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I’m in the process of being sifted these days. Have you been through this painful process? -JB
Satan Desires to Sift us Like Wheat by Dick Karman
God has warned us about Satan in the Bible. One probably most threatening and graphic passage is 1 Peter 5:8 where God tells us that the devil walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (Seldom do we look at the verse directly before where it saysCasting all your care upon [The Lord]; for he cares for you. Or the commandment to be sober, and to be vigilant, earlier in the chapter.)
The imagery that Satan is warring against us is a distant, far away concept, especially to our children who are sheltered and protected in Christian homes. But if you look at the teaching in God’s word you realize how real it is. In Mark 4, Jesus is explaining the parable about the sower and the seed. He tells us the Satan comes immediately and takes away God’s word that is sown in the hearts of men. (This is a great verse to use when your memorization isn’t going too well.) It is quite clear in Mark 8:33 that Satan does not savor the things that are of God, but rather the things that are of men.
When I was growing up I had no concept of lions literally eating people. And in North America at least, seeds were being planted by machine not indiscriminately sown on unprepared soil. But one verse did cause me to consider my position in the Lord and Satan’s war against me. It was Luke 22:31 and following: And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan desires to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not: and when you are converted, you will strengthen your fellow believers.
Sifting like wheat today is not a good illustration. Our children may think of sifting flour, the soft fluffy substance used in baking. But when God was talking about sifting wheat he was referring to a very violent action used to separate the grain (wheat berry) from the stalk and the chaff. It meant literally tearing the wheat apart.
I understood this. In my youth, one of my family’s annual traditions was to go to an “old fashioned” threshing bee. This was a country gathering where antique, steam-powered threshing machines would compete against one another. A threshing machine is similar to half of a combine on today’s wheat farms. (It was one of the things that was combined, thus the name.) I always remember the name because threshing was not that far away from thrashing and that’s what it did. It beat and bent and thrashed the wheat stalks until the grain had fallen out and had been separated. It separated the valuable portion from the worthless portion.
It was very violent. I once remember seeing a shirt, which was hung on a pitchfork, thrown into a threshing machine by mistake. By the time it came out of the other end its seams were torn, its buttons were missing, and the fabric of the shirt itself was worn through in places.
Satan desired to have Peter to sift him like wheat. Satan desires to sift us like wheat; to separate us from God’s goodness and His way. He wants to snatch God’s word out of our hearts and minds. Satan wants to pull on the seams which join our families together. He wants to wear thin the fabric of our faith. His approach is not as straight forward as a threshing machine, but it is pervasive. It is in the workplace, in the products we buy, in the programs on television, and in the books we read. But there is a way of escape.
Just like Peter, Christ, our intercessor, is praying for us, that our faith will not fail. We are being protected just like the saints of old. God has not allowed Satan to tear us apart at the seams and wear holes in our very fabric. In fact, He gives us every opportunity to strengthen the fabric of our faith by studying His word, fellowshipping with other believers, and gathering together to worship Him. Parents, be mindful that Satan desires us and our children. Also remember the promises in God’s word that He will protect us from our adversary the Devil. Don’t overlook any opportunity to teach these truths to your children and to show them by example. God protects us from the ways of the Devil if we are in Christ. Gather together with other believers. Encourage one another to good works. Teach our children by example that we do not have to be sifted like wheat.
FYI: Some of my regular readers of DI also listen to some of my sermons. We fell behind and finally posted the past month’s messages for you to check out. Listen here.
A great reminder — and the idea behind MainStreet Merge Forums. -JB
by Cathleen Falsani 05-31-2012
Ah, the life of the church. So many arguments, so little time.
The list of subjects about which the saints disagree is seemingly endless, encompassing both the profound and the woefully mundane.
The ordination of women. The proper role of religion in politics. Climate change. Homosexuality and same-sex unions. Pre-, Post-, or A-millennialism. Biblical translation. Gender pronouns for God. How best to aid the poorest of the poor. How best to support the sanctity of marriage. Hell. Heaven. Baptism. Which brand of fair-trade coffee to serve in the fellowship hall. The use of “trespass/es” or “debts/debtors” in reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Whether to use wafers, pita, home-baked organic wheat, gluten-free or bagels at the communion table. What color to paint the narthex.
It should come as no surprise to most Christians that the world outside the church looking in sees it rife with conflict, bickering, arguments and castigation — of the “unbeliever” and fellow believers alike.
Frankly, it also should come as no surprise to the rest of the world that the church — by virtue of being a community of humans — naturally would have such disagreements and discord.
We are imperfect. Our communities are imperfect. And our faith, too, is imperfect.
But I would argue that it is not the imperfection or presence of conflict themselves within the Communion of the Saints that too many of those who would not call themselves Christians find repellent. It is how the church deals with them that repels so many. Read the rest of this entry »
Reposted from 2009. -JB
If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards” (Matthew 7:25-27 MSG).
I watched the little tike as he built his sand castle with great care and pride on the beach shore. He must have been 5 years old. Just as he was putting the finishing touches on his castle wall, a large boat pulling a wake boarder cruised by just a stones throw out from the shore. Within seconds the waves hit the shore and wiped out the boy’s sand masterpiece. And he ran to his mommy in tears.
Life went on for this little boy. He soon got over the destruction of his sand castle and was soon laughing on the playground minutes later.
Unfortunately, many of us never completely grow out of the foolish practice of building fragile castles in the sand. Read the rest of this entry »
This Friday we launch a key new initiative in keeping with our MainStreet vision. MainStreet is founded on the conviction that the church needs to engage unchurched people beyond the walls of the sanctuary. Many people today are not interested in coming to worship on Sunday, but are open to conversation about spiritual topics. They are spiritual explorers who are not too excited about church. They want to find Christians who are not afraid to wrestle with tough questions.
MainStreet’s MERGE forums strive to provide a public venue for believers, skeptics and seekers to have open discussion on some of faith’s toughest questions such as “Did Jesus really rise from the dead?” or “How could a loving God allow so much evil and suffering?” or “Is the Bible trustworthy?”
Join us this Friday at the Depot at Mound Bay Park at 7PM for refreshments, live music featuring Rich Larson and Mike Poukey, and a presentation and Q&A on our evening’s hot topic: “Resurrection: Historical Fact or Religious Myth?”
Invite your friends!
It is with great excitement that I share the fruit of my research and labor pertaining to the life and legacy of E. Aug. Skogsbergh – early pioneer leader and revivalist preacher of the Covenant Church who had a powerful ministry in Minneapolis and on Lake Minnetonka in my backyard. Building this website has been both the most fun as well as the most time-consuming research project I have undertaken. My research involved:
- A couple full days (10+ hours) digging through files, folders and boxes in the basement archives of First Covenant Church, Minneapolis, scanning hundreds of documents, photos, newspaper clippings, etc.
- Pilgrimages to photograph his home (still standing) on Lake Mtka, and his memorial at Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis.
- Sorting through Superintendent Mark Stromberg’s personal Skogsbergh collection at the Northwest Conference Office.
- Untold hours uploading, formatting and editing the photos, and designing and building the website.
- Many hours researching and writing the history for the website pages (10,000+ words).
- Reading Skogsbergh’s Memoirs, the Sliver & Golden Anniversary history of First Covenant by Skogsbergh (1923), his biography A Burning Heart by Erik Dahlhielm (1951) as well as several additional books.
I believe you will find the website a very pleasing resource. First, I scoured the best sources on his life and quoted heavily to make the website a great first stop for Covenanters interested in learning from our best Covenant historians about Skogsbergh. Second, I quote extensively from Skogsbergh’s Memoirs to give a good sense of his dynamic personality. Third, the accompanying photographs and documents really bring the history to life in a way that books fail to match. Finally, the real achievement of this project is it brings previously hidden and buried treasures out from the dusty archives and into one’s living room with a simple click of the mouse.
WEBSITE SUMMARY: You will find an overview of his early life in Sweden; his dynamic ministries in Chicago, Minneapolis, on Lake Minnetonka, and in Seattle; his visionary leadership in education and publishing; a glimpse into his family life and heartfelt tributes by his peers. I am most excited to provide a rich collection of rare photographs, personal letters & documents, personal items, an old sermon, newspaper articles, hymns, and other treasures long buried in basement archives but now accessible to all. Some notable items include:
- Original call letter from Chicago to Skogsbergh in Sweden
- Handwritten letters from Waldenstrom to Skogsbergh
- Report cards from Colporteur school
- Items such as Skogsbergh’s Bible, hat, pulpit, etc.
- Immigration papers, Naturalization papers, immunization records, etc.
- Original obituaries, death notification telegram to Chicago office, funeral program, etc.
The site is live at www.swedishmoody.wordpress.com. Go read of a man of God in whose footsteps we are trying to follow and whose legacy we’re trying to carry on in the Lake Minnetonka area. Enjoy!
When he had finished speaking, [Jesus] said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken” (Luke 5:3-9).
Dear Peter Bjorn,
One of the hardest lessons for all of us to learn in life that of coming to grips with our own sinfulness and spiritual bankruptcy before God. Even well-meaning Christians often find themselves trying to muster up our own holiness, trying harder to be more spiritual, trying to earn God’s love through good deeds. Pride and self-righteousness easily result, preventing us from experiencing God’s saving grace.
Peter, my son, I pray that you will come to know, as Simon Peter did so early on, how wretchedly sinful and utterly dependent we are on God when we first encounter Him.
In this episode, Simon Peter beholds the power of God at work in Jesus in the miraculous catch of fish and responds rightly by declaring, “I am a sinful man!” He gets the first part slightly wrong, however. Faced with Jesus’ awesome power and holiness, Simon Peter feels unworthy to even be in his presence, and begs Jesus to “Go away from me.”
The good news is that Jesus has come to earth precisely to save us sinners, and He is not about to go away from us and leave us in our sinful state. He comes to us, and lives among us, and calls us to follow him, and as we do we become more and more like him every day.
Dear Peter Bjorn, may you realize early on how sinful you are, and that you stand with tattered rags before a holy God, deserving only wrath. And may you rejoice in the good news that Jesus does not leave us in our wretched state, but grants us pardon from our sins, and loves us to the uttermost — dying on a cross to free us from our sins and to bring us everlasting life.