“Regrets? I’ve had a few”

You might recognize those words from one of Frank Sinatra’s hits,
“I did it my way”. I’ve always disliked that song. I thought it was egotistical, an affront to the Face of God, and just plain arrogant.

And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I'll say it clear,
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain.

I've lived a life that's full.
I've traveled each and every highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Regrets, I've had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

If you are like me, you have had some regrets in your life. I have had more than a few, and more than I care to admit. There are a couple of things that I have learned about regrets in life:
First of all, you cannot go back in time and fix it. It is far too late for that. The decisions that you made back then, that felt so good and right at the time, turn out to be something that you will never fully recover from. You can seek forgiveness, and that will help with the healing. But some choices we make, we are bound to live with and that can remain a very hurtful part of your life, for the rest of your days on this earth. It is true in relationships, careers, moral choices, and the list can go on and on.
Secondly, I have discovered that the biggest hurts of all come from the ones you love the most. I have counseled many people in the course of my career, and it is unbelievable how much pain we cause for the ones that mean the most to us. Why is this so true? Why do we hurt the ones we love so deeply? The answer to those questions vary from hurt to hurt. Most of the time it comes from our childish immaturity. We want it our way. And we are willing to do just about anything to have it our way.
As I look at my life, the end is very near. Every day now, I hear of people dying of this or that, who are far younger than I am. And as I perform my duties as a pastor, laying them to rest, I can’t help but contemplate my own life. Because of my great insecurity, I always turn to the things that I messed up. The things I could have done differently or at the very least, better. You see, unlike the song, my regrets are “far too numerous to mention”. I could write a book about my own failures and lack of accomplishment. Too often, I see myself before God, feeling ashamed, trying to hide my face from the One who sees everything.

It is much more difficult to see my successes. They seem so small, so few, and so far in-between. That is what happens to us when we just have to do it our way. It is the oldest trick in God’s book, having it our way. It comes from the pride of the serpent, feeding Eve the great lie of life, “You can have it all, your way.” You get to be God.

It reminds me of a story I once heard:
A young, enterprising store clerk convinced his boss that a ten-cent sale would be a great way to reduce the overflowing inventory. The boss agreed, and the sale was a tremendous success.
This gave the young man an idea: He would open his own store stocking nickel and dime merchandise! So the young man approached his boss and asked him to invest in his idea for a portion of the profits.
The boss said no. He thought the idea was ridiculous, and told the young man, "Honestly, where would you find enough merchandise to sell for a mere nickel or dime?"
The determined young clerk went ahead with his plans anyway.
And eventually, F.W. Woolworth had stores all over the country!
Later, his former boss said with regret, "As far as I can figure out, every word I used to turn Woolworth down cost me about a million dollars."

Do you have some things in your past that you regret? Perhaps it's losing contact with someone you love or holding a grudge. Or losing a relationship that meant all the world to you. Or being unforgiving. The good news of Jesus Christ is that every day is a new day for His followers! His blood has cleansed us from all of our sins and Jesus gives us the amazing opportunity to start anew every day! That's the power of His Amazing Grace!

Thank God for the cleansing power of the cross to erase all your sins.
And then you ask Him to help you with any past regrets you might have.
By His grace you can start anew one day at a time It won’t feel that way at first, but if you are persistent, it can happen. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” --2 Corinthians 5:17 Perdonare Per Diem  - Pastor Mike



I Can’t Wait!

rushing-where
 
 
 
 

A long, long, time ago, Alabama sang a song that 'fit me to a tee':

 

"I'm in a hurry to get things done
Oh I rush and rush until life's no fun
All I really gotta do is live and die
But I'm in a hurry and don't know why.
Don't know why I have to drive so fast
My car has nothing to prove,
It's not new But it'll do 0 to 60 in 5.2
Can't be late, I leave plenty of time
Shaking hands with the clock,
I can't stop I'm on a roll
and I'm ready to rock
I hear a voice That say's I'm running behind
I better pick up my pace, It's a race
And there ain't no room For someone in second place."

 

I remember my mother laughing at me when I was 5 years old and just starting kindergarten (a traumatic life style change for me). My question was very simple. “How long do I have to keep going to school?” After falling apart in laughter, she gently broke the news to me that it would be, at the very least, another 12 years.

 

In my mind, the starter’s gun shot out, & my “race with time” had just begun.

I couldn’t wait to finish kindergarten.

I couldn’t wait to finish grade school and then high school.

I couldn’t wait to finish college. I stumbled out of the starter’s gate & it took me 5 years, but I finally did finish.

By then, I was a follower of Jesus and had my call to full time ministry.

I couldn’t wait to get married and have our own children.

I couldn’t wait to finish Seminary & come back home to California.

I couldn’t wait to get my first church in Kernville.

I couldn’t wait to become an associate up in Yuba City. But after 3 years,

I couldn’t wait to leave.

I couldn’t wait to finish my doctoral studies, but no one seemed to notice.

I couldn’t wait to grow a large church in Orangevale, but it all fell apart right before my very eyes. I wasn’t completely broken, but I was badly bent.

I couldn’t wait to get well, to get my mind right. It is still a battle at times.

I couldn’t wait to get on the “mission field”. After several short term trips,   I couldn’t wait to get into the 10/40 window and reach those yet unreached.

 

I know what you must be thinking. “Now there is a “Type A” Driven man."

And I have no defense for that accusation. As you can clearly see, I have been impatient for most of my life.

The good news is that God has a lot of patience.

2 Peter 3:8-9 NASB

8     But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.

9     The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

 

For people like me, that is incredible. He could have squashed me like a bug, years ago. But His love for me, my soul, my eternity, is so very important. He was (& is) waiting for me to accomplish the task that was assigned to me when I became a follower of Jesus.

 

For me, I just keep prodding and kicking, like a rice farmer in Myanmar, trying to get that beast of burden to move a little faster. Some might say that I am too persistent. There is a big difference between being impatient and being persistent. Impatient people like me worry so much. We are fearful that we might run out of time & thereby miss out on the opportunity. I can see it all now. They are closing the door to the plane that I should have been on. As I race to the terminal gate, I am too late. I missed my connection. And so I worry. Always thinking about what might have been.

Matthew 6:25-34 NASB

25     “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink;

nor for your body, as to what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

33     “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness,  and all these things will be added to you.

34     “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.

 

Life becomes so much sweeter when we allow God to do the leading and directing. He has His own timetable.

 Mike-e1342678172131-150x150

Tempus fugit – Pastor Mike

 



RE-Pent Notes to complete July 19th Sermon

Isaiah 1:18-20
18 “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow.  Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.
19 If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat.
20 But if you turn away and refuse to listen, you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies. I, the LORD, have spoken!”
 
1. What is the Deepest Need of Your Life/Nation Right Now?Hebrews 10:26-31 NLT Christ or Judgment?
a. Honesty b. Faith c. Surrender
Soul Searching
Step 4: Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
 
2. What is repentance?
The Greek metanoia is simply the changing of one’s mind.
The Hebrew word shub (pronounced “shoov”) is more picturesque.
It means turning, as in turning around. the about-face. “Transgression” (pesa) is an act of rebellion or disloyalty.
It is like trespassing where a “No Trespassing” sign is posted.
“Iniquity” (avon) is a crooked or perverse act,
an intentional twisting of legal or moral intent.
“Sin” (hatach) is missing the mark. Here the idea is that even though we want to do God’s will, and even try to do it, we fail—
All sin is against God.
 
3. What does repentance involve? Conditions for Repentance
How should a Christian practice repentance?
Luke 13:1-5 NLT A Call to Repentance
 
4, Understand that repentance is a Work of God’s Spirit
John 16:7-8 NLT “when he comes, he will convict the world of sin…”
We need the Spirit; As we have seen, repentance is a work of grace.
a. the Spirit must teach us the Word of God
Unless the Spirit opens our hearts and minds to the truth of God’s Law, we’ll never be able to appreciate the standards of holiness and justice God.
b. the Spirit having shown us the Law of God, convicts us
of any situations, sentiments, thoughts, or practices in our lives that are contrary to the holiness of the Law of God
c. Spirit takes up another work in us; He begins to make us willing to do what God wants, to live as He desires, to make ourselves
Ezekiel 36:25-27 NLT
d. Finally, Spirit of God enables us to declare our repentance to God. Identify sin: Confess sin: Changed mind about sin:
(I believe this is where I finished on Sunday)
 
5. In order to Understand repentance we must first understand the Mercy of God Romans 4:13-16 NLT
13 Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham
and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law,
but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith.
14 If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law,
then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless.
15 For the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it.
(The only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!)
16 So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift.
And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according
to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s.
For Abraham is the father of all who believe.
We cannot repent until we receive the mercy of God,
shown to us in the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer coined the phrase “polyphony of life” as a metaphor for the various melodies of life that captivate or consume our affections.  The invitation of Christ, he observed, does not come in such a way as to injure or weaken other loves, but always to provide a kind of cantus firmus to other melodies lest they run us adrift or out of tune.  The cantus firmus, which means “fixed song,” is a pre-existing melody that forms the basis of a polyphonic composition. I hear it all the time in my i-tunes collection, some of my favorite old songs, being redone electronically or to a different style of music, swing, jazz, whatever. Though the song introduces twists in pitch and style, counterpoint and refrain, the cantus firmus is the enduring melody not always in the forefront, but always playing somewhere within the composition.

Love of God was the cantus firmus for Bonhoeffer, the soul of the concerto and the clarifying essence for a life of various sounds and directions. “Where the cantus firmus is clear and plain, the counterpoint can be developed to its limits… Life isn’t pushed back into a single dimension, but is kept multi-dimensional and ployphonous as Bonhoeffer would say. (from Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.)

So it should be in our lives, if repentance is real then the mercy of God should resonate in our lives in all that we do. It may take many forms depending on our personality, gifts, and graces. But in the music of our life, the refrain of God’s mercy must be heard in all that we say and do.

It is both brave and essential to listen to the various melodies that hold our lives and shape our affections, and to ask what is the guiding principle (song) behind it all. The invitation of Christ is one that will engage all of life. The fully human Incarnate Son could make no lesser request.
His invitation is that of fullness of life, a diversity of loves and desires shaped and flourishing around a firm cantus firmus . In this love, all things their find their coherence; the broken fragments of lesser songs are remade, re-tuned, and restored. So it is when Jesus is at the heart of our lives, the cantus firmus of His love for us becomes the music or our lives. We begin to see not only our lives, but all of life through the eyes of God’s mercy.

6. Real repentance seeks another path to walk,
One that follows Christ, walks in “all the ways of His commandments.”  We will not repent of our sins until all these conditions are met.  And, as often as they are met, we will repent, and thus discover again the starting-point of saving faith.

Repentance does not earn salvation; (Works)
but no salvation without works that follow our new walk with Christ as Head.

Westminster Confession
“As there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation; so there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.”  Repentance is thus an avenue for great hope, relief, and joy, and a new beginning each day for knowing the salvation of the Lord.
The Confession continues,
“Men ought not to content themselves with a general repentance, but it is every man’s duty to endeavor to repent of his “particular sins” the ones that have captivated his life, the ones whose cantus firmus is of the world. When we begin to practice repentance like this, then the salvation we have in Jesus Christ will begin to flourish.

Repentance unto life!
Without Repentance there is no saving faith, no growth, and none of the good works that characterize true repentance.
Without these we may not expect to see the Lord, to know the righteousness, peace, and joy of His Kingdom, or to be a blessing to others as God intends.

Repentance is a work of grace, a work of God’s Spirit.
We must labor to understand repentance, put ourselves in the conditions where repentance can occur, and seek the Spirit of God to work within us that conviction, grief, willingness, and resolve that lead us through repentance into the fuller enjoyment of our walk with Jesus Christ.

Repentance is the starting-point for faith – for faith that issues in salvation, and for faith that grows in salvation day by day.
Seek the Spirit, and plead with Him to bring the grace of repentance more consistently and more powerfully into your life.  Philippians 2:12-18 NLT Shine Brightly for Christ

7. How does forgiveness happen?
Scraping off the Barnacles
When I was young, from age 3 to 13, we lived in Eureka, California. My mom’s folks lived there and my grandfather was a commercial Fisherman.  His boat was the “Johnson 7” (I never did find out what happened to the first six ) Every once in a while she had to be loaded up on the dry docks for maintenance and prayer. Then you could see the bottom of the boat and all the damage that time and the sea had done. Barnacles were everywhere and had to be scraped off.

How did Job do it? Job 2:7-8
7 Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.
8 And he took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes.
The barnacles of a rough time on the seas of life begin to collect and have their effect on us. Unlike Job, we cannot just scrape them off with broken pieces of pottery. But all of that scraping did nothing for the heart of Job who really felt like God had failed him. Faith in trusting God, without knowing the answers to “Why me?” is the only thing that can heal the hurts.
Job scraped the barnacles off. It was painful! The scars would remain but his life was put back together. Strong belief in God was the medicine.  His wife and his friends could not do it--only God could!  Job said, "I know that thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be with holden from Thee." Job 42:2.

It takes an instant to decide to repent.
2 Samuel 12:13-14 NLT David Confesses His Guilt

But repentance is also a process that takes a lifetime.
Recovery is a process, not an event…we take it one day at a time  Romans 4:17-25

One sinner’s repentance benefits many sinners.
Your Life becomes a witness and a testimony to many – even those who don’t know you, they see you, they hear you, they sense your emotions.  One of the more striking things to confront in each of the four gospel accounts, besides the human Jesus himself, is the reactions people had to Him. When in his presence, some like Mary and the man with leprosy fell instantaneously at his feet, others like the young rich ruler or the people of Nazareth turned away. In his presence some cried for mercy and choices were made, theories adjusted, realities were challenged, affections transformed. For some it took years for them to come around to Christ.

Ironically, those deemed unrighteous and dishonorable by the social standards of the day were often the most responsive to the demands of Jesus. I have often wondered if this was because they were the ones most willing to see themselves without pretense. They are most willing to respond to their own inconsistencies with fear and trembling.
In the presence of Christ, the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda came to see the contradictions he lived with, his broken refrain, and his need for a new song.
The Samaritan woman at the well saw not only that Jesus was speaking truth, but that he was truth, and that his way of life was full of life, while her own had been forced to the sidelines.
Called into the presence of Christ, Zacchaeus saw his ravenous, isolating ways and the great hunger of his life for a different sort of communion.

Veritas vos Liberabit! Pastor Mike



Is Satan Real?

July 15, 2015devil

Most people in America don’t believe that the Devil is real. They believe that he is a fictionalized character coming out of the dark ages and used to frighten people and give them an excuse for their poor behavior. So you have the silly cartoons of the red devil with horns and a pitchfork sitting on your shoulder whispering in your ear to entice you into doing something bad. Of course those who dismiss the devil as fantasy also dismiss Hell as an invention of the church used to frighten people into obedience to them. When asked what the basis is for their disbelief, they have no ground for such denial except for their own feelings, their own thoughts about what ought to be and what ought not to be.

On the opposite side, people are more open to believing in Angels and Heaven because they represent hope for further life after this world, and of course most everyone wants to live forever. Eternity is a concept imbedded in everyone’s heart. But even here, there are a significant number of “enlightenment” people in the western world who dismiss this as fantasy as well, mainly because they don’t want there to be a God who might judge them some day. Most people rest this belief on their feelings as well.
There is nothing better than a happy ending, right?

Frankly speaking, we would know nothing about creation, Heaven, Hell, angels or demons, the life after death, or eternity itself if God who created it all had not chosen to reveal these things to us. The ultimate question is where do you find out the “truth” about creation, life and death, etc.   These are the eternal questions that everyone wrestles with. And there are a myriad of beliefs concerning these issues simply because there are an infinite number of feelings and imaginations concerning the ultimate truths about life. As it turns out our imaginations are quite fertile.

But truth is by definition exclusive. There can only be one truth. It is interesting that academics teach truth in all of science & history, physics and mathematics, but when it comes to eternal truths everyone can have their own truth & they are all true. How illogical and insane. Jesus doesn’t agree with such nonsense. He is clear about Truth. He defines Himself as the Truth about all of life. He is the Truth. His Word is God’s revelation of the Truth. If you want to know the truth about the devil, all you need to do is read God’s revelation of Truth.

 

Satan was created as a holy angel.
Isaiah 14:12 possibly gives Satan’s pre-fall name as Lucifer.
Ezekiel 28:12-14 describes Satan as having been created a cherubim, which is apparently the highest order of created angels. He became arrogant in his beauty and status and decided he wanted to sit on a throne above that of God (Isaiah 14:13-14; Ezekiel 28:15; 1 Timothy 3:6).
Notice the many “I will” statements in Isaiah 14:12-15.

 
Because of his sin, God barred Satan from heaven.
Satan’s pride led to his fall. It is no coincidence that most of our sin revolves around pride, our ego, our desires and wants.

After his fall, Satan became the ruler of this world and the prince of the power of the air (John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2).
He is an accuser (Revelation 12:10), a tempter (Matt. 4:3; 1 Thes. 3:5),
and a deceiver (Genesis 3; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 20:3).
His very name means “adversary” or “one who opposes.”
Another of his titles, the devil, means “slanderer.”

Cast out of Heaven, he has set himself about the task of taking the highest order of God’s creation, humanity, and dragging them down into Hell with himself for all eternity. It is akin to kidnapping a father or mother’s child and making their child’s life miserable for all eternity. I can think of no greater pain in life, than to see a beloved one ripped out from arms of love and cast into the great abyss of evil and darkness. Jesus came to rescue us from that very darkness.

Satan is the ultimate source behind every evil, every false cult and world religion. Satan will do anything and everything in his power to oppose God and those who follow God. Hence the world continues to persecute the true followers of Jesus.

Why is there evil in the world? Simple, Adam and Eve, the head of all humanity, chose to follow the great Deceiver. Separated from God down through history, most of humanity has chosen to serve self, and in doing so they are really following the plan of their father, the author of all evil.
To the degree of their rebellion, is the degree of evil and sin in the world.
Satan’s destiny is sealed with all who follow him, an eternity in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).

Jesus is the only One who can deliver us such slavery & destruction.   It is God’s greatest gift, a miracle of love and salvation for His beloved. Blessed are those who listen to the call of the Great Shepherd and come back to the Fold.

Veritas vos Liberabit!
Pastor Mike


Sheep in the Fold

protecting-the-sheep
I am known for wearing boots and a cowboy hat. I really can’t explain it, except that I just never wanted to grow up. I wanted to be a cowboy. I think I was born a century too late.
At our first church in Kernville, California we were up in the mountains about 3,000 feet off Lake Isabella. It was an old cowboy town and people went there out of LA to retire. It was just natural in that environment to wear cowboy hats & boots. When we left Kernville, I decided to take my boots and hats with me & we have been connected ever since.
 
Here in Sacramento it can bring some confusion to people. They aren’t used to seeing a pastor in boots and a hat. So when I meet a stranger and they ask what I do for a living, I simply tell them that I am a rancher.
They say, ”Do you mean you have steers?”
And I say, “No, I have sheep”.
“How many sheep do you have?” they ask.
And I tell them that I have about 200 head of sheep.
That always intrigues them and they say,
“It must be a hassle to keep so many sheep in line and cared for”.
And I say, “You have no idea how difficult it is!”
Depending on the situation I can keep the charade up for quite a while.
But eventually I tell them that I am a pastor and my sheep are the members of the flock of which God has put me in charge. It can be a lot of fun.
In John 10:1-10 Jesus gives us a parable about the sheep in the sheep fold. At night, the sheep were ushered into a barricaded area, where they could not wander off and the Shepherd could watch over them to keep them from harm. There is great danger out in the world for unprotected sheep.   They have no way of defending themselves and cannot run very fast.   Hence they are easy prey for mountain lions, coyotes, wolves etc. For their own good and safety the sheep need to be penned in from the dangers of the world.
But the sheep aren’t the smartest of animals. The sheep do not know that they are penned in for their own safety. They do not appreciate the fence at all. They want to be free to graze and roam wherever they would like. They are not content with the food provided in the enclosure, they are more interested in getting out, getting free. They are oblivious to the dangers of the world. So they spend their time looking for a hole in the fence, even the tiniest crack were they might be able to squeeze through and escape their captivity.
And so it is with the people of the world. They don’t like the “sheep-fold” that God has created for their own good. They think they know better than the Good Shepherd. They want to set their own fences. rules and guidelines. In essence, they don’t like God and His way, they want to be god and create their own way. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, God gave them everything but one thing. But they wanted to be like God and have that one thing. We see the results of their fatal mistake in the world today.
Why is there so much unrest and anger and hatred and crime in the world? Basically it is because people aren’t happy with God’s rules, they want to be free and establish their own way of life totally ignoring the ways of God.
They genuinely dislike the God of the Scriptures. They detest Jesus and His claims as the Savior Messiah who came to deliver them from evil. In fact they are so rebellious that they have taken what God has called bad and malevolent, and they call it good and glorious. There can only be one tragic end to such a scenario. The wolves of the world will devour them. They have sown the wind and now are about to reap the whirlwind. It is only a matter of time.
May God have mercy on them and their misguided lives. May God have mercy on America, for those rebelling against God will take the whole country down.
Praise God that our first allegiance is to His Country, His Kingdom and His Glory. Regardless of what happens to this country, the very best is yet to be for those sheep who are content to live in the fold of the Good Shepherd.
 
May He come back soon and straighten things out.
Maranatha, Pastor


The Suffering of Jesus

resurrection morning

It was just after Jesus had raised Lazarus from the grave.  People were excited.  Certainly this man was the Messiah who would restore Israel.

The Pharisee’s were angry and fearful that Jesus might cause a rebellion in which the Romans would flatten them.  They decided that Jesus must die and on that day He became public enemy number one.  He had to hide out for a few days.  If He was going to die, He would be the one to orchestrate that whole narrative, not the Pharisees.  Six days before the Passover, Jesus comes back to Bethany to have a last Sabbath dinner with His good friends, Martha, Mary and Lazarus.  The “cat was out of the bag”.  People flocked to Bethany to see Jesus & also Lazarus who was giving testimony about his coming back from the grave.

     The next day, the 1st day of the week (Sunday), the day we refer to as the triumphal entry, Jesus, the “outlaw”, came out and openly entered Jerusalem with a crowd of Jubilant Israelites welcoming their King.

“Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel.” (John 12:13) They were convinced that Jesus was about to re-establish the Davidic Kingdom and remove the Roman domination.

(That great welcome would swing 180 degrees a few days later when Jesus didn’t deliver what they wanted)  The Pharisees were powerless to stop Him, he was much too popular on that Sunday.

John records the events of the next few days, but strangely “omits” what took place on Wednesday.  Sometime on Tuesday Jesus says

John 12:27,28

27     “Now My soul has become troubled;

and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’?

But for this purpose I came to this hour.

28     “Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven:

“I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”

Soon it is Passover night, the moon is full.  Jesus celebrates His last earthly Seder with His disciples.  Afterwards, they cross the brook Kidron and head up to the Mount of Olives where Jesus would spend His final free hours in prayer and in agony.  He had prayed here many times before, but we often don’t hear the content of His prayers.  Luke 22:39-44 tells us that He was in so much agony that his sweat “became like drops of blood” Modern medicine surmises that under extreme conditions of duress, capillaries in the head burst forth drops of blood literally pouring out of the skin like perspiration.

It was while being in this state of agony, thinking forward to the excruciating pain (literally “out of the cross pain”) that was waiting for Him that He was praying so fervently.

What was so agonizing for Jesus?  The pain that He was about to undergo?  The disciples asleep and soon to be forsaking Him?  Maybe He was focusing on the sin of the entire world (from the beginning of creation to the end of time).  He was about to pay the ultimate price for all of that sin.

Our sin would be placed on Him, so that we might receive His Glory.

     Whatever the reason for His agony, we see that Jesus who is fully God,

is at the same time fully man.  Here, His humanity is on full display.

In Matthew 26:38-39 we see more of His nightmare into which He is freely walking. He didn’t have to do this. It was the Father’s will, but it was His choice.

“I am deeply grieved, to the point of death.

Then he prays to God, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me;

yet not as I will, but your will be done”

Pause to reflect on Jesus suffering and how he handled it.  His suffering was not pointless nor was it needless.  Neither is ours.  Each of us has our own “Via Dolorosa” (the way of suffering).  And just as Jesus was the Son of God, we too are His children (though obviously not like Jesus, the 2nd person of the Divine Trinity).  But none the less, we are God’s family.   He does not cause our suffering.  That is the business of the evil one.  But when He does allow us to suffer you can be sure that it is not needless or pointless.

As author Kim Reisman has noted, “The truth is that the Jesus way isn’t about God taking pain away from God’s people; it’s about God providing us with strength, courage, and meaning, with abundant life, often in the midst of pain.”(1)

         In American culture there is a different perspective on suffering. In our pursuit of happiness and pleasure, it should never happen.

When it comes we are quick to categorize it as an accident, just a bit of bad luck.  It could have happened to anyone, but unfortunately for you, your number came up.  It is simply the order of nature.  There is no rhyme or reason to it.  Richard Dawkins and his ilk tell us that life is empty, pointless, futile, a desert of meaninglessness and insignificance.  Just like the rest of the world, (“red in tooth and claw”), our suffering is a part of the evolutionary process.  Tough luck, too bad, so sad!

         Thank God for Jesus Christ!  He tells us and shows us that suffering can and does have purpose and meaning.  Ultimately God is on the Throne and He will have the last word.  In the end, Jesus is resurrected to sit at the right hand of God. But His suffering and death, far from meaningless, provides our way out of sin and death.  He reunites us (the prodigals) with the Father.  He walked the Via Dolorosa, and so must we take up our cross.

I wonder what the purpose and plan for our pain might be.

Surely God knows, and that is enough.

         Coram Deo – Pastor Mike

(1) Kimberly Dunnam Reisman, Following At a Distance

(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2005), 75