring about what is best for us. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Our God is good!
To hear this message in its entirety, click here.

Monday, June 20, 2011

How Does the Church Respond to Evil?

(This is an outline from our pastor's sermon yesterday. He sent it to everyone in a newsletter today.) Great sermon. I encourage you to read the outline and accept the challenge. (SFNchurch)
At some point in our lives each of us will face the reality of evil and suffering, whether through the heinous actions of another individual, an accident, or an attack on our physical bodies from a disease. As I mentioned on Sunday morning – none of us are exempt – we live on a fallen planet filled with sickness, death, and decay and we are all subject to its effects. The important things for us to remember are:

1. God is not the source of our suffering. When Adam & Eve sinned they rebelled against God’s authority and stepped outside of His protective boundaries and subjected themselves to the authority of another, one hell-bent on their destruction. That enemy, Satan, is the source of the evil and suffering in this world.
2. One glorious day God is going to liberate this world from its bondage to decay. Paul tells us that one day God is going to set the world to rights and rid this earth of pain and suffering (Romans 8:18-24). One day this world will be set free!
3. Because of this glorious hope, we will continue to fight the good fight. Paul reminds us that “Our present suffering does not compare to the glory that awaits the Sons of God” (Romans 8:18). No matter what hardship we are facing, we know that we can endure it just a little while longer. Why? Because we know that it pales in comparison to the glory that awaits those who place their faith in Christ.

Having this hope of future glory, how do we respond to the evil and suffering in the here and now? First of all, we pray as Jesus did, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Second, I believe that prayer is also a call to action as the Church responds to circumstances in the world around us that are in conflict with the will of God. We seek to advance the Kingdom of God on earth by fighting against the evil and suffering in our world.

This reminds me of the passage of Scripture in Micah 6:8 which says, “And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” I recently heard this passage of Scripture shortened to a three word motto for the church, “DO – LOVE – WALK”. These three words are all verbs, they are actions, and I believe that God has called the Church to action in responding to evil and suffering in the world around us. How will you respond?

I want to encourage you this week to look for ways that you can respond to evil and suffering in the world around us. You don’t have to travel half way around the world; it may just be next door. There is evil and suffering all around us, just open your eyes and ask God how He would have you respond. It may be in the form of comforting a hurting friend, neighbor, or co-worker. It may be through volunteering at the hospital or the local shelter. Whatever it is, know that when you do so you are the hands and feet of Christ to a hurting and broken world.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

He Abides

"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever."--John 14:16

I'm rejoicing night and day as I walk the narrow way, for the hand of God in all my life I see.
And the reason of my bliss, yes, the secret all is this: that the Comforter abides with me.

Once my heart was full of sin, once I had no peace within, till I heard how Jesus died upon the tree.
Then I fell down at His feet, and there came a peace so sweet. Now the Comforter abides with me.

He is with me everywhere, and He knows my every care; I'm as happy as a bird and just as free.
For the Spirit has control; Jesus satisfies my soul, since the Comforter abides with me.

There's no thirsting for the things of the world--they've taken wings. Long ago I gave them up and instantly.
All my night was turned to day all my burdens rolled away. Now the Comforter abides with me.

He abides, He abides. Hallelujah He abides with me! I'm rejoicing night and day as I walk the narrow way, for the Comforter abides with me.

Words by: Herbert Buffum, 1879-1939
Music by: D.M. Shanks, 20th c.