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Called to Suffer

Our message this Sunday, Believers Are…Called to Suffer 1 Peter 2:18-25, is probably one of those which we would all love to skip, but it is imperative that we learn the Full Counsel of God, especially in days such as these!  Remember beloved, we are not stoics and our call to suffering does not mean that we don’t feel pain and anguish…it only means that we know that even in our worst of days, our heavenly Father is still on His throne and everything (yes, I mean everything) is ultimately for our good and His glory!!!  We will still feel hurt, and sadness, and often times the confusion that comes from living on this side of eternity, but God has promised us that His grace is sufficient and that He will be with us always, even to the end of the age.

I mentioned from the pulpit, how deeply I was moved by the blog posts of one of my professor friends wife’s journey with cancer and I that wanted to reproduce, at least her final posting here along with a link so you too can visit it and be blessed.

In His Grace,

Mark

 

Link to Becky’s Blog

Running to Home Base (Heading Home)

Becky Lynn Black

For almost five years you have journeyed with me. Since my diagnosis we have had many turns and unexpected events. But God has worked out His perfect plan as He always does.

Last fall after suffering a stroke, emergency surgery for bowl perforation, and a blood clot we, set aside chemotherapy and tried an alternative treatment. Our hope has never been in any kind of treatment, and our goal has never been to be healed of cancer. Although people sometimes say that we are struggling with cancer, let me set the record straight. I have never fought this cancer. My goal has always been to display Christ to know His calling in the midst of dealing with cancer. We have dealt with cancer as stewards for the Lord Jesus. My body and everything I own belongs to Him as my creator and my redeemer. That fact has colored all of our decisions.

It is now apparent that the alternative treatment is not working against the cancer, and in the last two and half months we have seen a rapid decline in my body. We have a strong sense that I have rounded third base and am headed for home base. So what does this mean to me? Let me share with you four things. First, I have set my heart to praise Him because He is worthy of praise. He is not worthy of praise because I am in good circumstances or bad circumstances. He is not worthy of praise because I feel good or I don’t feel good. He is worthy of praise because of who He is. He is the Lord, High and lifted up. He is the creator and the sustainer of life. He is the redeemer who has made a way for us to God. Because of who He is, He is worthy of praise at all times and in all circumstances, and I have set my heart to praise Him, to worship Him, to honor Him no matter how difficult things may get for my body.

Second, I have asked the Lord to set a watch before my mouth and around my attitude so that I do not complain. I do not complain about when He is taking me or how He is taking me. He is God and He always does what is right and good and according to His perfect wisdom. Who am I to think that I have the right to complain before Him? So no matter how He ordains the days and weeks ahead, I have set my heart not to complain.

Third, like the professional baseball player, I have my eye on home base. I long to be with my Lord Jesus. I long to see Him, and when I come into His presence I will fall at His feet and hold His ankles and kiss His feet over and over and over again. And through tears of joy I will say to Him, “Thank you, thank you, thank you for pouring mercy on me!” The Lord Jesus Himself is on home base waiting for me, and I can’t wait to see Him. And to be with Him for all eternity, never again having to live by faith but instead having the reality of His person right beside me.

Fourth, I am not going to get to home base by just looking at it. I can’t just sit down and wait. Any baseball player runs with all his might to reach that home base. The race is not done. God still has work for me to do. God still has challenges for me to conquer by faith. God still has ministry for me, even as my body is failing. And I want to be faithful all the way to the end. And that means taking every advantage to influence others for Christ. That means pushing through the fatigue, pushing through the pain, pushing through the discomfort to pray, to communicate, to obey the Spirit.

And now my dear friend, I want to say a special word to you. I want to tell you as clearly as I can that there is nothing, nothing, nothing in this life that is worth the cost, and worth the sacrifice, except the Lord Jesus. Everything in life will fail: marriage, children, career, money, prestige, possessions, relationships, all things will turn to vanity. All things will fail you. Only Jesus will never fail. Only Jesus will stand by you in thick and thin, in peace and in turmoil, in feast and in famine, in illness and in health. Only Jesus will never fail. So I want to say to you, my dear friend, give your life to Him, dare to obey Him, dare to live in the reality of who He is, dare to believe that He is who he says He is and that He does what He says. If you will do, this listening to the Holy Spirit as He makes the Scriptures alive in you, then you will have your feet upon the Rock, you will have your shelter in the storm, you will have your reward that does not fade, and you will know the joy of the Savior.

Rejoicing in my Lord Jesus,

Becky

July 7, 2013



Musings, but Not Amusing

I’m not sure how many of you get the Baptist Banner (www.baptistbanner.org) mailed to you each month, but I believe it is an excellent resource for Virginia Baptists. I was recently reading through my copy of the August edition when I came across this excellent article, on standing firm in the faith. I hope that you are as blessed by it as I was…

Pastor Mark

Musings but Not Amusing

by T. C. Pinckney, editor, The Baptist Banner                 Vol. XXVI, No. 7, August 2013

For most of us life is busy. Our days are so packed with work, routine tasks, phone calls, and emails, that we seldom take time to stop and ask ourselves how things look in the long term. We often are so involved with the present that we fail to seriously consider and plan for the future. This is true in our personal lives and also in our faith.

 Likewise, if the church building is in good repair, the choir sings nicely, the sermon is not too long, and everyone is pleasant, we assume that this is what “church” should be like. And so, we tend not to look behind such surface appearances to search out lasting trends. But who would set out to drive from Richmond to San Francisco without a roadmap to help avoid wrong turns? So let’s look at some of the things going on among Southern Baptists and ask ourselves their long range impact.

  Feel-Good

In many, possibly most, of our churches today there is a strong tendency to try to make everyone feel comfortable. Now certainly discomfort is not in and of itself a goal. But on the other hand, coming to Christ depends on change, on growing beyond the natural man and becoming a servant and witness for Jesus. And change is always uncomfortable in some degree.

 Why do so many pastors never preach against abortion, homosexuality, alcohol, gambling, raunchy movies and TV shows, suggestive women’s clothing, bad language? Certainly one reason is they are afraid members will be upset if the pastor preaches against things they enjoy. Why, they might even change churches! And that would hurt the budget and make our church smaller!

 Don’t Offend

Closely related to feel-good is the desire not to offend anyone, not to make him mad. The assumption is that pastors, Sunday School teachers, and the entire church should be loving and accepting, never judgmental. We don’t want anyone to be offended by our beliefs. Everyone should feel equally welcome and accepted.

 Why? Certainly Jesus did not hesitate to offend those who used wrong standards to judge others or decide their own actions. Clearly, we are afraid someone may get mad with us. I am supposed to be nice, understanding, accepting of everyone.

 There is a grain of truth in such reasoning. Christians are not supposed to be unnecessarily offensive. We are to be considerate. But when it comes to teaching and representing God’s truth, we are definitely not to compromise His Word just to make someone feel good or to keep him from getting mad at me. My reputation is of no consequence in the long term; Christ’s truth is everything.

 Grow the Church

Understandably most churches want to grow or at least not decline. And pastors have an important personal interest in maintaining membership numbers. After all, if membership steadily declines, the church budget will decrease and so will the pastor’s salary.

 Second, membership growth is a common measure of pastoral success. It feeds his ego as well as the budget. Indeed, church growth is gratifying to all the members. But how many churches really examine members’ true commitment to Jesus? Various studies assert that large percentages of churchgoers are mere social Christians … attending church just because it’s the thing to do. (Note: A good online place to read more on Christians’ and others’ attitudes is Barna Group.)

 Now, feeling good, not offending others, and growing the church are fine in and of themselves. Certainly we should not seek to feel bad, offend others just to offend, or shrink our church, However, Jesus commanded far different goals.

 He tells us to expect others to be offended by our faith in Christ. Jesus said, “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 10:22) And again, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)

 Everyone needs to be confronted at some point, many people often. We need to stand firmly and not compromise God’s Word. When we see someone opposing Jesus, we need to confront that person … gently, kindly, lovingly, but firmly, never watering down Jesus’ commands. Strong, consistent commitment to Jesus can be costly. You may be estranged from a friend or family member. You might lose your job. Others may mock you or even assault you physically. But carefully note that such hardships are temporal, limited by time, confined to this earthly life.

 In contrast, those who are welcomed to heaven with “Well done, good and faithful servant” will literally spend eternity blessed by God’s glorious presence and the wonderful responsibilities He gives us.

  The Lesson

Do not be dissuaded by men’s words or pressures. Stand firm in the faith. Follow God’s directions, not men’s lies. Do not ignore or dilute God’s commands. Regardless of what the media, some politicians, and many professors say, abortion is murder, homosexuality is an abomination to God, and we are to witness consistently to others. Work to make your church a true house of God.




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