Please Jesus, No More SUFFERING!!

It’s hard to find anyone in Christian history who became a great leader without earning an advanced degree at the University of Adversity.

John Bunyan (1628-1688), the author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, grew up in poverty and taught himself to read. As a young man, he struggled with feelings of not being forgiven by God and was tortured by visions of eternal punishment. His devout wife helped him to overcome his fear, but then, while she was still in her twenties, she died of a sudden illness. In his grief, Bunyan devoted himself to preaching. The English government, however, repeatedly imprisoned him for preaching without a license. On one occasion, Bunyan was sentenced to three months in prison, but when he told the officials he intended to go on preaching, his sentence was extended to 12 years. John Bunyan experienced God’s presence in a special way while he was in prison. In fact, it was in his cell that he penned his enduring classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress. It’s a book that could only have been written by a soul that was refined by the fires of adversity.

A. W. Tozer once wrote, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.” God has a mission for your life and mine. But before we can carry out that mission, we will often go through the boot camp of adversity. If this is where you find yourself today, ask God to give you His grace to walk through this time with you. He promised He would never leave or forsake us.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (2 Cor. 4:8-10).

Written by: Os Hillman

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Why Do We Despise Other Religions?

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.”  -1 Tim 2:1-4 NLT

     Many Christian religions today are filled with those who are capitalizing on, “We are the ones living a more out-loud and God fearing life than all the other Christian religions out there”, rather than the pressing issues we are ALL facing as a failing Christian nation.  We, the church, have found ourselves in a sad state of affairs. We waste our time arguing with other Christian religions for our place on top, as if somehow we need to prove our loyalty to God through these actions. In some cases we criticize, mock, or even ridicule other Christian religions for the faults we find in their doctrinal beliefs. All the while, we are only proving our own failing attitudes. The proud Christian flaunts the fact that they are at the top of some kind of religious pyramid, and those who are most like them are toward the top, while those who are the most different are scraping the bottom. The really sad part is, often times this proud Christian even finds pleasure in believing everyone else is going to hell. Sadly, it brings them a twisted sense of satisfaction, because in their minds it only proves their religion to be more right. Yes, no doubt “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32), but the truth without love is nothing more than “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1).

“…If I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.”  -1 Cor. 13:2 NLT

 

Take the Catholics for Instance 

     The fact is, no matter if you and I disagree with their doctrinal beliefs, they are a major help to the Christian world today. How? Well… let’s just ponder these questions for a moment. Who in the Christian world has the loudest voice? The Catholics, and in spite of what us Christians think of them, they use their voice to fight against evil policies that the government tries to force upon us all. Do the Catholics fight against abortion and stem cell research, even though it’s not popular to do so? Yes! Do they fight against same-sex marriage? Yes! Do they fight against the sex slave trade all around the world? Yes! Do they stand against pornography and fight against its production? Yes! Do they still believe and teach that you should wait to have sex until you’re married? Yes! Do they fight against, and do their part to stop world hunger and poverty? Yes! Most importantly, do they believe you should honor God? Yes! Not bad for a religion that we tend to scorn.

 

“They Have Never Helped Me!”

     I can tell you this for sure, the Catholics have helped every Christian religion. If it weren’t for the buffer they provide between us little guys (in number size only), and the world governments, we would all have a fight on our hands to the likes of which we’ve never seen before. The fight would be so immense, not one of us could really stand under the weight of it on our own! We all know that the world governments want to force things upon religion. If the world governments had their way, we would all have to go underground! So if not for the Catholics, with their size and strength, fighting against world governments and protecting the religious freedoms we all enjoy, we would have one massive fight on our hands!

 

“Other Religions Don’t Believe the Right Way!”

     When I hear people tearing down other religions, I’m reminded of the time when Jesus’ disciples came to him complaining about “other religious people’s works”. Jesus had this to say; “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:39-40 NLT). Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not telling you that the Catholics and all Christian religions are doctrinally correct; but I am telling you, we should be thankful for the contributions the Catholics, and other Christian religions, have made in the past few years.

     Could it be that the devil is having his way as he watches us fuss and fight among ourselves about who is more right than whom, as people all around us die in their sin? We need to check our attitudes, because if we don’t love every religious person, no matter what they believe, our own personal religion is in vain. We need to stop tearing down other Christians and start loving what it is we are all truly fighting for! James said in 1:26, “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you” (James 1:26, 27 NLT).

     Unless we put down our rocks of religious pride, learn to love one another and to work together with our fellow brother and sister, there will be strongholds that will never crumble! No matter how much you and I pray! We NEED one another, to love one another, to care for one another, and to pray for one another. How can any man stop believing what he has been taught his whole life and come over to “the knowledge of truth”, when we can’t even practice loving one another first?

     “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”     -John 13:34, 35 NLT

 

  “God, give us a heart to love one another. May we love and be loved by all those who are calling on your name around us. Help us to look past religion and to see people, people who are hurting and confused just like we are sometimes. Forgive us for our religious prejudice and heal our wounded hearts. Make us more like you Lord.”

A Man and a Handful of Seeds

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This is Post number one of the Blog Post Contest. This was written by Sam Al-Saadi on 1/14/12. I know you’ll enjoy it.

“A Man and a Handful of Seeds”

There was a man who was given a handful of seeds. The man brought the seeds home and placed them on his kitchen table. He began to talk to the seeds and tell them it was time for them to grow. He explained to the seeds the process of growth and encouraged them to do what they were meant to do. As the days went by and the seeds remained on the man’s table, the man became frustrated. Why would the seeds not respond to his good teaching and encouragement? He knew the things he was telling them were right. He could not understand the seeds’ refusal to respond. Are not seeds supposed to grow, the man asked himself? I must have been given bad seeds, he thought to himself. In his frustration he became sterner and explained to the seeds that it is was their duty to grow and he told them that they were not living to their potential. For many weeks and months the man continued to teach, encourage, prod, and pray because he knew in his heart that the seeds were meant to grow.

One day a friend of the man came to the man’s home. As the man and his friend were enjoying a conversation, the man’s friend noticed the handful of seeds on the man’s table and asked the man about the seeds. The man told his friend how he was given the seeds and he told his friend everything he had done to make them grow. The friend smiled at the man and spent the rest of the afternoon explaining many things.

The very next day the man went out and found the most fertile soil that he could find. He did just as his friend had said and he brought home both fertilizer and peat to mix with the soil. He found a spot close to a window and placed large pots, which he filled with the most fertile soil, peat, and fertilizer. The sun was shining in the window, bright and clear, as the man placed the seeds in the pots at just the depth that his friend had told him. He watered the soil well and as the days passed he kept the soil watered with just the right amount of water. Two of the seeds never grew but the others began to grow. The man continued to do exactly as his friend had told him and he made sure to water the pots with just the right amount of water; he made sure to keep the room warm, he made sure to feed the seeds with fertilizer, and he made sure that the sun could shine brightly on the pots. The seeds had become plants and the plants continued to grow as the man did all that his friend had said. The plants did not all grow the same, but they all grew. Most of the seeds became very large plants and made the man very happy. Many of the plants even produced fruit, which not only made the man happy, but also tasted very good. The man shared the fruit with all those who came to visit and he loved to tell the story of the seeds and of his very good friend.

You cannot force a plant to grow, a flower to bloom, a fruit tree to produce its fruit anymore than you can an individual Christian or a church to grow. But doesn’t God require growth? In the book of Luke, Jesus told the parable of the barren fig tree. He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’” Luke 13.6-9

There are many examples throughout the Scripture that show God intends that both the individual Christian and the church grow, thrive, and produce abundant fruit. But what if we are not growing, what should we do? I think we all too often look to blame the plant when we don’t see genuine growth. But as the story of “A Man and a Handful of Seeds” illustrates, all it really takes for the seeds to reach their potential is to create the environment that the seeds require. In the right environment, the seeds cannot help but grow; the growth is in the seeds, they were always meant to grow, that is just what they do. So look around at your environment, roll up your sleeves, and get to work. Remember: till and fertilize the ground, provide lots of nutrients, and plenty of sunshine and water.

Pastor, if your church is not growing like it should, don’t look at your members, look at the environment that you’ve put them in. Make it a growth environment and start looking for a bigger building!

He shall be like a tree, planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. Psalms 1.3

Written by Sam Al-Saadi 1/14/12