GOD WILL REPAY ALL . . . . So don’t give up!

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Reference: Galatians 6:7-9 )

Pilgram Marpeck wrote in “Five Fruits of Repentance” specifically referring to this passage from Galatians, “It is not enough that one merely says: I would gladly repent and confess of my sins. A part of it is to recognize what kind of fruit sin brings. For what each person sows,

they will and must reap or harvest, Gal. 6:8. For all pain, anxiety, distress, and suffering together with eternal death are the true fruits and reward, yes, the true wages of sin, which is given to all sinners who have not received grace, and by which they are condemned to eternal destruction. Whoever does not find Christ in this depth (that is, in this true baptism for the remission of sin) will not find Him in the height in joy and glory eternally.”

I am glad for Marpeck that “all pain, anxiety, distress, and suffering” can be avoided by the “ true baptism for the remission of sin”, and finding and abiding in Christ at a great depth. But there are people who lead good Christian lives and walk with God who still have “pain, anxiety, distress, and suffering”, and quite honestly we get tired of being told we could avoid this if only . . . .

Now I know Marpeck means these things that come into one’s life because of sin, and not because of ailments and illness, and circumstances beyond one’s control. But when you are struggling (as I have been for the past week or two) it is hard to hear these admonitions and not take it personally as being “preached to.” That is the problem, beloved, of preaching to an unknown audience – you don’t know if there are those out there whose life circumstances have caused them the very things you are preaching that can be avoided. And there has been many a “red-faced” preacher (or there should be) who has had to apologize because someone who is suffering has pointed out their lack of compassion. And isn’t that just the thing that God would warn preacher and minister about! DO NOT harm the innocent, naive, and down trodden.

But what should the message be to those who suffer in this life for things beyond their control? Well, actually, the same thing; don’t give up! Because God knows their suffering, and knows that they are innocent but suffer anyway. God’s mercy may not feel like it is coming through to them; but do not blame God. Set the blame at the feet of those who turn away from those suffering or dismiss them. As a person who both suffers and ministers to those who are suffering, I know important it is to discern between the suffering of a sinner and the suffering of an innocent.

I do not mean to preach to you, beloved, that you are dismissive of those who suffer. I just felt it was time again to stand up and remind the world that not all of those who suffer are deserving of it because they have sinned or have been wicked. In fact, it is those of us who are suffering that could and should be the recipients of good being done!

Beloved, may you be ever mindful of those in your faith group and circle of acquaintances, and of strangers also. Be mindful of their sufferings that they have not brought on themselves. Do good to them, encourage them not to give up but to keep moving forward to a life eternal that is free from suffering and misery. It is what we all long for! Selah!

The Third Week of Advent: The Coming of Light & All Manner of Good Things

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.” (John 1:6-8)

The first light was the star of Bethlehem that lead the shepherds and the wise men to the baby Jesus. But that was not the only light, nor even the greatest light. As Jesus grew into the Messiah that the world needed, the world’s awareness of the light grew. John was like the star of Bethlehem, a part of the natural world that signaled the coming of the light of God through Jesus.

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’

This is a question we all have to answer for ourselves, at one time or another. Who is Jesus to us? At this time of year we think of Jesus as a baby, innocent and sinless, as he was all of his life. But also small and helpless. But John the Baptist reminds us that Jesus was not always a baby. That at one time Jesus was with God and was God. And that Jesus came as the Messiah. And that Jesus had a purpose and mission.

He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord”’, as the prophet Isaiah said.

Jesus came as a child, because all of us at one time are one time were small and helpless, innocent and without sin. But it is our choices that form our life. And we can ask God to be as much a part of our life as God was in Jesus. We are not divine – far from it. But that just means we need God even more!

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, ‘Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?’ John answered them, ‘I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’ This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.” (John 1:19-28)

John the Baptist brought to his ministry all that he had – his voice inspired by God and a chance to receive forgiveness and mercy upon confession of faith, and renewal and re-commitment symbolized by fresh water. Jesus as a baby, and Jesus as a grown man, was the coming of this light and all manner of good things for our spirit and soul!

Beloved, may you this Advent and Christmas season enjoy all the lights of the season, and all the good things that come during this time. But may you remember the most important coming of the Light and the good things our Lord symbolizes. Selah!