Afflicted with Schadenfreude

schadenfreudeSometimes a person can find spiritual truth in unexpected places. Recently, I was relaxing and reading the sports page in the local newspaper. The article I was reading was about intense rivalries in college sports. The word ‘schadenfreude’ caught my attention. It was a new word for me.  Webster’s Universal Dictionary yielded this definition: “a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people.” That certainly applies to most sports rivalries. A report that a rival is under NCAA investigation is often met with a cheer.

The sad truth is that schadenfreude relates to many other areas of human interaction. People may be happy when a superior fails or a perceived competitor is unsuccessful. Maybe it’s when the “perfect family” down the street runs into trouble. Maybe it’s when a growing church in the area, one that has attracted members from your congregation, experiences a moral failure and bad publicity. A smile may cross our face at the adversity of those we don’t like.

Schadenfreude is a clear reflection of the impact of the ‘fall’ and the influence of sin in the human heart. How unlike the character of God schadenfreude is! When we were in trouble, He came to us. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, KJV). Hear God’s word speak about His attitude toward even those who oppose Him:

  • “Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23)  I like The Message paraphrase of this verse:  “Do you think I take any pleasure in the death of wicked men and women? Isn’t it my pleasure that they turn around, no longer living wrong but living right—really living?”
  • “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9)

The Apostle Paul writes to the Church at Corinth about dealing with opposition and rivals. He reminds them of how Christian love conducts itself. “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). There is no room for schadenfreude in the Christian life.

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,
All His wonderful passion and purity;
O my Savior divine, All my being refine,
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.
(Albert Orsborn)

~ Brother Roy

You Only Live Once

yoloI read a humorous statement recently that after further reflection turned alarmingly serious for me. “You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.” We need to be aware, as we make our probationary journey through our allotted days, that this is a one-time trip. At the end of life, if we haven’t secured our salvation, we will not get a second chance to relive our life.

C.T. Studd, an iconic missionary of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, wrote the powerful poem, Only One Life To Live. His poem speaks what’s on my heart more clearly than I possibly can. Here I share but three of the verses:

Only one life, yes only one, soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet, and stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice, gently pleads for a better choice.
Bidding me selfish aims to leave, and to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years, each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill, living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

The moving account of Esau is found in the first book of the Bible. His story in Genesis chapters 27 and 36 serves as a compelling example of the truth that is being shared in this devotional. Centuries after Esau died, the New Testament writer of Hebrews provided an authoritative epitaph for Esau’s life:  For you know that afterward, when he (Esau) wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears(Hebrews 12: 17, NKJV). The wording of the NIV translation adds an interesting nuance to the verse: he could not change what he had done.” Neither can we!  Are you prepared to stand before God as you are? There will be no second chances.

How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?  (Hebrews 2:3, NIV)

~ Brother Roy

Is the Devil Real?

devilDo you actually believe the devil is real, or is he just a figment of man’s imagination? I’ve been asked that question a number of times across my many years of ministry. Skeptics, critics, and growing numbers of modern theologians ridicule the idea that the devil is a real being. Rejecting clear teaching in God’s word, they choose their own opinions and ideas.  Many feel Satan is nothing more than a creation of man’s mind. They conjecture that the devil is a fabrication of psychologically weak people seeking an excuse for bad behavior and/or events they don’t understand.

There are many things that convince me beyond a shadow of a doubt that the enemy of our souls truly does exist. First, I believe the unmistakable teaching of the Bible. It is the divinely inspired thoughts of the only One who has perfect knowledge and wisdom. Scripture’s unambiguous portrayal of a wicked being in our world is certainly convincing.

Secondly, the orthodox teaching of the Church across more than two thousand years has weighed heavily in my belief about the devil. The greatest religious minds of the ages have held strong convictions as to the reality of the devil. Long after the rumblings of ‘Johnnies-come-lately’ have been forgotten and the worms have eaten the yellowed pages they have written, the great classic writings of time-honored theologians and church fathers will still be relevant. I also rest my confidence in veterans of the faith whose lives I have personally observed. They have demonstrated wisdom and credibility to me.

A third factor in my belief is reasoned and rational thought. I have learned that I can trust my own study and thought processes. Scripture informs me that as a true believer the ‘mind of Christ’ dwells in me. Paul said, “But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). If I am dwelling in Him with clean hands and a pure heart, I can have the mind of Christ on such issues. In addition, the leadership and guidance of the Holy Spirit is promised to help me think my way through these matters. Jesus said, Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

Finally, examples in the life of Jesus provide me with an unshakable conviction that the devil is real. The accounts found in Matthew 4:1, Mark 1:12, and Luke 4:1, give a graphic record of the personal encounter between Jesus and the devil in the wilderness. It was not a brief meeting, but lasted forty days. Parts of the exchange between the Savior and Satan are there for us to read. Other references by the Lord, throughout His ministry provide additional proof texts for the reality of devil.

What is my reaction to the devil? I truly believe that he is real. I respect him, but I do not fear him, “because greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). 

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
(James 4:7, KJV)

~ Brother Roy

I’m Gonna Live Forever!

woman-on-beachIt started as a typical Traditional Worship service in a small town Methodist Church. But midway through the service, an unscripted event took place. An older lady stepped into the center aisle and walked to the front of the sanctuary with a gait noticeably touched by the passing years. She turned and faced the congregation with a broad smile and began to joyfully sing this chorus:

I’m gonna live forever,
I’m gonna die, no never
Jesus died on a tree for me
And I’m gonna live forever

As she sang, tears of joy ran down her cheeks. She raised her hand and began singing the chorus a second time. At this point, I noticed that most of the congregation was singing with her.

I could not restrain my own tears of joy as praise lifted heavenward from my heart. I was singing with her. A profound sense of worship settled in the sanctuary. There was an awareness that the presence of the Lord was with us. For a precious few minutes, the things of earth grew strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

Daily, I reside in an amazing certainty. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26, ESV).

That morning for many in the congregation, John 3:16 moved from being words on a page to a present reality. The words came alive – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Jesus concluded this discourse in the third chapter John with a question. He asked Nicodemus, “Do you believe this?” May I ask you the same question? Do you believe this?  If your answer is ‘yes’, then vicariously join me and the lady mentioned above and joyfully sing:

I’m gonna live forever
I’m gonna die, no never
Jesus died on a tree for me
And I’m gonna’ live forever

~ Brother Roy

Easter Sunday

empty tomb

John 20:1-29  1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Job 19:25-26  I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh will I see God.

Good Friday

jesus

Jesus Before the Sanhedrin

Mark 14:53-65  53 They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. 54 Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.

55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.

57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree.

60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”

They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65 Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.

Jesus Before Pilate

Mark 15:1-15  Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.

“Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”

But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate,10 knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.

12 “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.

13 “Crucify him!” they shouted.

14 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

The Crucifixion of Jesus

Luke 23:33-34 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

John 19:23-27 23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”  This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”  So this is what the soldiers did.

25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Luke 23:39-43 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Matthew 27:45-46  45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

John 19:28-30  28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Luke 23:46  46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Mark 15:38-39  38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

Matthew 27:57-60  57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away.

Isaiah 53
Who has believed our message

    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

Gethsemane

gethsemane

Mark 14:32-50  32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour?38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.

41 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.

44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46 The men seized Jesus and arrested him. 47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

48 “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” 50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.