Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Divine Infusion

The other day I was looking through the TV channels for something interesting since I wasn't really able to do much of anything else. Sometimes I stumble upon a really good sermon on one of the religious channels, and on that day I really got lucky. I missed the beginning of it but probably only about 25% at most, so I got most of the points. It was one of the absolute best sermons I've ever heard. The delivery style was engaging and entertaining while the message was very logically pleasing, timely and relevant to recent events. It was exactly what I needed to hear. Funny how that happens sometimes.

The preacher was Fredrick Brabson, the pastor of the New Covenant Baptist Church here in Knoxville. I was hoping that there was a video online of his sermon, but I couldn't find one. But I did find that he has a website called Relevant Word Ministries that offers tapes of his messages.

Basically, the sermon was about weathering the storms of life. The first point was that God never abandons us during those hard times and that God never promised that life would always be easy and carefree. Every single person on Earth has the voice of God inside them, even sociopaths, that tells them the right things to do. We don't always listen to that voice because it often conflicts with our selfish desires or demands made on us by the world. Some people even completely deny and ignore that voice of God inside them, but it is still there, waiting for acknowledgement. I think that is the simplest way I've ever heard God explained. God is the good in us. God is that knowing what is the best choice. Anyone who doubts that God exists only needs to look within his own soul and heart and see that God is what tells us how to be good people instead of doing whatever animalistic things we might want to do. It is that Free Will thing I've talked about before. That choice we all have, to do right or to do wrong. That comes from God. How can that not make sense? Anyone who says he doesn't have that inner voice or moral compass that lets him know what is right or wrong is the basic definition of evil. Sorry, but that is the truth, and even some who call themselves atheists acknowledge that they know right from wrong although they are confused as to how they know. ;-)

Another point of the sermon was about those things that keep us from listening to God's voice that guides us to the best way of living. Brabson used a ship in a storm analogy, related to a Bible story that I can't recall now. Anyway, one of the ways of helping oneself get through the storms is to lighten your load. That means tossing overboard all those useless things that weigh us down and impede our progress. That baggage can be material possessions, feelings, addictions, toxic relationships, or any other thing. Get rid of it. It has no value. You can live without it and will be better off without the extra worry. Makes sense, right? Good psychological advice often comes from the Bible. There is a lot of wisdom there if you really listen and think about it.

The final point of the sermon was to never forget your blessings that often come in unexpected forms, even as storms. Be thankful for God's voice in your heart that helped you get through those tough times. God does not throw us into anything that he hasn't equipped us to handle. We just have to listen and use ourselves wisely.

Well, I certainly didn't do Brabson's sermon justice with my short summary. I really do wish his sermon was available online, and maybe someday it will be. It made an impression on me that I wanted to share.

But now I'll add a little something of my own. Last night I was doing a little Bible study and ended up reading about the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus as described in Mark 14 and 15. Even Jesus allowed himself to be overcome by sorrow and feeling abandoned by God at the same time as his being let down by his closest friends, his disciples. Not even his foreknowledge of these events lessened the experience.

32 They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” 33 And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. 34 And He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.” 35 And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. 36 And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” 37 And He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 Again He went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. 41 And He came the third time, and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough; the hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 “Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”

Mark 14:32-42

Judas, his biggest betrayer, arrived with the mob to arrest Jesus. Jesus was at his darkest hour and his friends lay sleeping. What kind of friends are those? Then some even deny knowing him just to save their own skins. All those men disappeared when things got bad. They were the ones who abandoned Jesus, not God. Just before he died on the cross, Jesus says, "ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI? which is translated, MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?" Do you really think he was asking why God had forsaken him or if he was asking why all his disciples had forsaken him? My bet is on the disciples. He truly felt abandoned and forsaken and betrayed by those who had been closest to him. Humans will always fail each other, but God never fails us. Not if we truly listen and follow his guidance.

And unfortunately there are those evil people who are so removed from God and his guidance that they torment and abuse those who are already hurt, just as many tormented Jesus as he was being crucified. Do they have no conscience? If they have one it's so weak and feeble that it can't overcome their animalistic cruelty. What voice do they listen to? Not the one that tells them how to be a good person and do the right things. They listen to their own selfish drives and desires. They think they will impress others with their clever insults or skillful jabs. But what they do is not right. It is wrong. And it does nothing to make the world a better place, which is what God wants. You know who you are. I have no time for you. I'm tossing you overboard with all the other garbage I don't need.

A somewhat related article about Why Secular Liberals Are So Uncharitable.

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