Category Archives: Trouble

Sorrow Is Not Enough

In itself, conviction of sin cannot deliver anyone from bondage. Let’s say your sin is exposed publicly. It brings you sadness, sorrow and humiliation. It may even cause you to weep mightily. But this does not mean that you have been healed of your sin. The truth is, weeping and wailing often accompany a shallow, halfhearted repentance. The real fruit of genuine repentance is not just tears of grief, but a willingness to forsake the sin that led to such sorrow.  It is not enough merely to weep over your sins.

David Wilkerson. Knowing God by Name: Names of God That Bring Hope and Healing (pg. 89)

A Sobering Week

It’s been a sobering week for me.  On Tuesday, I was working out at the gym when suddenly a man on a treadmill in front of me fell off his machine and landed wedged between his machine and the one next to him.  Immediately, I – along with a few others who saw him fall – raced to his side.  He was unconscious, and after observing him closer, we discovered that not only was he not breathing, but we could not find a pulse.

We pulled the man out from between the machines into the isle, and while one man began compressions on the man’s chest, I raced to the other side of the gym and found the AED (automated external defibrillator) and oxygen.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have my glasses on, so it was hard for me to read the instructions, but the makers of this life-saving machine have made it pretty simple to operate.  With the help of another bystander, we were able to get the electrode pads placed correctly on the man’s chest.  Immediately, the machine gave the instruction for us to stand back as it assessed the man’s condition.  As we waited, I could see that the man’s heart had begun beating again.  The compressions had worked.  The voice in the machine said that no shock was necessary.

Our focus then turned to his breathing.  He still was not breathing, so we fumbled with the oxygen tank until we could feel that oxygen was coming out.  We turned it all the way up and placed the mask over the man’s mouth and nose.  We tried to stir him by shaking him and speaking loudly to him.  No one knew his name, so we all just yelled things like, “C’mon sir!  Wake up, sir!  Stay with us, sir!”  After about half a minute, the man’s eyes opened wide and he took a deep and long breath.  The breath he took nearly sat him straight up.  We grabbed him, laid him back down, and encouraged him to keep taking breaths.  He did.

After a few minutes of deep, labored breaths, the man spoke.  He said he was okay, but we quickly informed him what had happened.  All he could say in response was, “Oh boy!  Oh boy!”  He was able to tell us that he suffers from pulmonary hypertension and that he had passed out once before.  However, he informed us that he did not stop breathing nor did his heart stop beating that time.  We eventually sat him up against a wall so that he could breathe easier, and he was pretty stable by the time the paramedics arrived.  That’s when I walked away, shaken but thankful.

I’m thankful that so many people – strangers – were willing to do whatever it took to save this man’s life.  I’m thankful that the gym had an AED and oxygen tank readily available. (By the way, I immediately called my office administrator and had her price an AED for our church building).  I’m thankful that the man is alive, but I hope to never see him in the gym again as those with pulmonary hypertension are instructed to avoid strenuous physical activity.  And I’m thankful for my health.  I have wrestled with hypertension for much of my adult life, but thanks be to God, with a healthier diet and consistent exercise, it seems to be under control right now.

Ever since Tuesday, I have thought about what happened many times.  It was traumatic.  It was scary.  It was sobering to see a man dying right before my eyes.  Praise God he didn’t.  As the man left the gym that day, my prayers left with him.

Christian: Stand Firm!

This is a condensed transcript of my May 29, 2011 sermon.

In 1 Peter 5:8, Peter reminds us that we have an enemy.  He says,  “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  Satan prowls, roars, and seeks to devour followers of Jesus.  Behind the persecution and suffering of the early Christians (to whom Peter was writing) stood Satan.  He wanted nothing more than for the suffering and persecution they were experiencing to cause them to fall away from their faith in Jesus…and he wants the same for us today as well.  3rd Century church father, Cyprian described Satan this way:

He goes around us individually, and like an enemy besieging those shut up, he examines the walls and explores whether there might be some part of our members less firm and less trustworthy, by entrance through which a way inside may be effected. He offers to the eyes unlawful appearances and seductive pleasures, that he may destroy purity through sight; he tempts the ears by harmonious music, that he may get rid of and weaken christian strength by the hearing of a pleasant sound; he arouses the tongue to reviling, he urges the hand to capricious murder when it is excited by injuries; he provides unjust gains, that he may make a cheat; he piles up dangerous profits, that he may ensnare the soul by money; he promises earthly honors, that he may take away heavenly ones; he manifests false values, that he may steal away the true. And when he is not able to decisive secretly, he threatens clearly and openly, bringing forward the fear of violent persecution in order to overcome the servants of God; always restless and always hostile; he is cunning in peace, violent in persecution.

Satan is intent on seeing that Christ-followers fall away, making it so bad and so hard that we just give in.  This is why Peter says twice in our text: STAND FIRM!  Satan uses people and circumstances to trip us up. If you remember, Satan even used Peter himself to try to get Jesus to falter and give in.

Matthew 16:21-23
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”  But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Jesus recognized Peter’s attempt to keep him from suffering and dying ultimately came not from Peter, but from Satan himself. And now Peter – the one whom Satan used against Jesus to try to get Jesus to falter – tells early Christians facing suffering and death: STAND FIRM!  He reminds them (and us too) that the enemy would like nothing more than for you to crumble under the pressure of persecution and suffering.  And so, He encourages Christians with some reasons why we should stand firm in their faith until the end…

#1 Stand firm because suffering for following Christ is universal.

1 Peter 5:9
Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

Knowing that what happens to us is happening to others can be a great comfort.  Peter says that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by the family of believers throughout the world. This was bigger than just the early Christians under Rome.  He’s telling them to take comfort in that; to press on because others are.

Oprah Winfrey just concluded 25 years of unprecedented television success.  Why was she so successful?  I submit that she was so successful because she offered millions of women each day “you’re not alone” comfort. Millions of women gathered around the televison each day and discovered that they’re not alone with their struggles.  There’s great comfort in this, and this is what Peter was appealing to. You can resist the devil and stand firm because there are many others who are experiencing the same sufferings…and they are standing firm.

#2: Stand firm because our suffering lays the foundation for our future in Christ.

1 Peter 5:10
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

We know that God uses suffering to mature, grow, and glorify us in Christ now.  He uses suffering to begin the process of restoration, confirmation, strengthening, and establishing our lives in Him right now…with the promise that ALL will be made right (in you, me, and this old earth) when He appears in all His glory one day. But that process begins now, and suffering is a tool He uses to accomplish this.

We stand firm in our faith – even in the midst of trials and suffering – because we know that there will come a day soon when Jesus comes in all His glory and the suffering ends.  In the meantime, we allow the pain, trials, conflict, and loss on this earth to do it’s maturing, foundation-setting work in us through Jesus Christ.

#3 Stand firm because Jesus did.

1 Peter 2:21-25
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Jesus was called “the man of sorrows.”  He was rejected by his own brothers. He was betrayed by his own disciples (including Peter).  He was left alone to carry the weight of His impending death – even after asking his closest friends to support him.  And He wretched over the prospect of the cross. But He stood firm in His calling. He resisted the devil and faced His suffering head-on.  And Peter says: “Follow His example”. We stand firm until the end because the One whom we follow did.

I love how Peter ends the letter…

1 Peter 5:12
I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God.
STAND FIRM IN IT.

Expecting (And Even Welcoming) Conflict and Loss

This is a condensed transcript of my May 15, 2011 sermon.

Many new parents are often totally surprised at how tired they are.  Babies wear parents out; they did for me and Michelle!  Our two youngest children are only 13 months apart, and when they were babies, we had 2 cribs, 2 car seats, diapers everywhere, and our house was permeated with the smells of babies (both good and bad!).  We were exhausted, and like most young parents, we were surprised at how tired we were.  We now refer to that period of time (which began in 1995) as “the baby years,”  and we don’t remember much because it seemed as though we were walking around in a fog.  Babies are wonderful, but they are exhausting. So, parents: Don’t be surprised at how tired you are…as if something strange were happening to you!

Parenting babies and exhaustion go hand in hand.  The Apostle Peter reminds us that following Christ and suffering go hand in hand too.

1 Peter 4:12-14
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

Not only should we not be surprised by suffering, but Peter says that when we suffer with and for Christ, we should REJOICE AND BE GLAD.  Understand what Peter is saying…

  • Lose your job for Christ’s sake: rejoice and be glad.
  • Lose your social status for Christ’s sake: rejoice and be glad.
  • Lose your friends for Christ’s sake: rejoice and be glad.
  • Lose your family for Christ’s sake: rejoice and be glad.
  • Lose your life for Christ’s sake: rejoice and be glad.

We rejoice and are glad even in our suffering because we are looking forward to that day when Christ’s glory will be revealed.  We are living with our eyes fixed on a day when all suffering will end, and we will see Christ face-to-face.  This enables us to live in anticipation…anticipation that helps us endure the temporary sufferings we face in this life.

I’ve married many couples, and I’ve seen first-hand the anticipation they experience as they await their wedding day.  As a matter of fact, I came across a fax my wife sent me on February 10, 1993 letting me know how many more days we had to wait until our wedding day: 136!

There are many trials and hardships for couples as that magical day approaches like: the mine-field of wedding planning, the struggle of dealing with in-laws and outlaws, the hardship of watching their bank accounts drain quickly, the stress of finding a place to live, and so on.  But, in the midst of it all, there’s still rejoicing and excitement because that day is approaching when they can finally be together for good.

This is what Peter reminds us to live in light of.  Even in the midst of suffering, there is a day coming when all will be made right; a day when we will finally partake in the full glory of Christ.  So, in the meantime, we are to rejoice as we await that day – no matter what we face.

When Peter wrote these words, he was writing to Christians who were suffering greatly under Roman rule.  Our modern context is much different.  Praise God that we live in a country where we are not persecuted by our government for following Christ.  Few (if any) of us will ever lose our jobs, be beaten, be disowned by our families, or not be able to eat because of following Christ.  However, there are many Christian brothers and sisters around the world who are severely persecuted for following Christ.  One application of this text is to remember to pray for them.

But what about us?  We are not persecuted like the early Christians were or like other Christians around world are  today.  But, if we truly follow Christ and His teachings; if we really allow the Holy Spirit to shine in and thru us, then we will experience criticism and loss to some extent.  Loss of status, honor, prestige, and position in our culture.  As we follow Jesus radically, we should expect criticism and loss, and based on Peter’s words, we should not only expect it, but welcome it with rejoicing, knowing that our temporary suffering is a mark of a true follower of Christ and knowing that one day we will be full partakers of Christ’s glory.

Have you suffered criticism and loss for following Christ?  For making a stand for your faith?  For loving those who others don’t?  For responding in a biblical way to conflict rather than joining others in responding sinfully?  For ordering your life according to God’s Word rather than the world’s word?

If so, then let me encourage you with Peter’s words: Beloved, don’t be surprised as if something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

Grandma Takes Down the Internet

Did you hear about the 75 year-old grandma that took down the Internet in three European countries?!  I recently read this story from Fox News…

A 75-year-old Georgian woman was despondent following her arrest and subsequent release for alleged cutting a fiber-optic cable in her poverty-stricken village of Armazi — and causing Internet outages in three neighboring countries.

The woman argued not only that she wasn’t responsible for the outage, but upon being arrested, she said, “I have no idea what the Internet is.”  The damage was apparently so severe that 90% of Armenian users lost access for nearly 12 hours while neighboring Georgia and some areas of Azerbajian were also affected.

Prosecutors suggest she was copper looting – which is a common means of making money in the former Soviet Union. Certain scavengers have been known to dig up hundreds of meters of cable.  If found guilty, she could face up to three years in prison.