Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sin & Believers-Dr. Ken Schenck

Sin and Believers

What Would the Apostle John Say?
By Kenneth Schenck | Released: Apr. 6, 2011

Christians today—including many Wesleyans—seem increasingly comfortable with sin. No doubt we could give many reasons for this alarming trend. One factor is the misinterpretation of Scripture, particularly passages from Paul and John’s writings.

Misuses of Scripture

How often have you heard people paraphrase John 8:7 as an argument for the acceptability of sin in a Christian’s life: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone!” First John 1:8 is also popular: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” If the apostle John were to hear these uses of his writing, I suspect they would be real sore spots for him. The all-too-common ways Christians apply these verses go directly against what he actually taught!

The Background of John’s Writing

One of the problems we have when we read Scripture is incomplete information. Originally, John’s letters were written to real churches who knew the background of what he was saying. Of course the Spirit helps us to hear what we need to hear, even when we cannot be certain of what a passage meant originally.

However, 1 John gives us some good hints about the situation it first addressed. John’s community had undergone a “church split,” for example (compare 1 John 2:19). The departing group refused to believe Jesus had really become human and taken on flesh (for example,

1 John 4:2–3; compare John 1:14). These divisive individuals apparently were gnostic in belief, an early Christian heresy we know about from other sources. Before they left John’s community, they showed hatred toward their brothers and sisters in Christ (1 John 3:10–24; 4:7–21).

Perhaps more to the point, they saw no need for the blood of Christ (1 John 5:6). They, thus, did not see a need for a sacrifice to cleanse their sins. They did not believe they had sins for the blood of Christ to cleanse!

It is in this context that John wrote the verses that Christians use most often to argue for the normality of sin in the life of the believer. But we can see now how out of context these interpretations are. First John 1:10 says, “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar.” The departing group had made such claims. The tense John used in this verse implies that everyone has sinned in the past, with the result that everyone has a need for cleansing by Christ. In other words, John was basically saying the same thing as Romans 3:23: “all have sinned.”

Cleansing for Sin

First John 1:8 focuses on the fact that everyone needs the cleansing of Christ as a result of their past sins: “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (NASB). The verse does not say that we do sin continually in the present, as many presume. It says that everyone has sin as a result of past sins. The key is that John has in mind someone who claims that he or she has never sinned at all.

Anyone who thinks 1 John 1:8 justifies ongoing sin in the life of the believer will have difficulty dealing with 1 John 3:9, which gives John’s teaching on this subject. That verse reads, “Those who are born of God will not continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God” (TNIV). This verse puts to rest any doubt about what John really thought. To the Jews, “walking” was about living. To walk in the light, thus, meant to live the right lifestyle, a life in which sin was atypical (compare 1 John 1:7).

First John 2:1–2 leaves us with the bottom line on the issue of sin in the life of the believer. These verses capture the whole subject in a nutshell for me. “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Amen. •

Ken Schenck is an author, professor, and dean of Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011


At the age of 33, Jesus was condemned to the death penalty. At the time crucifixion was the "worst" possible death. Only the worst criminals condemned would be crucified.

Yet it was even more dreadful for Jesus, because unlike other criminals condemned to death by crucifixion, Jesus was nailed to the cross by His
hands and feet, rather than just tied. Each nail was 6 to 8 inches long.

The nails were driven into His wrist, not into His palms as is commonly portrayed. There's a tendon in the wrist that extends to the shoulder. The Roman guards knew that when the nails were being hammered into the wrist, that those tendons would tear and break, forcing Jesus to use His back muscles to support himself and to make it possibe for Him to breathe.
Both of His feet were nailed together, thus, He was forced to support himself on the single nail that impaled His feet to the cross. Jesus could not support himself with His legs for long because of the pain, so He was forced to alternate between arching His back and using his legs just to continue to breath. Imagine the struggle, the pain, the suffering, the courage!! Jesus endured this reality for over 3 hours. Yes, over 3 hours!

Can you imagine this kind of suffering? A few minutes before He died, Jesus stopped bleeding. He was simply pouring water from his wounds. From common images we see wounds to His hands and feet and even the
spear wound to His side... but do we remember the many wounds made to his body. A hammer driving large nails through the wrists, the feet overlapped and a nail hammered through the arches, then a Roman guard piercing His side with a spear. And... before the nails and the spear, Jesus was whipped and beaten

The whipping was so severe that it tore the flesh from His body. The beating so horrific that His face was torn and his beard ripped from His face. The
crown of thorns (two to three inch thorns) cut deeply into His scalp. Most men would not have survived this torture. He had no more blood to bleed out, only water poured from His wounds

The human adult body contains about 3.5 liters (just less than a gallon) of blood. Jesus poured out all 3.5 liters of his blood; He had three nails hammered into His members; a
crown of thorns on His head and, beyond that, a Roman soldier who stabbed a spear into His chest.. All these without mentioning the humiliation He passed after carrying His own cross for almost 2 kilometers, while the crowd spat in his face and threw stones (the cross beam was almost 30 kg of weight, to which His hands were nailed). Jesus had to endure this experience, so that you may have free access to God. So that your sins can be "washed" away. All of them, with no exception! Don't ignore this!


Monday, April 18, 2011

Why is the Resurrection so Important?

Guest Sermon by

Rev. Robert D. Shofner

St. John's UCC Boonville

In the late 1990’s, a group of liberal biblical scholars got together to review the Gospels and determine whether Jesus actually said those things the Gospel writers claimed He said. You know, all those verses in red print. They decided He didn’t say much of anything at all. And although these scholars used highly subjective criteria to make their evaluation … criteria which since has been discredited … the media loved it … naming the gathering the “Jesus Seminar” … and lauding them as the new leading authorities on the Christian faith.

One of the seminar leaders, Marcus Borg, had this to say about Christ’s resurrection: “As a child, I took it for granted that Easter meant that Jesus literally rose from the dead. I now see Easter very differently. For me, it is irrelevant whether or not the tomb was empty.”

Recently, the History Channel announced that its director-for-hire, James Cameron, actually discovered … after all these long two thousand years … the tomb of Jesus … and His body, along with the body of His wife (supposedly Mary Magdalene) and the body of a child, supposedly their son, named Judas. Wow!

A colleague commented to me about the discovery, and pretty much echoed the thoughts of Mr. Borg. To which I replied, in effect, “If that’s really Jesus’ body in the tomb, then I’ve wasted my life. I might just as well as quit my job, close the church, go out and party hardy until I drop dead!”

If that’s really Jesus’ body in that tomb, then the disciples, and generations of Christian martyrs, wasted their lives, too. They faced terrible, painful, excruciating deaths for a lie.

If that’s really Jesus’ body in that tomb, then you’ve wasted your lives, too.

The Apostle Paul wrote: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins … [and] we are to be pitied more than all men” (1st Corinthians 15:17,19).

Notice that Paul doesn’t say that if there’s no Heaven, the Christian life is futile. He clearly says that if there’s no resurrection of the dead, then the hope of Christianity is an illusion, and we are to be pitied for placing our faith in Jesus Christ. Because if Christ didn’t physically rise from the dead, we’re still in our sins – meaning we’re bound for Hell, not Heaven. All our faith and striving for the Lord would be in vain. So why bother?

The Apostles’ Creed, the first of the so-called catholic, or universal, creeds, plainly affirms: “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” But do we really? Many Christians tend to spiritualize the resurrection of the dead. They don’t reject it as a doctrine, but they don’t fully realize its essential meaning. As John Updike wrote: “Make no mistake: if he rose at all is was as His body; if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules re-knit, the amino acids rekindle, the Church will fail. Let us not mock God with metaphor, analogy, sidestepping transcendence; making the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded credulity of earlier ages; let us walk through the door.”

Two-thirds of Americans who believe in a resurrection of the dead believe that they will not have bodies after the resurrection. But that is a contradiction of terms on at least two levels.

First – Genesis 2:7 says, “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” The Hebrew word for “living being” is nephesh, often translated as “soul.” Question. At what point did Adam become a nephesh? Answer. When God joined his body (made out of the dust of the ground) and spirit (the breath of God) together. This makes it clear that the essence of humanity is not just spirit, but both spirit joined with body. Our bodies don’t just house our spirits, like a hermit crab inhabits a seashell. Our bodies are as much a part of who we are as are our spirits.

Second – the empty tomb is the ultimate proof that Christ’s resurrection body was the same body that died on the cross. If resurrection meant the creation of a new body, Christ’s original body would have remained in the tomb. When Jesus said to His disciples after His resurrection, “It is I myself,” He was emphasizing to them that He was the same person – in spirit and body – who had gone to the cross (Luke 24:39). His disciples saw the marks of His crucifixion, unmistakable evidence that this was, indeed, the same body.

And think on this. The Romans knew where Jesus was buried … they placed a guard around it. Yet when the disciples started this new religion by claiming that Jesus had risen from the dead … all the Romans had to do to stop this nonsense was to march to that tomb, retrieve the body and put it in the town square for all to see. But they didn’t. Why not? Because there was no body in the tomb. Jesus had risen … He had risen, indeed!

Of course, there are many who would say this is all just wishful thinking on our part. Is it really?

While climbing a cliff one day, two little boys found a nest of eagles’ eggs. They put the eggs under a turkey-hen in the barnyard and in due time, the young eaglets hatched with the chicks. The mother turkey-hen cared for them as though they were her own.

One day after the eaglets had grown, a great eagle swooped down over the barnyard and something stirred within the young birds. Day after day the great eagle came. Day after day something stirred within the young eagles, and their wings felt the awakening of potential strength within them.

Then one day when the great eagle came and swooped down over the barnyard, the young eagles dared - they flapped their wings and flew! Their destiny to be eagles, born within them would not be denied. They were born to fly!

So with us. Most of our days we live in a barnyard we call our world, knowing all the while there is more, because, though we are in a barnyard, we are not of it.

And we may live like turkeys - even sometimes act like turkeys, but we were born at the font to be eagles!

This is not mere wishful thinking. We know this to be true in the deepest part of our hearts. We desire a resurrected life on a resurrected earth. And that desire is planted in our very being by God Himself. It is God who “set eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). It is God who designed us to live on a resurrected Earth which will contain the presence of glory of God … thus becoming the true and final Heaven.

And all this because of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. All this because Jesus Christ, the perfect, sinless, God-man, took on the Curse of all our sins upon Himself, satisfying the righteous judgment of God. God, therefore, removes the Curse, the penalty for our sin, not only from us, as individuals, but also from the entire creation.

Isaac Watts’ magnificent hymn, “Joy to the World” sings:

No more let sins and sorrows grow

Nor thorns infest the ground;

He comes to make His blessings flow

Far as the curse is found.

How far does Christ’s redemptive work extend? Far as the curse is found!

And all of this is made possible by Christ’s resurrection … His bodily, physical resurrection … His victory over death!

As Paul writes to the Corinthians (1st Corinthians 15:20-22): “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

And Paul warns of us the dangers of belittling this resurrection of the body. He continues in his letter: “Now if there is no resurrection, . . . why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I die every day--I mean that, brothers--just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’ Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God--I say this to your shame.” (1st Corinthians 15:29-34)

Norman Vincent Peale tells of sharing a crowded taxi on the way to preaching a sermon at a large conference. The taxi driver was complaining about all his problems and troubles. He was convinced that the whole world was filled with crooks, and everything and everybody was rapidly going to hell.

"Tell 'em that at your rally, reverend," the cab driver said.

Beside Dr. Peale there was a heavy-set, jolly lady with a big happy face. She leaned over to Dr. Peale and said, "Don't do it. We all know that. Tell them instead about Jesus and how he came to give us all God's gift of a resurrected life."

Then the lady reached over and tapped the complainer on the shoulder, saying, "Young man - what you need is to get resurrected!"

To those who would deny the physical resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ, I would repeat the warning of Paul: “Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning.” And add the sage advice of the jolly lady, “You need to get resurrected.”

Thank God that we are! So, let’s act like we know it’s true.

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Bits & Bytes for Bagley Backers-April 2011

Bits & Bytes for Bagley Backers
April 2011
Jesse & Selinda

"You can have her. I don't want her. She's too fat for me!" So sang the missionary men at Global Partners' Africa Area Missionary Retreat this month to missionary Jesse Van Horn at a celebration of his engagement to fellow missionary Selinda Ingalls. Not too be outdone, the missionary women responded with a lively version of "Oh Jesse, Oh Jesse, Oh Jesse, Oh" (You're not handsome, it's true, but when I look at you, it's just . . . ) Along with the good-natured humor in preparation for their upcoming wedding (May 28th) the missionary family presented them with gifts and words of wisdom (and some not so wise) all accompanied by strains of violin music provided by Jerry Manwaring.

Another highlight of the retreat was welcoming new missionaries to Africa: Zach, Lyndy, & Isaac Szmara heading to Mozambique who arrived in Africa the day before the retreat began; Lisa Karr, GoNet missionary who has been serving at Bingham Academy in Ethiopia; and Kristen Hodges, intern from Bethany Bible College who has been serving at Jembo, Zambia. We also welcomed Bethany Morse back to Africa to a new appointment in Sierra Leone after an extended study leave.

From the left: Mike & Cindy Helvie, Jesse Van Horn, Dan & Joan Jones, Lisa Karr, Bethany Morse, Fred & Carol Cromer, Selinda Ingalls, Bob & Brenda Bagley, Dorcas Croft, Jerry & Jody Manwaring, Jason, Rachel, & Jocelyn Helm, Orai & Linda Lehman, Phil & Lucille Nettleton, H. C. Wilson, Zach & Lyndy Szmara

Many of the missionaries reported that a major highlight of this year's retreat was that we were privileged to have Global Partners' General Director, Dr. H. C. Wilson with us to minister in the services as well as to bring us up-to-date with what has been happening in the home office. (See photo at end of letter.)


Although we were looking forward to being in Ghana for Easter to join the church there in their celebration of their 20th anniversary, we found out this week that it's not going to be possible. When we went to apply for visas we were told that because we were classified as visitors in South Africa rather than residents, they were unable to issues visas for our trip.

Though disappointed that we won't be there, we are praying that God will meet with His church in a very special way. And we will make plans to celebrate the risen Lord with His people here in South Africa.


A prayer calendar for the Africa Area for April - June, 2011 is available online here. Please feel free to print it out and distribute it among those who would be interested in praying daily for the work of Global Partners in Africa.


  1. Praise God for a very positive Africa Area Missionary Retreat.
  2. Praise God for the safe arrival of Zach, Lyndy, and Isaac Szmara to begin their first term of missionary service in Mozambique.
  3. Praise God for His help as Gauteng District Superintendent Victor Nylungu (South Africa) worked with officials to finally resolve some property ownership disputes.


  1. Pray for Zach & Lyndy Szmara as they face the inevitable adjustment challenges and begin digging into language study.
  2. Please pray for Fred Cromer as he goes to Zambia in early May to confer with National Superintendent Dr Alfred Kalembo about critical ministry issues.
  3. Pray for God's blessing on the Wesleyan Standard Church of Ghana as they gather Easter weekend and celebrate the 20th anniversary of the work.
  4. Please pray for us as we go to Swaziland the first two weeks of May as Bob teaches a church administration course at Emmanuel Wesleyan Bible College. Pray that God will make us a blessing to the students, staff, missionaries, and church people while we are with them

We are very grateful to those who have continued to provide the financial support that enables us to remain serving on the field. Although our monthly commitments still only stand at 74% of the amount we need to meet our budget, so far additional giving has been sufficient to make up the difference. Thank you so much for standing behind us.
Donations or monthly commitments can be made online here.


You can help us by forwarding "Bits & Bytes" to friends who will be interested in the work of Global Partners in Africa. Just click on the link below. Friends who receive the email will also be given an opportunity to sign up to receive it in the future.

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An easy to print version of this email can be found here. Thank you for sharing a print version with others.

Bob & Brenda Bagley

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Weekly News...Resurrection Sunday Breakfast 2011

Boonville Wesleyan will be having our annual Resurrection
Sunday Breakfast on Sunday April 24th, 2011.
  • Breakfast 8:30AM-10:30AM with Praise & Prayer Time
  • Both in the Fellowship Hall
  • No Sunday School Classes
  • Morning Worship in Sanctuary: 10:30AM
Everyone is invited...hope to see you there!

"And Jesus Christ our Lord was shown to be the Son of God when God powerfully raised him from the dead by means of the Holy Spirit. Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name." (NLT) Romans 1:4,5

Simos Family Ministry Update-April 2011

Deputation goal in sight
As the end of our deputation time rapidly approaches, here's
what we need to finish well. With only 12% more to go, we
are positionally only 8 partners away from being fully funded!
  • 4 pledges of $50 a month
  • 4 pledges of $100 a month

Behold the Lamb
We were blessed to participate in Behold the Lamb, a passion play performed by our home church. This year was bitter sweet as we enjoyed being a part in this ministry again but knew that this would be our last.

Headed Out West!
During the kids Spring Break we headed out West! God provided in amazing ways as we planned to make the trip. God provided a vehicle for the trip and the finances to make it possible! We were able to see our good friends the Joneses (missionaries to the Mormons) and learn about their ministry with Tri-Grace and specifically the outreach
ministry of Solid Rock Cafe on the Snow Collage campus.
They are reaching Mormons for Christ in Utah!

Special Opportunity
Need your house painted this summer? Ever thought about redoing your closets or organizing the garage? California Closets of Dayton, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis and CertaPro Painters of Indianapolis have agreed to donate 10% of the purchase price of a job to Freedom when you mention us at the time of sale. Click here for complete details.

Providing we hit 90% our Home Church, Harbour Shores Church, has set our commissioning service for May 15th!
Everyone is welcome to attend, worship and celebrate with us as we are sent out to the mission field.
Also providing we have adequate funding we plan to move to the Dominican Republic in mid June. Please continue to pray as we move towards departure!

Village Ministry is set to begin this summer! Please pray for the VBS-like program that will run for 10 weeks. Pray that many children and adults would grasp the biblical concepts as our team lays a firm foundation that we hope to build on for many years to come!

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Weekly News and Prayer Updates...

Boonville Wesleyan Church was recently blessed with the donation of a 1990 Ford 350 25 passenger bus. They would like to thank Henry and Mary Lunenburg for their kindness.Someone has already donated time and materials for lettering and signage for the bus. Pictured with the bus is Senior Pastor D. Edson Ames.

Don't forget you can download and listed to Pastor Ames' Sunday Sermons by going to the download link on the side of this blog or click here: Sunday Sermons

We are blessed that no one is in the hospital right now! Please continue to pray for Jim, Theresa, and Mike as they continue to recover.

Why go to Church?

A Church goer wrote a
letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that
it made no sense to go to church every Sunday... "I've gone for 30 years
now," he wrote, "and in that time I have heard something like=203,000
sermons. But for the life of me, I can't remember a single one of them.
So, I think I'm wasting my time and the pastors are wasting theirs by
giving sermons at all."

This started a real controversy in
the "Letters to the Editor" column, much to the delight of the editor. It
went on for weeks until someone wrote this

"I've been
married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000
meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a
single one of those meals. But I do know
.. They all
nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife
had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise,
if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead
today!" When you are DOWN to nothing... God is UP to something! Faith sees
the invisible, believes the incredible and receives the impossible! Thank

God for our physical AND our spiritual nourishment!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Seeing the Positive in our Problems

Guest Sermon Series

Rev. Robert D. Shofner, Jr.

St. John's UCC Boonville

Many people think that when they have problems, God is angry with them. And that's just not true. Many think that when they're having problems, they're out of God's will. And that's not necessarily true.

There are preachers on the TV and radio today that preach that God wants everybody to be healthy and wealthy. And when we're not healthy and wealthy, then they say we must be out of God's will. There’s a theological term for that way of thinking; “Baloney.

1 Peter 4:12,19: "Don't be surprised at the painful trials you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. . . . Those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good." Notice that phrase, "those who suffer according to God's will." Problems are sometimes God's will for our lives. Yeah. That's right. So today we want to look at seeing the positive in our problems. We don't want to try to explain suffering, because there's no way that we could. But we want to learn to look at our problems from a new perspective.

How many of us had a problem this past week? All right. God uses that problem you're going through in five ways.

#1 - God uses problems to direct us. He often uses problems to point us in a new direction. To motivate us to change. To get our attention.

The frustrated teacher brought the little boy into the principal's office. "This boy is absolutely impossible!" she exclaimed. "I can no longer manage him. He is constantly causing trouble with the other kids; he doesn't pay attention; he gets into fights; and he constantly talks back to me. There must be some way to help him change his ways, but I just don't know what to do."

"Now, now, Miss Higgins," the principal replied. "You must remember that each child is a precious gift from God. We must practice love, patience, and understanding."

At that moment the errant young lad grabbed a book off the principal's desk which caused a potted plant to fall off onto the floor which set up a chain reaction that ended with the principal slipping in the mud and falling on his behind.

The boy started laughing at all the trouble he had set in motion as the principal got up and seized the child. He put the boy across his knees and paddled him.

The teacher gasped, "But you just told me that we must show children love, patience and understanding."

"How right you are, Miss Higgins," replied the principal. "But first you must get their attention!"

Proverbs 20:30 (GN), "Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways." How many would agree with that verse? Usually we change, not when we see the light, but when we feel the heat. C.S. Lewis once said, "God whispers to us in our pleasure, but He shouts to us in our pain." He gets our attention real quick when problems come upon us.

There are many example of this in the Bible. Take Elijah. One time Elijah was hiding out in the desert. He had everything he needed. Fresh water from a brook, birds bringing him food. He was safe and content and not about to leave. But then ... one day the brook dried up! Ever have a brook dry up in your life? All our resources dry up? Elijah thought, "What gives? God's been taking care of me, and all of a sudden the resources aren't there. God must not love me anymore." And God answered him, "No, that's not it at all. I just want your attention here. I don't want you to stay where the brook is. It's time to move on. And as long as you are comfortable in that situation, you're not going to change." The brook dried up so that God could direct Elijah to a new situation.

Sometimes a job dries up, a relationship dries up, a situation dries up ... why? God says, "Because I don't want you hanging around there anymore. I want you trying something new."

Remember the story of Jonah? God told Jonah to go to Ninevah. That way. He went to Tarshish ... as far that way as you could go. So God arranged a little Mediterranean cruise for Jonah. In the belly of a fish. Fish says, "Jonah, you're going in the wrong direction." And when the fish spits him out, guess which way he's headed?

God uses problems to direct us. To prod us, to push us. We would rarely change if we didn't have any problems. So we want to ask the question: "Where is this problem leading me?" Because problems never leave you where they found you. When we go through a problem we always end up someplace different from where we started off. God uses problems to direct us.

#2 - God uses problems to inspect us. To check us out, to see what we're like on the inside. To test us. Somebody once said that people are like tea bags. You never know what's really inside them until you drop them in hot water.

Deuteronomy 8:2, "The Lord God led you all the way into the desert these 40 years ... to test you in order to know what was in your heart ..." Notice that word "test." The Bible says that when Moses led the people of Israel through the Red Sea , they were to stop at Mt. Sinai , then move on to the Promised Land. Now, the walk from Egypt to Israel really shouldn't take more than a couple of weeks. But it took them 40 years! Why? God wanted them to wander around for a while so that He could test them. Seven times God tested them to see what was inside of them. Remember that story about Marah? That was one of the 7 tests. And every time they blew it, God said, "Okay, one more lap around the desert!"

Has God ever tested you? You bet He has. And we want to ask the question, "What does this problem reveal about me?" James 1:2-4, "Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance ... so you may be mature and complete ..."

The Bible often compares suffering to a refining fire. You take silver and heat it up to burn off the impurities. God does that with people ... through problems. Isaiah 48:10, "I (God) have tested you in the fire of suffering, as silver is refined in a furnace." God uses problems to burn off the excess in our lives, the stuff that's not needed, to purify us. Asked a silversmith once, "How do you know when silver's pure?" He answered, "When I can see my reflection in it." When God sees His reflection in our lives, He knows that He's burned off the impurities.

#3 - God uses problems to correct us. Psalm 119:71, "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your statutes." Hear that word "learn." He's saying that life is a school and our problems are the curriculum. Now why is it that some lessons we only learn through failure? Some things we only learn by blowing it. I remember being a kid and having mom say, "Now, Bobby, don't touch that hot stove." Do you think I touched it? Count on it. Did I ever touch it again? Nope. I learned by being burned.

Have you ever learned by being burned? Ever get burned in a relationship? Financially? Ever get burned by a bad decision? God uses problems to correct us when we're going off in the wrong direction. Living Bible paraphrase of that verse from the Psalms: "... it was the best thing that could happen to me, for it taught me to pay attention to your laws!" It seems that it's just human nature that we have to learn through pain.

Hebrews 12:7 (LB), "Let God train you, for He is doing what any loving father does for his children. Whoever heard of a son who was never corrected?" Do we discipline our kids? Yeah, sure we do. Why? Because we love them. This verse tells us that God's discipline of us is proof that He loves us. (God knows He must love me a lot, right?) Problems don't mean that God hates us, problems mean that God loves us! He allows the circumstances that are the natural consequence of our behavior to occur.

Now we want to get this above anything else this morning. Many people say, "I made a bad decision, I blew it. So I'll just confess my sin to God and ask Him to forgive me." Does God forgive me? Yes! Instantly, I'm forgiven. It's wiped out. No condemnation.

But that does not mean that God cancels out the cause and effect of that situation. We are forgiven, but He doesn't withdraw all of the circumstances. I could go out and recklessly race my Corvette down Main Street , crash into a car, hurt someone else and break my own arm. When I ask God to forgive me, He would forgive me ... but I'd still have a broken arm and a lawsuit. See what I'm saying?

God forgives us, but He often allows the effects of our sin to stay in order to teach us not to do it again. If every time we did something bad, and we could get away with it by just saying, "God, forgive me. " ... we'd keep right on doing it! But the Bible says we reap what we sow. And God allows that to happen, we reap what we sow, not because He hates us but because He loves us. He wants us to learn. "... it was the best thing that could happen to me, for it taught me to pay attention to your laws!" God's discipline proves that we are His children.

So when problems come, we don't want to ask "why." We want to ask, "what?" What does God want to teach us? God uses problems in our lives to teach us about Himself ... His power, His love, His grace. The fact that He can handle anything, that He knows everything about us ... the good, the bad and the ugly, and He still loves us. He also uses our problems to teach us something about ourselves. God may use a situation to reveal a weakness, to show up a blind spot, a character fault. So He uses these problems to correct us.

#4 - sometimes God uses problems to protect us. Sometimes God allows problems in our lives for our own benefit. Many times a problem is actually a blessing in disguise. It may prevent us from getting involved in something more harmful. 1 Peter 3:17, "It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good, than for doing evil." He says, "You're going to have problems in life. So you might as well have problems for doing the right thing, rather than problems for doing the wrong thing." He's saying that it's safer doing what's right, what's honest, and suffer for it ... than to compromise our values, do what's wrong, and suffer for that.

When I think of this verse, "It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good, than for doing evil." I think of Joseph. We've talked about his story before. Remember how his master's wife accuses him of rape because he won't sleep with her? And he gets put into prison for doing good. I'm sure Joseph sat in that prison and thought, "What gives, God? What are you doing?" Sometimes you do the right thing and everything falls apart. Joseph was in prison for doing the right thing. But if he wasn't in prison, he wouldn't have met the men who introduced him to the Pharaoh who eventually put Joseph in charge of the whole country! And two nations were saved from seven years of famine because he ended up in jail. God knew what He was doing, even if Joseph didn't. So remember, we don't see the whole picture, but God does. And He's faithful to us.

So we want to ask, "What is it about this problem that's protecting me? How is this helping me to trust God?"

#5 - Last one - sometimes God uses problems to perfect us. To develop us. Romans 5:3-4 (LB), "We can rejoice when we run into problems and trials (I'm kidding, right?) for we know that they are good for us - they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it ..." It's like the old illustration about the uncut diamond. We are an uncut diamond. And God wants to chip off our rough edges, to polish us up and make us a beautiful gem that glistens and reflects His glory. And so He uses problems to chip off the rough edges in our lives. He comes along with a little chisel and hammer, and sees that rough edge, and goes "chink." Then He sees another rough edge, and "chink." Sometimes there's a great big rough edge, and He gets out a bigger chisel and hammer and goes, "CHINK!" Sometimes He may have to use dynamite ... because it takes different kinds of things to get our attention. But God is trying to shape us into something for His glory and use.

God wants to make us like Jesus Christ. And He does that two ways. Through the Bible, and through circumstances. When we read the Bible, He helps make us like Christ. As we go through circumstances, He forces us to become more like Christ. You see, the easy way is this. God says in the Bible, "Be patient." And we're patient.

But when we don't learn it that way, God will just put us in a traffic jam, force us to learn patience. We read the Bible and it tells us, "Be humble." So we can do it the easy way and just do what God wants. But if we don't, that's okay, because God will teach us the hard way. He'll humiliate us. God will get His message across.

Paul learned that lesson. He talks about his thorn in the flesh. We don't know what it was. It was some type of irritation, maybe physical, maybe emotional. It says three times he prayed desperately, "God, take this situation out of my life." And God said, "No way, Jose." Why? Because the purpose of the problem is greater than the pain of the problem. If God took it out of the way, Paul wouldn't learn the lesson that God wanted him to learn. So God sometimes says "no" to the removal of a problem, because He wants us to learn something first.

In Hebrews it says that Jesus was made perfect through suffering. How do we think we're going to be made perfect? The same way. 1 Peter talks about how there are seasons in life. In life we have good times and bad, things change. There are springs and summers and falls and winters. All sunshine and no rain makes a desert. All rain and no sunshine ... you need an ark. We want balance in our lives. We want seasons in our lives to season us, to prepare us to be what God wants us to be.

Now, the question we ask for this is, "How can I grow from the problem? How does God want to perfect me through this problem?"

Let's wrap up. Our problems are not the problem. The problem is the way we respond to our problems. When do problems become real problems? They become real problems when we get a bad attitude about them. When we lose our perspective, when we let go of our values. They become real problems when we lose our sense of humor, when we start holding pity parties. When we start blaming other people for our circumstances.

(Saw a bumper sticker that said, "It's not whether you win or lose, but how you place the blame.")

I was teaching a class once and we talked about our problems in life, and I explained that God always gives us the strength to bear any burden He may place upon us. And He gives us the grace to overcome all evil with His help.

And I asked, "Are there any comments?" A hand slowly rose in the back of the room, and the person said, "Pastor, I know that God doesn't cause us evil. And I understand that He only tests our faith to give us a chance to grow stronger as His children. But, you know, I still think that sometimes He overdoes it."

What do you think? I think this. Romans 8:28. "We know that in everything God works for good with those that love Him, who are called according to His purpose." In everything, even our problems.

Let's pray:

Now, let's think about these questions as we pray. Just ask, Lord, are you using this problem to direct me? If so, which way do you want me to go? Lord, are you using this problem to inspect me? If so, what does it reveal about me? Lord, are you using this problem to correct me? If so, what should I change? Father, are you using this problem to protect me? You know what's best. God, are you using this problem to perfect me? If so, chip away, Lord! Make us more and more like your son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Help us to see that the pain of the problem is a lot less than the purpose, that you are teaching us and perfecting us and that in all things you work for our eventual good. And for that we give you praise and call you good.

And the people said, “Amen.”