Why Me, Lord?

My Sunday School class has just finished the book of First Peter, which has a lot of great teaching. While the major theme of the book is suffering (which I’ll get to in a moment), here is a sample of many significant verses:

  1. A definite reference to the trinity (1 Peter 1:2)
  2. Suffering is proof of your faith (1 Peter 1:6-7, 9, 4:12)
  3. The prophets predicted the suffering of Christ (1 Peter 1:11)
  4. We are called to be holy, fear God and love others (1 Peter 1:15, 17, 22, 4:8)
  5. The Word of God abides forever (1 Peter 1:24-25)
  6. We are to be hungry to understand God’s Word (1 Peter 2:2)
  7. We are to be living stones (1 Peter 2:5)
  8. Live with integrity while passing through this life (1 Peter 2:11)
  9. We are to submit to the authorities (1 Peter 2:13-14, 18)
  10. We find favor with God when we suffer for doing what is right (1 Peter 2:20, 3:14, 17, 4:14, 16, 19, 5:10)
  11. Jesus is our example, we are to follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21)
  12. Lifestyle evangelism really is in the Bible (1 Peter 3:1)
  13. God doesn’t hear your prayers if you don’t treat your wife right (1 Peter 3:7)
  14. Always be ready to tell others why you are a believer (1 Peter 3:15)
  15. Jesus preached to the spirits now in prison (1 Peter 3:19)
  16. Just where is Jesus right now? (1 Peter 3:22)
  17. Live for God, not the pleasures of today (1 Peter 4:2)
  18. Exercise your spiritual gift (1 Peter 4:10)
  19. Judgment begins with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17)
  20. Pastors are to shepherd the flock of God (1 Peter 5:2)
  21. Younger men need older mentors (1 Peter 5:5)
  22. We are to humble ourselves before God does it for us (1 Peter 5:6)
  23. We have a spiritual enemy ready to devour us (1 Peter 5:8)
  24. We are told to greet each other with a kiss of love (1 Peter 5:14)

Back to the topic for today:

When we suffer in our lives, we often will think that we did something wrong to deserve the suffering, as if it were some sort of punishment; sort of a cause and effect relationship. While the law of sowing and reaping is very true (Galatians 6:7-8, 2 Corinthians 9:6) and God will at time discipline those whom He loves (Hebrews 12:6), the universe would be quite an unreliable place if God shot us a lightning bolt for every evil deed and triggered some pleasure sensor for doing good. Let’s consider the story of the man born blind in John 9:

“Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” (John 9:2-3)

A common belief in Jewish culture was that bad happenings or suffering was the result of some great sin, but Jesus used this man’s suffering to teach about faith and the glory of God. We live in a fallen world where good behavior is not always rewarded and bad behavior is not always punished. Therefore, innocent people sometimes suffer. Jesus said the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45).

On a larger scale, think about the reason that people follow God. Do they believe and follow God because of what they get out of it, or because He deserves our devotion and it’s the right thing to do? Think it over. Do you follow Christ because He promised heaven at the end of this life? Would you still follow Him even if you knew hell was your final destination? If God took suffering away whenever we asked, we would follow him for comfort and convenience, not out of love and devotion. Regardless of the reasons for our suffering, Jesus has the power to help us deal with it. We don’t go through this life alone.

So, when you suffer from a disease, tragedy, or disability, try not to ask, “Why did this happen to me?” or “What did I do wrong?” Instead, ask God to give you strength for the trial and a clearer perspective on what is happening. First Peter tells us that you will be blessed and rewarded.

Bring Me a Musician

I love 2 Kings 3:15 for several reasons. First of all, my wife is a wonderful minister and musician, so music is such a large part of the worship experiences she leads.

Also, as a church staff, we share prayer requests and concerns in our weekly meetings and one concern involved the proposed new contemporary service. We are praying that God provides a worship leader and musicians to help lead our dynamic new worship experience. So, I guess we’re literally praying for God to “bring me a musician.”

I also love what this verse represents. Music creates an environment where God can speak and we can listen. Here’s the context of the passage (more details are below). Three Kings (of Israel, Judah and Edom) come to Elisha asking for spiritual guidance or a revelation from God (2 Kings 3:12). It seems Elisha is pretty perturbed at Jehoram (2 Kings 3:13, 14) and he feared he might not hear God speaking to him, so he asks for musicians (2 Kings 3:15 ESV).

These were minstrels, players of stringed instruments, like a harp. Somehow the music calmed Elisha and stimulated his spirit in such a way that it unleashed his prophetic gift. This is not the first time the Bible records this sort of soothing music thing, remember Saul (1 Samuel 16:23)? For Elisha, it must have worked because the Bible says: “when the musicians played, the hand of the Lord came upon Him” (2 Kings 3:15).

In church, we need to create environments that foster God’s revelation of himself. We need to put ourselves in places where God can speak to us without distraction. We need to feed our spirits in ways that unleash the gifts of God inside of us. This works in the church, it also works when we are alone with God. We will hear God only as we eliminate distractions. Can music calm the savage beast? We know that music can calm our spirits and helps focus our attention on God speaking to us. Try listening to soothing music as you spend time listening for God’s voice.

Details of This Interesting Story:

  1. An Incompetent King: 2 Kings 3:1-9
    1. Idolatry (2 Kings 3:1-3) Ahab’s son Jehoram becomes the 9th king in Israel
    2. Intent (2 Kings 3:4-8) He convinces Jehoshaphat to fight against Moab, who rebelled against him
    3. Ineptness (2 Kings 3:9) after seven days they are in a place with no water for the army
  2. An Indignant Prophet: 2 Kings 3:10-27
    1. The Request (2 Kings 3:10-12) Jehoshaphat asks Jehoram to seek a prophet’s advice
    2. The Rebuke (2 Kings 3:13-14) Elisha tells them he wants no part of him or even look at him (Jehoram), but agrees to help for the sake of Jehoshaphat
    3. The Reply (2 Kings 3:15-19) God tells him the dry valley will be filled with water
    4. The Red water (2 Kings 3:20-23) In the morning the sun causes the water to look like blood to the Moabites and they think the other armies have killed each other
    5. The Running (2 Kings 3:24-27)
      1. Moab’s Defeat (2 Kings 3:24-25) the Moabites come to collect the spoils of war and then Israel’s army rushes out to kill them
      2. Moab’s Desperation (2 Kings 3:26-27) the king sacrifices his son as a burnt offering; Israel freaks out and they decide to go home.

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We Are Iron Men

People love superheroes, and this season brings back a long awaited sequel, Iron Man 2. This is easily one of the most anticipated sequels of all time, and Tony Stark is back and badder than ever.

Before becoming Iron Man, millionaire playboy/inventor Tony Stark simply cruised casinos, consumed alcohol and amassed sexual conquests as wildly as James Bond. Unlike 007, however, he didn’t stop warlords; he armed them. That is until a missile demonstration ended with Stark’s capture by a murderous Middle Eastern dissident who ordered him to build a weapon of mass destruction. He escaped by using the materials to make tricked-out battle armor. In the process, Stark had the Marvel Comics equivalent of a Damascus Road experience. He repented of his past and pledged to help the very people he’d been hurting, aided by a novel power source and high-tech exoskeleton that conforms to his body Transformers-style.

Something else about Iron Man’s unique origin story makes it special: No radioactive spider bite. No exposure to gamma rays. Stark wasn’t accidentally endowed with new skills. Rather, his heroic journey mirrors an arrogant sinner coming to grips with his own depravity, choosing to change and battle the forces of darkness.

The movie is full of cool gadgets, sarcastic humor, mega-explosions and special effects everywhere. I would just about give my right arm to suit up and dominate evil dudes in Iron Man fashion.

Obviously that is not going to happen, but there is an armored suit available to Christians that in many ways provides the same protection and weaponry, one that lights up the spiritual world like Stark in a village full of terrorists. Here is the description of the conflict we face:

    1. Put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:11)
    2. Defending against the powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:11)
    3. The real struggle is spiritual (Ephesians 6:12)

      The war that Paul describes here is not against earthly terrorists, communists, or anything that is flesh and blood. This conflict is in the spiritual realm – and it is not for the weak or the wimpy. Every day the unseen forces of Satan and his army are arrayed against you. They are firing off the missiles of deception, discouragement, temptation, and opposition, so you’ll give up the battle and your calling.

      We need to make sure that we are properly fitted with this suit from the closet of your soul, so let me walk through the steps that Paul gave us:

      1. First, put on the belt of truth – which means speaking/ living truthfully and with integrity (Ephesians 6:12).
      2. Next, position the breastplate of righteousness – which is living in obedience to God’s will and his Word because He has completely forgiven you (Ephesians 6:14).
      3. Don’t forget the boots of readiness – which is a willingness to share the gospel message with anyone, anywhere, anytime (Ephesians 6:15).
      4. Raise up the shield of faith – which is hiding behind the promises of God when Satan sends a onslaught of lies and temptations your way (Ephesians 6:16).
      5. Protect your mind with the helmet of salvation – which is a constant remembrance that the penalty and power of sin is broken in your life, so don’t believe the negative messages from the devil that you are guilty and worthless (Ephesians 6:17).
      6. Finally, be sure and draw the sword of the Spirit – which is God’s Word (Ephesians 6:17).
      7. Along with prayer (Ephesians 6:18), this is your offensive weapon to strike the heart of the enemy with incredible force. So powerful in fact, that this is the result:

      We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5).

      Picture an army of believers who are protected with the very armor of God and armed with His living Word. God uses this mighty force to stop spiritual terrorism and start a revolution for His cause – making disciples who make disciples!

      We are Men of Steel, and we can choose to be Iron Men, choosing to leave the old life behind, and make ourselves battle-ready for the sake of God’s kingdom. Suit up and make a difference.

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      Who is in Control?

      Part of the Lord’s Prayer mentions, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:13).

      It’s amazing to think about the fact that every act of your life is motivated by a spiritual force. So, the question for today is, “Who is controlling you?” Or we might ask, “What is motivating you?”

      I am a lover of cake! Old classic cake flavors are “Devil’s Food” and “Angel’s Food.” So, aside from the dessert, which sort of food are you feeding your body? What spirit is being satisfied through your soul?

      If the spirit of the enemy is allowed to work in you, then you are grieving the Holy Spirit; something the Bible tells us not to do (Ephesians 4:30, 1 Thessalonians 5:19). Any time you allow the enemy to work his will through your mind or body, you grieve the Holy Spirit.

      The Holy Spirit also desires to use you; He wants to use you for God’s glory and God’s service. The Spirit provides a gift for you to use in the service of God. The Holy Spirit’s purpose is not to dominate you or crush you, but to fulfill you.

      Satan desires to use you for his own purpose, as a pawn in his hand to laugh in God’s face. He desires to use you, abuse you, and then refuse you. You are in a state of living death when you give in to the enemy’s purpose.

      Temptation is Satan’s tool for getting you to do things that you really don’t want to do. Deep inside your spirit, you know that what he is tempting you to do is wrong. The worst and most hardened criminals in our world today know they have done wrong, and they often blame others for their actions. They may act as if they don’t care about the fact that they’ve done wrong, been caught, or are facing serious consequences, but deep inside, they have to know. They knew when they were doing wrong that what they were doing was wrong.

      Satan’s lie is that you have a right to do wrong. Society is at fault. You have a right to get even with society. Your daddy is at fault. You have a right to rebel against him. Your boss is at fault. You have a right to steal from him or cheat him. God is at fault. He made you this way. You have a right to act the way you do because He made you with this temper, this anger, this lust, this desire.

      God’s Word says that you have a right to choose. Joshua said to the Israelites, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve … as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15). You have a right to choose, a free will, a mind that can make a conscious decision. But none of us have a right to sin.

      My challenge today, is to make sure that you are yielding the control of your life only to God. Eat a bit more “angel’s food” and see how your life can change. Imagine how our lives, marriages and families can be different if we totally yield to the will of God.

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      The Reality of the Spirit Realm

      The Men of Steel looked into this topic; how often do we wrestle with God?

      1. The Enemy within Me
      2. God Sparing Your Life
      3. Refuse to be a Target
      4. God Wrestles with You… Alone
      5. Why Does God Wrestle with Men?
      6. The Reality of the Spirit Realm

      For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. — Ephesians 6:12

      I’m doing a funeral this Saturday morning at 11:00 and so I began thinking about life and death issues this week. Just what is man, and why is God mindful of him? (Psalm 8:4) This world is not all there is.

      There is a world about which many of us know nothing about or of which are even aware, but it’s real, and I’m not talking about the Matrix. While skeptics may doubt it, it is more real than the world we can see, touch, taste, hear, or feel. It is the realm of the spirit.

      The most real part of a person is the spirit inside. Men often seem to think the real part of them is their body, but no matter how much you build it up, dress it, or feed it, you are not first and foremost a body. You have a body, but you are a spirit. Your body is a temporary home.

      Men also have a soul. From my research, the soul area of man is where most of the problems occur; this is the area of the mind, the emotions, memories, appetites, and desires. The mind of man, including the mind of the Christian, is often trapped between the physical and the spiritual—flashbacks to memories of the former life in the flesh can fill the mind. The result can be a tremendous wrestling match with each force, spirit and flesh, trying to dominate the other. In fact, it is only when a man receives the Word of God and allows it to transform his mind that he is able to save his mind from the shackles of the flesh.

      There’s more to the spirit realm. Demons are disembodied spirits. They don’t have a body, and they don’t have a soul—they have no mind or will of their own. Their will is totally subjected to the enemy. They are vessels and carriers of Satan’s nature. They are filled with his desires, his lusts, his passions, and his unclean thoughts.

      Because demons don’t have bodies, they are seeking one to inhabit. They are seeking a vehicle through which they can express their lusts and passions for evil.

      Jesus once said to Peter, “Behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat” (Luke 22:31). The King James Version says that “Satan desires to have you…” He was basically saying to Peter, “Satan desires to possess you, to have you, to dominate you.” Men know what it means to lust after a woman in order to have her. I think that’s the way Satan looked at Peter. He lusted after him, that he might completely take Peter’s mind and body—to satisfy his cravings through him. Satan’s demons desire the same thing regarding you…

      • To use your body, your temper, your lust, your passions.
      • To work through the broken places of your childhood to fulfill your starved desires.
      • To possess you so that he might sift you.

      I would guess that before Satan makes a move to have you, he studies you. He learns all he can about you—your moods, your attitudes, your background, your past hurts and painful memories, your private desires.

      He’s like a stalker. You’re under surveillance, and he’s watching for an opportunity to move in to take you. He longs to possess, dominate, control, rule over, and act through you.

      That’s the reason you must walk closely with Jesus. Cling to Him. Become a disciple of Him. Never believe that you can make it on your own strength. David—one of the bravest and most capable men who ever lived—cried out to God, “Hide me under the shadow of your wings.” (Psalm 17:8.) Ask God to tuck you under His wings… which is the only place you will ever feel fully secure.

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