SOMETIMES YOU WILL SEE YOURSELF WHEN HELPING OTHERS

by Canon Mark A. Pearson

The Best of Times and the Worst of Times

“Well, it was the best of times and the worst of times,” Pam said.

No, the occasion of her saying this wasn’t a recital of opening lines of books by Charles Dickens.  [The quote, of course, is the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities (1859).]

Pam was answering a question I posed: “You’ve been serving as an apprentice on our Friday Evening Healing Service ministry team for a year now.  How would you describe your experience?”

When she gave her answer I was intrigued.  Why would she say that?

“Like you had taught us, we would sometimes see ourselves in the lives of people with whom we were praying,” she said. “What they told us would sometimes trigger things in us, and sometimes that would be negative.  Things from the past did come up in me and working through it was ‘the worst of times.’  But in most cases the things were taken care of and I have a freedom I haven’t enjoyed in years.  Because of this, I’m now in ‘the best of times.’”

“So it was worth it?” I queried.

“Oh, yeah!” she replied.

This is a Lesson for All of Us

While Pam was describing her experience of serving on a church-based ministry team,  this  principle  of  seeing  ourselves in those we are attempting to help applies to any of us in the service of others.  If we ignore this truth we may be robbing ourselves of a God-given opportunity to get rid of inner hurts which harm ourselves, and through us, others.  Difficult as this process might be, remember, God’s desire in this is to help, not hurt us.  Done with His grace, the help of others and our own diligence, we will be able to say, with Pam, that life has now become “the best of times.”

There are, I believe, at least three ways our encounters with others can trigger things in us.

First: Life’s Difficult Questions

When someone asks us a tough question about God and His world we may not know what to say.  In some cases, we have heard this question before or raised it in ourselves and sense the answer would be painful.  So we have conveniently been ignoring the matter.  But now, someone, often with some emotion, has posed the question directly to us.  How will we respond?

If we don’t know the answer, we’re tempted to mumble some shallow platitude.  This does not satisfy the questioner either intellectually or emotionally.  It often makes it appear that Christianity is intellectually shallow with nothing to say to the real hard questions of life.

Or, we could say, “I don’t know.”  Honest, but not helpful.

The best reply, of course, is, “I don’t know, but I will find out and get back to you with the answer.”

How we get the answer is crucial.  The questions we’re likely to be asked have been asked repeatedly through the centuries and wise Christian leaders have given answers that are biblically faithful and pastorally helpful.  Do your homework.  Consult this wisdom. Don’t just grab a few Bible verses as your answer.

The #1 question people ask is, “Why did God, Who is supposed to be powerful and loving, allow that tragedy to take place?”  Often the question is not merely intellectual.  The person posing it may have suffered the loss of a loved one. And may be angry at God.  You may be troubled over this question yourself.

Second: Their Sin and Yours

A second way in which you may see yourself in a person coming for ministry is in the area of sin.  Someone has come to you, feeling guilty for a bad habit, and wants your help in giving that sin over to God for His forgiveness and for help in breaking the habit.

The problem is, that very sin of which she’s repenting is one you not only commit but have no intention of ceasing.  What do you say to her?

You could minimize or even deny that what she’s been doing is wrong.  In so doing you are, of course, not giving God’s word to her; you are giving something against God’s word to yourself.  That’s spiritual malpractice.

You may justify this by saying, “I don’t want to be hypocritical.”  That’s an excuse!  (Consider preaching.  Is the task of the preacher to challenge the listeners merely to the level he’s attained, or is his job to challenge the listeners and himself to a higher level?)

Instead, you give the Biblical answer that, yes, that particular habit is against God’s will (sin), and that a sincere confession of it with an equally sincere desire to change, demonstrated by appropriate actions, yields divine forgiveness.  If she asks you for specific guidance in how to break a bad habit, give godly wisdom and if you don’t have it, go get it.

And then make a mental note that you have to follow the truth you just gave her.

God often likes to send people across our path in the way just outlined to help us recognize and deal with our sin.  (Read the story of Nathan and King David in 2 Samuel, chapter 12.)  He does so not to rub our noses in our sin but that we may appropriately deal with it, for our sakes as well as His and that of others.

Third: Their Hurts and Yours

A third way in which you may see yourself in a person coming for ministry is in the area of emotional hurt.

Jim was just beginning his apprenticeship on our healing team.  The first person coming up for prayer was Steve who told us his daughter had drowned in a swimming pool accident five years previously.

He told us, “I didn’t want to do the heavy emotional work of grieving so I bottled myself up under the guise of ‘wanting to be strong for my family.’  Repressing my feelings has been tearing me up and hurting my family.  I have to start grieving.  Please help me.”  He started to sob.

Jim, our apprentice, started crying.  He had lost a son in a car crash four years previously and had similarly bottled up his emotions.   Steve’s comment and sobbing broke, as it were, Jim’s bottle.

We postponed the start of Jim’s apprenticeship so we could adequately help Jim with his need to go through the grieving process.  Jim later told us had it not been for Steve coming up for prayer, he would have continued to avoid grieving, and “eventually it would have really taken a toll on me and my loved ones.”

“It was painful to be thrown suddenly into that situation,” Jim said several months later, “but I’m glad it happened.  It was difficult but I’m better for it.”

Like that other apprentice Pam had said, “Well, it was the best of times and the worst of times.”

If you minister to others please be aware of the dynamics of seeing yourself in some of the people whom you seek to help and then be ready for what happens next.”  +

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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HELP US BY GIVING A BRICK OR A PAVING STONE

Building 2 - Give a brick - stone

 

It has been your donations over the years that have helped this ministry bless God and help people.  Donations to THE OPERATING FUND maintain the office, pay Canon Mark a salary, help churches that might not afford a conference led by a distant speaker to have one, and make possible the printing and mailing of this Newsletter.  THE BUILDING FUND has enabled us to buy 7+ acres of land, erect the first building (medical, counseling and massage rooms, business offices), and erect The Meeting House (for worship and conferences).  We still have some work to do to finish The Meeting House and we are already making plans for The Residence (where people can come and stay on retreat, or for ministry.)  Would you help us, please?

Would you consider a donation at this time?  It can go entirely to The Operating Fund, entirely to The Building Fund, or to both — please specify how much you want to go to each. For a donation of $200-599 we will place a brick on a walkway; for $600 and above a paving stone.

Let us know what you would like carved — a thanksgiving, honoring  a loved one, your name, a Bible verse, or some-  thing funny.  BRICKS  can hold three (3) lines  of up to thirteen (13)  characters; PAVING STONES seven (7) lines of up to thirteen characters.  Thank you.

SHOULD WE BELIEVE IN HELL?

From the Newsletter of Institute for Christian Renewal Volume XXXVI Number 6 – Spring 2016.  The article is (c) Copyright, 2016, Institute for Christian Renewal.  Express written permission to duplicate it for non-commercial purposes must be requested by emailing us at canonpearson@yahoo.com.   

 

by Canon Mark A. Pearson

 

Christ the Controversialist

All religions and philosophies throughout the ages address basic issues our hearts and minds raise.

This does not mean they give the same answers.  Those who so glibly state that “all religions teach the same thing” have never studied the various religions of the world.  If they had studied them they would know that the answers given by various religions differ significantly.

This is important.  As intellectual historian and political philosopher Richard M. Weaver, Jr. (1910-1963) noted, “Ideas have consequences.” Give a wrong answer to a question and bad, perhaps dire, consequences will follow.  Just think how this is true with medical decisions or whether the traffic light is red or green.

Jesus came make the atoning sacrifice for our sins so we can be saved.  He came to inaugurate God’s Kingdom on earth and to exhort people to be godly.

But He also came to teach basic, foundational truths about reality.  English Anglican priest and author John R. W. Stott (1921-2011) called Him “Christ the Controversialist,” not just because He was a controversial figure (although He certainly was), but because He engaged in controversies about basic things.  He had the presumption to state that His answers were the definitive ones, that He was “the truth” (John 14:6) and that it was the truth which made people free (John 8:32).

 

The Hell-fire Preacher Is . . .

With that in mind let us look at the issue of Hell.

Some people think that St. Paul hijacked Jesus’ teachings and twisted His message of love into something far different.  More than one person has said to me, “God saves everyone.  No one is going to Hell except maybe a Hitler.  Isn’t that what Jesus taught?  Wasn’t it Paul who messed up the New Testament?”

The unequivocal answer to these questions is a loud and resounding NO!  The fact is, the greatest preacher of Hell in the Bible is Jesus.

First, let’s prove that point.  Then let’s look at why Jesus was so earnest about teaching about Hell.  Finally, we’ll examine why the truth about Hell matters (or should matter) to us today.

 

  1. Did Jesus Teach about Hell?

Jesus warned His hearers about Hell in two different ways.    The first way was to contrast Heaven and Hell with various either/or illustrations.  Besides making it clear there are two final (and opposite) eternal destinies, each of the four illustrations listed below adds a detail or two to our understanding.

Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25:31-46).   The sheep will “inherit the kingdom” (verse 34) but the goats will be ordered to “depart . . . into the eternal fire” (verse 41).  Sheep were those who ministered to the practical needs of genuinely needy people (verses 40-43).  While we are not saved by our good works, our profession of faith is authenticated in part by how we respond to the Lordship of Christ because “faith without works is dead (James 2: 14-17).

Wheat and Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30).  At the time of the harvest the wheat is to be gathered into the master’s barn (heaven) but the weeds are to be bound into bundles “to be burned” (verse 30).

The sobering truth of this can be illustrated by a comparison of airplanes and their destinations.  Some people suggest that everyone is on the airplane bound for heaven, only some do not know it.  Believers receive more blessings now because they pray for them.  It’s like they’re sitting in first class on the ‘plane.  Non-believers are crammed into second class and only later discover they’ve arrived at the same airport.

But Jesus teaching is quite the opposite.  Continuing the airplane analogy, believers land at the airport of the wonderful city called heaven while non-believers are in a different plane which crashes and burns.

Wise and Foolish Bridesmaids (Mat-thew 25:1-13).  The bridesmaids who were ready went into the wedding banquet but the door was shut to the rest.  The Lord of the feast would not open the door to them because, he said, “I do not know you.” (verse 12).

If the illustration of sheep and goats teaches us that good works are necessary to prove our salvation, the illustration of the wise and foolish bridesmaids teaches us that being good and doing good by themselves do not yield salvation.  One has to know Jesus as personal Lord and Savior to be saved.  Grace is what saves.

Lazarus and The Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31).   Both men died.  Lazarus was carried “to Abraham’s bosom” (verse 22).  “Dives” (as tradition calls him) was “in agony in these flames” (verse 24).  Between the two places “a great chasm has been fixed” so that people cannot cross from one place to the other (verse 26).  In this Jesus is teaching there is no second chance for salvation after death.

So then, the first way Jesus warned about Hell was by employing various either/or (heaven/hell)  illustrations.  The second way Jesus warned about Hell was by exhortation.  Let’s look at just two:

In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus used a figure of speech to indicate it was better to lose an offending (sinning) body part (eye, hand) than to be thrown “into hell” (Matthew 5:27-30).

He told His hearers not to fear those who could merely kill the body, but the One Who “can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

 

Did Jesus Really Say All This?

What are we to make of these teachings on Hell the Bible says come from Jesus?

Some might say that they were added later on by a mean, nasty Church.  But there’s no evidence the manuscripts of the New Testament were tampered with.  There were no cries of, “My grandfather heard Jesus teach and he schooled me in His teaching, and the manuscripts floating around are wrong in what they quote Jesus as saying.”

Others might say that a belief in Hell is inconsistent with a God of love.  But all that says is those objecting have defined love differently from Jesus.

While most people today do not craft idols of stone, some do craft intellectual idols.  They have an idea of what God should be like and what love really means and when the Bible teaches something else they conclude the Bible is wrong and not themselves.

I’ve been following the political scene quite closely this year.  One of the people still in the running (as of March 28) for President was asked why her position on a particular moral issue did not square with what Scripture has for centuries been understood to mean.  Her comment was, “If a religion teaches something else [than what I have been saying], then we need to change the religion.”  Really?

Such an attitude reminds me of medical patients who, upon hearing bad news from the doctor, respond, “Oh what does the doctor know?”  Or the little child who doesn’t want to be seen by the mess he just made, covering his face with his hands saying, “You can’t see me.”  Just because we wish Jesus didn’t say something doesn’t mean He didn’t.  And when it comes to eternal lostness in Hell, He said it over and over again.

 

  1. Why Was Jesus So Earnest in Teaching about Hell?

 Why did Jesus talk about Hell so often?  The answer is simple: He knew that Hell is real, that many people are heading there, that it’s a place of eternal lostness with no further chance of escape, and that He doesn’t want people to go there.

He knows these things because, first, He is God from all eternity.  He knows them, secondly, because His painful trip to the Cross was necessitated by our sins and their need for atonement, lest we go to Hell.  Jesus’ trip to the Cross was not the sad end to the life of one who bucked the establishment once too often.  It was the culmination of the plan of salvation.

Why did He use such graphic language?  Because of the urgency.  By analogy, I speak with a gentle voice when I tell people that the kind of peanut butter I like is, “in my humble opinion,” better than everything else on the market, but I speak with urgency and animation when I warn them of a clear and present danger.  I would say, “I think Teddy Peanut Butter is better than Skippy” a whole lot differently than I would say, “Your house is on fire.  Get out now!”

The Romans occupying the Holy Land regularly crucified people and their agony was visible for all to see.

This is why He cried out to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane that “this cup” (of His going to the Cross) would “pass from me” (Matthew 26:39).  But because the Cross was the only way our sins could be paid for, Jesus was willing to do it.

The stakes for Him were high, but He would rise from the dead on the third day.  But the stakes individual people are much higher, because if one does not receive Jesus’ atoning sacrifice for sin, he or she will spend a lost eternity as a goat, a weed, a foolish bridesmaid or that rich man, Dives.  Jesus’ urgency is because He knew (and knows) the danger of eternal Hell for those not saved.

 

  1. Why Jesus’ Teaching About Hell Should Matter to Us Today

First, about us.  Are you trusting Christ for your eternal salvation?  Our hope for heaven is not based on how good we are and how much good we do — important as these things are.  One prayer many of  us remember saying starts, “We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies” (Book of Common Prayer, page 337).  If you have never humbly asked Jesus to be your hope — your only hope — for heaven, say yes to His free gift of eternal salvation right now.

Second, about others.  People you care about — family members, neighbors, schoolmates, fellow workers, and people at your hobby club or fraternal organization — all need to know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior so they can spend all eternity in Heaven.  Remember, the difference between sheep and goats is not between going to the same end place only in different levels of comfort along the way.  There are two final, permanent destinations.

What should we do?  First, make a list of those people you really want to come to Jesus for salvation.  (Of course we should want everyone, but too often when we think about everyone in general we don’t think about anyone in particular.)  Put this list in a place you will easily and frequently see.  Pray for these people at least once a day.

Second, ask God to give you opportunities to talk with them about the Lord.  As long as you’re gentle (but persistent) and talk about things in addition to the Gospel / Jesus / Church, you won’t do harm.  Too often we are so afraid of saying the wrong thing we say nothing.

Third, when we talk about the Lord we speak of (a) basic things of the faith (for example, the little booklet “The Four Spiritual Laws”), and (b) what God has done in our lives.

Fourth, invite them to Church.  Don’t just ask them to come with you “some time,” but set a date and pick them up in your car, and sit with them there.  What an incredible joy when you see someone you care for come to salvation.+

 

Jesus Calms the Storms

First, take several minutes to read over carefully Mark 4:35-41.

Jesus and the Storm

Jesus, with several of His disciples, were in a boat on the lake when a violent storm arose. This often happened and no doubt everyone knew stories of lives lost. There was great fear on the part of the disciples. Jesus calmed the storm and asked them why they had such fear. Did they not have faith?

We all have storms in our lives that cause us fear. These storms include serious health problems, financial difficulties, estrangement from loved ones, uncertainty of the future and the like.

Jesus and Our Storms

Jesus is not some absentee deity Who taught doctrinal truth, modeled holy behavior and made atonement for sin two thousand years ago on earth only to retire from active involvement with people until His second coming some time in the future. He is actively involved in the storms of our lives, but in different ways. How is He involved?

1. God keeps some of the storms from happening in the first place. Periodically we hear on the news how a certain terrorist plot was thwarted before it could be carried out. Occasionally a spokesperson adds, “There are many such plots thwarted ahead of time that you will never hear about.”

God’s gracious protection keeps many bad things from happening to us. Things going well? Is this just a coincidence of life? A friend of mine likes to say, “A ‘coincidence’ is when God works behind the scenes so as to remain anonymous.”

2. God allows the storm to happen but will calm it when we call out to Him. James reminds us, “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). This does not mean firing off a quick prayer expecting an automatic and immediate response. Nor is prayer to be seen as some lucky charm mechanically done without the involvement of our heart, mind and will. The Bible does not so much ask us to “believe in” prayer; it asks usto pray and to do it earnestly and rightly.

3. God allows the storm to continue but walks with us through that storm. Many theologians wisely speak of the “now but not yet nature of God’s Kingdom.” That is to say, while Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of God on earth in a new and special way, and while there are many blessings and “miracles” in that newly inaugurated Kingdom, that Kingdom is not here in its fullest and will not be until He returns at His Second Coming.

When God, for reasons known to Himself, does not choose to calm the storm we are in, He does offer to walk with us through the storm. David knew this. He wrote, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou are with me” (Psalm 23:4).

4. God allows the storm for a good purpose. God is not the author of evil. People have the free will to make choices, some of them disastrous to themselves and others. While God could remove from people the ability to make such choices, to do so would be to remove our free will. Were this to happen, all the choices we make, including the kind and loving ones, would not really come from us at all. We’d be programmed to act.

Nature, too, is fallen. Bad storms, wild animals and earthquakes kill people. God will deal with this when Jesus returns at His Second coming to make the new heavens and earth.

What God often does is to work good out of the evil or careless deeds of ourselves and others and the calamities of fallen creation. A biblical example can be seen in the life of Joseph (“Joseph and the coat of many colors”). His brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. Years later Joseph held a high position. His brothers went to Egypt to buy food because Israel was wracked by a famine. He was in an ideal position to help his family and refused to allow himself bitterness or vengeance. He said to them, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good to bring it about that many people should be kept alive” (Genesis 50:20).

Or think of the person who was downsized out of a job. While no one meant evil by this, nonetheless it is a storm all too many people have to face. I know many who took such opportunities to make that career change they had only talked about but never attempted.

5. God allows the storm to continue but offers us His peace in the midst of it. I remember as a 5-year old a hurricane passing over out house in Leominster, Massachusetts. It was the worst storm I had ever experienced, but then suddenly all was calm outside. My parents and maternal grandparents went outside and I was allowed to ride my tricycle, “but only for a few minutes,” they told me. When I asked why they explained we were in the “eye” of the hurricane — that while the storm was raging all around us, with fierce weather not that many miles from us in all directions, we were safe in the eye.

God’s peace is like that. Paul calls it the “peace of God which passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). The reason is simple. Inner peace makes perfect sense when all is going well; inner turmoil makes perfect sense when things are not going well. But what does not make sense — apart from our abiding in Christ — is to be at peace when things are going badly. Such peace “passes all understanding.” It is not “denial;” it is genuine.

We see this point illustrated the end of Romans 8. Paul talks about tribulation, distress, persecution, famine and the like. While God sometimes removes them, sometimes He does not. Paul continues, “in these things we are more than conquerors” (Romans 8:34-37). Note, in these things, not always by their removal are we more than conquerors.

6. God even allows some to die young, but gives eternal victory to those who die in Him. It is a terrible fact that sometimes people die young, sometimes through no fault of their own. If this present life on earth is all there is, we would conclude that God is very unfair.

But this life is not all there is. An eternity awaits Christian believers, eternity in terms of duration — it lasts for ever — and in terms of quality — it is perfect. Therefore the Apostle Paul, no stranger to adversity, could conclude, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

What is Our Response to the Storms in Our Lives?

(based on the six ways God is involved in the storms of our lives, listed above)

1. Regularly thank God for unknown storms He has kept from happening. Make this a regular, intentional part of your daily prayers. Offer prayers and practical help to those who protect us.

2. Pray that God takes your storms away, but make sure you pray in a biblical way. There is a teaching floating around that whenever we face something unpleasant we should just “claim the victory,” commanding the problem go away. Some have even added, “and hold God accountable that He does this.” Really?

First, don’t ever speak to God that way.

Second, what if God is allowing the storm to work a blessing?

Paul tells the Romans we are to rejoice in our sufferings, “knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us . . .” (Romans 5:3-5a).

Don’t stand with those who make us feel guilty if we don’t successfully “claim” the immediate removal of the storms in our lives. Stand with Jesus. He had seen many people crucified and knew how horrid it was, so He asked the Father to take that “cup” away from Him. But knowing God the Father is much wiser, He added, “Nevertheless, Thy will be done” (Luke 22:42).

3. Draw closer to God. The tendency of many people is to get angry at God — “why did He allow that to happen!?” — and withdraw. But if there is a storm present we need Him all the more. God is willing to walk with us through it.

God didn’t hurt you so do not pull away from Him. His arms are not extended so as to abuse you but comfort you. Spend more time with Him in prayer, Bible reading, worship services and fellowship with other believers.

4. Work to see what purpose there might be in this storm you’re going through or what blessings might come out of it. Don’t latch on to some strange interpretation of events or some bizarre purpose of them. Be diligent in your discernment and involve others of proven spiritual maturity to help you. I knew a man who was downsized out of his job at age 57. His immediate conclusion was, “Great! Now I can stop working and devote all my time to my rose bushes.”

While this could possibly have been the good coming out of his loss of employment, he grabbed that conclusion too automatically, without praying it through, without the wisdom of others, and without the agreement of his wife (husbands and wives are subject to one another because they have become one — Ephesians 5:21-31). His family could get by without his full former income but the wife’s income alone could not support an unpaid rose bush hobby.

5. Seek God’s peace. Not much will happen by merely acknowledging that God will bestow His peace. We must seek it. But how?

First, by humbling ourselves before God. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Admit the storms of life have you in distress and that you cannot break free on your own.

Second, by asking God for His peace.

Third, by reviewing how God has worked throughout the centuries. When things frightened me as a young boy, I found I was much more at peace when I remembered my grandfather (who lived upstairs) and my father had both been through similar circumstances and things always turned out okay.

When things trouble us, bring to mind how God has worked throughout the centuries. Such recollection will bring peace. How do we bring these things to mind?

*Go through Scripture and see how God worked in the lives of those who actively walked in faith with Him.

*Read Christian biographies / the “Lives of the Saints” to see how God’s bestowal of peace in the midst of the storms of life is not confined to people living in “Bible days,” but has been a constant throughout the history of the Church.

*Listen to the testimonies of Christians, particularly those you know and trust. By the way, this is one reason why our churches should encourage and provide opportunity for people to share what God is doing in their lives. Taking to heart accounts of God at work in the Bible and in Church history could lead us to question, “He did these things there and then, but does He do things like it here and now?” And, when God does something special in you, tell others about it. They need to hear your story.

*Recall the times when God worked in and for you. We too often forget those special experiences with God. How do you bring them back to mind?

First, ask God to help you remember.

Second, ask Christian friends and church leaders, “Do you remember a time or two when God was specially present and got me through a rough time, or provided wonderfully for my needs?” If you lived elsewhere earlier in your life, call people from the church you previously attended.

Then, write down the stories. Give each story a title. Make a list of those titles, duplicate the list and place copies in your Bible, your nightstand, your car’s glove box, and on your refrigerator. When — not if — a “storm” occurs, you have first hand evidence how God provided for you.

Focusing on how God has given peace in the midst of storms — in people from Bible days, in people throughout the Church’s history, in the lives of your Christian friends, and in you — will give you peace because you will have hard evidence of how God works. Your faith will not be “blind faith” or “wishful thinking.” It will be firm confidence in One Who has proven trustworthy.

6. Spend occasional moments thinking of heaven. There have been times in the Church’s history when people so exclusively focused on heaven they did not believe God cared for them here on earth. Presently there has been an overcorrection: people pray for and expect a healing right now, they ask for and presume help with financial problems, and more. The danger in too great an emphasis on God’s temporal help for us right now is that we lose sight of heaven.

When Christian believers, especially those of many years’ standing, admit that, despite our clear growth in Christlikeness we still fall short, we start longing for heaven. When we, despite the wonderful advances in medicine, find our bodies “getting older,” we long for heaven. When we, despite the numerous interventions of God in the affairs of the world, see how bad things on earth often are, we long for heaven. This is the testimony of so many older, mature Christians I know. It is becoming my testimony.

Look up the word “heaven” in a Bible concordance and then check out the references to see what God is telling us about it. (Here are a few verses to get you started: Isaiah 66:1; Galatians 5:21; Hebrews 6:20 and 9:12; 1 Peter 1:4; Revelation chapter 4 and 22:15.)

To change the imagery from the weather to baseball: no matter what the score is, for a Christian believer God bats last. He — and we with Him — win every time. Thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57). +

Money in the Bank

I’m sure you know the phrase, “Money in the bank.” It means you have some cash tucked away, but it especially means you have cash tucked away “for a rainy day” — for a time when you really need something on which to draw. You’ve got some bills due or an unexpected expense came your way and there’s not enough money in your checkbook — but wait! — you’ve got reserve funds. You’ve got “money in the bank.”

There’s a spiritual equivalent of “money in the bank.” It is those experiences of God at work in and for you, the recollection of which can help you when you’re going through a tough time. You’re very sick, or out of work, or having family troubles. As a result, you’re not making a connection with God in your prayer time or on Sunday worship. Either you’re down on yourself, thinking that you’re a third-rate Christian, or else you’re lashing our at others and at God. You start to wonder if “this Christianity stuff” is for real. Thank God, however, you’ve got some spiritual “money in the bank” on which to draw.

Two Personal Experiences

In the early 1980s, when Institute for Christian Renewal was just beginning, I had few speaking / ministry engagements and just a few donors supporting the work. I was literally down to one can of peas in my pantry and I had no money in my pocket. I knew the Scriptural promises of God’s provision but I had never had an experience of Him providing at the very last minute.

“Out of the blue” a donation came with a note reading, “I believe in what you’re called to do with this Institute.” From that point on, in addition to the Scriptural promises, I had first-hand experience of God’s provision to recollect when things would again get tight. That experience was for me “money in the bank.”

A friend of mine was praying for his sister who had a life-threatening illness. He was starting to doubt God’s willingness to heal today. As a result he was not praying with either faith or regularity. Then he recalled how he had witnessed two people healed at his church, both with major illnesses. While he didn’t know whether God would heal his sister, he did come to believe again that God could do this. His prayers became more confident and more regular. His witnessing of those healings had become the “money in the bank” he drew on profitably when his faith was weak.

“Money in the Bank” as Experiences

You may note I’m identifying “money in the bank” with spiritual experiences, not just with God’s promises found in the Bible. Of course, God’s written word of Scripture stands paramount and stands in judgment of any spiritual experience we may have. Because some of what we deem spiritual experiences are caused by factors other than God at work we cannot trust our experiences without verifying them with what the Bible teaches and promises.

Having said that, however, we often believe in but not profit from God’s promises found in Scripture because we believe that, while they’re true, they’re for other people, not for us. But when we experience something ourselves, then those experiences become that precious “money in the bank” to help us through rough spots. We could then say that spiritual “money in the bank” is God’s promises experienced by us and stored up for later use.

Two Biblical Examples

Many of the events Jesus led His disciples through served as “money in the bank” for them during the events of Good Friday and of their later ministries. Two examples:

1. The Transfiguration. Take a minute to read the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration in Mark’s Gospel, chapter 9, verses 2 to 13.

As the fledgling Church witnessed to the Risen Christ there were skeptics who asserted the message being preached was just made up. The Old Testament was not fulfilled in the New, so they said. God the Father did not honor Jesus as His only Son nor did the Father specially honor Jesus.

“Why do you believe all that nonsense, Peter,” somewhat might heckle. “James, what personal experience of a supernatural Jesus do you have?” another might assert. What might they say to such skeptical challenges?

Here’s what Peter said, “Because I witnessed it myself on the holy mountain. I saw what happened and I heard God’s voice” (see 2 Peter 1:16-19 where Peter refutes scoffers with his personal witness of Jesus’ Transfiguration).

When our teaching or our witness is challenged we refer people not only to God’s written word in Scriptures but also to what we ourselves experienced as God worked supernaturally in our midst.

Two of the reasons the once mighty “Main Line” denominations are rapidly shrinking is that many of their clergy openly mock the accounts of Scripture and of the many people whose experiences line up with it, and try hard to talk their parishioners out of believing that the experiences they have had of God were real.

2. The Raising of Lazarus. “Many” (says John 11:45) witnessed Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead (take a minute to read John 11:1-44 for the whole story).

At the cross many mocked Jesus saying, “He saved others, he cannot save himself” (see Matthew 27:42). Jesus’ disciples could not help being bewildered at the horrible events unfolding on Good Friday and they could not help wondering if those mocking faith in Christ might be right. Of the eleven remaining apostles all ran away except for John.

But note: they did not run far. They were still in Jerusalem. Moreover, they did not need much persuasion to check out the empty tomb when they were told on Easter morning that Jesus had risen. I do not find it strange that on Good Friday ten apostles were not at the Cross. I find it incredible they stayed nearby.

Why did they stay? Deep in the memories of those disciples there must have been the thought, “Yes, He did save others. We saw it! So maybe He can save Himself. He raised Lazarus who had been dead for four days, so He Himself can be raised as well. And we saw other miracles, too; lots of them.”

Their experience of seeing Lazarus raised was “money in the bank” for their faith during the darkest time of Good Friday.

Lost property

Twice over the past ten years I have recovered lost property for people. The Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts places newspaper ads and has a website about abandoned property. It seems there are numerous people who have forgotten about bank accounts, stocks, and insurance policies that are rightfully theirs. We might wonder how people could forget things like that, but there are many who have forgotten and still do forget.

But might we have forgotten our spiritual “money in the bank”? So as a result, when things are going badly, though we possess riches, we live in poverty. How can we recover that which is truly ours?

First, ask God to remind you. Get quiet with the Lord. Ask Him to remind you of times when He worked supernaturally in and around you. As you recollect events, write them down.

Second, ask others. Ask friends, family, clergy and church friends who have known you over the years to remind you what God has done in your life. Write these events down, too.

Third, make a list. Give each one of these events a short title — like the title of a magazine article — so when you see the title, you’ll remember the story. Make a list of the titles. Put photocopies of this list in easily accessible places such as your car’s glove compartment, your dresser, your wallet or purse, and, of course, in your Bible.

Fourth, review the list. When you’re in a tough spot and your faith is wavering, stand on the promises He makes to everyone in Scripture, read the stories of how God worked “in Bible days” and has worked throughout history, and read over your how it works for you!“money in the bank” list of what He has done in your life.

Finally, add to the list. When God does something powerfully in or around you, add the story of it to the list.

 

This Really Works

I’ve been encouraging people to make and consult their “money in the bank” list for thirty-five years. Many have told me, “This really works!” I guarantee this will work for you, too. If you take me up on my challenge to make and consult such a list, let me know

IT’S NOT JUST THAT THE RISEN CHRIST APPEARED.  IT’S ALSO HOW

by Canon Mark A. Pearson

It’s often been said that Christians believe in the Resurrection of Jesus because an empty tomb was found. But all the empty tomb proves is that no body was found, not that Christ rose. It’s the forty days of post-Resurrection appearances, to ones and twos, to the faithful apostles, and to over five hundred at one time, that proves He’s alive.

Thank God for the liturgical year which mandates an Easter season. In so many churches once the last service of Easter morning is over, so is Easter, and planning is for the next “holy days” of Mother’s Day and Children’s Sunday.

But it’s not just that the risen Christ appeared, it’s also how.

At first the disciples did not recognize the risen Christ. In part it was because Jesus was now in His resurrection body, similar in many ways to His pre-crucifixion body, but also different. In part it was also because, despite how often He spoke of His resurrection, they could not get their minds around this incredible truth. But the chief reason was because God the Father was keeping their eyes from recognizing Him so the manner in which He would be recognized as the risen Christ would be seen as important for the on-going life of the Church. It wasn’t just that the risen Christ appeared. It’s also how.

To Mary Magdalene the “gardener” was seen to be the risen Jesus as He called her name. Personal, intimate. Christianity is many things. One of these is a personal, intimate relationship with the Lord of the universe. The part of the Church we call “Evangelical” rightly stresses one’s coming to know Jesus as “personal Lord and Savior,” and a disciple’s daily quiet time with the Lord.

To the travelers to Emmaus the fascinating stranger who had accompanied them on their walk was seen to be the risen Jesus as He “broke bread,” an early Church term for the Holy Communion. Liturgical, sacramental. Christianity is many things. One of these is the understanding that God Who deemed His physical creation “good,” uses physical things as ways of bestowing objective grace and blessing. The part of the Church we call “Sacramental” (sometimes called “catholic”) rightly emphasizes this.

To the seven by the Sea of Galilee, the stranger, a hundred yards away, shouting as to where fish would be found was seen to be the risen Jesus as His “word of knowledge” proved true and a memory was triggered of a previous time Jesus had similarly informed them. Supernatural, charismatic. Jesus’ mighty works (supernatural deeds, manifestations of signs and wonders) were not done in His divine nature. Otherwise, how could He tell us to do the works He did? Rather, they were expressions of His Spirit-filled human nature. Christianity is many things. One of these is participation in the supernatural workings of the Holy Spirit, never made “unavailable to the Church.” The part of the Church we call “Charismatic” (or “Pentecostal”) rightly emphasizes this.

Evangelical, sacramental, charismatic. “Three Streams” of the faith. It is sometimes asserted that the Early Church never thought in terms of “Three Streams.” Of course not! They just participated in a full, rich integration of them. It is necessary for us to think in terms of “Three Streams” because we have dis-integrated them, valuing but one or two of the “streams” but not the mighty river.

The risen Christ appeared in these different ways because each of these different ways is important to His Church. Dare we, who boldly assert “He is risen!” settle for less?

Have a blessed Easter season.

Fifty Days of Glory- A new book by Canon Mark

Fifty Days of Glory- A new book by Canon Mark

Just in time for Easter … we are pleased to announce the publication of Canon Mark’s book FIFTY DAYS OF GLORY. It’s about that special season in the Church Year between Easter and Pentecost. Many people think “Easter” is just Easter morning, but the resurrected Jesus walked this earth for forty days before ascending back to heaven. Then there was that ten day waiting period for the disciples before the Holy Spirit fell on Pentecost. The trouble is, there’s not much in print to explain the various biblical events during this period and help us apply them to our lives. Until now. You can order FIFTY DAYS OF GLORY right now and we can ship it to you immediately. COST OF THE BOOK = $16.99. Add postage/handling ($3.75 for 1 or 2 books OR 8% of the cost of the books for 3 or more books). **Checks to Institute for Christian Renewal, 80 Route 125, Kingston, NH 03848. **By credit card call us at 603 642 3002 mornings (Eastern Daylight Time) Tuesday to Friday.