Don’t Be Surprised

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Greetings In The Name Of The Lord:

1 Peter 4:12-14 (NLT)
12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. 13 Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. 14 So be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you.

Recently I have been doing a lot of thinking about things that are happening in the world. More importantly, I have been examining my response to our current state of affairs. Just a few weeks ago and I attend a concert by Glen Kaiser, formerly of the Resurrection Band. He said some things that have caused me to re-think some of my responses. He said that when he gets on social media sites these days all he sees are a bunch of angry Christians. Furthermore, he raised the question, “What did we think was going to happen? Did we really think that everyone was going to think like we do and that everyone was going to love us?” His point seems to be very valid, and, dare I say, very Scriptural. It is clear from the reading of the New Testament that Jesus and the early Church did not expect that everyone was going to agree with them, and they certainly didn’t expect that everyone was going to love them! Let’s take for example what Peter had to say. He tells us not to be surprised at the fiery trials we are going through, and not to think that it was strange or out of the ordinary. Moreover, where as we get angry at the circumstances surrounding the Church today, Peter tells us to be happy about it. Rather than being surprised about persecution, Peter tells us to expect it and be thankful for it. Someone a little more contemporary to ourselves, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man who knew a little about persecution, had this to say, “Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work. ‘The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared’ (Luther).” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community. So we need to ask ourselves are we going to hide ourselves away from and be angry with those who are persecuting the Church, or are we going to engage them with the love of Christ? I know that Jesus would engage them with the truth in love!

In Christ,
Pastor Mark

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The Confessing Church

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Greetings In The Name Of The Lord:

James 5:16 (NLT)
16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

James tells us to confess our sins to one another, but who really feels comfortable telling someone else our deepest struggles? Many of us do not have anyone in our lives with whom we would feel confident in sharing our weaknesses. Let’s be honest, we would fear either condemnation or that our secrets would hit the rumor mill. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book Life Together, writes, “Why is it that it is often easier for us to confess our sins to God than to a brother? God is holy and sinless, He is a just judge of evil and the enemy of all disobedience. But a brother is sinful as we are. He knows from his own experience the dark night of secret sin. Why should we not find it easier to go to a brother than to the holy God? But if we do, we must ask ourselves whether we have not often been deceiving ourselves with our confession of sin to God, whether we have not rather been confessing our sins to ourselves and also granting ourselves absolution…Who can give us the certainty that, in the confession and the forgiveness of our sins, we are not dealing with ourselves but with the living God? God gives us this certainty through our brother. Our brother breaks the circle of self-deception. A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community). Why can’t we accept one another the way God accepts us, as is? As Paul writes in his Letter To The Romans, “Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory” (Rom. 15:7). Jesus died for us while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8), why can’t we do the same for our Christian brothers and sisters?

In Christ,
Pastor Mark