Today we are going to talk about chocolate in church. We are going to discuss everyone favorite candy bar. What can anyone tell me about Hershey’s? What is their trademark slogan? That’s right unchanged since 1899. I watched a couple YouTube clips that were pretty funny. One has a little league coach saying what is the 3 rules of baseball? The kids reply, be a team player, yes, always keep your eye on the ball, yes, never play without a contract, Hershey’s unchanged since 1899. Hershey’s chocolate has been perfected so why would they want to change it. That is their slogan and mentality. And it has worked for them quite well.
Now let me ask you this. I am using the word change in church. How does this make you feel? Some people get nervous, some get angry, some get excited, and some think the pastor preaches on whatever he wants to push his own agenda and is using change as his platform like a politician. Well this morning I am going to stand up here and say that we need to change like Hershey’s. Are you confused? How do we change like something that brags about never changing?
Well let’s go to scripture first and see what the Word has to say about God and change. Let’s first read what it has to say in the old testament.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:”
Malachi 3:6 “For I the Lord your God do not change.”
Old Testament says no change, but that’s Old Testament what about the New Testament?
Hebrew 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
Okay it seems pretty simple, what the Bible says about change. God is unchanging. So, should the church change? No. I am standing up here in the pulpit saying that the church should not change. This should be a Hershey’s church. Now what does it mean to be a Hershey’s unchanging church?
Well I have a printout that I want you to look at. What does it show you? It shows you all the Hershey’s packaging since 1899. Do they all look the same? Really? Why? They say that Hershey’s has not changed from 1899, yet the packages all look different. What is inside has not changed, but the appearance changes to meet the needs of those who have never tasted Hershey’s. The church should never change on the inside, but the appearance may have too to meet the needs of those who have never experienced the church!
So what is the church? What do we have here inside that should not change? The gospel message in the church should never change.
Romans 10:9-13, 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Acts 16:31 And they said, believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.
You see the gospel message of the church should never change. You are a sinner, Christ died for you, repent and sin no more. It is not as important what the packaging on the outside looks like or exactly how we do church on the inside, what matters is what is being preached, and how we are living out our lives. So I will leave you with this easy familiar scripture to help you remember to be a Hershey’s church
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him, shall not die but have everlasting life.” That is what needs to be preached here, and shown throughout all of our ministry’s. It does not matter how we live this out. Like the Hershey’s packaging we can change, but the inside must stay the same.
Come Join the Table
This week I have been thinking a lot about my sermon. It is the first sermon that I write for both Mount Hope and Wauzeka. You would think that this wouldn’t be an issue. Just write a sermon and give it twice. Well it is not that easy, and I have been thinking an awful lot about what I am going to preach on. And I couldn’t come up with anything so Amen, church is over early!
No not really. I had different ideas this week and as I went to bed last night I just still had nothing. As I woke up this morning quite early, I was thinking alright what is it going to be. Still I had a few ideas but nothing solid. But when I woke up I had the song form Sidewalk prophets running through my head, entitled “Come to the Table.” Didn’t think much of it, it’s a catchy song but not necessarily one of my favorites. Well that song wouldn’t let go and kept playing loop in my head, which was quite annoying because I only know about a line or two! Then finally it hit me through my dense skull. Hey maybe that should be your sermon title!
Come join the Table! What does that mean? What does this song mean? Come join the Table? Well it is a song about everyone being welcome at God’s Table. No one is not welcome here. This church is to be open for all. The song says “We all start on the outside, the outside looking in.” Church can be a very scary place for some to come. Some people feel very scared and vulnerable in here, yet it is too be a place that welcomes a “Motley crew of misfits.” Some people have been brought up in a church and have been hurt or burned by church. They’re scared to come in. Some have never been in a church and have no clue what it is like or should be, and the unknown scares them to come in.
So, who should come to church? Well everyone, of course, but let’s put this into scriptural context. Who does God call to be his people, and to be their God? Well for this answer I went to the beautiful book of Hosea. The first 3 chapters of Hosea give us a perfect living object lesson of God’s love for his people. I will read Hosea 1:1-2:1 then paraphrase the next chapters.
Hosea 1-14 New International Version (NIV)
1 The word of the Lord that came to Hosea son of Beeri during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam son of Jehoash[a] king of Israel:
Hosea’s Wife and Children
2 When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” 3 So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.
4 Then the Lord said to Hosea, “Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. 5 In that day I will break Israel’s bow in the Valley of Jezreel.”
6 Gomer conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. Then the Lord said to Hosea, “Call her Lo-Ruhamah (which means “not loved”), for I will no longer show love to Israel, that I should at all forgive them. 7 Yet I will show love to Judah; and I will save them—not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but I, the Lord their God, will save them.”
8 After she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, Gomer had another son. 9 Then the Lord said, “Call him Lo-Ammi (which means “not my people”), for you are not my people, and I am not your God.
10 “Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ 11 The people of Judah and the people of Israel will come together; they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.
2 “Say of your brothers, ‘My people,’ and of your sisters, ‘My loved one.’
God calls Hosea to marry an adulterous wife? Really? Wow, you think that your marriage has been tough? Hosea marries Gomer, and her name says it all, and his children’s names say it all. Hosea’s first child is named is named Jezreel which is in context to the northern kingdom’s King, who slaughtered his 30 some brothers in order to take control of the kingdom. The next child is daughter named Lo-Ruhumah, meaning not-loved. These children are Hosea’s children, but the third son is named Lo-ammi, meaning not my people. Think about each of these children and them having to live out their lives being named these horrible names. The daughter being named not-loved, and the son being named not mine!
So in the first chapter, we have this story set. Hosea marries Gomer, who is a prostitute and they have three children 2 with each other and one with someone. Starts off pretty rough but the last verse says in that day, you will call your brothers Ammi, my people and you will call your sisters, Ruhamah, the ones I love! Remember this I will come back to it, around the table……………
Chapter 2 is all about Gomer, and her running around. It talks about how she thinks she earned so much from her lovers, and how soon God puts paths in her ways that stop her running around. Gomer is God’s beloved people and Hosea’s beloved wife. After Gomer runs and looks for lovers, she forgets all about God. Gomer finds herself alone in the desert and dying of thirst. Nd who comes to save her? Hosea, God are there and they win her back. Chapter 2 speaks of God speaking tenderly to Gomer and wooing her back. Gomer realizes all that God has done for her, and Gomer returns, but when Gomer returns she no longer calls God her Master, but her husband.
Chapter two is all about Gomer realizing how she has run out on God and been unfaithful yet God remains faithful. God loves like a husband not like a dictating master! That is why Gomer calls God her husband and not her master. Gomer realizes God loves her for what God can give and do for her, not what Gomer can do for God.
Chapter 3 is only 5 verses so I’m gonna read it to you instead of paraphrasing. Hosea’s Reconciliation With His Wife
3 The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”
2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. 3 Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.”
4 For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or household gods. 5 Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the Lord and to his blessings in the last days.
Alright is everyone following this story? Hose marries a hooker, she is unfaithful, God still loves her, and God buys her back again. The children are named not-loved and not mine, but in the end the sisters are known as loved and the brothers are known as mine. God’s people runs around on God looking for all the gifts the world has to offer them. We sell ourselves for more money, more partying, more sleeping in, more toys, more work, we run away from God who gives us everything we need thinking that we can get it on our own. We do this until we are running and chasing lovers who no longer want us, and we find ourselves hungry thirsty and dying without our God who provides everything for us.
Then when we realize it, God buys us back for far more than we were ever worth! We see how we have been unfaithful to God, yet God has always remained faithful to us, even through our adultery! That is love! That is God calling us back to him, to join him once again at his table.
Come join the Table, the motley crew of misfits. This table is full of liars, thieves, cheaters, adulters, and unworthy! Yet God wants us all to join him here at this table! And God has bought you back and paid for your sin with the blood of his own Son Jesus Christ! Someone had to pay your price and God provided a way for you and me! The blood of Jesus Christ made a worthless unfaithful hooker like Gomer, like me, and like you worthy to be in God’s presence.
So, what will you do now? Will you realize that God wants you like Hosea loved his unfaithful wife Gomer. Will you join God at his table with all the others, and accept his love this morning?
Summer of Why Part 1
Intro: Lance is going to be talking today about a few tough questions. I hope that you will sit back and listen to what he has to say, as since the beginning of time until the end of time this question and answer will need to be asked and answered by everyone.
Scripture: Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-13
This summer Emily and I were looking for ideas to talk to the youth at our Wednesday kids about. We wanted to talk about something relevant to them and that would keep their interest. We decided to ask them some questions about questions that they had. We told them that this summer is going to be called the Summer of Why. We then gave them a blank piece of paper and had them write down at least one or more questions that they had about life, God, or church. These are some of the questions that our youth came up with.
Why did my dog have to die? Why did God create insects? Why do people lie? Why do people fight? Why do my parents fight? Why are people so mean and why is their drama? Why do we do the offering? Why did my Grandpa have to die? Why do people only see the bad when good is all around them? Why do people kill themselves? Why did God create the tree of knowledge of good and evil if he knew that Adam and Eve would eat from it?
These are some good questions from our youth that are only in 2nd grade up to 9th. Our kids have questions and they are going to find out these answers from someone, so who should be giving them the answers? That’s right us, the church. We started off the first night explaining why we need church. Why is church so important, and at the end of each lesson we reinnervate how you can get the answer to your questions by coming to church each Sunday. We have been working our way through these questions and the first question of theirs that we tackled was the tough question of; why did God create the tree of knowledge of good and evil if he knew that Adam and Eve would eat from it?
I thought that this would be a great question for us to discuss today. So let me ask you, and if you want you can go ahead and answer this question in your head, if you think you have a good answer then you can shout it out. But this really is a good question that was bothering one of our youth and if the church didn’t answer this they would still be wondering. So are you wondering how we answered this question? Well we started with scripture and went back to the story in Genesis.
Genesis 2:15-17 “The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in garden – except the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. If you eat it’s fruit you are sure to die.”
Now that we have read the story and you are familiar with it does it give to you an answer as to why would God created the tree knowing that Eve would eat of it? No not really in my opinion, so we have to go outside this scripture to understand the nature of God and his creation. God has given his creation free will he has not created us like robots. Let me ask you this question. Have you ever asked someone out on a date? You have the nervous feeling and anxiety of hoping that they say yes, hoping that they want to have a relationship with you. Now some of you have asked someone out and had them say yes, a great feeling, but I am sure some of you have asked and been rejected. That is a painful feeling.
God wants to have a relationship with us, but we need to actively choose to follow him and accept him. God did not put that tree in the garden and tell us not to eat of it, to be a cruel teasing dictator, but rather a loving, caring, and protective God who longs for us to love him the way he loves us. God put the tree in the center of the garden and said don’t eat this, if you do you will die. Let me ask you this, have you ever saw a rattlesnake? Maybe some have maybe some have not. If you saw a rattlesnake would you reach down pick it up and cuddle with it like a baby bunny? No why not? Because it is dangerous and poisonous. But how do you know that it is poisonous? How do you know that it is bad for you and that if it bites you then you will possibly die? Because someone who cares about you told you that a rattlesnake is poisonous.
Was the person that told you about a rattlesnake being mean or dictational about your life? Were they being a kill joy saying don’t touch that awesome looking snake it’s too much fun and too nice for you! No, not at all they were looking out for your best interest. So was God when he said don’t eat of this tree. God gave Adam and Eve the opportunity to trust God entirely and to have an open relationship with him. Eve choose to break that relationship and you see how quickly the sins continue to roll out of man’s mouth after the fall.
They ate and they felt shame for the first time for being naked, they felt the guilt of sin in their lives. Then the sin moves from rejection of God’s word, to lies. Adam tries to hide in his sin from God and hides in the bushes, then he passes the blame onto Eve for eating the fruit. Eve then passes the buck back to the snake, saying “the devil made me do it!”
Do you see how messy it gets when we ignore God’s word and refuse to choose to have that relationship with God? God put the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the center of the garden not to test his people, but for them to have a visual reminder that God wants them to choose to love him back. Refusing to choose to love God back will surely bring death. Cuddle with a rattlesnake and you’re gonna get bit. Eat of the tree and you will die. If I told you not to pet a rattlesnake I would be giving sound advice right? So was God, he knew what was best for us by putting that tree in the garden.
God wants you to choose to love him, and it is as simple as that.
Humanities Greatest Injustice
I read a story that came out of the country of Japan. It is about a man named Masao Akabori, and he hasn't had a good night's sleep in 35 years, not since he confessed to kidnaping, raping and strangling a 6-year-old girl in a mountain grove near the Oi River one spring day in 1954. Masao was a 25-year-old vagrant who has a speech impediment when he was arrested. Masao spent 34 years on death row in Japan. A Japanese custom does not allow for the person to know when their turn is on death row and the executioners all come for the inmates during the night. Masao suffers from insomnia now and after 34 years of living on death row he was released because he was an innocent man. Masao confessed to the rape and killing because of police brutality and torture. This is quite common in Japan and 4 other inmates have been released from death row because they have been found innocent years later. Masao remembers being beaten humiliated and tortured until he finally said what the interrogators wanted him to say. Masao after 34 years of jail walked out a freed man after a retrial found him not guilty. A case of injustice being corrected shortly before it was too late.
The next case was not caught it time. William Jackson Marion and Jack Cameron met at a Kansas boarding house in 1872. The two men became fast friends and traveling companions, using Cameron's team of horses to go from place-to-place to find work.
Along their journey, the two made a brief stop in Beatrice, Nebraska to visit Marion's in-laws before moving on. After a few days, however, Marion returned solo, sporting clothes that belonged to Cameron and driving Cameron's horses. Then he left town again.
Weeks later, the body of a man was discovered with three bullet holes in his head. He was also wearing the same outfit that Cameron had worn the day he left town. Marion immediately became the prime suspect and a manhunt began. After 10 years of searching, Marion was finally captured in Kansas.
The trial and conviction of Jack Marion was seriously abbreviated. Marion's verdict was read after just one hour of deliberation, and he was hanged for his crime on March 25, 1887.
Four years later, Jack Cameron reappeared looking for his old friend. Apparently, he had run to Mexico to avoid a shotgun wedding in Kansas, giving his horses and other possessions to Marion. Now he'd come back to reclaim them.
This story speaks of some grave injustice to our justice system. Now I spent quite a deal of time searching wrongful executions and believe it or not there are quite a few of them out there, and many of them are present day. This story happens to be one of the oldest I found, but unfortunately this happens much more often that we are aware of. Wed would all agree that this story is loaded with injustices, right? One man was found dead, wearing the missing man’s clothes. This story is an injustice to dead man who was found, was never identified and then it is an injustice to Marion who was executed for the death of a man who was not dead. To hear or read about these stories make you sick to your stomach. Now these men in this story lived almost 140 years ago, so it is hard to feel close to this situation. But now imagine if you were the mother, father, brother, sister, or best friend of Marion? Now try to imagine seeing this trial last only 1 hour long with the verdict being guilty. You know that Marion is innocent, Marion is pleading that he is innocent, and there is no solid evidence that proves otherwise. Then you have to stand by and watch your son, or friend be hung in public display.
Now that makes it a little worse in your stomach to know that an innocent man is being murdered and he is being murdered by the very hands of justice. There is no one you can go to make the execution stop. Then you have to stand by look into his eyes and watch him die. When he is dead your then given the body of your innocent son or friend. The feeling of anger, sadness, hatred, revenge, and a complete loss of faith in humanity washes over you. Do you see where I am going with this story?
Today is Good Friday. But what is so very good about this day? Let’s read the scripture for tonight. I want to read Mark’s version in chapter 15:16-37
Mothers could you imagine having to watch your son stand up in front of all your peers and be sentenced to death? Then to listen to the people scream out Barabbas instead of your son’s name? Can you imagine as a man to see one of your best friends be tied to a block while two soldiers take turns beating your friend until he can barely stand, and your innocent friend’s blood is covering the entire ground and splattered on the soldier’s bodies as they laugh and continue. As a man how do you stand by and watch this? Then have to watch your son or friend be paraded through town while being cursed at, beaten, and publicly humiliated while carrying his own cross that will execute him? Jesus is taken all the way to the top of a hill so everyone coming in to town or leaving town can see him as they pass by. Then he is nailed to the cross and put up on display.
Did you catch in scripture that it was 9 o’clock in the morning when he was crucified? Then he was left to slowly die. Think about how Mary must have felt as she witnessed this all happening to her son? Think of John as he stood at the base of the cross and looked into Jesus’ eyes? Both Mary and John knew Jesus best; they knew he was innocent and perfect. He was the Son of God, he was sent back to save his people and his people tortured and killed him. Could you imagine the huge feeling of injustice that was felt that day by both John and Mary?
The first convicted death row inmate that I read to you Masao, was convicted of rape and murder of a young girl. Murder and rape is horrible, but when you add a child into it then it takes it to a whole new level. Because a child is innocent. Nothing is worse than seeing an innocent person suffer and die. Yet that is exactly what happened to Jesus Christ on the cross on Good Friday. The most pervasive twist of justice and the greatest injustice was served on Good Friday some 2000 years ago. Yet why is it that we call it Good Friday?
This goes back to my last night sermon, and Ravi’s story about the Farmer’s luck. You see in the moment of the crucifixion we could not see what was happening. What appeared to be the pervasive twist of justice to humanity became the greatest gift to humanity. Because on that cross, Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price for our sins and God’s Grace was poured out to us. Was the first Good Friday an injustice to humanity, yes. Is our salvation through Jesus Christ death on that cross an injustice to humanity, yes! Good Friday is Good because God’s love shine through our sinfulness and the wages of sin; death is defeated! Today is a great day. Not because of anything we have done, but because of what God the Father in his all-knowing omnipotence could see when he sent Jesus Christ back to this fallen world to be humiliated, mocked, beaten, tortured, and crucified for us this day becomes a Good Friday.
I am going to finish tonight service with a song from Chris Tomlin, entitled “Home.” I am playing this song tonight instead of giving you a challenge. I always wondered what drove Jesus, with his free will being both man and God, to choose to love us so much. I think this song explains it well. Jesus knew what heaven is like and he was gonna go home. Nothing the devil could offer him in the desert could even come close to going home in Heaven. Jesus knew how amazing heaven is, and in his love for us all, he wanted as many of us to come and join him there, and that is what I believe drove him to willingly submit to the cross and to embrace it and he marched up Calvary.
Play “Home” by Chris Tomlin
Intro: Today Lance is going to be speaking about a young beautiful woman and her transition into mother hood. When he says beautiful young woman, I wonder who he is talking about?
Scripture: 1 Peter 3:3-5
3 Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. 4 You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. 5 This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They put their trust in God and accepted the authority of their husbands.
“Don’t be concerned with outward beauty.” We would all agree that in the media, all that is stressed and focused is outward appearance and beauty. On TV, magazines, or in the movies the focus is on a beautiful woman who is at the center of attention, the object of desire, or in less poetic words “eye candy.” Appearance is everything. But scripture teaches us much differently. Do not focus on the outward, but rather focus on the inward beauty. It is the inward beauty that gentle and quiet spirit that is so precious to God. I think when you can where I am going with this on Mother’s Day.
Think of a young woman and the progression of her life. While she is still single and looking for a husband, she spends countless hours dressing up and getting ready to go out. Before dates she gets her hair and nails done, because everything has to look perfect. Hours before the date she has tried on almost every single piece of her wardrobe only to complain that she doesn’t have any clothes, then goes back to the first piece of clothing that she tried on in the first place. Then to the mirror where she spends another hour or more only to put on pounds of make up to hide what she feels are imperfections in her face. She puts a lot of time and effort into her appearance to get ready for a date. The guy on the other hand took a five-minute shower and found the first cleanest piece of laundry he had and was ready in 10 minutes, but were no focused on the man now.
Let’s keep moving through the progression of this young beautiful woman. She falls in with this young man then they get married. The honey moon stage they still get all dressed up for each other and try to impress each other and work out to try to stay in the perfect figure. Their love then becomes more complete when two pink lines arrive in the bathroom one morning. Then her body begins to change. Now nothing really does fit. Her hour glass figure looks more like the hour glass is trying to buy a little extra time. The hormones wreak havoc on her complexion and skin, then the belly button pops. Next is the stretch marks. This young expecting mother feels like she looks like a bloated racoon along the side of the road on a hot summer’s day and all she can wear is an old feed sack to cover her belly.
Yet the husband sees the most beautiful woman he as ever seen and he notices how she glows. He is taken back by the absolute beauty that his young bride cannot hide. The stretch marks on her belly and the belly button telling him the timing is almost about to ding just blows him away. To this young man his wife has never looked more beautiful to him, not even on that first date.
You know what made the difference between the young woman on the first date and the beached whale with three pillows under her back and between her legs laying in the bed eating pickles and ice cream? The difference was what was going on inside. Something was growing and a change was taking place. That is how God is to work in our lives. Something inside of us makes us noticeably different on the outside. When our spiritual life is growing inside of us, then everything about our lifestyle should change.
This beautiful young woman’s life progresses and their child is born. 6 months later as the baby has a fever and is up screaming in the night and mom hasn’t slept more than 90minutes at one time, in a haze she stumbles into the baby’s room to pick up the crying child. Now picture her. Her hair in a mess, stuck to the side of her face from drool, no make-up, hasn’t brushed her teeth in two days, her shirt has baby puke on it from earlier, but she was too tired to clean it up, and she’s might not even be wearing pants it’s 2am who knows. As the baby screams and the young mother reaches down to pick it up, as soon as her hands touch the baby and the baby snuggles into mother’s chest the crying stops.
Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. 4 You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. It is the inward love that this baby feels as it is wrapped up in its mother’s arms. The child is not concerned about how she looks or what she is wearing nothing of that matters to the child, just the love the child feels as she draws the child to her chest.
So, what does this mean to us on this Mother’s Day? As a lousy husband myself who does a terrible job of giving to Emily what she deserves for Mother’s Day, it is time to let her know how beautiful she really is. It is a time for us as children to remind our mother how grateful we are for all the sacrifices that she has made for us. It is a time for us as Christians to check our lives and to see if there is a change going on in the inside that is visually to the outside world, like an expecting mother.
Verse 4 says, 4 You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. Inward beauty is precious to God, and as a husband of a wonderful amazing beautiful wife she has been a precious gift from God to me. Husbands today is the day that you get to try to tell her and show her what she really means to you.
My challenge for all of you today is simply this. This week and as we spend time with our families today on Mother’s Day, I want you to think about your own personal life and relationship with God. Is it an intimate relationship like the crying baby and the young mother? Is it a relationship where as you draw closer to each other the crying stops because you can feel the love between the two of you?
Consider The Source
Intro: The pancakes and breakfast smell’s great, so this sermon better be short.
Scripture: Matthew 4:5-7
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, 6 and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say,
‘He will order his angels to protect you.
And they will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’
7 Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’
Last week we discussed the first four verses of the book of Matthew. That sermon was entitled a Man’s Gotta Eat. In that sermon, I discussed how Jesus physical need of hunger was tempted and how it was natural for us to eat. It was a natural and accepted behavior for a person to eat when they are hungry. But the timing was not right. Like a diabetic timing is everything to eating. It was not yet time for Jesus to eat. This temptation of Jesus paralleled Eve and the serpent in the garden. The first temptation was a temptation of food. Adam and Eve failed and the devil won. This time the devil is tempting Jesus the Son of God and trying to get him to fail as well. Jesus using scripture rebukes the devil and quotes from Deuteronomy, saying “man does not live on bread alone, but on the very word of God.”
This leads us to today’s scripture and this time the devil comes out swinging. It says that the devil took Jesus to Jerusalem to the highest point of the temple. Before we go on let’s talk about the temple first. We don’t understand the meaning of the temple, like the Jews would have. The temple was more than just a place to the people. It was the place to worship and according to the prophet Malachi, the temple is where the people expected to meet their Messiah. Malachi 3:1 “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me!” Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming.” Says the Lord of Heavens Armies.”
The devil knew this prophecy so he was prompting Jesus to fulfill it, but then he took it one step farther. Jesus was standing on the highest point. The highest point of the temple was probably the one corner that stuck out over the hillside. From this point if you turned around you could see all of Jerusalem, and looking down you could see the valley and the countryside for miles. Satan then tells Jesus to do what? That’s right, to jump off. Then what does satan follow up with? For the scriptures say…………..
Do you see what the devil is doing here? He starts off poking at Jesus through a prophecy from Malachi, then slams Jesus with a scripture from Psalms. 92:11-12 “For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.” Do you know the devil knows scripture too? And do you know he knows how to use it? Last week I talked about how the devil in the form of the serpent used most of scripture. “Surely you will not die.” (if you eat of the fruit) What did God say? Surely you will die.” (if you eat of the fruit) The devil added to scripture and I said in my sermon last week that nothing should be added or taken from scripture. I think we would all agree with that logic, but what happens when the devil doesn’t add or take away from scripture? Like here in Matthew 4:6, when the devil quotes exactly what is says in Psalms? What do we do? How do we handle these situations?
Before we move to how Jesus handled this question, let me try to answer it in this way. First and foremost, check the source! Check the source of who just said the words. The devil is quoting scripture perfectly. It is God’s Word but it is spoken by an illegitimate source. Do you know how Jesus refers to the devil? What does he call him? Let me read this scripture to you from John chapter 8 verse 44. But before I read I to you I want you to read John chapter 8 after church today. I feel this is was probably the most potent words that Jesus ever spoke, and if anyone thinks that Jesus was a wuss and a pushover, this chapter proves them wrong. You will hear me preaching more on this chapter I am sure at some point, so go home and read it, but anyway back to verse 44. “For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Last week I talked about the fall and the garden. Jesus brings it up again. He was a murderer form the beginning. He got Eve to sin and then he got Cain to murder Abel. I like the NLV translation because it says “when he lies it is consistent with his character.” Jesus describes the devil as a liar. He only speaks a lie. Even when satan uses scripture which is God’s Word and complete truth, when he speaks it then a truth becomes a lie. You may be confused by my statements, but think of it in this analogy.
Say I walk out to my car and it has a flat tire. Someone might pull up and ask the million-dollar question, “you got a flat?” I can honestly answer no my tires are fine. How can I do that? Because 3 of the 4 tires are fine. So, my tires are fine. I’m not saying it is right or that that is even the perfect analogy, but I can speak truth telling a lie. That is what the devil is doing here to Jesus as he uses Psalms 92:11-12, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’ Satan is speaking a truth in the form of a lie. Yes, the scriptures do say that the angels will protect him from striking his foot against a rock, but Psalms does not say to purposefully throw yourself off a cliff to test God to see if his word is true.
God is not our magician in the sky ready to perform at our request. Did you hear that? God is not there to jump when we say jump. So many people say if God showed me a sign if he proved to me that he was real then I would believe in him. In fact, one of my kids at my new job just said those words. But you know, that thinking just baffles me. Because if we demand God to show himself to us, then that would mean that God submits to us, and therefore how could God be an all-powerful God if he must answer and obey his own creation? Did you follow my run-on sentence there? If God is all powerful, why would God have to prove his existence to his own creation when they demand it? That is what satan is trying to make Jesus do here. Satan is trying to make God act by using Jesus. If Jesus jumps, then yes God does have to send his angels to catch Jesus before his foot hits a rock. But whose choice would that have been? It would have been Jesus’ free will to openly chose to make God subject to him his son and then reducing God to less than all-powerful God.
Satan has a unique, clever, and creative way to deceive. Don’t disagree with me here, because it has worked on all of us in here. How many us have found a way to twist the truth just enough that it still resembles the truth so we don’t feel like we are telling a lie? Do you see how satan works on us, so many times we don’t even notice it? Since the dawn of creation, he added words to scripture, and at the dawn of Jesus’ ministry he uses scripture word for word. It all sounds so close to the truth, but because of the source it is only lies.
So how can we tell what is truth and what is a lie? The same way that we know the devil is telling a lie. Consider the source. When someone tells you, something check the facts out. See if it follows biblical thinking. When someone quotes scripture to you as a basis for their belief look up the scripture and then read the entire chapter that verse is in so you understand the context! Which leads me to a side note here. When the Devil quoted Psalms 92: 11-12 to Jesus I wish Jesus would have quoted back Psalms 92:13. Do any of you know what it says?
I want a volunteer to look it up right now and come up here and read it for me.
Psalm 92:13 “You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet.”
1st Peter 5:8 “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” Satan was later referred to as a lion.
Genesis 3:15 “And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel." This is directly after the fall and this is God speaking to the serpent.
I wish Jesus would have spoken those words to satan and the said “oh by the way, I’m who the Psalmist was writing about.” My favorite scene in the “Passion” movie is when Jesus crushes the serpent’s head in the garden.
But Jesus did not answer this way instead he answered. It is also written, “do not test the Lord your God.” Jesus uses scripture again, but this time you must consider the source. In Jesus’s words, we find the truth.
So, my challenge for you this morning is simple. Check you sources and know your scripture. Know the context, know the scripture and the story around the verses. And I am even going to give you some homework. Read John chapter 8 and then I want you to read the entire 5th chapter of Malachi. The first person that memorizes the last verse of Malachi Chapter 5 and repeats it to me I will buy lunch at home-a-gins. Now I’ll pray and you start reading.
A Man’s Gotta Eat!
Intro: Well Lance gave up bread for Lent, and it must have gone to his head because that is all he can think about. So much that his sermon is even focused on bread. Let’s hope that this sermon isn’t to toasted and burnt.
Scripture: Matthew 4:1-4
4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’
Does this scripture sound familiar to you? This is the beginning of the scripture that we used on Ash Wednesday. This is the first temptation that Jesus resisted during his forty days of solitude in the desert before he starts his ministry. You have heard this scripture before and the notion of Jesus’ fasting and his physical hunger has been brought to your attention. We would all agree that Jesus would have been very physically hungry. But I want you to dig a little deeper into this scripture and understand a few more aspects of it than what meets the eye.
To the 10 year old or new Christian we read this story and we the emphasis is put on the physical hunger. To hunger is a perfectly normal and natural desire wouldn’t you agree? I was a wrestler, I know what it is like to hunger. When our stomach growls it is telling us we need to feed it. It is ok to eat and perfectly normal to satisfy this natural need. But as the saying goes; timing is everything. It was not yet time for Jesus to eat and his normal, natural desire for food, needed to be resisted until the timing was right.
Let’s take this scenario for example. You wake up only to realize that you forgot to set your alarm clock ahead for the wonderful spring forward time change. You are now running an hour late. You get up throw your clothes on brush your teeth and out the door in a rush. NO time for breakfast because your late for work. You get to work and your slammed and you don’t get a lunch until after 2pm. By this time, you can feel your belly button snacking on your backbone. You run down to the cafeteria to get something to eat, but since it is after lunch, there is no one there, but there is a note. The note says this, “pizza in the fridge, $3 a slice honor system leave your cash in the drop box.” Great you think you love pizza and you’re hungry. You reach for your wallet only to find out in the rush of the hectic morning that you left your wallet on your counter. Now you only have 15minutes left of lunch. No time to go to home, no cash and you know you have to work late tonight then rush to the school to watch your kids spring concert after work and you will have no time to go home first, so you will not get to eat until after the concert and that will probably be 9pm. So, what do you do?
It is the honor system. No one will know, right? You will be back at work tomorrow so you could just put the cash in the box then, I mean what’s the difference. Your stomach let’s out a loud growl, letting you know it’s opinion. It is fine to fulfill a natural desire, but to fulfil it by stealing is not. You are torn. Some of you are thinking it’s only pizza and you will repay it and that is what everyone else would do. I just had a similar conversation with one of the kids at the group home. I said how you handle these little things defines how you handle the big ones. If you can justify stealing in your head because it is only pizza, in time you can justify robbing only one bank.
Jesus refuses to eat, because the timing is not right. He has the power and the ability to turn rocks into bread and fulfil his natural and normal desires. Because Jesus has done this before. Did you catch that? Jesus has witnessed and partook in the turning nothing into bread once before. Do you remember the original frosted flakes?
Deuteronomy 8: 2-3. 2 You will remember all the way the Lord your God led you in the desert these forty years, so you would not have pride, and how He tested you to know what was in your heart to see if you would obey His Laws or not. 3 He let you be hungry which helped you to not have pride. Then He fed you with bread from heaven which you and your fathers had not known. He did this to make you understand that man does not live by bread alone. But man lives by everything that comes out of the mouth of the Lord.
This is the story that Jesus is quoting when he says Man does not live on bread alone. Jesus is referring to when the Israelites were wandering through the desert after they had escaped from Egypt. They complained that they would all dies from starvation and that they would be better off back in Egypt because at least their they had bread and meat. What did God do? He gave them flakes of manna that looked like frost each morning for bread and quail each night for meat. God proved to them that they do not live on bread alone, but rather that they are sustained by God, and by his promises. That is why Jesus says, that man lives on the word of God, the promises of God rather than the promise of bread. Jesus being the Word as the first chapter of John says, was the Word and the Word was with God, would have been with God when this miracle of manna took place. Jesus would have remembered it and so would have the devil. That is why Jesus so confidently says hey, Devil remember when you tempted God’s people in the desert and tried to get them to return to slavery, ya that’s right God kicked your butt then too.
Now I want you to switch your train of thought here. Let’s go back to the Fall. We have Eve in the garden with one simple rule. Don’t eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Who shows up next? That’s right again we have the devil. Do you know what he says to the woman?
Genesis 3:1-6. 3 The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”
2 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. 3 “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”
4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
6 The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.
Do you know that the Devil uses most of the words out of scripture? God tells Adam and Eve you will die if you eat from the tree. The devil says you will not die if you eat from the tree. Nothing can be added or taken away from scripture. Three letters are added. Not. The meaning is changed completely. We know what happens next. Eve feeds the apple to Adam because it was good, it fulfilled he natural desire of hunger and it looked good so she ate it. Was that the right move? She was hungry so she ate. You were hungry and the pizza was there, but you didn’t have any cash. This little sin leads to murder in her children.
The first temptation that the Devil had was in that garden and it was hunger. That is why it is the first temptation he hit’s Jesus with. Both Jesus and the devil were there when Eve and Adam fell, and the devil has not forgotten that huge victory. The devil was rubbing it in God’s face that he made Adam and Eve fall. Now the devil is going after God’s son. The pride of the devil thinks that he can defeat Jesus the same way that he did with Adam and Eve.
But what happens in this time? Does the devil win. No, and thank God. This temptation of hunger that Jesus resisted said so much more than no thank you I’m not hungry. Jesus made a statement loud and clear to the devil. You may have beaten Adam and Eve, but I come to make all things new. I understand that man has fallen because a Man’s gotta eat, but……………..A man does not live by bread alone, but by every word of God!
So, I challenge you this Lent a simple challenge. Live on the word of God. Do not add to it or take away from it. Do not let anyone add to it or take away from it. The read the word of God, so that when your beliefs are challenged you can answer with scripture. Get your substance from something that will sustain for eternity not just a couple hours. I mean a man’s gotta eat, so eat something that satisfies your soul not just your belly.
Intro: What is justice? I hear have heard adults speaking about this word, but it is very hard to understand its meaning. I am sure Lance will Google this word and give us a meaning later, but I’m not sure that I will understand it’s meaning even then. Justice is something all of us want, because life doesn’t feel fair. Today Lance is going to talk about the justice that Jesus Christ received in his trial, and the justice that we received from it.
Scripture: The stories of Jesus’ Trials. John 18-19, Mark 14-15, Matthew 26-27, Luke 22-23
Justice: just behavior or treatment – a concern for justice, peace, and genuine respect for people. Google’s version.
Webster’s Version. The process or result of using laws to fairly judge and punish criminals.
Two versions, one talks about the principal of justice; Google’s version speaking of a concern for the individual, and Webster’s definition talks about the actual process of finding justice. It is easy to see why the word along brings so much confusion to someone. Now I am going to talk about the justice of Jesus Christ trial or trials. Does anyone know how many trials did Jesus have? I’m talking the kind of courtroom trial? Anyone know? 1? 2? 3? 4? 5? 6? Yup 6 trials total.
I have not personally been through a courtroom process, but I understand that it is not a very fast process. I heard on the radio the other day that a murder trial from an incident that had happened in 2012 just got started this week! Almost 4 years later! Jesus had 6 trials to convict him of the death penalty. How many years should that have taken? Do you know how many hours it took for Jesus to complete those 6 trials? 18 hours, that includes walking time all around the city of Jerusalem. Something sound a little fishy about this type of Justice? Let’s work our way through his trials and the perverted type of Justice that Jesus received.
- Preliminary Hearing. John 18:12-24. This is Jesus going before Annas. Annas was the unofficial High Priest. To the Jews the job of High Priest was for life, just like our Justices. But the Roman’s had appointed Caiaphas as the High Priest. Because of this technicality the Jews had a preliminary trial before Annas who was as they felt the true High Priest and he still carried much weight in the high council.
- Hearing before Caiaphas. Matthew 26:57-68. This hearing and Annas’ hearing were both held at night most likely in the same place. The High Council and court lived in a complex, so the so-called trial was held outside their homes in the common courtyard. This is the scene where Peter denies Jesus around the fire. The fire is proof that it was at night in secrecy, because the servants and guards were warming themselves by a fire in the courtyard. This was a hush hush invite only trial, and the people warming by the fire were just bystanders.
- This all happens late at night and Jesus is tied up and held prisoner until the early morning.
- Trial before the High Council. 70 members met to put a rubber stamp on their approval of the late night illegal trial before Caiaphas and Annas. They did this to make the night before appear to be legal. The purpose was by no way to determine justice, but rather to justify their predetermined intentions of crucifixion.
- This point is another future sermon, Ravi Zacharias explains how Intent proves content. Anything can be proven based on the ferocity of intent. A lawyer and a hot cup of coffee!
- First Hearing before Pilate. The Religious leaders had condemned Jesus to death, but only Roman authorities had the power to execute. The Jewish law of Blasphemy did not condemn a man under Jewish law, so the Jewish leaders had to change their charge against Jesus. They switched from blasphemy to treason and rebellion, which were punishable by death. Pilate saw right through this and knew Jesus was innocent of these claims, so Pilate sent Jesus to King Herod who was in control of religious issues.
- Trial before King Herod. Side note here, it was King Herod’s father who had all the male children under the age of two executed out of fear for his and his son’s throne. Now we have Jesus going to the son of the executioner to be tried for execution, and the son so says No, he is just crazy and innocent! King Herod sent him back to Pilate.
- Final Hearing before Pilate. Pilate did not like the Jews, and he did not want to crucify an innocent man, but he was afraid of a possible rebellion, and was afraid for his own job and life. He had Jesus beaten which he had no legal rights to do so, but he did it anyway to please the crowd. He finally gave into the crowd out of fear for his own command, and washed his hands from the death sentence that he passed down on Jesus.
Now I have told you that these trials were unjust, but how exactly where they unjust? Here are a few reasons.
- Even before the trials began, it had been determined that Jesus must die. Mark:14:1 and John 11:50
- The rulers rigged the witnesses, and only allowed people who would testify against Jesus not on his behalf. Matthew 26:59. Typically the leaders went through a pretty tough screening process of the witnesses to promote justice.
- Jesus had no defense attorney! No one was appointed on his side. Luke 22:67-71
- The trail was conducted at night. Mark 14:53- 15:1 This was illegal according to their own religious laws.
- Jesus was put under oath, which could not he held against him, but them condemned him of Blasphemy for saying what he said! Matthew 26:63-66
- Serious cases of crimes such as Blasphemy were only to be tried at a regular meeting place in public, not in their home’s courtyard. Mark 14:53-65
Now you have heard me tell you of all 6 trials and 6 different ways that Jesus’ trials were blatantly unjust. Jesus’ death was a mockery of the entire justice system that God alone set up when he gave Moses the law. The people that were meant to protect it, perverted it horribly, and because of that the justice that we deserve has too been horribly perverted.
Jesus’ death and phony trials are the best thing that could have ever possibly happened for us. Does it make us angry to see the way Jesus an innocent man was treated, Hell yeah it does. Was it an embarrassment to see God’s own creation destroy the very son that God sent back to save his creation. Yes. Should we be grateful that this mockery of justice ever took place, absolutely.
That mockery of justice is the same mockery of justice that allows us to live with Christ for eternity. I am not a good person. I have done some really terrible things. I have been extremely mean behind people’s backs. I am a sinner and far from perfect. Yet Grace is poured out on me, and I am accepted and called righteous by Jesus Christ. I do not want justice for what I have done, instead I want Grace, because grace makes a mockery of the justice that you and I deserve for the sins that we have committed against one another.
So as we start to move towards the downhill stretch of Lent, and we move closer to Holy Week, I want you remember the mockery that was made out of the justice system, and how grateful we are for that. I want to close with this re-reading of Webster’s definition of Justice.
Webster’s Version. The process or result of using laws to fairly judge and punish criminals.
Think about your sins in your life. Do you really want the results that you are entitled to receive according to the law? “For the Wages of sin are Death,” Do you really want justice? Thank God for a mockery of his justice system, which we more commonly call Grace.
Scripture: Timothy 2:5
“Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victors crown unless he competes according to the rules.”
1st Corinthians 9:24-27
Today is the Super bowl. How many of you will be watching it? Do you know it is expected that over 100 million viewers will be watching or following this game? Most of course watch only for the commercials. This is the only time anyone sits down to watch a show and is excited when a commercial comes on. Do you have any idea how much a 30 second commercial now cost during the super bowl? 1 million? 2 million? Double that and then add the one. That’s 5 million dollars per 30 seconds of advertisement. Americans this year are expected to spend 14.1 BILLION dollars this year on the Super Bowl. That breaks down to an average of $75 dollars per person that is spent on this one game. Each player on the winning team gets and additional $97,000. Don’t worry each player on the losing team each gets $49,000. In a Sunday afternoon that kind of money can be spent on entertainment. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous?
Keep these statistics in mind today as you are watching the game. Now I want to read to you out of 2nd Timothy 2:5. Play by the rules. That is not always adhered too. Especially in the New England Patriot realm. People will do about anything to win. Win at all cost they say. Winning nothing else matters. But why? What do they really win? Paul gives us a good answer in 1st Corinthians. This is a scripture I have used in the past so maybe it will sound familiar to you.
Read 1st Corinthians 9:24-27.
Paul goes on about athletes who adhere to strict rigorous training to run a race. They all run the race, but only one wins it. And for what? What do they win? A crown or a prize that loses its glory and value. 14.1 Billion dollars is being spent on the Super Bowl today and last year 15.5 Billion was spent, yet as time goes on we barley remember who even played and won year after year. You can watch the TV show Pawn Stars and see Super Bowl rings being pawned. They lose their lust and value. All things are temporary. But Paul talks about something more than a perishable crown.
Paul says I do not run like a man beating the air and running aimlessly. NO, I beat my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. He ends were Timothy picks up. Similarly, an athlete does not receive the victors crown unless he competes by the rules.
If a coach openly cheats, will his players play fair? No why would they? That is what Paul is eluding too. I must run my race so that others see how to run it. What does Paul gain if he fills the streets of heaven with converts to Christianity but never gets to set foot inside that pearly gate? What do I gain if I continually preach the good news of Jesus Christ, but never know him personally? What witness do we have if we will be disqualified for cheating?
I want you to think about this today during the game. Think about the wasted money that is being spent on this game. It will make you sick. That much money spent on entertainment for an afternoon. Then think about how much your monthly cable bill is and how much you spend in a year on TV and Movies. Now most of you have probably received your tax statements and now I want you to think about how much you gave this last year to charity. Ouch. It is easy for us to look at someone else wasteful spending and criticize them. But as I say to my boys as they nit-pick at each other. Glass Houses. People that live-in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
Now I try to make it very clear when I mention money in a sermon. God does not need your money, he never has, and he never will. I do not care if you give a penny to this church. I just want you all to realize how much you have been entrusted with. We are disgusted by the wasted money spent on one day of entertainment for the Super Bowl, but we ourselves could do so much more with what we have been given.
I want to challenge you with this today as you watch the Super Bowl. Think about how much is being wasted on each commercial, and how much good could have been done with that 5 million dollars that was blown in 30 seconds. Then think about how long your life has been. Use your time and resources wisely and you can live a Super Life! Let’s Pray
New Year New Beginning
Intro: Happy New Year everyone! Here we go again with the New Years resolutions. Trying to change what we don’t like about our lives in 015 to be more like what we want in 2016. Since it is a time of New Beginnings I thought that we better look at where it all began. So today we are going to be reading from the beginning of both Genesis and John, to get a better understands of what our New Year’s Resolution should be.
Scripture: Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” I want to explain a little bit more about that tiny verse, but powerful statement. I want to tell you a little bit about the vastness of space. This simple statement that God created the heavens and the earth is one of the most challenging concepts that confront the human mind. What is the name of the galaxy that we live in? That’s tight the milky way. Anyone have any idea how fast the Milky Way spins in rotation? I didn’t think so. 490 miles an hour! That’s fast, oh wait I missed a zero; 4,900 miles an hour big difference huh? Whoops I did it again, I missed another zero, 49,000 miles per hour. I can’t even comprehend that speed, yet along the correct speed since I missed another zero. The speed that the Milky Way galaxy is spinning on its axis is 490, 000 miles an hour! Almost half a million miles an hour! Why is this important? Because I want to demonstrate how big God’s creation is.
The Milky Way spinning at 490,000 miles at this breakneck speed still needs 200 million years to make one revolution! 200 million years! That is too big for us to comprehend and if that bit of scientific knowledge is not enough for you here is more. Our galaxy the Milky Way is not the only one; in fact there are over one billion other galaxies just like ours in the universe. Scientists believe that the number of stars in creation is equal to the number of grains of sand on all the beaches of the world. Amazingly this complex sea of spinning stars functions with complete order and efficiency. To say that the universe just happened or evolved takes more faith than too believe that God is behind these amazing statistics. God did create this universe, but why?
God did not need to create the universe but he chose too. God is love and love is best expressed towards someone else so God created the world and the people as an expression of his love. God created this vast universe for us to demonstrate how much he loves us, but he doesn’t stop there with only his creation.
Read john 1:1-14
John uses the “Word” to describe God and Jesus. Or in Greek Logos, but what exactly is the “Word”. To understand what was being written, you must understand who was writing it. John was writing to all believers both Jews (people who understood the scriptures) and Gentiles (people who had no clue about the scripture), he had a broad reader base so he had to explain to all who Jesus Christ was. The “Word” was a term used by theologians and philosophers at the time and it was used in many different ways. To the Jews, the “WORD” was a source of creation when you read the psalms, and the “Word” was a source of God’s law and a standard of his holiness when you read through Hosea. To the Greek philosopher the “Word” was the principle of reason that governed the World, or the thought in the mind. It would be similar to what people now call Moral Law.
In the first 14 verses of john, he is describing who Jesus Christ. To the Jews this is blasphemous because John is saying that the creator became created in the form of a man Jesus. To the Greek readers the thought of the “Word” becoming human was unthinkable, because the “Word” was just that little voice in your head that tells ever because John is saying that the creator became created in the form of a man Jesus. To the Greek readers the thought of the “Word” becoming human was unthinkable, because the “Word” was just that little voice in your head that tells everyone in the world to be good. John explains that Jesus was a human being whom he personally knew and loved, yet was also the creator of the universe, the ultimate revelation of God, the living picture of God’s holiness, and even though he became a man was still the one who holds all of creation together. All 100 billion galaxies are under his control.
What Jesus Christ did and taught are tied inseparably to who he is. John shows Jesus as fully human and fully God. Even though Jesus took it upon himself to become one of his father’s creation and to live as a man, he never ceased to be the eternal God who has always existed, the creator and sustainer of all things, and the source of eternal life. That is the truth about Jesus Christ, and the foundation of all truth. If we cannot or do not believe this basic truth, we will not have enough faith to trust our eternity to Jesus Christ. This is why John wrote his version of the gospel; to build confidence and faith in Jesus Christ so that we may believe that he truly was and still is the Son of God, both human and divine.
So where does this get us today, and why have I told you of this on the first Sunday of the New Year? Well some of us have made New Year’s resolutions to change something in our lives this year, to be a little different in 2016 than we were in 2015. It is a time of New Beginnings in a New Year, and I thought we should start the year off right. Before we try tackling any other changes we want to see in our lives in the near future, let’s first take care of our eternal future. I am challenging you today, to read John Chapter 1 verses 1:14 and to accept it as the truth. I want you to believe that Jesus Christ was the man and Son of God that John describes him as.
Jesus was there at creation, he came back to us on Christmas in the form of a baby to live a life just like us, then he died on a cross for us, and rose from the grave to live once again. He created our universe, and he wants to make you a new creation too. I challenge you to change this New Year, become a follower of Christ put your old life away and put on the change of a new creation in Jesus Christ.
Intro: On Christmas Day Lance spoke about the Mary’s virgin birth. Today he will speak about our second birth. Apparently since Lance is a man he knows about these things. So sit back and see what this guy has to say about birth, it should be good.
Scripture: John 3:1-15
Last week I talked about Mary’s virgin birth and its importance. If you remember some of that sermon; good today will make more sense to you. If you were unable to be here and have not yet read it online, please look it up and read it, today will make more sense. Here is a quick recap of last week. I discussed Mary’s virgin birth of Jesus and its significance. Mary being a virgin made all the difference about Jesus. If Jesus was born the natural way with an earthly father and mother, then he would have been from the seed of Adam and therefore would have original sin in his life. If Jesus had any sin in his life then he would not be able to be a pure, spotless, blameless sacrifice for our sins. Because Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and not of a man he was both divine and human. It was his divinity that made him the pure and spotless sacrifice. His mother being human made him able to be a perfect human and an acceptable sacrifice for our sins on that cross. If Jesus wasn’t the Son of God and born of a virgin then he could not have been the prophesied Messiah from the book of Isaiah. Everyone here agreed with me on Sunday that the virgin birth without the father’s DNA was impossible. Only a God who created and set the laws of possibility and impossibility could make the impossible happen, because he wrote the rules. House rules.
Now today here we are early in Jesus’ ministry, and his wisdom of the scriptures and miraculous powers has the people around him asking questions. Nicodemus is a Pharisee (the middle class strict followers of the law) comes to Jesus in the dark. Nicodemus says to Jesus “we know that God has sent you by your miraculous signs.” And Jesus responds with “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” When I read this it seems to me that Jesus had an odd response to Nicodemus. Think about it. If at 10 o’clock tonight when you’ve have just settled in and a knock comes to your door, you open and someone says, “I know that Jesus was sent by God by all the signs he did.” How would you respond? Excuse me? Are you asking me a question or are you telling me a statement, because I’m a little confused it’s getting late. What’s going on? Jesus answers Nicodemus with “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
Jesus knew the heart of the man who was asking him the question. Nicodemus didn’t really believe that Jesus was the Messiah, later in chapter 7 Nicodemus will stand up for Jesus and also bring spices for his body when he is buried, so in time Nicodemus must have believed. But at this point when Nicodemus speaks to Jesus he is not sure if he believes in him, so he beats around the bush looking for answers. Jesus says be born again and you will understand. This confuses Nicodemus even more. “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.” The Holy Spirit gives spiritual birth. If you want to have life in Christ then you must be reborn of the Spirit. You were born and conceived the natural way, but to understand the Kingdom of God you must be born again of the Holy Spirit.
Quick question who was Jesus’ father? I know I confused some of you because you want to say God and Joseph. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Now we have Jesus telling us here in scripture that we too must be born of the Holy Spirit. Any of you think that I am getting a little crazy with my sermons? Last week I talked about my certain belief in the virgin birth of Jesus by a teenage girl, and now this week I am here again to tell you about being born again. I guess I am a typical man telling women all about birth and how it works. Don’t worry Nicodemus was confused too so he asked, “How is this rebirth possible can a man go back into his mother’s womb?
I like how Jesus responds here. Jesus tells Nicodemus, “you are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things?” If you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things how, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things?” Maybe some of you have read this month’s messenger, but you will notice I am on a little bit of an atheist verse Christian kick. This scripture speaks so true in this arena. A Christian with Grace will stand his ground and speak truth and love at his atheist opponent during a debate. But the problem is both sides are speaking different languages. The atheist cannot understand earthly things so he builds a science to support his belief. The Christian understands God and heavenly things and from their perspective science backs their belief. Same evidence for both sides but different conclusions have been drawn. As Ravi Zacharias says, “The intent breeds the content.” If you do research to prove something wrong, if you search hard enough and spend enough money then eventually you’ll find something that proves your intentions right.
Jesus in other words tells the Pharisee, you’re the teacher and if you cannot read the scriptures and see the fulfillment of them standing in front of you, then you cannot understand earthly things and you will never understand heavenly things. Jesus continues with, “No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man came down from heaven, and as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up. So that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.”
Does anyone know what Jesus is referring to here when he talks about Moses and the bronze snake? I didn’t think so, more reason why we need to have our Bible Study! Don’t worry when I read it I had to do some looking back into Numbers, because I did not remember the story. As the Hebrew’s were wandering through the desert they complained again against God and Moses, and complained that the Manna that God gave them to eat each day, that they earlier said tasted so sweet, now said that they hated it and it was horrible! They complained that they would all die in the desert and that life was better back in Egypt. So God sent many poisonous snakes among the people and many were bitten and died. Once again the people repented and cried out to the Lord, God told Moses to make a bronze snake and to attach it to a pole. If anyone was bitten by the poisonous snake they should come and look at the bronze snake and they would be saved if they simply looked at it.
So if you got bit by a poisonous snake then the anecdote was to just look at the bronze image of this snake. Sound a little corny or mythological or almost like idol worship? Maybe so; on the surface at least, but the more that you understand the Bible and its complete uniformity it makes complete sense. The snake on the pole had no power, it was manmade and bronze. When the bronze snake was hung on a pole, the Israelites did not know the fuller meaning. Jesus Christ would explain its meaning hundreds of years later to Nicodemus and to us. Jesus explains that just as the Israelites were not healed of their sickness by looking at the snake on the pole, all believers today can be saved from the sickness of their sin by looking at Jesus on the cross! It was not the snake or the cross that heals people it is their belief that God has healed them. That belief is demonstrated by obedience to God’s instructions, in the same way we should continue to look to Christ.
Sermon’s title is Second Birth. I was 7 years old at the altar of the Boscobel United Methodist Church and heard a sermon by a 16 year brother of my best friend named Jeremy Updike. Being born again is an amazing feeling. Even at 7 years old I could feel the guilt of sin in my life, and the amazing feeling of being made a new creation. In High School at Lake Lucerne I had a recommitment to Christ. I remember that feeling in the chapel, being older now and understand more of the sins that I had committed while I was a Christian. Re-birth is real. It is not just a warm fuzzy feeling that runs over your body. It is so much more.
When you feel the power of the grace of God and the blood wash over your sins, it is like someone flips on a light. You see and understand things in a completely different light. That is why Jesus says, “But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things how, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things?” At a young age I understood what Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss the brilliant scientific atheist still do not understand. Hitchens does now because he’s dead. A rebirth, being baptized in the Holy Spirit and washed in the blood is a real physical and emotional experience that changes you.
So I challenge you with this question today; can you be born again? If you answered yes, then here comes the next question. Have you been born again? If you can answer this yes, then you should be able to remember the very time that you were born again. If you’re not sure, I wouldn’t bank my eternity on thinking that I was born again. If it has been a long time since you have had a re-commitment to the Lord, then why don’t we make today the day we remember for eternity?
Dear heavenly father. Lord today January 1st 2017 is the day that I want to punch my eternal ticket. Lord I know that the life I have lived is not the life that you intended for me to live. I have been mean, bitter, and cruel to my brothers and sisters. I have wanted forgiveness from your son Jesus, but refused to give it to my family or my friends. I have let hate control my heart and anger and slander flow freely from my tongue. Jesus Christ right now I look to you on that cross, I lift my eyes to heaven and know that only you, Jesus can take away all my sins. Jesus please come into my life, take my sin and wash it all away. Make me a new creation in you. Fill my heart with love and forgiveness for all of those that I have not forgiven. In the name of Jesus Christ I ask that you change me and my life. Though I do not deserve your love and grace, I beg you to pour it out on me. Thank You Jesus
At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria. All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient hometown. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
We have just read the Christmas Story once again. I am quite sure most of us have heard this story before. We hear about how Mary and Joseph had to travel from their home town of Nazareth to Bethlehem. There are actually two Bethlehem’s and one is only 7 miles away from Nazareth. Now if you were 38-40 weeks pregnant would you want to walk 7 miles or if you’re lucky ride a donkey for 7 miles through hilly terrain during the fall season that is typically a cool rainy season? I’m lazy enough that I wouldn’t even want to walk 7 miles unless I was hunting then that’s ok. Now on top of all this you have to make this walk for a census and then pay your taxes. I wonder if they got a tax write off if Jesus was born before they paid their taxes, because if they did I am quite sure Joseph was making Mary walk that baby out before they got to Bethlehem.
Question would 7 miles be enough for you to walk to pay your taxes? Well to bad, because as I said earlier that there is actually two Bethlehem’s and they had to walk to the second one. The other Bethlehem was David’s hometown. As a crow flies from Nazareth to Bethlehem it is 70 miles, but more likely they had to walk almost 90 miles because of the terrain. Now before we go into the walk itself let’s discuss the event s that led up to this historical night and birth.
Mary is a young girl as I would call her. Depending on which scholar you research, it is quite possible Mary was between the ages of 14-19. Let’s roughly split the difference and say she is about 16. She is excited and engaged to a good man named Joseph. The engagement is announced and shortly after she receives a message from God. Mary is pregnant. Mary is a virgin. She was quite confused by this as well; that’s why she asks the angel how can this be? It is enough for her to wrap her own mind around this that she is pregnant. Now she will have to tell her fiancée. We cannot understand because of the liberal and loose views that our society has of premarital sex and children out of wedlock, but Mary would be sweating bullets. Not only would her life be ruined because she is pregnant, but she would also be a huge disgrace to her family. Her father would have to repay the bride price and most likely disown her and could possibly throw her out of the house to live on the street with her bastard child. Different world then than now. She most likely will never marry, and will live on the streets all her life.
Joseph would also be extremely shamed, because they would all look to him at first as the father. Scripture notes that he was a good man and respected. That would all be lost now. Mary is only 16 and she has all of this thrown on her. I am afraid to give a 16 year-old a set of keys to drive to the grocery store and pick up milk. They’ll probably mess it up. Mary has to give this news of her pregnancy to her father and Joseph. Joseph’s goodness is once again mentioned as he decides to quietly call off the engagement. Through an angel in a dream Joseph is reassured that his fiancée has remained faithful to him and that the child in her womb is the Messiah.
Joseph and Mary continue with the engagement both knowing that the child is a gift from God. Now when Emily and I were in High School, if Emily had become pregnant, and I went and told Sam it’s not mine its God’s, do you think that he would have believed me. No he probably would have tried to shoot me instead and said “You ask God yourself if it is his child.” So when Mary started to show, and the cat was out of the bag that she was pregnant, they had to tell people. When Mary said I’m a virgin, do you think anyone really believed her, besides her cousin Elizabeth? And when Joseph said, to all his friends and family members, yes she is pregnant, but honestly she is still a virgin, do you think they believed him? Especially when he said, the child in her womb is God’s son, he is the one that Isaiah spoke about when he said, “Look the virgin will conceive a child! Shew will give birth to a son and call him Immanuel (which means God is with us). Can you hear all his buddies saying, RIIIIIGGGHHT. Okay Joseph, and the moon is made out of cheese too.
All joking aside, Mary and Joseph’s life would have been Hell for quite a while in Nazareth. No one would have believed them and to both of their families they would have been shamed and a disgrace. Now both of their names are run into the mud, and a census has been called. Mary and Joseph were both from the line of David, so they had to make the 90 mile trip to Bethlehem. This trip is said to have taken as few as 4 days or as long as a 10 days. At 40 weeks pregnant walking through rough mountainous terrain, in rainy weather, and through the hostile land of Samaria. This trip had to take forever. The Samaritans and Jews hated each other, so any time in their land would not have been pleasant. The roads and trails were full of bandits and robbers. Remember the whole nation was on the move for this census and they had to pay their taxes. They didn’t carry checkbooks and there were no ATMS. They carried all their money. People were easy picking for bandits. People traveled in groups and caravans, strength in numbers. Joseph and Mary were pregnant and disgraced by their families. It is quite possible that people would not travel with them.
Then they get to Bethlehem and need a place to stay for the night. There are no rooms for them. It is possible that there simply were no rooms, Bethlehem is a small town and many people were from the line of David so town probably would have been full. Many times people stayed with family members when traveling at their house. Both Mary and Joseph were disgraced and their families may not have taken them in, and that is why they needed a place at an inn. The Inn may not have had room for Jews at his inn. Prejudice was very high and Jews were not liked. Then Mary goes into labor.
I have quite a temper, I and I do not handle things well when bad things snow ball. As a man, could you imagine how Joseph felt. He is newly married, he is the leader of his household, and he has no place for his wife to have a baby. No friends, no family, no inn keeper will even take his money. In desperation he takes his wife into a stable. A man made cave cut into the hillside, where the animals stay. Joseph has to deliver the Son of God and lays him in the manger. Mary is only 16 and there is no midwife to help her. Mary may have seen births before we do not know, but we know she is a young woman alone with Joseph in a barn giving birth with no medical attention or pain meds. She gives birth to the greatest gift that God has ever given to the word. Our Messiah, our Savior, the Son of Man as Jesus will most commonly refer to himself as, has just been born in barn. Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem is over.
Do you think that Mary enjoyed her journey? Mary was an obedient woman. When Mary was told that she was with child and in her womb was the Messiah, she praised God as she sung Mary’s song of praise, known as the Magnificat. O’ how my soul praises the Lord…………
I am sure when Mary heard the news that she was going to give birth to the Messiah, she assumed it would be in a wonderful and beautiful place. Because obedience to God always means good things will happen to you right? Wrong. Sometimes we think to ourselves, I’m being obedient, so why aren’t things going better? When we face discomfort, inconvenience, or tragedy we immediately think that God has left us or ignored us. When we are expected to do irrational things or our work seems meaningless we tend to think that our life and actions are too meaningless.
This quiet obedient couple had a rough and bumpy road to Bethlehem. God did not smooth the road out for them but rather strengthened them for the long hard journey. No luxurious palace was waiting for Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, but rather a dirty dingy stable. Jesus was delivered into a world with very humble surroundings. When we do God’s will we are not guaranteed comfort and convenience, but we are promised that everything we do in obedience to God even in discomfort and in tragedy has meaning. You will always be given the strength to obediently follow, but you will never be guaranteed an easy road.
My sermon title for this Christmas Eve is The Journey. This can all be related to each of our individual lives. Mary and Joseph’s Journey to Bethlehem ended with the greatest gift God ever gave to man, when Mary and Joseph met Jesus Christ. Our Journey throughout life will ultimately end when we too in our death meet Jesus Christ. I choose to meet Jesus before then. I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior when I was believe it or not 7 years old. I remember it very vividly as I knelt at that altar. My life has not been easy, and I have suffered inconvenience and tragedy, but I promise to remain obedient to Jesus Christ.
So this Christmas 2016, where will your journey take you? Will it take to the feet of Jesus Christ or will you wait till your death? All of our Journey’s will take us to him, it is up to you if you want your life to have meaning and to be part of God’s plan. Mary and Joseph followed quietly and obediently and 2000 years later we are remembering their devotion to their God. Will your life speak of your devotion to your God, or will it speak of your devotion to earthly luxuries? I know what I have choose, what will you?
ntro: Advent is here, and we begin the anticipation of the coming Christ. Normally I do not get too excited about Christmas with all the decorations and traditions, but I think this year might be a little different. This Christmas I am focusing on the Hope, the fist candle we lit and what it brings with it. The hope and expectation that Jesus Christ offers us is that great that I am feeling the need to share the Christmas spirit this year. Let’s Pray
Scripture: Psalm 33:20-22
20 We put our hope in the Lord. He is our hope and shield. 21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. 23 Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.
Today since it is the beginning of Advent, we will be talking about Hope. Since I am going to be talking about a word, I figure we all better understand the what the word means. So I reached for my favorite dictionary that I always keep in my pocket, (meaning of course my phone) and googled the definition of Hope. Hope is a noun and has 2 meanings.
- A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
- A feeling of trust.
Today, I am going to touch on a very personal issue. I have talked about this before; in fact I touched on it last Sunday. I do not want to dwell on it, but when my sermon today is Hope I have too. When I was preparing for Advent and was reminded that Hope was the first candle to be lit my son’s name came to mind right away. Malachi has been on my mind throughout Thanksgiving, and now with Christmas here and the advent wreath, Malachi is constantly running through my mind.
When I think about Hope, I am reminded that Hope means a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, a feeling of trust. Last Sunday I brought up again 3rd John 1:4 “I have no greater joy than knowing that my children walk in truth.” That is Hope. I have the feeling of trust that my son Malachi is already with Jesus Christ, and I am not very patiently waiting to be with him again. I believe this promise will come true, because God has promised us many things and God has fulfilled them all. Christmas time is a reminder to us all of the beginning of a promise that was followed through and we celebrate on Easter.
Do any of you know someone whose word is as good as gold? I mean someone who said, “I saw a pink alien carrying a watermelon wearing skis this morning when I was milking the pigs.” And because their word is so good you have no choice but to believe them. Well maybe that would be a little hard to believe, but if that person told you that story in the morning and then you go home and watch the news and you saw on every station a picture and video of a pink alien wearing skis and eating watermelon; you would have to pick your jaw up off the floor.
Now to transition from a pink alien back to Jesus Christ. God said he would send a Messiah to deliver the World, and save his chosen people. Everyone was excited and had great expectations about who this Messiah and King would be. So many great expectations that they didn’t recognize God’s son when he came. God gave us a very detailed description of who his son would be, where he would be born, who would give birth to him, what his name would be, where he would grow up, how he would die, and that he would defeat death and rise again. Jesus Christ did everything that was prophesied he would do. God said he would send a deliver to the world, and on the first Christmas he did just that. Our expectations were different than God’s, but God still fulfilled his promise. Emily and my expectation for our son’s birth was too way different than what God had in mind, but his promise is still true and he has fulfilled it for Malachi, and one day will fulfill it for Emily and I. Our Hope is in this belief.
As we move towards Christmas and start buying all the millions of dollars worth of Christmas presents, I want you to think about the first gift and I do believe is the greatest gift we all can be given. Hope. Quick question for you. What are something’s that make a good gift? Like if you are going to give a gift, what will make it a goooood gift to give? Does the person want it? Do they need it? They can’t live without it? They have needed it for a long time? They won’t get it for themselves? It feels good to give a gift that fits all of these needs of the recipients doesn’t it.
Let’s apply Hope to all of these situations and see if it is the perfect give for God to give us all. Does the person want it? I think all people want Hope. Do they need it? Absolutely we all need hope. There is nothing scarier than a hopeless person. The person can’t live without it. I don’t think a life is truly lived if you’re living it hopelessly. They have needed it for a long time. Since the day of our birth we all have needed hope. They won’t get it for themselves. Hope is not a gift that we can purchase for ourselves. Hope is only a gift than can be accepted. The very first Christmas gift came long before the first Christmas morning.
Hope, the feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, a feeling of trust.
This Christmas season I want you all too truly experience Hope. The hope that I preach about that tells me I will see Malachi again. The hope that has trust that God will fulfill his promises like he already has. This Christmas I want you to quit just living this life and start living a hope filled life. You and I do not know each other by accident, this is not just chance that you are here listening to me today. This is planned. God is reaching out to you begging for you to follow his son Jesus Christ so that you too may experience what my son Malachi is already experiencing. Let’s Pray
Intro: How many of you went hunting yesterday? It was a nice calm warm sunny morning wasn’t it? If you went how long did you last before your feet and toes froze? It never fails that’s the first thing that gets cold. Gotta pick on my nephew since he no showed this morning. Yesterday he was sitting in the woods and his toes were just freezing and he couldn’t figure out why his toes warmers that he put on his feet weren’t working. He took his shoes off and he had put them on his heals! Then his thumb and finger tips kept getting cold and he couldn’t figure that out either. He had gloves with finger tips and the mitten top and he put the hot hands on the outside of the mitten part! So today, frozen fingers and toes are going teach us how to be grateful in all situations.
1st Chronicles 16:34 “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.”
Psalm 106:1 “Praise the Lord! Give thanks to the Lord for he is good! His love endures forever.”
Yesterday, I was sitting in the tree stand with my frozen toes, and I was originally not thinking about how grateful I was for those frozen toes. But, as the morning past I was thinking about the tingling in my foot and I shifted my focused from my right foot to my left. My toes on my right foot yes were frozen and uncomfortable, but………on my left foot that’s another story. I still have phantom feeling in my left leg; meaning in my head I can still feel my toes and my ankle even though it was cut off over 12 years ago. So yesterday when my right foot was froze and tingly my left foot was warm and comfortable! This made me think a lot about how we look at our lives and how we as Christians are called to live with a grateful heart.
There are so many things in life that we look right past and forget to be grateful and focus on the little pains in our lives. I’m gonna throw a lot of examples at you today. After I started thanking God for my warm toes on my left leg, I started to thank him for the frozen toes on my right foot. You see when I originally had my accident I was told I that I would lose both legs. They did 5 surgeries alone to save what I have of my mangled right foot. I know when I was in surgery a lot of people were praying that the surgery would work and that my foot would be saved. Those prayers were answered and it was saved. Back then we were very grateful for those answered prayers, but as time goes on we forget about those answered prayers and start focusing on what we do not have. Now I have poor circulation in my foot and every time it freezes I am constantly reminded of the prayers that God has answered in my life and not what I do not have!
I think so often we are focused on what we need right now, and forget the abundancy of what we have been given in the past. We only see the right now, and what we do not have and can’t see all that is before us. Back to picking on my nephew. Brandon missed again yesterday! So I gotta tell you his story. He had seen several deer in the morning but none he wanted to shoot, and then as he got in his stand he was fixing his ratchet strap and looked up and he had two little bucks fighting right in front of him! They weren’t big enough so he let them go, then 3 coyotes came by and he scared them away flicking the safety off! So now he is sitting there freezing and he told me he was freezing and was praying “God give me just one more chance send me a nice doe so I can shoot one or a big buck.” As he was still praying he looked and there was 3 does right on top of him. He scared them too and at the sound of his gun firing it only made them run faster.
My point by picking on him and telling his story is that he had been given chances all day, but when he wanted something that is when God became important, not when God had already been so good to him. This is a constant reminder to us not to do the same. I know I preach on this a lot and a lot of my sermons have the same theme, but I want to get this point across. God is good all the time, and we need to live a life full of gratefulness for what he has already given us.
As we approach Thanksgiving this year I want all of you to really spend some time thanking God. We have it sooooooo good! We may get focused on the little things in front of our faces like frozen feet for a moment but please look past it, frozen feet can be a blessing. Yesterday, we were eating lunch all 20 or so of us plus kids. Mom goes way out of her way and provides a huge meal bigger than Thanksgiving, and we had a man named Dan and his two sons hunting with us. Dan said to his youngest son, this sure beats licorice and sandwiches doesn’t it? I didn’t realize, but until my brother invited him to hunt our land they actually set up a tent on public land and that’s how they had to hunt. They ate Dad’s cooking and slept in a tent. One year they got 18inches of snow he said, that tenting wouldn’t be much fun to me. Now this year both boys shot bucks yesterday, and they had an excellent meal around a table in a warm house, and they didn’t have to eat dad’s cooking! I could tell that they were thankful!
So my challenge for you today is this. It may be tough. I want you to find one of the hardest and toughest things in your life and find a reason to be thankful for it. I have told you mine before in a different sermon, but mine is this. 3rd John 1:4 “I have no greater joy than knowing my children walk in truth.” Loosing Malachi is still the hardest thing I have been through, but I am grateful that I have the promise that I will be with him again!” So Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and enjoy it with a truly grateful heart!
As the Deer
Intro: Whoooo Hoooooo! Does everybody know what this weekend is? That’s right, opening weekend of the Wisconsin Gun deer season! Can you feel the excitement? Do you have any idea why I am so excited? Because Lance loves to deer hunt, so this week and next week’s sermon will be short!
Scripture: Psalm 42:1-5
It’s deer season so we had to put the book of Acts on hold again and deal with some seasonally fitting scripture.
Gonna start off with a science type question for you here today. Are you ready? Because I am going to ask you to answer. What is the source of life? What does almost every living thing need, and I say almost because there are probably a couple exceptions. So what is it, hint the answer I am looking for is in the scripture. That’s right water. As the deer panteth for the water so my long longeth after thee. I thirst for you God; the living God. I’m jumping all over here, do we have any wrestlers in the room? Wrestlers that have had to cut weight and a lot of weight fast? Wrestlers who have cut weight the wrong way, by dehydrating themselves?
I am going to tell you a story of when I wrestled in college. I high school I wrestled 152 and 160. When I got to college my freshman year I dropped to 149lbs, of course I cut a leg off between high school and college so that helped, but needless to say I was very thin. In college you can wrestled down to 3% body fat and those were my glory days and I was consistently around 3-4% body fat. One night I had to cut weight before a tournament and I was locked out of the wrestling room so I could not get to the scale. All I knew was after practice I was still a couple pounds overweight, so throughout the night I had to keep working out and could not even have a sip of water. I remember that night was the worst night I ever had before a meet, I was extremely cranky, just ask Emily, and I remember walking in the next morning telling my coach I would never wrestle again if I didn’t make weight. I weighed in and guess what? I was 147.5. I was a whole 1 ½ pounds under weight so that meant I could drink a little water. I stood on the scale and drank back over a pound. Water has never tasted so good in my life. But that’s not then end to the story. When I weighed in it wasn’t the official weigh in. They moved the scale to another room and the floor was carpeted. It made a difference, because when I got on the scale I was a half-pound over, and I had to go run and cut weight again before official weigh ins.
Now I tell you that long story because this is how I relate to this scripture. I longed for water like you could not believe. Sometimes when we were dehydrated we would dip our tooth brushes in water and scrub our tongue just to taste the water. I understand the longing for water like David does when he is writing this psalm. David was exiled by Saul and he was in hiding in the woods and desert. David played the harp for Saul and used to lead these huge processions throughout the city of Jerusalem during all the religious ceremonies. David truly enjoyed worshipping the Lord in the Temple, now he was cut off and could not worship God.
I voluntarily dehydrated myself, so it was my own stupidity and stubbornness the stopped me from enjoying a drink of water. I could have had a drink if I wanted at any time. David as much as he longed to be part of the worship celebration and to worship God in the temple could not. If he returned, he would be killed. David felt as if he was cut off from God and the thought of this sent him into depression.
When can I go and stand before him? Day and night I have only tears for food. Do you see what happens when we feel like God is left out of our lives? If God is not present in our lives, something else will set in. Depression tears us down and makes us feel all alone and completely cut off from everyone else. We become spiritually dehydrated. Like being dehydrated our body tells us through thirst that we need something, and our body goes into limp mode retaining as much water as it can. When these feelings of anxiety and depression come over us our body tells us what we need, but we refuse it.
Now do not read too much into my sermon, depression and anxiety are very real physical ailments, but there are limits and situations that have simple fixes. Some cannot, but next week I will talk more about how we can overcome some of basic feelings of anxiety and depression.
So my challenge for you this week is to go home and read this the 42 psalm. I want you think about your spiritual walk and where you stand with God. Do you long for him like a dehydrated wrestler longs for water? And if you struggle with minor depression and anxiety look forward to hearing some simple answers to combat it next week. So as promised this sermon is short, and let’s get back to the woods!
Scripture: Acts 15:36-40
Today we heard a story about two Christian men who disagreed so strongly that it caused a wonderful division. Paul and Barnabas wanted to back track to visit each city where they had previously preached to check on the new believers and strengthen them. Barnabas wants to take along his cousin John Mark, Paul does not John Mark to come along. From now on we will refer to John Mark just as Mark, because that’s how we know him from the gospel book of Mark. The book of Mark was written by this man referred to as John Mark in the book of Acts. Do any of you remember why Paul does not like Mark? It was all the way back in Chapter 13. Chapter 13:13 “Paul and his companions then left Pathos by ship for Pamphylia, landing at the port town of Perga. There John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem.”
Anyone have any idea why Mark left Paul and his fellow believers here? Neither do I, we don’t know why there was this separation but it must have left a bad taste in Paul’s mouth because he did not forget it. I think he got sea sick or homesick. In Galatians 4:13 it does talk about Paul being sick when he brought them message to them, and it is possible that Mark became quite sick as well and could not go on so he returned home to Jerusalem. It is also possible that Barnabas who apparently was Mark’s cousin had just been put in a place of higher power than Mark and that may have caused some painful division. These are all speculations, but wither way whatever happed, it made Paul not forget what happened in the past between the two of them.
Barnabas wanted Mark to come along. And as scripture stats the disagree was so sharp that they immediately parted ways. Paul chose Silas to accompany him throughout Syria and Cilicia and strengthen the churches there. Barnabas took Mark and they set sail for the Island of Cyprus, which shoots my idea that Mark got sea sick and didn’t want to sail. So what happened out of this great division? Two not one teams of evangelist were formed. They divided and conquered for the Lord. The number of people changed and converted to Christianity because of these two teams we do not know, but let’s not look at those numbers; I want to focus on the change of an individual.
Think about Mark here. Mark left the missionary scene for whatever reason and skedaddled back to Jerusalem. Paul who was a man who persecuted and killed the early Christians and could accept Jesus Christ forgiveness of his sins could not forget how someone else hurt him. Sound familiar people? You have accepted Christ and became a new Christian your sins and past have been forgiven and you are a new creation. You have hurt Christ in the past but you are forgiven and redeemed. Do you know what redemption is? It is according to the online google dictionary. The action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil. We have been redeemed by Christ saved from our sin and forgiven of our past. Paul who we consider and I would agree was one of the strongest and best Christians to ever live, could not forgive and forget what Mark had done to him.
Mark on the other hand could forgive himself. He was willing to go again and his strength was renewed. Acts does not talk much about Mark and Barnabas missions but what we do know is that Mark became a very influential missionary. He wrote one of our gospels and it seems that Paul eventually forgave Mark. We see in Colossians 4:10, when Paul writes this, “Aristarchus, who is in prison with me sends you his greetings, and so does Mark, Barnabas’s cousin. As you were instructed before, make Mark welcome if he comes your way.” I am assuming of course that he meant that in a nice way not sarcastically.
Marks’ life was a life of forgiveness and renewed strength. We need to learn from this. We need to live a life than shows change. Barnabas must have seen the change in Marks life to stand up for him and side with Mark instead of Paul. Last night I had this crazy dream, and I mean crazy. You should get a good laugh out of this or at least a wow, this guy is crazy thought running through your head. So last night I dreamed that I was on a plane with a bunch of either Army Rangers or Navy Seals, some type of elite strike force. I won’t go into too many details of the dream because it was pretty crazy, but apparently I had been with them on a few assignments and I am not sure if I was a chaplain, a reporter, or another member of the team but whatever my role in this crazy dream of mine, this statement stuck with me. One of the members of the team turned to me and said, “I don’t know if your good for our morale and the mission. Your changing the way we think before a mission.”
Now this was a crazy dream and nothing more, but that thought stuck in my mind. Does the way I act affect the people around me? Do your actions affect others around you and how? Do you show people that your life is different and does that rub off on them for good? There was a change in Mark’s life and Barnabas was willing to stand up for him. If we truly are Christians then there has to be a change in our lives that is evident to others. It has to be a sincere change. More than our words need to change, but how we act has to change too. When we speak to other people are we harsh and quick to argue? Do we find a way to say something that has a little jab in our words? Do we find a way to add something to the conversation that lifts up the other person or tears them down?
The title of my sermon is Redeemed. The act of being saved from our sin. Sometimes when we lose our zest or fire to follow Christ like Mark did the first time in Perga, we need to remind ourselves of the sins that we have committed and that they have been forgiven. Our redemption should give us the renewed strength to stand back up for Christ. Our actions, and our words should have the power to change the thinking of those people around us.
Then like Mark we too can be very useful for the kingdom. It was his renewed effort to follow Christ that gave us the book of Mark.
Surrender Your Will
John 16:16-33 John 16:16-33 New Living Translation (NLT)
Sadness Will Be Turned to Joy
16 “In a little while you won’t see me anymore. But a little while after that, you will see me again.”
17 Some of the disciples asked each other, “What does he mean when he says, ‘In a little while you won’t see me, but then you will see me,’ and ‘I am going to the Father’? 18 And what does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand.”
19 Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant? I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again. 20 I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. 21 It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. 22 So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. 23 At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name. 24 You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.
25 “I have spoken of these matters in figures of speech, but soon I will stop speaking figuratively and will tell you plainly all about the Father. 26 Then you will ask in my name. I’m not saying I will ask the Father on your behalf, 27 for the Father himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from God. 28 Yes, I came from the Father into the world, and now I will leave the world and return to the Father.”
29 Then his disciples said, “At last you are speaking plainly and not figuratively. 30 Now we understand that you know everything, and there’s no need to question you. From this we believe that you came from God.”
31 Jesus asked, “Do you finally believe? 32 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
Every time I think of you I give thanks to God.
1st Thessalonians 4:13-14 The Hope of the Resurrection
13 And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.
Today we are remembering those who we have lost this last year. Many of you knew Alice, Marian, and Diane very well. They were near and dear to you and have a special place in your heart. You lived a life with them and now you hold onto the memory of time with them. Philippians 1:3 Every time I think of you I give thanks to God. I want to ask you this question. How many of you have lost someone that you miss very badly? Ok, now how many of you would give anything to just spend one more day with them? Good remember that you said yes to this, because I will be coming back to this.
I want to move into our main scripture for this morning. I am going to be reading out of John 16, verse 16-33 so if you have your Bibles and you want to follow along please feel free to do so. This I Jesus explaining a few things to his disciples shortly before he is crucified. Read John 16.
Many people today still do not understand death, or in my opinion don’t want to understand death. Death is just the next step in life. Because of Adam and in the garden, we all have to die. But as it says in Corinthians, just as one man brought death to all of us through Adam, Jesus Christ brings life to all who believe in him. Jesus is trying to explain to his disciples, that he is soon going to be crucified. He lets them know that they will be heartbroken and sad. They will desert him and be scared. Yet Jesus says my death will be just like a woman’s labor pains. The pain will be intense for a while, but the joy of the new child makes all that pain seem worth it.
Jesus broke all the molds, when he died. Before his death Jesus appeared as just another prophet. In the Roman’s eyes, he was just another rebel leader. The Sanhedrin, religious leaders thought that his death would be the end of him. Yet 3 days after Jesus’ death something happened. What was that? That’s right he came back to life. Jesus rose from the grave. He did not raise only in spirit but his physically came back to life. He broke all the molds and no longer death had it victory. That is why at funerals at least at the ones I officiate you will hear me say at the committal service quote scripture, “Where of death is your victory, where of death is your sting.” The end of this life is only temporary.
So where does that leave us as those who have lost loved ones. How do we go on without them? Well let me read to you out of Thessalonians. 1st Thessalonians 4:13-14 The Hope of the Resurrection
13 And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.
Now I want to tell you a secret, well it is not really a secret, but I want to inform you of something. It is often at funerals that we assume that everyone goes directly to heaven after they die. It is in reference to Jesus hanging on the cross, with two thieves on either side of him. One thief decides to follow Jesus Christ and accept Jesus as the Son of God. To that thief Jesus says, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” But the other thief rejects Jesus Christ and mocks him. The thief who accepted Christ defends Jesus, while the other thief mocks Jesus. Now, Jesus does not tell the thief who is mocking him that he will spend eternity in Hell, in fact he says nothing. Jesus only gives the promise to the thief who acknowledges Jesus before others.
That is why our scripture out of Thessalonians reminds us to not grieve for those who we have lost loved ones who have acknowledged Jesus Christ. Because we have Hope for them. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. If Alice, Marian, and Diane had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ then for certain we can see them again!
Remember I asked you earlier in my opener, if you would do anything to just spend one more day with your lost loved one? Some of you answered Yes. Well, Jesus Christ has given us the chance to spend an eternity with them, not just one day. You said that you would do anything to be with them again, well all you have to do is acknowledge who Jesus Christ is before other men. Put your complete trust in Jesus as the Son of God, and give your life to him. I asked if you would do anything to be with them. I assume you are willing to do anything because you have such great love for that person.
Well know that God our Heavenly Father, did everything possible to be with you for eternity. God sent his Son down to this world, and sent him to the cross in our place. Jesus was the perfect lamb that was sacrificed and made as atonement for our sins. The Father sacrificed his son, and the Son willingly gave up his life so that you could have victory over death. The Father felt that your life and eternity was worthy of love and gave everything he had to be with you. And you said that you would give up anything to be with your loved one for a day, then let me tell you what you have to do.
If you have accepted Jesus Christ, then surrender your will to him. Trust that no matter what you go through in this life as Jesus says in John, I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Jesus overcome this world and overcame death. Because he did this we have been given eternity is we accept him.
I am willing to surrender my will and this life to Jesus, in exchange for an eternity in paradise. So, here is my challenge for you. Will you? Are you willing to surrender all your wants, your feelings, your desires to Jesus Christ for an exchange for eternity? Sure this life will be tough and trials will feel overwhelming, but it is only temporary in the scope of eternity. So, is your word really good? Will you truly give anything for another day with your loved one? The Father and the Son did for a chance to spend eternity with you. Surrender your will to God and put your trust in the Son. Let’s Pray
We have started discussing Abraham on Wednesday nights. While I was gone some main characters were introduced. Last week we had Abram and his wife Sarai, and Abram’s nephew Lot. Lot’s father had died and Abram took him under his wing. Last week the kids were told to be a blessing to each other in the way that God had blessed Abraham and Abraham blessed others. This week we focused more on Abram and Lot and their family feud. Today we are going to discuss how the feud ripped them apart at a time in their lives when it should have pulled them together. Later I will talk about what happens when personal needs and wants are put before others.
Scripture: Genesis 13:1-13
Family, farming, and business. Huh, who didn’t see Abram and Lot butting heads? Lot and Abram were biologically uncle and nephew, but Lot’s father Abram’s brother had died so Abram adopted him. Abram who as we learn in scripture was a very profitable farmer, taught his nephew how be a profitable farmer as well. Lot learned from Abram, and they both became too large to work together. Nobody here has ever farmed with the generation that taught them how to farm have they? Oh, a few of you have? Well if you have farmed with your family or been in business with them you never fought so why would Abram and Lot fight? To successfully work with family in business takes a lot of skill, and 100% like mindedness from both parties, and that us very hard to come by. I think it’s because the more the two of them are alike the harder it is for them to work together.
So we have Abram who is very rich with lots of animals and servants. Lot also over time becomes very wealthy himself with both servants and livestock. They get big enough that their herdsmen start fighting between each other and who knows I would imagine that things were a little tense between Abram and Lot as well. When Abram faced potential conflict with his nephew he took the initiative to settle the conflict. When there is a problem between family members or anyone for that matter, do not wait for it to blow over, take the initiative and try to fix or dissolve the conflict right away. The longer you let it fester the more irreversible damage is being done. Initiative is the first step.
Now Abram has taken the initiative and gives Lot his choice. According to the times and the standard they lived by, Abram being the elder had the right to first choice. Not only does Abram break the uncomfortable ice of addressing that there is a family problem, but he goes a step farther and shows humility and a willingness to be cheated. Abram’s example shows us how to respond to difficult family situations. (1) Take the initiative in resolving conflicts, (2) Let others have the first choice, even if it means not getting what you want, and (3) Put family peace above personal desires. Abram and Lot are in an uncomfortable position, and Abram goes out of his way to put the lesser above him. Abram humbles himself, by exalting his younger nephew.
One thing that you do not read in these 13 verses, but you realize if you read the whole story; is that Lot and Abram were surrounded by hostile neighbors. In verse 14 you read about all the fighting and wars between the people in the land. Since they were in hostile territory and in land not their own yet, Lot’s men and Abram’s men should have been pulling together instead of separating. I believe it was Lincoln’s quote that said “a divided house cannot stand.” In chapter 14 you will see that one of these two men’s house’s fall when they were attacked. Petty jealously between family members torn this family in half, when they needed to be pulling together.
Similar situations happen in our lives don’t they? Both in our family and in Church. Christians often bicker, argue, and part ways while Satan is working in full force around them. Satan is doing everything that he can to tear down all the relationships that Christians have built between family members and fellow Christians. We live in hostile territory and when we need to be pulling together to resist evil, we pull apart because it’s easier to go our separate ways than to work through a conflict. These rivalries, disagreements, and arguments between believers are destructive in three different ways.
(1) They damage good will, trust, and peace. It’s hard to believe that a Christian is sincerely devoted to Christ when they have broken your trust and hurt you so bad. (2) They stop progress towards important goals. We are a Church body and family. We function most effectively when we work together. A few weeks ago we did the first Men’s Day down at the Sportsman Club. Loren was my go-to-guy to make that event run smoothly. If Loren and I had parted ways because we couldn’t get past a little disagreement, then do you think that Men’s Day would have even happened? These arguments and disagreements get in the way of progress and the growth of God’s Kingdom. (3) They make us self-centered rather than love centered. When we bicker or argue we put up walls covered with mirrors between each other. When those walls are there we can no longer see the other person’s needs and looking at the mirror covered wall we only see our own needs. When we only see our own needs it makes the decision to break away that much easier. Then we do what’s best for number 1. Division among believers and families was such a sore subject for Christ himself, that in his final prayer in John 17 he asked God that his followers would be “one.”
In verse 10-13 we see Lot’s character being revealed by his choices. Abram gave Lot his choice. He said if you go to the right, I will go to the left; if you go to the left I will go to the right. Abram even though as I stated earlier; had the right to choose because he was the elder, choose instead to give the choice to his young nephew. It says Lot looked out and saw the fertile plains of the Jordan. It doesn’t say anything about the mountain lands that he left for his old uncle, just how nice and beautiful and lush the plains were. When Lot was given a choice, he chose the best land for himself and though nothing of his uncle’s needs or what was fair. Life presents these choices all the time; we too can choose the best for ourselves while ignoring the needs of others or family members around us, but these kinds of choices, as Lot’s life shows leads to problems.
The good pasture and available water of the fertile plains seemed like a wise choice at first to Lot, but he failed to recognize that wicked Sodom could provide temptations strong enough to destroy his family. We are given choices in our life, like a new job or new career that might take us away to a new community or city. We see the green pastures of more money in our bank account and the abundant waters of more opportunities for our family, but sometimes we are blinded to see the dangers and temptations of a new place. Lot chose to live near Sodom, knowing it was evil and a wicked place. Lot probably thought he was strong enough to resist the Evil, but as scripture unfolds we realize this was not the case. God does command us to reach people who are living in areas like Sodom, but we must be careful not to become like those people and fall into their lifestyle. As a leader of his family, Lot lead his family into temptation and not all members of his family were strong enough to resist that temptation.
Lot as a leader of his family chose to move in a direction that was self-centered and greedy, not love centered and fair. When we stop making decisions in God’s direction, then our only option is to make choices in the wrong direction! Did you catch that? When you stop making decisions in God’s direction, then your only option is to make them in the wrong direction.
We have learned a lot from Lot and Abram today. (1) Take the initiative in resolving conflicts, (2) Let others have the first choice, even if it means not getting what you want, and (3) Put family peace above personal desires. Jesus desires for us to have “oneness” among believers. If Abram and Lot would have pulled together, then one would never have fallen. When we build walls between each other, we can only see our own needs and our actions and motivations become self-centered. Don’t lead your family into temptation, the weak ones will fall.
My challenge for you all today is pretty simple. If you accept it then the rest of your life will not be easier, but more purpose driven and meaningful. Whenever you make a decision, make it in the direction of God. When an argument arises become love-centered not self-centered. Make your life One Direction. Chose to live a life walking in God’s direction, so that you never have to walk in the wrong direction.