Here’s the sermon I preached today at AdventHope Sabbath School. I hope it is as much a blessing to those who hear as it was to me preparing it.
By: An anonymous friend
Shackles of sin so encircled my frame,
Bolted me down in much darkness and shame.
Bruises within filled my heart with such pain,
Diseased me till sin o’re my body did reign.
Open your eyes oh sin-sick one!
Open your ears to hear.
I’m standing before you,
My presence is near.
Will you let me come in
To save from the disease of sin?
I saw a faint glow pierce through deepest night,
Give hope to my heart, shine forth in my sight.
The chill of shackles across my bare skin,
Grew as I saw my true self deep within.
The light in the distance grew till I saw,
The form of a Man with a mirror, the law
To show me my true condition in sin
To show me my need of the Physician.
Cringing at thought of the sight I would see,
I fell at His feet—to my trembling knees.
I dared not lift up my eyes, Him to see,
His face, gazing lovingly down on me
His hands were stretched forth holding the frame,
Downcast in heart I looked up with such shame.
My heart skipped a beat, the image I saw
Filled me with wonder, yes, filled me with awe.
Not my image in the mirror portrayed!
No! A Man on a cruel cross displayed
His back full of wounds—my wounds—I saw
Encircled His head, His limbs pierced and raw
Stretching out slowly my quivering hands
I felt not now the cold, cruel iron bands.
A warmth and a peace within me did grow,
Perceived His offer—freedom He showed.
With uplifted eyes I looked in His face
To see His eyes full of love and sweet grace
For oh, such a one as sin-sick as I
Sinless He took all my sins as He died.
How wondrous His love! How matchless His grace!
Oh why should He care for one so disgraced?
That He should take the place of my shame
So I His victory o’er sin might claim.
His freedom He gave that I may be free
He gave up such comfort, He died for me
For a sin-sick world He offered His life
That we might o’ercome in this world of strife
He set me free from my bondage in sin
He gave me life, changed my heart from within
A purpose He gave me for life that day
To hold up His light, show others the way
Will you answer His call, suffering one?
Will you learn from my fall? Answer The Son!
Give Him your burdens, give Him your all
He’s waiting to help you, answer His call!
“These missions are difficult and dangerous. But no one becomes a Marine because it’s easy.” —George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States
Their slogan is “First to Fight.” Their passion is to be the toughest fighters in the United States Armed Forces. They have fought bravely in every major war the United States has been involved in. They were toughing it in the jungles of the Pacific during the horrible fighting of World War II. During Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, these warriors have taken their values and ideals into every fight. Many have died. Many were wounded. They were Marines.
Interestingly, the Marines are an all-volunteer fighting force. No one makes these men and women sign up for these dangerous assignments. No one makes them go to a place where there are people whose sole goal in life is to end theirs. They sign up voluntarily. They know it will be hard. They know it will be bloody. But they believe in their mission and their commanders. “…no one becomes a Marine because it’s easy.”
I am not a Marine, nor will I ever be one.
I am a Christian.
Our goal and aim in life is following our Master. Our passion is to be 100% committed to Him and His Mission. Christians before us have preached the Gospel to the whole then-known world. From Stephen to those ministering undercover in lands hostile to the gospel, Christians have gone where Christ led. We strive to take Christ with us into every spiritual fight. Many have died. Many have been wounded. They were Christians.
We fight for a different Cause. We fight with different methods. We are very different. But Marines and Christians share one thing in common–we are devoted to our Mission, and we will follow our Master anywhere, no matter the cost.
Being a true Christian is not easy, and it is not painless. Dying to self is never easy and never fun. Losing control of one’s life is a painful experience. Surrendering to the Master and following in His steps is tough. It will cost you your life every time. No one becomes a true Christian because it is easy.
We do it because we have been “bought with a price.” We have been redeemed. We have been forgiven much, so we love much.
We still stumble and fall, but we press on towards the mark of our high calling. No one said it would be easy. Our Mission is impossible. But our Master specializes in these kinds of missions. After all, he changed our lives–an equally impossible task.
Following Christ is not easy. It is not fun. It is rewarding and life-changing. It will make boys into men. It will make the sinner into a saint. It will make the spiritually dead into a new creation.
Will you join me in following Christ today? Christ is calling you.
“No one becomes a Christian because it’s easy.”
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”
There’s been a lot of controversy lately about how the United States should react to the flood of Syrian and other refugees driven from their homes by violence and the constant threat of death. This controversy has been driven to a very public stage by the horrific Paris attacks last week. Scores of governors have attempted to keep these refugees out of their states citing fears that militant extremists might be masquerading as refugees.
I believe that as Christians we should do everything within our power to help these poor refugees, even if it means exposing ourselves and our communities to some amount of risk.
Because. We are refugees too. At least, we ought to be. We were displaced from our Homeland by war.
“Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back.” (Rev. 12:7)
We were displaced because we followed the enemy. We each, individually, chose to follow Satan’s path. We rebelled against God’s government, and for the safety of Heaven, He had to expel us. “So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Gen. 3:24)
But God saw our plight, and He provided a way–at an infinite risk to His government and His perfect Country. “Never can the cost of our redemption be realized until the redeemed shall stand with the Redeemer before the throne of God. Then as the glories of the eternal home burst upon our enraptured senses we shall remember that Jesus left all this for us, that He not only became an exile from the heavenly courts, but for us took the risk of failure and eternal loss. Then we shall cast our crowns at His feet, and raise the song, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.’ Rev 5:12” (DA 131.2)
If God risked His very existence for us, how can we refuse to help our fellow refugees in earthly exile? How can we not use every opportunity we have to tell those who have no country here on earth that they have a passport to a Better Land, if they will accept it?
We have been forgiven a very great debt. If we refuse to extend a helping hand to those in need, how are we any better than the servant of Matthew 18? He owed a great debt, but when he begged his Master for forgiveness, the master wiped away his debts. He then went to his fellow servant who owed him a comparatively small sum (though still large), and demanded payment. When his fellow servant couldn’t pay, he had him thrown in prison. “Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’” (Matt 18:32)
We are called to love. Love always costs. It cost God the life of His Son.
It will cost us, too.
God changed my life.
For about two years of my life I struggled with pornography. I knew it was wrong, but the chains of sin held me fast. I felt like Paul, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom 7:24)
I had tried everything, or so I thought. I realized that I could not change myself. I had even asked God to change me—still nothing worked. I even began to wonder if Christianity was really real. If God wouldn’t or couldn’t change me, it would change everything I believed.
One day, though, I realized that I was going about it all wrong. I was asking God to change my behavior, but I hadn’t fully given Him my heart. I wanted a change in behavior, but I wasn’t willing to really spend quality time with Him every day. My devotions in the morning were rushed and sporadic. I realized that if I wanted Jesus to make a difference in my life, I had to be willing to spend time with Him consistently. I had to be willing to give Him my whole life, not just a piece of it.
As I began to change the way I had my devotions and as I began to give my heart to Jesus more fully, I realized that the power sin had over me got weaker and weaker. It became easier and easier to say “No” to temptation. It didn’t happen in an instant, but I realized that the closer I came to God, the less power sin had. I realized I didn’t have to “try harder” to overcome when faced with temptation, but instead, “run faster” to Jesus.
I discovered that as I “hid God’s Word in my heart” through memorizing scripture and spending time in His Word, my heart was softened. Sin lost it’s attractiveness, and I saw it in its true nature.
It’s only by God’s grace that I can say that I have experienced, as did Paul, Jesus’ deliverance in my life, “Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
He has changed my life. For the past few years, I’ve been free. Although, in a way, I haven’t been free—I’ve exchanged slavery to sin for being a servant of God. God is so much better of a Lord than sin was! His yoke is easy, and His burden is light!
There is still temptation from time to time. God doesn’t promise to remove the temptation, but He does promise a Way of escape. I’ve discovered that the closer I am to Jesus, the easier it is to say “No,” and by His grace I’ve been doing that.
Are you struggling with some sin in your life? Run to Jesus.
Have you felt discouraged about your lack of spiritual strength? Run to Jesus.
Are you tired of defeat? Run to Jesus!
Will you commit to consistently spending an hour a day specifically studying the life of Christ? Try it for two weeks. I guarantee your life will never be the same. If you don’t know where to start, try reading the book Desire of Ages. Read a chapter, then read the Bible texts corresponding to it.
“Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
Today I watched something in person I’d never seen before–the General Conference in session conducting business.
As a young person who had never before attended a General Conference session it was inspiring to see the church take action on items. So often young people complain that the church doesn’t respond to our concerns. While it’s true that the church’s mode of operating is much slower than young people are used to with today’s technology, the church can and does take action on issues. What was conspicuously absent was the involvement of young people. Only 6% of the delegates were under 30, while 45% of the church is under 30.
Why are young adults not involved? I’ve seen some on social media complaining that the young people in the church don’t care about the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of the church. Others have complained that the young people in the church aren’t responsible enough to be entrusted with leadership.
It is true–many of the young people in the church don’t care and aren’t responsible. Of course I do know many Godly young men and women who care, but their number is far smaller than it should be.
As young people what can we do? How can we encourage our friends to get involved? The most important thing we can do is pray. Jesus can change apathetic hearts. That’s His specialty.
The next most important thing we can do is get involved. This is our church too. This is my church too. Let’s participate. Let’s attend our church business meetings–whether at our local church or the GC. Let’s let our friends know what’s happening and why they should care. Let’s get involved in the mission of the church. Let’s pray that God sends youth into his harvest field–the harvest is getting ripe! Let’s volunteer for things, and do with diligence the work that lies nearest.
People are right. Most of us are not involved like we should be. Let’s get involved–I want to go Home!
Belonging–it’s one of the deepest longings of the heart. To have a sense of being wanted. To have a sense of purpose. To really, truly be loved.
One of the subtlest, saddest things here is the lack of belonging. For so many people, life appears to be a round of endless activities utterly devoid of meaning, appreciation or love. A life like that must feel worthless.
Of course, it’s by no means unique to Tchad. In fact, it may be just as common or maybe more common in the US. Maybe it’s being away from friends and family that makes it stand out. Maybe it’s all the suffering I see on a regular basis. Maybe it’s my own struggles. Maybe you struggle with it too.
Maybe you have been rejected in ways that cut you to the core and make you feel unloved and worthless. Maybe you feel unappreciated and unwanted. Maybe you feel like damaged goods–unloveable.
Jesus loves you. He finds you amazing. He cares. He wants you–you specifically. He sees your scars, wounds, inabilities and insecurities and says, “I love you.”
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.
“Life is Good”–at least according to my hat.
Is it really?
It’s a marketing slogan, but is it really true? Is life really good? C’est vrai?
I’m sure that whoever wrote that never visited Tchad. I’ve wondered if they really knew what life was when they wrote it. Suffering and pain and death are all around us. How can one blithely say that life is good? Life isn’t good. Life is suffering, misery, pain and death. Life is a burden.
C’est la vie–such is life.
Whoever said that life is good must have never experienced the depth of emotional pain the human heart is capable of. Does the woman whose husband paid a huge dowry for a second, younger, prettier wife think that life is good? Do the women in the local jail whose husbands pay the guards to beat them think life is good? What about the father whose baby son died? How can life be good?
Of course, the easy, trite, and true answer is that one day God will put an end to suffering and death.
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” –Rev 21:3,4
That is a truly amazing promise, and I am eagerly looking forward to that wonderful day. But what about life here and now? How can it be good in the face of the horrendous evil in the world?
Today I had the awesome, incredible privilege to scrub in on a C-section. As I helped Dr. Danae pull out a new life I was struck by the beauty of life. In the midst of the bloody, messy procedure, a brand new baby boy was born. True, he lives in a messed-up, horrible, evil world. Not only that, but he lives in one of the most dangerous places to be a baby. But despite all that, he has been given some of the most phenomenal gifts in the universe. He has an amazingly engineered mind and the beautiful gift of freedom of choice.
This baby boy has the freedom to love, the freedom to give, the freedom to live for others. He has the freedom to choose to live his life for God. That is beautiful.
We live in a messy, bloody world, true. Is life good? I don’t know. But I do know a God who can pull beautiful new life out of messy, bloody worlds. And yeah, I think that life–it’s good. C’est une bonne vie.
“Hate the sin, but love the sinner.”
A 4-year old boy came into the hospital this week with a horrible infection in his neck. Horrible infections are not too rare in this country, but this kid has a hole in his neck. A hole that you can stick a Q-tip in all the way through to the inside of his mouth. Oh yeah, and he’s missing most of the skin on his neck. Oh yeah, the infection has also spread down his shoulder blade.
Will he live? I don’t know. Will he suffer so much it would be better if he died? I don’t know. Chances are, he will do one of the two.
He’s only 4. You can see the pain in his eyes as the hospital staff changes his dressings. It’s bad enough when little kids die here–it’s even worse when they suffer like that. It’s a cliché, but it’s true–there are things worse than death.
Watching it makes me angry. It’s not his fault–he’s only 4! It’s easier to feel OK when a man is dying of lung cancer after years of smoking–I mean, it’s still sad, but he lived a decent life and it’s sorta his fault. it’s a whole different ball game when it’s a 4-year old though.
What if it was my kid on that table? What if my kid was suffering like that? I’d be looking for who did it to him. And whoever did it would be getting a bullet between his eyes. At the exact same time, I’d be doing everything for my kid. Anything to make him better. I would spend any amount of money, any amount of time. I would fight to see that he got the best care.
So who did it to the kid? In one sense, no one. It was just the result of life in Tchad. But in another very real sense, sin did it. And ultimately, Satan did it.
Sin is horrible. Sin is awful. We say that, but do we really recognize it? That kid’s suffering–it’s the result of sin. As a human race, we chose Satan. This boy is suffering as a direct result of that choice.
When you tell that lie, when you don’t help out that homeless guy by the side of the road, when you selfishly choose your work over those who really need you, you are choosing Satan’s way. It may seem harmless, but sin is never harmless. It always leads to death. Always.
“Hate the sin, but love the sinner.” Really? Hate the sin, sure. Love the sinner, sure. But why not say instead, “Love sinners so much that you hate sin.” Love people so much that you hate what causes their suffering. Love that little boy so much that you hate the sin-filled world that caused his pain. Love the people around you so much that you hate the sin in your life that causes them pain.
Only when you start from love for the sinner–the love that God gives–will you truly hate the sin. You can’t start from hating the sin–you’ll just hate the sinner too. You have to start where God does–from love.
“God–give me your heart. Help me to love those around me so much that I hate sin. Help me to love every person and to hate every sin.”
Pain. It’s something you see every day here. A baby with an amputated leg screams as the gauze dressing over his severed stump is pulled off exposing his flesh to the air. A grandmother bravely grimaces as the bandage over her broken leg is changed and the bone pieces that are exposed to view scrape and grind with what must be awful pain. A heartbroken, bereaved father sobs for his son who was suddenly robbed of life in a terrible motorcycle accident.
The sadder fact is that baby will never be able to run on that leg. He will never be able to ride a bike with it. He may be fortunate enough to have a family who can afford a prosthetic, but his childhood won’t be the same as yours, I promise you.
That grandmother will end up losing her leg to an amputation, after which she may very well be abandoned or neglected by her family who can’t afford to spare someone from the fields to take care of her day in and day out. There are no nursing homes here.
The agonizing father will never get to see his son grow up. His son didn’t get to live a full life. The father will never see him run or play again. He will never see him get married or start a business.
How do you handle seeing pain? How does it affect you? We all see pain in the world around us. Much as we’d like to live in a perfect, painless world, we don’t. Some people ignore the pain around them by focusing solely on themselves. Others drown out the pain with entertainment. But these responses do nothing to help those in pain. How does one help those in pain? How can you avoid being overwhelmed?
There are no pat answers. There is no simple explanation. Biologically, pain has a purpose–to warn us of impending damage to our body. It has reason for existence. But what useful, noble purpose do we assign to the baby’s pain? How can we explain the grandmother’s sad situation? How do we make sense of an accident costing the life of the father’s son?
Ultimately, I don’t know. I can’t explain it.
I know it is a sad result of life in our sinful world. But I can’t explain why this baby lost his leg or why this grandmother is likely going to die from neglect or why this father lost his son.
I can’t explain why. I can, however, choose to live a life of service–to help those in pain–those who have experienced more than their share of this world’s burdens. I can choose to spend my life trying to make a difference. I can choose to refuse to ignore the pain of those living around me.
This is how God calls us to deal with the pain we see around us. This is what he says:
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”
God asks us to be agents of healing in the world. He asks us to love our neighbor and be the good samaritan. But he does more. He makes a promise–“He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:3-4)