Monthly Archives: November 2013

Weakly Gathering

There are really only two times in the week when you need to gather:

1. When you believe you are really sick and need help.
2. When you want to help someone else.

Matthew 18:20

The more you want to help, the more you need help, the more you gather.

Gathering is an opportunity for growth. Growth comes not only by frequency, but also by increasing size and multiplication of gatherings.

Some focus on depth of growth alone. Interesting subject matter. Profound truth. Rigorous workouts.

Others focus on size alone: expansive invitations, bigger meeting places.

More wise is using these first two as a means to multiplication and bringing all of life under good order.

This progressive growth of frequency, depth, size, number, and impact of the family of God gathering is what is intended by the advance of the Kingdom of God.

What will you do today to grow the family of God?

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Redemptive Suffering: Judaism, Christianity, & Islam

Go outside the gate to the wandering peoples.

Go outside the gate to the wandering peoples.

Ashura is the day when Shi’ites comemoratethe martyrdom of Mohammad ‘s grandson, Hussein son of Ali. Some Shi’ites cut themselves with knives and chains to identify with the suffering of Hussein. One saying goes, `A single tear shed for Hussein washes away a hundred sins.`”
This Shi’ite holiday took place last week.

In Judaism and Christianity, there is also a certain amount of truth to the fact that suffering is redemptive. In the Hebrew Scriptures, it was a truism, that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness required bloodshed.

Perhaps the clearest place where this is taught in the New Testament is the Letter to Hebrews. In the Mosaic Law, the sacrificial laws of Leviticus are clearly explications of the principle of life for life via blood. However, the levitical sacrifices had to be continually offered. Those sacrifices & ashes were then taken outside to camp. Sin was removed as the sacrifice was removed.

When Jesus came, he preached the truth in love and then was rejected by His people. He too went outside the gate and suffered “outside the camp” thus removing the sin of the people against him outside the camp. He took away sin once for all.

Now Christians, whenever we are oppressed and opposed for taking a stand for truth in love and love in truth, whenever we suffer rejection, we can still praise the Lord knowing He has a plan for that rejection, namely to remove the sins of those who oppose. We leave people who oppress alone in order to allow them to find peace. We move on and allow the people we were reaching previously to reconsider.

In my own life, I have been removed from a number of jobs. Those which I most enjoyed have either regretted disallowing my role or have found a way to reincorporate me. Is that because I am special? No. It is because all those were works of reconciliation. Actually, that is the goal of life: reconciliation. We are born alienated from God and must be reconciled to God. While children are born somewhat innocent, they bear the guilt of previous generations. They inherit the load, genetic or social or moral or whatever you want to call it, that separates them from the peace God intends. However, by regularly leaving previous situations we have gotten ourselves into and the associated sins, we find ourselves gradually liberated to serve the living God with the Good News of Redemption.

Increasingly, we become better and better bearers to truth and purer and purer in our love for others.

Lest anyone believe that by their migrations they have already achieved perfection, if you are lowly enough to browse the internet, you are not perfected in the glories of heaven where people praise God perpetually. So then, what must we do? Praise God as much as you can now. Spend your days invested in the glories of grace by talking about Jesus.

You say, but that would be very unproductive!

Ah, what do you have to do that would be better than praising Jesus? Whipping yourself with and lacerating your skin? Let me urge you to press in to Christ and not to give up. Focus on Jesus in all you do.

Last week, my wife & I went to a lecture by John Lennox … however we were turned away due to the crowds. The theme of the discussion was going to be, “Does science need God?”

Let’s tie these two questions together: suffering & science and the redemptive power God in both.

Science ultimately has no real reason for why there is suffering. It can only say that there is. It cannot answer the question of why we are so dissatisfied with suffering if indeed death has been there from the beginning. So the Bible’s account of Eden when all was innocent is better than naturalistic, uniformitarian declarations. It is what it is is not a very satisfying truism.

God is who He is. Or better, God said, “I am who I am” That same “I am” has sent me to share this thought: we suffer because the human race falls short of God’s standards. All other discussions of secondary causation such as social pressure, genetic mutation, gravity, entropy, fall short if the question of Why? is left unanswered.

Pragmatic science is unsatisfying. Just like Adam was unsatisfied with naming animals until he named his wife and sang a love song over her, so all fields of science are meant to serve human society, and these are best accomplished when done in the covenant of love that God gives the human race.

So we see that even the Shoah, the Holocaust could be redeemed. God used it to motivate much of the West to call for an Independent nation for the Jews: Israel was nearly born in a day, as Isaiah had prophecied.

Now, do you want to redeem your suffering? Are you rejected by those who are powerful and prominent? Then go to those who are not so significant in your community. Go to those who are regarded as the nobodies. Sit beside those that the world laughs at. Hug the crying. Pray for those who are sick. Read to those who cannot read for themselves. Sing with a lonely child who longs to sing to the King.

There are so many ways you can go outside the gate as Jesus did. Don’t wait. Go today. God will go with you and then you will smile in His presence.

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Why do the poor experience more of the Kingdom than the rich?

A. The poor need God very evidently. The rich think they have all that they need.

B. The poor are oppressed by the world but blessed by God. The rich exploit to get rich, but hoard their wealth, taking their blessings for granted.

C. The poor cry out to God, and he listens. The rich boast of being self-made people.

D. The poor are generous because they know what it is to need, so they are eager to share with others.

E. The poor are always looking up for help. The rich are helping themselves.

F. The poor must be patient. The rich can afford instant service.

G. The poor see God provide for them and give thanks freely. The rich think their wealth is a shelter.

=> To give to the poor is to lend to the Lord. To give to the rich is foolish.

Give down and look up.

Invest in the Lord’s work among the poor, share your whole life with Him & His people wherever you go this week.
If you don’t find His people, make friends and help them become part of the Lord’s people.

Categories: Suffering | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cutting Words – Healing Hearts

Crushed, disappointed, insulted, rejected? ... Press on. There is more in store. Cry out to God for the promise to come.

Crushed, disappointed, insulted, rejected? … Press on. There is more in store. Cry out to God for the promise to come.

This post is dedicated to a young woman I spoke with recently, and to all who self-injure &/or have suicidal thoughts.

Sometimes in this world, people both old and young say things that are mean-spirited. Sometimes they say them simply to make themselves look good. It can hurt even worse when they say things just to hurt someone else. Either way, those words which expose how far short of perfection a girl or boy falls often lead to feelings of shame, loneliness, and hopelessness.

“Will anyone love me just for me? Does anyone really care about me? I want to be beautiful / handsome. I want to be strong / elegant. I want to be liked and appreciated. Instead my face is rubbed in the dirt.”

Sometimes fellow students tear down the weaker ones. It is after all easier to pick on those who won’t fight back.

Sometimes parents expect a cool perfection from their children. It is after all parents’ job to help their kids grow up to face the realities of the harsh world.

Sometimes bosses or co-workers can pressure a struggling worker to perform beyond capacity or even perform more than everyone else.

Sometimes other authorities can put pressure on those under their charge. NOTHING WE DO IS EVER GOOD ENOUGH, cries the hurting heart.

There are two most common ways to respond: In anger: lashing out at those who insult. In self-loathing, listening to all those voices that expose imperfection.

Imperfections that make us feel ashamed, can also add unique dignity to each of us. They are like the freckles that
Natasha Bedingfield sings about:

This reminds me of Jesus: sometimes people of His day talked about Him because He didn’t wash His hands. Sometimes people insulted Him because He was so confident that He had a special relationship with God. They hated Him because He worked long hours and healed the hurting and forgave the seemingly unforgiveable. Jesus forgave anyway.

In 1 John, it says that the spirit of the antichrist denies two things: 1. That Jesus came from God and 2. That Jesus came in the flesh. Taken to logical conclusion, the antichrist spirit denies the deity and humanity of Jesus.

So what? What difference does that make in how the poor kid who gets picked on in school feels?

When somebody treats you like you are not made in the image of God, that is the antichrist at work. If someone is despising you and all that you do, they are not doing the work of God but are serving the devil. Satan tries to get us to regret that we live. God gets us to regret that we have sinned. Lord, have mercy!

When someone treats you like you are not human with human feelings and an ordinary human body with human wants and needs, that is the antichrist at work. The antichrist expects a sterile sanctification. The Spirit of Jesus washes us with water from the Word, the Word of God. Lord, thank you!

And God’s word says, He loved us enough to send His own Son to cover over ALL our imperfections, sins, shame, and flaws. That is why Jesus was scarred on the cross and on the way to the cross was beaten and tortured, so that you and I could hold our heads up in dignity when the world, our old flesh, and the devil conspire to make us feel like we are useless and unwanted. He set aside heaven’s arms so that we could lift up holy hands and praise Him.

If people tell you that you are good for nothing and dirty: First, clean up if you are dirty. Second, be glad that you are clean in God’s sight. Third, forgive the people who have such dirty hearts that all they can see is filth.

If your own mind tells you that you are unloveable: First, separate the truth from the lie. While love is never “deserved,” anyone can be loved. God loves the least, the lost, the last. God loves you. Second, read promises in the Bible about how the Lord’s purpose is to bless and not curse. Third, receive God’s forgiveness for all your faults. He delights in you and rejoices over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)
“The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in His love He will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”

We need to realize who is the source of all these accusations though: it is the devil, satan, that old serpent, the dragon. Satan hates you. God, however, loves you and delights in you. If you have persevered in reading this, I believe God is calling you to a deeper knowledge of His mercy. Consider reading a chapter from the Proverbs and a chapter from the Gospels every day. Or, develop your own plan for reading through the whole Bible in a year … and stick to it. God will speak to you in new and amazing ways. The lies of the devil will fade.

Maybe you are married and your spouse hates you and you feel miserable and you feel like giving up: Let me encourage you to keep loving and keep forgiving. God has a prize for those who persevere in marriage.

Maybe you feel lonely because all your fellow students or co-workers seem to despise you and ignore you or trip you up: Let me encourage you that you are special in God’s eyes. What you are learning is something teachers can’t teach you. You are learning what Jesus taught us, to love your enemeies. Don’t lose heart. Don’t give up: your work will be rewarded by the one who supervises all bosses and you are storing up for yourself a retirement that is out of the world.

God loves you. Jesus proves it. Live.

Now, about those who tear you down, how do you deal with them?

I must be 100% honest here: I am far from perfect. When I was a teenager, I picked on other students. Then, one day, a classmate I was picking on, told me off. They responded and told me to shut up, I was getting on their nerves. Maybe I was more sensitive than some bullies, but I don’t think so. When they talked back and said, “Shut up, it’s not nice, I’m not all that bad, you don’t have your facts straight.” I shut my mouth. I stopped insulting. Later, the Lord would fill my heart with Love, with the Holy Spirit as I started to regularly read the Bible and pray for the Lord to teach me how to love. God changed me.

Life is not easier for me, it is harder. But that is OK. It was not easy for Jesus, and He is with me when I face insults and injury, hospitalizations and hatred.

If you care to contact me, write to: MertAKA -at- everybody .ORG

Mert Hershberger

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