|Posted by Overland Christian Church on March 29, 2013 at 12:30 PM||comments (0)|
WHAT ABOUT NOW?
3-24-2013 (Palm Sunday)
5 “Tell the people of Jerusalem,
‘Your king is coming to you.
He is gentle and riding on a donkey,
on the colt of a donkey.’”
6 The followers went and did what Jesus told them to do. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt to Jesus and laid their coats on them, and Jesus sat on them. 8 Many people spread their coats on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The people were walking ahead of Jesus and behind him, shouting,
“Praise[a] to the Son of David!
God bless the One who comes in the name of the Lord!
Praise to God in heaven!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, all the city was filled with excitement. The people asked, “Who is this man?”
11 Some in the crowd said, “This man is Jesus, the prophet from the town of Nazareth in Galilee.”
PRAYER – Dear Lord, may the truth of your word fortify us as grow in the knowledge of who you are. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
WOULD JESUS RECOGNIZE THE CHURCH
• In all my reading there is a reoccurring question that pops up now and then
• The question is:
• If Jesus walked into a modern day church would he recognize it for what it was intended to be?
• I think it is rather obvious that the modern day church has very little in common with the church of 2,000 years ago
• And even less in common with a Jewish synagogue of that era
• And so I wonder if God’s grace extends to our religious practices or lack thereof
• Would Jesus be o.k. with the way we do things?
• Palm Sunday does answer that question, but what I am talking about is often overlooked
BEING THERE WITH JESUS
• Because Palm Sunday is often nothing more than what many a Bible will call a “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem
• Many a Christian imagines themselves among the throngs of people shouting “Hosanna in the Highest”
• While they wave their palm fronds at this healer, savior, king
• If we were in the crowd would we gather that the people loved him?
• Or are they in love with their ideas about him?
• Perhaps some think of him as the one that will re-establish Israel to its former glory leading a rebellion against the Romans
• Those people are pumping their fists and many of them are the ones yelling the loudest.
• Undoubtedly some in the crowd have heard of Jesus and his healing power
• Before coming to Jerusalem, just outside of Jericho, he had just healed two blind men
• Maybe some in the crowd have loved ones in need of healing
• They have tried doctors and potion makers, prayer and magic, and now they shout because hope for their loved one has just road into town
• Verse 10 tells us that the people were not convinced that first Palm Sunday about who Jesus was
• We might be this Palm Sunday, but they weren’t
• They were stirred up, but hardly convinced. The verse says they asked “Who is this?”
• Maybe they got a better look at this supposed political savior and he didn’t look like much up close
• He lacked the fancy dress of a king
• Where was his scepter? His throne? His entourage?
• Why did this man’s entourage smell like fish?
• Maybe the people looking for a healer saw instead the rough hands of a carpenter
• Whatever the case may be it would seem that people’s attitude have changed between verses 9 and 10
• That’s a pretty fast change in demeanor
• It would be like saying “Here comes someone that can fix all our problems”
• And then you realize it’s your mail man
• Only you’re not alone
• Everyone seemed to expect more
• And now you and everyone else is asking “What were we all fired up about?”
• The best answer we get from the crowd is that Jesus is a prophet
• A common idea among Muslims and Jews today
• And while Jesus spoke prophetically he was and is so much more than merely a prophet.
CLEARING UP THE MISUNDERSTANDING
• See many people wanted something else
• The Jews wanted a political savior
• But Jesus was a spiritual savior
• Many of these people wanted the restoration of Israel
• But Jesus came to restore the people to their God
• The crowd didn’t get that
• Even after his resurrection the disciples were still perplexed about it as well
• I’m glad we know who he is
• We have the benefit of hindsight
• But back then I don’t believe that was the case
THE SAME DAY
• Now I want to get back to the question I presented to you at the beginning of the message
• I ask this question because while we do have this understanding about who Jesus is I wonder if we go about worshiping him in a manner that glorifies Christ
• It’s not such a strange thing to wonder
• Especially in light of the verses that follow the Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem
• I wonder if you know what happened on the same day that Jesus road into Jerusalem.
• You probably know the story
• But you might not know that it occurred on Palm Sunday
• It was the very first thing Jesus did after the shouts of Hosanna
• But let me ask that question again:
• If Jesus walked into a modern day church would he recognize it for what it was intended to be?
• Keep that question in mind as we look at the very next scripture
• Which also occurs on Palm Sunday
• It says in verses 12 through 15 it says”
• 12 Jesus went into the Temple and threw out all the people who were buying and selling there. He turned over the tables of those who were exchanging different kinds of money, and he upset the benches of those who were selling doves. 13 Jesus said to all the people there, “It is written in the Scriptures, ‘My Temple will be called a house for prayer.’[a] But you are changing it into a ‘hideout for robbers.’”[b]
14 The blind and crippled people came to Jesus in the Temple, and he healed them. 15 The leading priests and the teachers of the law saw that Jesus was doing wonderful things and that the children were praising him in the Temple, saying, “Praise[c] to the Son of David.” All these things made the priests and the teachers of the law very angry.
• And just like that the message and meaning of Palm Sunday changes
• In fact what many of us thought about Palm Sunday comes to a screeching halt
• Yes, Jesus comes to make some changes
• And to set things right
• But it’s not what many people thought it would be
• No, the first thing he does is go to a temple
• And, in essence, tells the religious leaders and temple defilers that he doesn’t recognize the place
• The Son of God does not like what he sees in the house of worship.
• Which again begs the question:
• If Jesus walked into a modern day church would he recognize it for what it was intended to be?
• In many cases the house of God has taken on a different appearance or purpose than what was originally planned.
• I would have a tendency to say that whatever caused these changes happened gradually
• Because that is usually the way those things happen
• All we know for sure is that the activity occurring in the temple courts angered Jesus
• The act of buying and selling in the house of worship was a big “no, no”
• Now someone may ask: “Then how do you address the churches money issues if not with events aimed at making money for the church?”
• It’s a practical question, but not a very spiritual one
• I’d say that, first off, we address our money needs prayerfully
• That we commit the church to God and to his care
• Because churches fail and suffer when they stop seeking God for answers and start panicking
• See if we won’t trust God then we won’t let go of our security blankets so that we can take hold of God as our security
• The answer isn’t in fundraising or unbiblical bake sales…
• At least not as far as the Bible is concerned
• But the Bible does seem to indicate that the answer comes in asking God to help
• And in being obedient to what God has asked us to do
• Because God has this to say on the matter, in Malachi 3:10:
• 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.
• The reason churches do not experience that sort of abundant blessing is because they have exchanged the whole tithe for schemes and gimmicks
• So, rather than with games and raffles…
• The money brought into the church should be a result of people obedient to what God has to say about people blessing one another by sharing all they have
• What we know of church income, from scripture, tells us that a gift, offering or tithe was willingly given by the people of the temple or church
• That’s right….it was simply given; handed over without any expectation of return.
• The reason why Bingo and fundraisers are such hot issues today
• Is because churches are failing due to members that have stopped biblically giving to the church
• People are no longer looking to just be obedient where giving is concerned
• They are looking for some sort of trade off.
• That is why giving goes up when something is offered in return, but people have a hard time giving for the sake of giving
• This is not what the temple or church was created to be
• We are supposed to be a body of believers, obedient to what Christ has to say about the issue of giving and of helping those in need.
• We are to be honest and direct in our giving
• Not giving to get something in return, but giving for the sake of others and just for the sake of giving.
• We are to be seeking God instead of dreaming up schemes for how to fix what we perceive as broken.
• See, every church has an emphasis
• And for the most part churches have gotten it wrong time and time again
• I’ve seen churches that have programs galore
• Churches that are specifically involved in outreach or social justice
• Yet there is no church that can do it all
• No church has in it enough people to cover all the needs of all the world
• And that is okay
• Because that, first and foremost, is not the point of a church
• While the temple courts of long ago were money oriented
• Our modern day orientation has evolved from strictly money problems like those to emphasis problems
• Some churches emphasize their music
• Some their pastor
• Or some program or mission or ministry
• But Jesus never said “My house shall be called a house of music”
• Nor did he say “a house of praise”
• Concerning sermons and a church with a preaching emphasis
• Jesus never said “My house shall be called a house of sermons or apologetics”
• Nor did Christ ever say “My house shall be a house of one singular ministry”
• He said “MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER”!!!
• Jesus is consumed with zeal for his father’s house
• He wants it to be used in the right manner
• Not to turn a profit
• Not to emphasize a single aspect of how we “do” church
• Because we make into something that robs God if we spend time doing something other than communicating with God
• If we are not seeking God
• If we are not adoring Him, confessing to Him
• If we are not engaged in making our needs known
• If we are not involved in thanking God
• Then we are robbing God of his due
SO WHAT DO WE DO?
• Oh, I am not saying that music is bad
• Or that preaching or fellowship are unimportant
• I am saying that those things should not be the emphasis of any church
• That we are not called to be that sort of place
• But that we are called to be the house of God and as such a people that emphasize prayerful communion with God.
• Let us give of our time to God and our talent and treasure because he has given so much to us
• Let us seek God in prayer sincerely and remember that first and foremost communion with the Almighty is the purpose of this house of worship.
• But, let’s ask that previous question one last time
• Only this time let’s make it personal:
• If Jesus walked into OCC would he recognize it as a church doing what a church is created to do?
• See, we know a thing or two that the crowd in Jerusalem didn’t
• We have the benefit of a faith grounded in history
• We know who Jesus really is
• So, our shouts of “Hosanna in the Highest” are well informed
• But be that as it may: Would OCC be treated any differently than the temple?
• I know from speaking to just a few of year that you are not all on the same page with the answer
• But I’ll tell you this:
• The answer to that question comes to us as we study God’s word
• We can only answer confidently in the affirmative if our practices are supported by scripture.
• If we use only human rationale then we are only being self-serving
• To be obedient to Christ means listening for Christ
• What has he shown us?
• What does he say?
• And when we see and hear what was said or done, by Jesus, on Palm Sunday will we opt to crucify that message by ignoring it, changing it or doing away with it?
• Or will we resurrect it in our hearts so that we may live it in a way worthy of a Christian Church?
• When Jesus brought his accusations against the temple and it’s practices it is interesting to note that he ruffled the feathers of the temple leaders
• They were not so much interested in following God as they were in following a manner of religious practice they had established
• When challenged they became angry
• To this day when unbiblical church practices are pointed out
• There are undoubtedly religious factions that get their feelings hurt
• And they get angry with anyone using the Bible, in a descriptive or prescriptive way, to point out the way things ought to actually be
• Some may even think their take on how things should go is in keeping with church practices
• But does that thinking line up with scripture?
• And for today, I’ll leave you with that last question.
• Just like Jesus left the chief priests and the scribes
• Because Jesus had more work to do before the cross
• The day after Palm Sunday Jesus would wake up and curse a fig tree
• Giving the disciples a lesson on faith
• He would also have his authority challenged and teach using his famous parables
• He’d lead a discussion on paying taxes
• And teach the Sadducees a thing or two about the resurrection of the dead
• He was very busy, but he never lost sight of what he was here for
• He didn’t come to just chastise the temple leaders or to heal some people
• But he was walking towards Good Friday so that the church would have reason to rejoice
• And so that people would be freed from the yoke of bondage due to sin
• But first he would show us a better way to live
• Have you been listening?
|Posted by Overland Christian Church on March 21, 2013 at 11:20 AM||comments (0)|
MUST AND HAVE TO
“From that time on Jesus began telling his followers that he must go to Jerusalem, where the Jewish elders and leading priests, and teachers of the law would make him suffer many things. He told them he must be killed and then be raised from the dead on the third day.”
PRAYER – Dear God, when it comes to your truth show us the necessary when we are looking for the merely permissible. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
• If today’s verse does anything it acts as a prelude to Jesus’ entry into Bethlehem on Palm Sunday
• And of course Palm Sunday is a necessary step towards the cross
• However, if you really think about it most scriptures that pertain to Jesus seem to lead to the cross
• Christ crucified is the climax of the story of redemption
• The apostle Paul was fascinated by the topic
• As were many of the Biblical authors
• While, according to 1 Corinthians 1:23, the message of the cross was foolishness and a stumbling block to both unbelieving Jews and Gentiles.
• The Gospel writers recognized the death of Christ as imperative to their theology
• And to their understanding of Scripture and prophecy
• To make sense of God’s grace they had to grapple with Christ’s death and make sense of it
• Because the chief job of the early church was to come to terms with the death of Jesus
• And to shape the understanding of that death into a bold proclamation
• In Matthew, Mark, Luke and John about 35% of what is said there is about the death and suffering that Jesus would have to or did endure
• All the Gospel authors talk about this in their books early on
• Mark makes mention of the savior’s death as early as chapter 2 of his book
• Today’s verse talks about it 11 chapters before it actually happens.
• Today’s verse takes place near Mt. Hermon and from that vantage point Jesus directs their attention to Golgotha; the place where he would be crucified.
• I like a story full of unknowns and suspense
• That type of thing makes from a great novel\
• But Matthew is no novelist
• What he tells us has nothing to do with sustaining the interest of a reader
• He simply puts out the fact of the matter…
• He says that Jesus must go to Jerusalem and suffer and be killed
• You’ll note that as you read that part of the Bible you will find no emotional breakdowns
• No whining, crying or temper tantrums
• Just Jesus embracing that terrible future.
CONCEPTS OF JESUS
• You know many theologians and authors have written untold volumes on the person of Jesus
• They have claimed that he was brave and bold, heroic and charismatic.
• Even a few psychiatrists have tackled the nature of the Son of God
• Claiming he had a “death wish”
• Or a “martyr complex”
• But perhaps even more disturbing than all of that is the way Matthew has put things
• The way Matthew remembers it: Jesus tells the disciples that he “must go”
• He “must go” to Jerusalem and suffer
• He “must go” to Jerusalem and be killed
• To my way of thinking this begs a pretty important questions
• And that is how are we to handle the urgency of the word “must”?
• Jesus “must” go.
• What is the source of that “must”
• Is it born out of necessity?
• Does it come from God’s will?
• Is it preordained and inescapable, unavoidable and inevitable?
AFTER THE RESURRECTION
• You know, after the resurrection of Jesus the disciples came to understanding of just what had occurred
• I mean to say that they became aware that Jesus’ death was necessary for the forgiveness of sins
• They came to understand that Jesus’ life was necessary so that they would know, from his teachings and the example he set, on how to live
• And of course, to the disciples, the Old Testament would have made a lot more sense now that they had experienced the Messiah
• After all each one of those 39 books spoke of this very Savior time and time again
• I can almost imagine them rereading those ancient scrolls and seeing the light of understanding cross their faces
• In that moment the cross was no longer a tragedy for them, but simply the means towards forgiveness
• So, to the minds of the Gospel writers (and probably to Paul as well) the result of Jesus’ ministry was always to be crucifixion
• And the point of the crucifixion was always the redemption of God’s people
• This, they perceived, was for us and our salvation
• Jesus was delivered up according to the predestined plan of God
• It sort of reminds me of what Joseph told his brothers when they had come into Egypt looking for food
• They thought they had had Joseph banished into a life of servitude
• But when they are reunited with their brother they find he is a ruler in the land and Joseph tells them that what they had intended for evil God used for good
• It is no different where Jesus is concerned
• But we still have not addressed the must of Jesus
• The fact that Jesus must go to Jerusalem for suffering and death might bother us a little bit
• But is it a real theological problem or not?
• Some would say it is because it seems to fly in the face of one of our more prized possessions…
• That being the notion that we have the freedom to choose our paths and destinies
• It’s that age old question of free-will vs. predestination
• But let’s not go there today
• Because doesn’t our real problem lie in our having no place in our lives for the word “must”?
• Think about how bothersome the word seems…I’ll give you some examples
• “You must do this.”
• “I must do that”
• It can be an ugly little 4 letter word
• One we are loathe to say ourselves because it’s too heavy and burdensome
• It’s confining in the way ot forces us to commit.
• An awful of us have been brought up on the principles of self
• We’ve been taught self-expression, self-assertion, self-fulfillment
• Parents are increasingly afraid to damage what they perceive as the fragile metal states of their children so they dare not tell them that they must do a thing
• Instead they allow the child to figure out things on their own…
• Even if that means dropping out of school or life
• Today there simply is no room for must
• Especially when it comes to religion
• It seems that faith has become this watery thing defined by people not interested in cracking open their Bibles to see how it is truly defined.
• But we’re not totally ignoring the must
• After all most of realize that if we want to eat that we must work
• And that if we want to keep our stuff then we must pay our bills
• But very few people will tell you that you must go to worship
• In fact I don’t know anyone that says that
• And that’s because these days the guiding principle is wanting to do it and enjoying it.
• Maybe you’ve said this or have hear it said:
• “If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t get any good out of it.
• If you don’t really want to, it has no value. All religion is to flow from a free and willing heart, otherwise it is just sheer hypocrisy, right?”
• And so when we meet the few people that speak of their religion with a must or “have to” we say they need a shrink.
• We treat them as though they are brainwashed…when they are really just more faithful than we are
• The resistance people have to must and have to is truly a resistance to commitment
• Or a copout or a rejection of responsibility on our part
• Think about this example
• When this country was faced with the ugly truth about the treatment of blacks many a church person said…
• “Well, you can’t compel morals, you can’t legislate morals. When all of us feel right in our hearts, then we’ll not have this problem.”
• Well, for how many centuries can a person say that?
• Now let me ask you: How does one get to feeling right in order to act like a Christian?
• Isn’t it a fact that feeling right most often come after and not before doing right?”
• Suppose getting out of bed, taking a shower, taking exams, cutting the grass or helping a neighbor all depended upon us first having our hearts all a flutter with Christian intent and love for the task before us.
• Shoot…nothing would ever happen
• The world would come to a screeching halt
• What if I told you that the bulletins weren’t ready to today because Paula’s heart wasn’t in it and she didn’t want to be a hypocrite by making bulletins when her heart wasn’t in it?
• Or what if the pulpit was empty today because I wasn’t feeling edified and uplifted…naturally one cannot preach when one is like that right?
• No, wrong. Don’t be ridiculous
• We are answering the call of the must
• And the church needs to be like that
• It can’t be frozen in place waiting to get its act together
• God has given the church the green light to go
• Not the green light to address it’s heart issues
• A couple years ago a young guy was coming to church
• And he was really involved
• But he had some problems
• He had some demons in his closet
• I told him about God’s grace
• I told him about God’s forgiveness
• Stuff he must have heard from me a couple hundred times from the pulpit
• I told him to keep doing what he had been doing both in the church and at home
• But he had his must haves all confused
• He though he must be perfect to come to church
• That he must have all his ducks in a row before he could do anything
• And so he quit and he sits and now he’s not doing anything at all good for God or for himself
THE PROBLEM WITH MUST AND HAVE TO
• Our resistance to the musts and the have to’s of this life really account for the horrible record that some people and some churches have in terms of effectiveness in making a difference in the life of the world.
• For so many of us everything needs to remain optional
• No assignments please
• No commitments
• We don’t want to add something spiritual to our busy secular lives
• We don’t want to box ourselves in with obligations and burdens
• I’m glad not everyone has felt that way
• Allow me to mention a few people that were truly motivated by having to do what they do
• People that realized they must see through with what they were about
• Do you remember Madame Curie?
• She was a major pioneer in the field of science
• She isolated radium and with that achievement opend up many new avenues in the medical field
• She worked in deplorable conditions; in a shed in the cold of winter
• She worked on and on even with frostbitten toes, meager food supplies and with no financial support
• Now step out there in the shed with her and ask her if she’s having a good time.
• Probably not, but she knew what she must do
• What about Paul?
• In spreading the message he felt he must share he was shipwrecked, beaten, dragged through cities, banned from cities, stoned, imprisoned
• Ask him if being an evangelist and missionary is easy work.
• He tells us he preaches the gospel because necessity was laid upon him
• Even Jesus tells us that he has not come to do as he pleased, but to do the will of the one that sent him.
• All these people did what they had to so and that is the key to achievement.
• See, you never know what you can do until you have to do it.
• My grandmother was in a terrible chicken coop fire as a young girl
• Burns covered half her body
• I’d ask “Grandma, how did you get through that?”
• She’d say “You never know what you can do until you have to.”
• The single mother comes into the church office.
• “How are you going to get by?” I ask her
• “You never know what you can do until you have to.”
UNTIL WE HAVE TO
• And until then we just seem to keep everything optional
• We spend all our energies protecting our precious alternatives
• Keeping them alive and well
• And we achieve very little in the mean time
• The real achievement…the really meaningful achievements are matters of life, death and eternal life…things we address because we must or because we have to
• Have you ever met a really impressive person?
• Then I’m sure you’ve noticed one thing about them:
• They possessed a sense of having something they had to do
• Now have you met an unimpressive person?
• Then you have probably noticed that they are uncommitted…maybe even a little lazy about getting things done
• But that person that addresses life’s musts and have to’s may seem a little obsessed
• But often their joy is in knowing their work is more important than how they feel about it on any given day
• So, the person in tune with answering the call of must is the person that bears the burden of a day
• They do what they have to do: they get up in the morning and go to bed in the evening and in between they struggle with the great issues of the day: what to eat, what to wear, what to do…and because they have addressed those burdens they grow old and die without the burden of having to wonder if they were lazy or uncommitted.
• And to bring this all back to the story of our redemption…it goes like this:
• “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer…and be killed.”
• That is what was done for us
• What has God asked you to do?
• Has he said “You must…”
• Have you heard it from the scriptures?
• Have you read it for yourself?
• There are plenty of musts for the Christian
• Don’t ignore them or exchange them for some watered down agenda of your own making
• That will never get you to the place God wants you to be.
• He has so much more planned for you than you could ever plan for yourself.
• If that’s what you’d like learn what you must do.
• To really know what the plan of God is
• To really see the unfolding of the plan of redemption we must meet Jesus on the road to Jerusalem
• And to do that you’ll have to be here next week as he enters the holy city on Palm Sunday
|Posted by Overland Christian Church on March 14, 2013 at 11:25 AM||comments (0)|
1 Kings 16:25-28
25 But Omri did what the LORD said was wrong; he did more evil than all the kings who came before him. 26 Jeroboam son of Nebat had led the people of Israel to sin, and Omri sinned in the same way as Jeroboam. The Israelites made the LORD, the God of Israel, very angry because they worshiped worthless idols.
27 Everything else Omri did and all his successes are written in the book of the history of the kings of Israel. 28 So Omri died and was buried in Samaria, and his son Ahab became king in his place.
PRAYER – Dear God, may we take what we hear to heart and may that heart long to follow you even more. In Jesus’ name. Amen
• The boss was pleased with Marcus
• Because Marcus had proven himself
• The boss had said get under that car and Marcus didn’t hesitate
• He knew exactly what he needed to do
• So, the boss went over to another car and sort of kept out of sight to see what Marcus would do
• And there lay Marcus under this brand new Mercedes staring up at the drive shaft
• The truth of the matter was that Marcus didn’t know the first thing about cars
• He just wanted to make the boss happy
• And so when he was given some instruction he followed it
• So, he lay there sort of nervously wondering what to do next
• And that’s when he noticed a pair of feet approaching
• The feet were is a pair of expensive looking loafers
• And they came right at Marcus
• And then they stopped right next to him
• Apparently this person didn’t realize he was under the car
• Which was fine with Marcus
• In a flash he pulled out his knife and sliced through the Achilles tendon of his unsuspecting victim
• The person howled in pain and dropped to the cement parking garage floor
• Marcus shot out the other side of the car and ran towards the boss as they made their getaway
• Such were the initiation rites of the gang known as the Crips in north Omaha in the early 1990s
• A person such a Marcus would have been considered a successful candidate for the gang
• When you think of success coupled with violence the word takes on sort of a different meaning doesn’t it?
• A person successful in conducting violence is not someone we would normally consider a success…at least not as we understand it.
• John was a busboy in the late 1800s
• It was about the only work a young black man could get in his town
• But John had a dream
• And so he joined the Army and he obeyed orders and worked hard
• He saved enough money to put himself through school
• And eventually he became a colonel
• Upon leaving the Army John began buying and selling real estate
• And he began to make a lot of money
• John never forgot the struggles he had faced and he knew there were other young men out there that could use the help he never had
• So, he started a trust fund that continues to this day in helping send young, fatherless men to college
• John died in 1902 and at the time it was said that he was the wealthiest black man in the United States
• His generosity has served hundreds of young me
• And yet Col. John McKee’s grave had no marker until last September
• For 110 years almost nobody recalled the successes of this man
• Who not only had success in business, but in overcoming racism and in being a brother to his fellow man
• Perhaps the world looks at an unmarked grave and thinks it’s rather obvious that such a person must have been insignificant
• Or unworthy of mention
• But success is not gauged by how big your headstone is once you’re dead, but by what you did when you were alive
• Success is a very fickle concept
• Everyone’s idea of what it is seems to be different
• Everyone seems to want it
• Books are written about it
• Seminars are given suggesting paths towards it
• The saying goes that the person with the most toys wins
• Suggesting that the successful person is the one with the most stuff
• And yet modern wisdom realizes that you can’t take it with you
• And so if success is based on our stuff then success seems to be sort of pointless pursuit doesn’t it?
• Well, looks consider someone us
• In today’s verse we are focusing on Omri
• Omri means “pilgrim of God”
• A pilgrim is someone on a journey
• And I like to think that we are all on a journey of sorts
• Life is a series of choices to be made and paths to navigate
• But Omri seems to have taken the wrong path
• Now let’s get a little background on Omri
• Omri was the 6th king of the northern kingdom of Israel (885-874BC)
• He started out as King Elah’s army commander
• But one of Omri’s fellow soldiers, a guy by the name of Zimri, plotted a coup and had King Elah killed
• While Zimri thought he had some military success the truth was that he had very little support in Israel
• And instead of being made king in Elah’s place the Israelites made Omri king.
• Now that he is king Omri heads home to vanquish Zimri
• But Zimri isn’t up to the challenge and opts to kill himself instead
• And so Omri’s rule was firmly established
• One might say that he had achieved success
• Well, Omri was a king of vision and wisdom.
• It is Omri who was responsible for establishing the city of Samaria
• He made Samaria the new capital of Israel
• Which was a strategic move allowing him to control the north-south trade routes in the region
• While he was king the city enjoyed great prosperity
• This has recently been confirmed by archaeologists that found buildings of excellent craftsmanship in that region
• Anyone looking at these things would probably conclude that Omri was a progressive king
• A shrewd king, a smart king
• A very successful king
• And yet we’re told in verse 25 of today’s text that: “…Omri did what the LORD said was wrong; he did more evil than all the kings who came before him.
• Now that is really saying something
• Because the kings before Omri were pretty bad
• The 1st king of Israel was Jeroboam and he had a good run for a while
• But eventually he made idols for the people to worship
• And allowed them to build temples to false gods on the places intended for the worship of the true God
• Jeroboam also invented his own religious holidays
• And appointed priests of his own choosing to serve in the temples of the false
• The next king of Israel is Nadab
• And we are told that he was every bit as bad as his father Jeroboam
• Next we have Baasha
• The first thing he did as king was murder all of the former kings surviving family; just to make sure nobody tried to wrest control from him
• Other than that the Bible tells us he was just as bad as Jerobaom and Nadab
• Which brings us to Elah
• Who we really don’t know much about because he only reigned two years before he was killed by Zimri
• We are just briefly told that he was an idol worshipper
• Now as I already mentioned Zimri was a murderer. He plotted against Elah and briefly set himself up as Israel’s king
• But it wasn’t enough to just kill the king so Zimri went after all of Baasha’s family
and murdered all of them
BACK TO OMRI
• To really understand the scope of their sins you have to remember the types of idols and false gods these kings worshipped.
• Asherah was a fertility God and prostitution would be practiced around that temple
• The worship of Molech often resulted in one burning their children in fire or even cannibalism
• So, the sins of these kings would read like this: envy, murder, warring, strife, cannibalism, adultery, fornication, treason against God and country, blaspheme…
• I mean these were some wicked people…
• And yet we are told in verse 25 that Omri did even more evil than all these kings that were before him
• Now what really gets me about today’s verse is what it says in verse 27: all his successes are written in the book of the history of the kings of Israel.
• What really caught my eye was that even though we just learned that Omri was the lowest of the low the scripture suggests that he had some successes
• To many of us that probably seems to be something of a contradiction
• After all bad people are not suppose to be successful
• I think the whole of this sermon hinges on that word “success”.
• As I mentioned Omri had some worldly successes as king
• He accomplished some things
• But if we read our text we would have to conclude that those accomplishments did not make things okay with God
• And that makes me wonder about our leaders and even some of the things we do as regular, ordinary people
• We spend so much time and energy in various pursuits; chasing after that which will help us to feel successful or at least content
• But all the success in the world does not mean that God has blessed us
• Do you have a billion dollars?
• That is in indicator that God has blessed you
• Just because you like what you have doesn’t mean it came from God
• And even if it did it doesn’t mean God approves of the way you have been using it
• When it comes down to the kings I mentioned it seems rather apparent that first and foremost God desired for them to recognize him as the one true God
• God desires our acknowledgement
• And our worship
• It also becomes apparent that God is not crazy about the way we treat others
• He is unimpressed by our greed and our striving
• As I was trying to think of a way to wrap up this message I headed over to sermoncentral.com
• It’s a website that has often inspired me in some way when the writer’s block won’t go away
• And so I called up the website and immediately an ad for a book popped up: “The 30 Day Church Challenge” it screamed in bright yellow letters
• And then in an urgent shade of red under that title it said “See how you can reach your potential.”
• And I’m here to tell you that I very nearly clicked on that book
• Because like you I am intrigued by the idea of being successful
• I want to be a successful pastor
• I want this to be a successful church
• But turning to a book is more or less like turning to an idol
• Often an author is no smarter than a chunk of rock fashioned to look like a deity
• I think the key to success is turning away from all of that and turning to God
• To take to heart Paul’s words
• You remember how Paul use to be right?
• Talk about people bent on success
• He was all about power and prestige
• He even referred to himself as a Pharisee of Pharisees
• He was a proud religious ruler
• A man seen as a success by his contemporaries
• Well, if he was so successful why is it that Jesus intervened and changed Paul’s heart?
• Well, as I said we’d do well to learn from Paul and to leave our vain attempts at haughtiness behind
• Paul said, in Philippians 3:13, 14: 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
• That was Paul’s new idea of success
• One thing that strikes me about that verse is the way it encourages forward progress
• It’s not progress for progress’ sake
• Or the pursuit of something transcendent
• This is movement towards wherever it is God has called you
• I’m talking about the type of activity that God’s Word shares with us:
• To visit widows and orphans in their distress
• To carry out the great commission of sharing with others the teachings of Jesus and baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
• I’m talking about principles such as not forsaking the fellowship of the saints by regularly attending church
• Things like loving and praying for your enemies
• And being a cheerful giver
• Basically the key to true success, if the Bible is to be believed at all, is to be the Christian God has created you to be
• Not merely in word, but with deeds
• The world may not see you as successful, but what an honor to one day stand before our God and to hear “Well done good and faithful servant.”
|Posted by Overland Christian Church on March 14, 2013 at 11:20 AM||comments (0)|
PRECIOUS, PRICELESS OR POTTAGE
29 One day Jacob was boiling a pot of vegetable soup. Esau came in from hunting in the fields, weak from hunger. 30 So Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red soup, because I am weak with hunger.” (That is why people call him Edom.[a])
31 But Jacob said, “You must sell me your rights as the firstborn son.”[b]
32 Esau said, “I am almost dead from hunger. If I die, all of my father’s wealth will not help me.”
33 But Jacob said, “First, promise me that you will give it to me.” So Esau made a promise to Jacob and sold his part of their father’s wealth to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and vegetable soup, and he ate and drank, and then left. So Esau showed how little he cared about his rights as the firstborn son.
PRAYER – Dear God, We ask you to help us dive into your word and its meaning for the good of the church, the world and ourselves. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
• I am a firstborn and only son
• I have a younger biological sister named Robin
• And between me and my sister is a step-sister named Bonnie
• Being the firstborn always had its privileges
• For example I got to sit in the front seat of the car before my sister could
• I was allowed to stay up later
• I got a bike before she did
• Being the oldest definitely seemed pretty good to me
• In today’s verse we find that Esau is the firstborn son of Isaac
• Jacob is the “little brother”
• So, Esau probably had it pretty good
• In ancient Israel the firstborn son enjoyed a favored position in the family including a double portion of his father’s assets when dad passed away. (Deut. 21:17)
• And part of the firstborns benefits also included a special blessing from the father and the privilege of family leadership (Gen. 43:33)
• The inheritance rights of the firstborn were protected by law…
• So that a father could not give his benefits to a younger son (Deut. 21:15-17)
• However, the firstborn could lose the birthright
• And that seems to be exactly what Esau did
• In other translations the “red soup” mentioned in today’s verse is rendered pottage
• Pottage is a stew that is chock full of veggies
• It’s nothing elaborate just an affordable dish common to the people of that time
• But Esau seems to have an inability to value anything as we read this verse
• He claims to be so hungry that he is near death
• I’m thinking that he is not starving in the literal sense
• But using an exaggeration to make his point
• Much like we do when we sit down for dinner claiming that “we’re starving” or “famished”
• I don’t think anyone in this room has really ever been starving
• But I am guessing that we have made some pretty poor decisions when the circumstances around us hindered us from thinking clearly
AIR FORCE STORY
• When I was in the Air Force I was sent to an Army base for a month of training
• It was the winter of 1990 and I spent the entire month outside in the New Jersey snow
• At one point in the training I went through 96 hours of sleep deprivation training
• Perhaps that doesn’t sound bad to you, but add to the fact that while not allowed to sleep for 4 days we were also subject to below freezing temperatures
• and miles and miles of marching and maybe you can begin to imagine that your mental and physical state begins to break down a bit
• I remember it was around lunch time in day three of the training when I was pretty much feeling dead on my feet
• I was tearing into my MRE (meals ready to eat) hoping and praying there would be a small packet of coffee inside
• There wasn’t
• But there was a small packet of coco and that meant sugar
• Everyone going through this training knew that a little sugar would give you a little dose of energy and that was desperately needed
• I was so thrilled to find that coco
• I knew that by mixing it with cold water from my canteen I could make what we use to call “Ranger Pudding”…
• which was just a cold mush of coco powder.
• So I tore into that little packet and just as I did so a gust of cold air ripped it out of my fingers spilling the coco into a little pile at my feet
• Now this is the part of the story where I aim to show you just how mentally distressed I had become
• And to what extent survival meant more to me than dignity or manners
• See, I got down on my hands and knees and I literally licked the coco powder from off the floor of that New Jersey forest
• That was just how desperate things had become
• I wasn’t starving for food, but I was definitely starving for energy or wakefulness
• And that is the difference between acting out of desperation and doing what Esau did and just placing a desire of the flesh on a pedestal
DESIRE OF THE FLESH
• I say desire of the flesh because that is what it was
• While Esau was undoubtedly hungry he wasn’t literally starving
• And so he just wants to appease his hunger
• To appease his fleshly desire
• And he sees Jacob’s pottage as a means to that end
• Had I had something truly valuable with me that wintry day in November I doubt that I would have exchanged it for that coco powder even though I was pretty desperate
• But I knew people that were training alongside of me that would have gladly paid me there hard earned money for that little packet of energy
• Such people will easily exchange what is priceless or precious for pottage
• To you and me that appears extremely foolish
• But these people are ruled by their desire to have more than by the realization of what they already have
• In many cases they don’t count their blessings
• And all too often they take their gifts and possession for granted
• They don’t see those things as precious or priceless
• And so they are careless with them
GAME SHOW ANALOGY
• It's similar to being on a game show
• There you are, the clock is counting down
• And the host asks you if that is your final answer
• You hesitate, but you're pretty sure it's the best answer you have
• So you lock it in
• And you win!
• You win!
• You win a million dollars every day for the rest of your life
• But you're hungry
• You're hungry and your car is real dirty
• And so you turn down the grand prize
• To address what you perceive to be the more immediate needs
• And you take the consolation prize:
• A year supply of Turtle Wax...
• Which can't be more than 5 or 6 cans could it?
• And you take the year supply of Rice-a-roni the San Francisco treat
• Never bothering to think that nobody should really eat that much rice
• And maybe that is the real issue with such people when it comes to what is really valuable...they don't think
• And Esau was no different
• As I have already mentioned he was the firstborn son
• And as the firstborn he possessed special favor within his family
• But he gives his birthright away in exchange for some vegetable soup
• Now we might be quick to say that Esau must have been a real “nut”…
• But what about us?
• See, we are in constant danger of being tempted to exchange the precious and priceless so that we can indulge in our sudden violent desires.
• The violent desire may be involved with greed for eating and drinking,
• Or a passion for money or material things,
• Maybe the fleshly desire we have is a letting loose of our anger with action and abandoning reason,
• Or perhaps it’s giving in to depression or cursing God in despair and disappointment,
• maybe it’s yielding to a sweeping sexual desire
• The mess of pottage that is dangerous to you and me is any temptation to give in to violent speech or action or choice of direction.
• The problem is that this shows anyone watching that what we want is the fulfillment of the flesh rather than the promises of God
PRECIOUS, PRICELESS PROMISES
• And those promises are:
• The forgiveness of sins
• Salvation through God’s grace
• The comfort of the Holy Spirit
• Guidance by that same Spirit
• An advocate in the person of Jesus Christ
• The fruits of the Spirit that will manifest if indeed you walk in the Spirit
• The hope of heaven and eternal life
• God’s mercies which are new every morning
• The light of God’s word
• Friendship and fellowship with God Almighty
• A triumphant and victorious church
• All this and so much more
• But if we are not experiencing these promises
• Or if we are, in fact, experiencing the opposite….well then we have to read Romans 1:25 and turn it into a question
• Asking ourselves if we have:
• “Exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.”
ON BEING GOD'S CHILD AND AN HEIR WITH CHRIST
• The desire for pottage or the fleshly desires it symbolizes
• Will completely hinder us from the truths God has promised us
• See, as God's children we have a birthright as well.
• And that birthright means we have been given, by God, certain entitlements
• Including an inheritance
• Romans 8:16, 17 established this fact when it says:
• “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ...”
• Now you're probably wondering: “how do we tap into that inheritance?”
• Well, in 2 Peter 1:2-4 it tells us:
• “Jesus has the power of God, by which he has given us everything we need to live and to serve God. We have these things because we know him. Jesus called us by his glory and goodness. Through these he gave us the very great and precious promises. With these gifts you can share in being like God, and the world will not ruin you with its evil desires.”
• Now the question is will you take these promises?
• They are precious
• They are priceless
• Or will you pull an Esau and trade them for something temporary and fleeting?
• Sometimes receiving the promises of God takes some patience on our part
WRESTLING WITH GOD
• If you’ll recall the story of Jacob and Esau you’ll remember that in Genesis 32, we find Jacob is in an absolutely desperate situation.
• His brother Esau has declared his commitment to take Jacob’s life for taking advantage of him and for obtaining his birthright among other things
• So, Jacob leaves home and is running for his life:
• That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the Jabbok river.
• After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions.
• So Jacob was left alone,
• The next thing we hear is that a man came along and wrestled with Jacob until daybreak.
• When the man saw that he could not overpower Jacob, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip
• so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.
• Now let's jump ahead to Genesis 32:22-25
• Jacob has just received a report that Esau is near—
• and now Jacob is scared to death and he's running for his life.
• He is guilty, desperate, alone.
• Have you ever been in that place?
• Have you ever been in a place of despair where only the Lord can help?
• Have you felt that way lately?
• Maybe you're feeling that way right now and so the quick fix is sounding better than holding out and waiting for God to do something
• You're thinking about finding some pottage and trading away the precious and priceless promises because they seem so distant
• I’ve been there; I know how that feels.
• Don’t lose hope—it’s not as a bad place to be as you might think.
• It is often in the place of despair that we turn to God and He delivers us, and we receive a miracle.
• That’s where Jacob is now.
• He is in a place of despair—about to lose his life.
• He sends his family away so they can survive, and he’s alone—alone with God.
• This is critically important.
• People can encourage and counsel you, they can pray for you, and they can teach you.
• While there is wisdom in much counsel,
• the real growth is one on one with God.
• And that’s the place that Jacob is now.
• See, you and I can go into the church office and I can listen to your heartache and sympathize
• I can tell you what has worked for me
• But I cannot tell you what God will do for you
• I can't tell you it's going to be okay and I can't tell you that it'll be a disaster
• But I know the truth of scripture that tells us that when we are weak that God is strong
• And that he will never leave us nor forsake us
• To receive the promises of God we must meet God – even if we must do so in our despair
• And Jacob is finally in the place he needs to be to meet with God, and the text says that a man wrestled with him until daybreak.
• Obviously this is not a man—
• this is someone beyond a man—
• and also beyond an angel.
• In fact, as we read on in the text, Jacob, whose name is then changed to Israel, makes this statement, “I have seen God face to face.”
• Now it is clear that this is no ordinary man.
• This statement illustrates Jacob’s tenacity, his desperation to grab hold of the blessings of God.
• In his brokenness, he encountered the only source of true deliverance and blessing he knew,
• and his dependence on God gave him the strength to struggle throughout an entire night until he gained the blessing.
• Jacob was transformed by his perseverance
• He did not exchange what he knew God could do for something cheap or worthless
• He held and he held on
• Jacob’s perseverance won him more than deliverance and blessing—
• he received a new name—Israel, which means “he struggles with God.”
• Folks, I hope you don't think Christianity is an easy walk with God
• The promises are only for those that won't throw them away or think flippantly about them
• The promises come to us after our struggles
• Not instead of our struggles
• Our birthright is ours no matter what the world throws at us
• Our inheritance is secure no matter who tries to tell us we are undeserving
• And the world will offer you so much fluff
• So much that will rust and rot and decay...things that only offer temporary contentment
• But what God offers is real
• What God offers is eternal
• Hold on, ever so tightly, to those precious promises
• You have them because God considers you his child.
|Posted by Overland Christian Church on March 14, 2013 at 11:15 AM||comments (0)|
THE THEOLOGY OF ORNITHOLOGY
Matthew 6:26, 10:29, 31
26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?
29 What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin ? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it…31 So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.
PRAYER – Lord, help us to not just hear, but to really listen, to not only see, but to understand and to not merely walk away from church this morning, but to walk in unison with You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
• Well, after hearing today’s scriptures you would be right to say that today’s sermon sound like it is for the birds
• And to some extent you’re right
• Because today I would like to talk to you about “ornithology” and bird watching
GRANDMA AND GRANDPA ARE FOR THE BIRDS
• My grandparents were big-time bird watchers
• The bay window in their kitchen looked out and into their beautiful meadow of a backyard.
• On the kitchen table, next to the window there always sat a pair of binoculars and a 1977 copy of the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds
• Whenever an unusual bird appeared grandpa was quick to snatch up the binoculars
• While grandma quickly flipped through the pages of the field guide in order to identify the bird
• Once found she would place a check next to the picture to show that the bird had been spotted
• Suffice it to say that they were very interested to see how many birds they could identify
• As I think about their hobby and today’s verses I can’t help but to wonder if they ever stopped to observe how God was sustaining those birds
• Did grandma ever wonder at God’s provision for those birds?
• Did grandpa ever observe changes in their mannerisms as the seasons changed from humid Ohio summers to frigid Ohio winters
• And did either one of them ever make the connection of how much more God valued them than those birds?
SEEING VS. OBSERVING
• See the difference between bird watching and Ornithology is like the difference between seeing and observing.
• The bird watcher is one that sees and identifies
• But an ornithologist is one that scientifically studies birds
• The ornithologist doesn’t just see birds, but goes deeper studying mannerisms, behavior, biology, patterns and many other things that are far less interesting to the casual bird watcher
• Every day we see the usual
• We experience the familiar while taking it for granted
• We see creation, but sometimes forget to thank the Creator
• We experience routine without observing the reasoning or possibility beyond the routine
• Just think of something mundane and you’ll learn if you’re a seer or an observer
• For example you come to church every Sunday
• Some of you have been here for decades
• So, let me ask you:
• How many crosses face Lackland? (4)
• We’ve all seen the stairs leading to the church’s front door, but have we observed how many stairs there are?
• How many? (8)
• We have seen the doors we passed once we enter the church and enter the fellowship hall, but how many doors have we observed?
• How many? (16)
• If we are truly observant the answers to such questions should come to us without much thought…
• They should be second nature
• Let’s look Matthew 6:26 again
• We open our Bibles and see that it says:
• Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?
• Now that’s what we see, but what do we observe?
• Jesus asks us to open our eyes and to see the birds, but then he also asks us to go further…to observe a truth
• As we look at the birds we notice that they don’t plant, they don’t harvest, they don’t store food in barns, but God feeds them
• The observation shows us three things:
1. is that the birds don’t work like we do and
2. that God is involved in supplying their need and
3. that in God’s economy we are of more value or importance to God than the birds
• The observation should lead us to a hypothesis which we should be able to trust
• And that hypothesis is that if God cares for the birds this much then he will care for us even more
• But to come to that conclusion you have to do more than take the scripture at face value
• And that is true for most all of scripture
MATTHEW 10: 29, 31
• What about Matthew 10:29, 31; that other scripture we’re looking at today?
• It says: What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin ? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it… So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.
• This verse shows us that God knows us just as intimately as he knows the actions of the tiniest of his creatures
• And more importantly the verse encourages to not fear and to realize we are valuable to God
• Again, if we’d just go beyond merely seeing the words on the page and begin to study them we will see more than God, but we will observe what it means to have a relationship with God.
• How can we apply this to church?
• Well, I am reminded of a story that took place in Norway about 100 years ago when the Norwegian church was flourishing
• A young Lutheran pastor was attempting to teach the parishioners of St. Olav to give up their traditional ways because he realized that the old way of doing things was no longer relevant to the industrial culture that was looming on the horizon
• However, the older congregants could only see the traditions of the past
• They had not observed that the city around them was changing
• And that the ways of yesteryear were no longer ministering to the people they hoped to reach
• The people didn’t realize that their problem was their unwillingness to change
• And so one day a carriage came to pick up the pastor
• The coachman leaned over and asked the clergyman how the church was doing
• And the pastor shared with him his observation:
• “Well, the people have worked very, very hard to ensure that when they die the church will to.”
• And the lesson I learned by that last sentence was really more of a question
• Are we seeing the church or really observing it?
• If we’re seeing the church then we see the bricks and mortar
• We see a group of people engaged in a tradition of worship
• We see all that and more and it looks good to us
• But if we really observe a church we have to ask ourselves the harder question:
• Are we observing a group of people growing in their faith
• Or dying by what it has become
• You know a pew watcher is really no different than a bird watcher
• The pew watcher comes to church and watches
• A really good one hopefully worships, but the ordinary pew watcher just comes to watch
• I remember a former member of this church honestly telling me about his experience at a church he was visiting
• The pastor approached him and asked him what brought him to visit with them that day
• And he told the pastor that he was there for the music
• Well, during the sermon the pastor blasted our friend for being in church for the wrong reason
• And while I am not necessarily the blasting type I’ll tell you I couldn’t agree with that pastor more
• When you come to church you should be coming to observe something of the nature or person of God
• You should be seeking out communion with the Almighty and longing for His presence
• Observe John 4:23, 24
• 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
• The Bible tells us we are here to worship God
• Not the music
• Not the pastor
• Not that guy or gal that we’ve had our eye on
• We’re not here to network
• If we’re looking for that then this scripture tells us God is not looking for us
• Very clearly, you will observe, it says the Father is looking for those that will worship him
• From the scriptures about the birds we learn that God cares for us
• We learn that from observing such scriptures and the others I’ve mentioned today that God is worthy of worship
• And while God does provide for us, just as he provides for the birds, you’ll note, in your observations, that God does not hand feed those birds
• While a bird is provided for they still have work to do
• They must peck for bugs and worms
• They must gather together the things that make their nests
• They must act instinctually according to the will of the one that created them
• If they will do that they will find the provision God has set aside for them
• And we are no different
• If we properly observe the word we will note that God never promised us a rose garden
• But if we do the work needed to produce a rose garden we stand a pretty good chance of seeing the fruits of our labor
• Likewise many a foolish Christian has given up laboring to just trust in God’s provision
• As if God will supply them with unlimited handouts
• When very clearly the scripture over in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says that if you don’t work you will not eat
• And church this carries over to us as well
• If we do not do the work of the church we will not grow as a church
• And if you’re not growing you are at best stagnating and at worst dying
• And so it is time for all Christians to move beyond seeing and to start observing/
A CHRISTMAS ANALOGY
• I’ll leave you with one last analogy about the importance of really studying the things of God
• In his book The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe C.S. Lewis has his female leading character Lucy wander into the magical land of Narnia
• In Narnia it is always winter
• One can see the snow falling
• Sleigh bells adorn the sleigh of the book’s villain
• Ponds are frozen over
• The good creatures of Narnia experience all the characteristics of what should lead to Christmas
• They see it all
• But they are never allowed to actually observe the holiday
• Because of a spell Jadis, the White Witch has placed over the land
• When we merely see and do not observe it’s like we’re stuck in such a barren place spiritually speaking
• Had Lucy settled for this then all she would have ever experienced would have been that cold, frozen state
• But Lucy observed that settling for winter alone wasn’t enough, she wanted more and so when Aslan the good yet wild lion appeared she had to trust him
• And once she followed his counsel and sought him out Christmas happened
• The good happens when we don’t just settle for what we see, but when we go deeper into exploring the things of God
• My challenge to you is to not settle, but to grow and do so by getting to know what it is God wants from you
• Part of that is learning just how special you are to Him
• It is so much more than any one minister can explain so don’t settle for what you see or hear one saying
• Go deeper by seeing the words on the page yourself and then observing, studying, applying and living what is contained therein
• In the story of the Norwegian Lutheran Church the age of the congregation was a serious factor
• And the people had lived long, hard lives of farming and working at the mill
• And with only the hope of factories on the horizon…well industrialization didn’t really look all that refreshing to a people already worn out from a life of labor
• Come Sunday there wasn’t much energy for church
• But be that as it may the pastor showed them a verse that I’ll close with today
• You’ll note in the verse it addresses the weak and the powerless
• Undoubtedly some in that church…and perhaps some in this one, feel that way
• But it also addresses the young, the tired and the exhausted
• As well as those that make an observation pertaining to the placement of trust in God
• The question is will you merely see it with the mind’s eye as I read it or will you observe it…to see if it is true.
• The verse is from Isaiah 40
• He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
|Posted by Overland Christian Church on March 1, 2013 at 1:05 AM||comments (0)|
MORE THAN THESE
John 21:4-6, 11-15
4 Early the next morning Jesus stood on the shore, but the followers did not know it was Jesus. 5 Then he said to them, “Friends, did you catch any fish?”
They answered, “No.”
6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they did, and they caught so many fish they could not pull the net back into the boat.
11 Simon Peter went into the boat and pulled the net to the shore. It was full of big fish, one hundred fifty-three in all, but even though there were so many, the net did not tear. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and eat.” None of the followers dared ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, along with the fish.
14 This was now the third time Jesus showed himself to his followers after he was raised from the dead.
15 When they finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
PRAYER – Dear God, may the reading of Your Word bless those that will hear it and apply it to their daily lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
• The Kevin Harney book Reckless Faith brings up an interesting point about today’s verse
• What Harney brings up is the mention of the word “these” in verse 15
• Where it says: “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these.”
• Have you ever wondered what was meant by that word “these”?
• What was Jesus talking about?
• I always assumed that Jesus was asking Peter if Peter loved him more than he loved the disciples
• I never gave it any real thought, but that line of thinking doesn’t make a whole lot of sense
• Especially since we’re never really given any insight that would suggest that Peter had any strong feelings for Bartholomew or John or Simon the Zealot
• Why would Jesus ask that?
• Surely he’d know that Peter was much more impressed with Him than anyone else
• Well, Harney brings up 4 very interesting points in response to that question
• And I am glad he does because this is something you don’t hear talked about very much
• Harney suggests that there are 4 possible ways to understand the word “these” in this passage; here they are.
• Way number 1:
1. “Peter, do you love me more than you love these fish you just hauled in?”
2. “Peter, do you love me more than you love these boats and nets?”
• And my take on it which is most closely related to #3:
3. “Peter, do you love me more than you love these disciples?”
4. “Peter, do you love me more than these other disciples love me?”
• Which way do you think is the right way to read this verse?
• I think we could learn a thing or two from all 4 ways
• Maybe the word is intentionally vague so that we can learn something about devotion and loving God
• Let’s examine the first way of reading the verse:
• “Peter, do you love me more than these fish you just hauled in?”
• Now I realize that might sound a little funny to you
• But you have to remember that Peter was a fisherman and the son of a fisherman
• Fishing was in his veins
• I’ve mentioned before that I grew up around a fishing town
• Fishing is an important of life back home and some people make a living fishing
• Without that their entire lives would be uprooted
• In Peter’s case he and his buddies had just come in from an epic day on the water
• For 3 years Peter had left the business he knew best in order to fish for people; sharing the love of God with the,
• But now he was back to catching fish…
• After having denied his friend and after having learned of Jesus’ death on the cross
• So, he was back to doing what he knew best – fishing
• On this particular day he hit the mother lode
• Someone counted up 153 large fish
• This was the kind of haul that would normally have torn the nets apart
• But since the nets were fine it was an added bonus to what was looking to be a very profitable and successful day
• So, let me ask you again:
• What if Jesus was asking Peter: “Do you love me more than this huge pile of fish?”
• If this is the case it would be like he was asking: “Do you love me more than wealth and success?”
• Being an experienced fisherman Peter could probably look at the catch and do the math in his head to figure out his earnings
• He knew the market rates for fish as well as a prospector knows the price of gold per ounce
• So, to a fisherman this was a big pay day!
• And so that question lingers out there: “What do you love more Peter: me or wealth and success?”
• If the question was asked of those of us dwelling in the modern the question might sound like this:
• “Do you love Jesus more than a great day on the stock market?”
• “Do you love Jesus more than your weekly paycheck?”
• “Do you love Jesus more than your net worth? Or your savings account?”
• Do you get the point?
• A reckless love for God declares: “I love you more than the stuff of this world that sparkles, shines and seems so important.”
• Now, the Bible never says money is bad
• It only warns against the love of money as being the root of all kinds of evil
• But if we are seeking to grow recklessly in our love for God it would do us well to put God before our pursuit of any material thing
• As hard as it may be for us to understand putting God first is the key to living a balanced and reckless life of loving God.
• Jesus put it this way in Matthew 6:31-34:
• 31 Don’t worry and say, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 The people who don’t know God keep trying to get these things, and your Father in heaven knows you need them. 33 Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well.34 So don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will have its own worries. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
THESE BOATS AND NETS
• The next possibility we come to when considering what is meant by the phrase: “Do you love me more than these” could be referring to the boat and nets Peter used.
• As if Jesus is saying “Do you love me more than these boats and nets?”
• I know this one sounds strange as well
• But for a fisherman the boat and nets are security
• Things they depend on for their livelihood
• In essence Jesus may be asking: “What do you love more Peter: me or security?”
• See the scripture we’re dealing with occurs after the resurrection but before Jesus ascended into heaven
• Before Jesus would be taken up he would call Peter to follow him away from the fishing biz and back to a life of preaching and ministry.
• Jesus is about to call Peter away from security and into a journey of faith.
• Peter and the disciples would be without the friend who had led them for the past 3 years.
• In Peter’s world, boats and nets, were tools of the trade; if you had those things you had job security and could provide for your family
• But Jesus may have been asking: “Peter, what do you love more, me or the family business?”
• So now we have to ask ourselves:
• What is our boat and net?
• What makes us secure?
• Are we ever tempted to make personal security more important than God?
• If we do then security has become our idol.
• This is not to say that a good job or a savings account is bad
• Or that planning for the future is wrong
• These things can all be very good
• But if we love security more than God, and if our figurative boats and nets become more important than Jesus, then we’ve missed the mark
• We must love God first if we want to experience the best and fullest life of faith
THESE OTHER DISCIPLES
• Now maybe Jesus was asking Peter this: “Do you love me more than you love these other disciples?”
• Again this could seem like another strange take on what is meant by the word “these”…
• But remember Peter had just denied Jesus 3 times in a very public setting
• When we burn a bridge with one friend it’s not unusual to work harder at strengthening the ties of friendship with someone else.
• Maybe Jesus wanted Peter to be clear that no other human relationship would take supremacy over his relationship with Jesus.
• This would have been consistent with Luke 14:25-27 which reads:
• 25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me but loves his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, or sisters—or even life—more than me, he cannot be my follower. 27 Whoever is not willing to carry his cross and follow me cannot be my follower.
• Of course Jesus is not telling us to hate our families
• What he is saying is that our devotion to him should absolutely passionate, deep and loving.
• In comparison to our love of God all other relationships should seem lackluster.
• I think it goes without saying that human relationships can easily become the focus of our lives.
• Some may even argue that this is the point of existence; the establishing of relationships.
• But real love; the kind defined by God is the kind where we love God first
• And if we desire to love others well we make sure we love God first
• This holds true for every relationship in our lives
• Never let love for any person supplant your commitment to loving God first
THESE OTHER DISCIPLES LOVE ME
• The final option for what Jesus could have meant by “these” might seem the strangest of all
• It could be that he was asking Peter: “Do you love me more than these other disciples love me?”
• Now why in the world would Jesus ask Peter to declare, out loud, that he loved him more than anyone else?
• Especially since the other disciples were sitting right there
• Now I’ve already mentioned that Peter denied Jesus three times
• But don’t forget that Peter had also claimed that he would never leave Jesus even if all the others fell away
• Even when Jesus informs him that he will deny him Peter says: “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”
• But that’s exactly what happened
• And so now that Peter has done this he’s back to fishing
• And now he is face to face with Jesus
• They’re gathered with a group of disciples, having a meal again
• And then there’s that question: “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
• He just might be asking: “Peter, do you still think you love me more than anyone else does?”
• It would be hard for Peter, the denier to answer this
• But note that Peter does not say: “Yes, Lord, you know I love you more than these.”
• What he says is: “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
• It almost seems like Jesus is teaching Peter a lesson about loving him with a humble heart
• Spiritual cockiness is not what Jesus desired
• Our Savior doesn’t want people comparing themselves with others, but simply loving out of who we are
• We are to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength
• We are not called to love God more than other people do, but to just love him as much as we can
• As we seek to love God well, we need to make a commitment to never play the comparison game
• God hasn’t called us to play childish games
• Instead we are to just love him with everything we have
• He’s not comparing our love to others and so why would we?
• So, there are 4 possibilities
• Which do you think is the correct way to decipher the intent or context of that little 5 letter word: “these”?
• Well, I think all 4 options are well….options and viable ones at that!
• Maybe that’s why Jesus used such a vague word
• So that we could draw our own conclusions
• If we read the Bible we do learn that God calls us to love him more than riches, more than security, and even more that we love other people in our lives.
• God calls us to love him first and fully.
• When we do that we’ll be ready to extend God’s love to others
• When we love God and seek his kingdom first, the rest of the pieces of our lives will fall into place.
|Posted by Overland Christian Church on February 8, 2013 at 12:00 PM||comments (0)|
PATIENCE AND SELF-CONTROL
When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods[a] who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”
2 Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods,[b] Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD.” 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.
7 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’
PRAYER – Dear God, May this message bless all that hear it. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
• Have you ever taken a big swig of coffee and then realized it was boiling hot
• I hate when that happens
• For the next several days you can’t taste your food because your tongue has 3rd degree burns on it
• When I was a kid I loved hot chocolate, but I hated waiting for it to cool
• And on numerous occasions I’d burn my tongue or lips thinking the hot cocoa had cooled when it hadn’t
• If only I had been a little more patient
• My dad could tell you many a tale of my impatience and how it use to get me in trouble
all kinds of trouble
• Probably his least favorite stories would center around the 3:30am wake up calls I’d give him and my mom every Christmas morning
• I’d rush down the stairs in the middle of the night and demand that it was time to open presents
• As you may imagine that never went well
• And every Christmas morning it resulted in a lecture on patience that I thought would drive me insane
• Couldn’t these people see the gifts waiting to be opened under that tree
• Even their lecture on patience made me impatient
IMPATIENCE IN RELATIONSHIPS
• Now with Valentine’s Day nearly upon us I am reminded of something that I have seen quite a bit of
• And that is the impatience of young people when it comes to love
• You know that saying: “Good things come to those that wait”?
• Well, I tend to think that is true when it comes to finding the right suitor
• You probably know quite a few people that rushed into relationship way too fast
• And you probably have seen that all too often such hurried relationships end poorly
RELATIONSHIPS WITH GOD AND PATIENCE
• Well, I think our relationship with God is one largely based on us becoming patient
• And I think when it comes to God that “Good things do, in fact, come to those that wait”
• Scripture seems to be full of scenarios and stories about how we are to “wait upon the Lord” (Psa. 37:9)
• In fact even the hope we have of heaven is a matter of living through this life patiently so that we can, one day, receive the fulfillment of our hope in Heaven that comes at life’s end
• In the meantime we are to live our Christian lives and part of that life is meant to be spent being patient
• Probably the movie that really speaks to me about patience is the 1991 film “The Rapture” starring David Duchovny and Mimi Rogers
• In the movie Mimi Rogers plays a telephone operator living an empty, amoral life.
• She and her boyfriend spend their evenings picking up other couples to be promiscuous with.
• As the movie progresses Rogers’ character Sharon begins to notice little things - things that point to something far greater than the life she knows.
• There are the two men who come to her apartment, preaching God;
• There is the religious conversation she overhears between her co-workers that makes her feel more curious about God
• Eventually Sharon becomes a Christian and a believer in The Rapture of the saints
• That time when Christ returns to gather together all the believers
• Who will then disappear to be with Him in heaven
• Through a prophet Sharon is told to not meet God half-way
• And that He is coming for all his saints
• It’s nothing that scripture doesn’t tell us all
• One day Christ will return and we are to be ready
• Well, in the movie, and after her husband’s murder, the prophet tells Sharon and her daughter where to go to meet God
• So, they go to a state park and pitch a tent
• Now if you compare this story to our scripture for today maybe you see some similarities
• In our scripture Moses has gone up the mountain to receive the ten commandments
• And while he was on top of the mountain the children of Israel were below waiting on his return
• But in the movie God doesn’t seem to be coming any time soon
• Even though Sharon thought he would soon
• As they wait they run out of food
• Add to this the fact that mother is still mourning for her husband
• While the daughter mourns for her father
• Exposed to the elements things go from bad to worse and both suffer a great deal as they wait for God
• Eventually the mother, in attempt to send herself and daughter to heaven, works out a plan with her daughter to kill the daughter and then herself
• So, she shoots and kills her daughter and then turns the gun on herself, but can’t pull the trigger
• A park ranger arrests the mother and puts her into jail
• And that is when trumpets sound, the bars of the jail fall apart and some of the inmate disappear
• The Rapture is happening.
• God has returned as promised
• But Sharon has not been “raptured” because she met God half way
• She took matters into her own hands
• She did not trust God
• And she does not go to Heaven
• She found God only to lose Him
• Now I am not suggesting that the theology of such a movie is sound
• But it does make one wonder about our impatience
• And about how many times we might meet God half-way when what he has asked all along is that we go all the way with Him
• That we wait instead of trying to rush things
• In today’s verse we see those children of Israel being impatient
• Even though they had crossed through the red sea on dry ground
• And even though they were eyewitnesses to God’s pillar of fire every night
• And his cloud during the day
• They remained an impatient people
• And so here we have Moses on top of the mountain talking to God
• And we have the people below
• Isn’t it interesting the stock they have put in Moses
• From the verse we read that they say “Come, make us gods[a] who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”
• Isn’t it interesting that they do not acknowledge the God that had been with them all the way up to this point?
• It almost appears that they give credit to Moses alone
• Because Moses hasn’t come back fast enough they have grown impatient
• And have opted to forsake the real God for something they know is man made
• Why do you suppose they did such a thing?
• What would be the benefits of worshiping a man-made god?
• Well, a god of your own making is a pretty easy god to follow
• Because a god of your own making never disagrees with you
• Never accuses you
• Never calls you to repent or confess or to go out of your way for another
• Generally speaking a god of your own making is usually very self-serving and focused on the good of you
• So, God and his right hand man are out of the picture for a bit and the Jews demand a man-made God and look at what happens next
• 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.”
FALSE GODS AND OUR ACTIONS
• They created a party god and in the KJV in place of revelry it says “play” and in Hebrew the word for play means to mock or make fun of
• So, the Jews were making a mockery of worship
• Perhaps we do the same thing when we disobey God by not waiting on Him
• When we deviate from the teachings of Jesus or do things halfway are we not mocking Jesus?
• Isn’t like we’re saying “Hey Jesus you’re only worthy enough to follow half way.”
• And what are the repercussions of such an attitude?
• Well, in Israel’s case God was pretty angry. Listen to this:
• Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’
• Not only had the Jews, in their impatience, created a false god, but they gave that god the credit for what the real God had done in bringing them out of Egypt
• Well, what happened next you might consider to be the actions of a vengeful God,
• but if you consider the fact that the Israelites were daily in danger of dying in the desert then you would realize that God does what he does in order to recapture their attention
• so that they will listen to Him… so that they would survive the desert and eventually make it to the Promised Land
• What God does is ask Moses to rally those still believing in God with all their heart
• And so the Levites responded and God orders them to slay the rebellious people
• Obedient to God the Levites kill 3,000 Jews
• But you have to remember that the book of Numbers tells us that as many as 600,000 men made up the wandering Jews…not to mention women and children.
• Some estimate that there may have been as many as 3,000,000 people altogether.
• I am not excusing the amount of deaths that occurred, but I am showing that God spared far more than he condemned
• And those that he did condemn were probably those that had forsaken him
• Now when Moses addressed Aaron we see a whole lot of back pedaling
• Aaron, as second in command, failed the people
• Where were the words of encouragement?
• Shouldn’t he have been telling the people to keep the faith
• If it were you wouldn’t you plead with people to be patient
• It’s not easy to deal with people that want what they want when they want it
• And while Aaron should have stepped up to fill the leadership role temporarily vacated by Moses he was just one voice against thousands
• And so he devises a plan that had no basis
• Instead of seeking God or after the counsel of the Levite priests Aaron says:
• Let’s try this: You give me your gold, I’ll melt it down and shape into a calf
• And then you can worship that as your God
• Holy cow! He made a holy cow!
• That is utterly ridiculous
• And then when Moses questions him look at how he explains things so as to make it look like it was beyond him
• We read what he says in verses 18 through 25
• I’ll paraphrase it. Aaron says “Mo, these evil people wanted a god because they thought you weren’t coming back.
• So, I collected all their gold jewelry, made a fire and this calf just jumped out.”
• He doesn’t claim his role in fashioning the idol
• He claims it just jumped out
• That’s like telling the police officer the fire hydrant jumped in front of your car or that the tree came out of nowhere causing your crash
• My point is that when it comes to dealing with God don’t cave in
• Stick to your guns
• People will try to sway you and get you off track
• They’ll try to tell you that it is okay to meet God half way
• But all good things take a little patience
• Healing comes with time
• Wisdom comes with age
• And maybe an even bigger attribute is self-control
• Consider what Colossian 3:2-8 has to say about self-control:
2 Think only about the things in heaven, not the things on earth. 3 Your old sinful self has died, and your new life is kept with Christ in God. 4 Christ is your[a] life, and when he comes again, you will share in his glory.
5 So put all evil things out of your life: sexual sinning, doing evil, letting evil thoughts control you, wanting things that are evil, and greed. This is really serving a false god. 6 These things make God angry.[b] 7 In your past, evil life you also did these things.
8 But now also put these things out of your life: anger, bad temper, doing or saying things to hurt others, and using evil words when you talk.
• How many arguments have you been in where you used the cheap shot to win
• The thing you knew that you shouldn’t say just seemed to be dangling there as the other person yelled at you or demeaned you
• And there was that particularly vicious word or sentence
• The one you have been saving for just such a time as this
• That verbal ammunition that you knew would sting and smart so bad that you would render the other person speechless
• You know you shouldn’t
• You know you should take the high road
• And then you unleash
• And the ugly word slaps the other person
• Maybe their eyes fill with tears
• Maybe they turn red or pale
• And they storm off
• Or shut up
• Or shut down
• You’re the victor in that moment
• But do you feel like one?
• We claim that name can never hurt us
• That labels can’t do the damage that sticks and stone can do
• And yet words can last a long, long time
• Long after the broken bone had mended or the blackened eye has healed we may recall the vicious words spoken to us by a loved one or a friend
• And if you ask a person why they said what they said you may hear them say that they just couldn’t help it
• Or that they were out of control
• Or that they were so mad they couldn’t see straight
• A couple weeks ago Dan Lang was teaching the Bible study group about Colossians 3
• And as we were talking about this verse I noticed a trend
• The first part of today’s verse says:
• 2 Think only about the things in heaven, not the things on earth.
• It occurred to me that a lot of the bad things that happen to us and for that matter to those around us is a result of us not thinking
• Now some people blame God for every bad thing
• But when the words come from our own mouth or the fist is made by our own fingers there is nobody to blame but ourselves
• We did that
• If only we could think before acting
• If only we would focus on the heavenly things where God dwells.
• But instead we seem all too eager to respond to this life from an earthly perspective
• We claim that’s all we know – since we are earthbound after all
• But that is just an excuse so that we don’t aspire to that higher call
• And part of that higher call summons us to use our mental capacity to focus on living this life a better way
CASTING IT OUT
• The next part of the verse I want to look at says this:
• 5 So put all evil things out of your life
• You’ll notice that it doesn’t say that God will remove the evil from your life
• All too often Christians think that God will wipe all the bad that they do out of their lives
• That somehow they will stop being a child molester
• That miraculously God will just cause them to stop looking at pornography or cheating on their wife
• But it’s on us
• Not only do we have to change our thinking we have to put the evil things out of our lives
• The verse goes on to say that if we don’t take charge of our lives that the evil things will
• The drunk is a slave to drink because he will not change his behavior or his thinking
• The pornographer continues in that depravity because they are being controlled by the evil they have embraced by default
• Default being their unwillingness to live any other way.
• My dad’s favorite saying, when I was a kid was “control thyself”
• I hear it an awful lot because I was so often out of control:
• Teasing my sister
• Breaking items around the house
• And just generally being a rambunctious kid
• Recently it struck me that our Heavenly Father really isn’t very different with all of us
• He has basically told us the same thing
• Over in Galatians 5 when Paul lists the fruits of the spirit the last one is self-control
• It’s that little reminder that we have a part to play as Christians
• That we can be patient, longsuffering, gentle and all that stuff
• But don’t forget to be self-controlled because none of that other stuff will matter if you’re out of control
• When it comes to controlling ourselves I think that what we should do is usually pretty obvious
• Most of the time most of us know how to behave
• But those times when we can't control ourselves or our tongues or actions are those times when we forget we are ambassadors of Christ.
• We must remember that we represent not just the church, but God
• In fact for some people we may be the only representative of God they ever meet and so leaving a good impression is important.
• In fact their salvation may depend on how you present yourself
• And while doing the right thing is usually pretty obvious we all have a tendency to forget what that is from time to time...
• Just as surely as we sometimes forget who we are to God
• Christian author Og Mandino has written a letter from God's perspective.
• It's a letter to us and it reflects several biblical principles where God has shown us what he desires from us.
• I've taken a few liberties with is, but basically the letter reads:
• Dear You, my pride in you has known no bounds.
• You are my ultimate creation, my greatest miracle.
• A complete living being....
• I have given you tremendous power,
• a power so great not even angels possess it.
• I gave you the power to choose...
• Use wisely your power of choice so that when you act on my behalf you walk in the fruit of the spirit that is called self-control
• Choose to love...rather than hate
• Chose to laugh...rather than cry
• Choose to create...rather than destroy
• Choose to persevere....rather than quit
• Choose to praise...rather than gossip
• Choose to heal...rather than wound
• Choose to give...rather than steal
• Choose to act...rather than procrastinate
• Choose to grow...rather than rot
• Choose to pray...rather than curse
• Choose to live...rather than die
• See, you're more than a human being.
• You're a human becoming.
• You are capable of great wonders.
• Your potential is unlimited.
• Never demean yourself
• Never settle for the crumbs of life
• From here on out never hide your talents
GOING VS. STOPPING
• Now some of the examples I have given you so far involve giving up the evil that we do
• In those cases I am basically talking about controlling yourself so that you stop being a participant in such evil
• I’m sure that when my dad would say “control thyself” what he really meant was “stop!” or “knock it off!”
• But let me ensure you that self-control is not only a matter of not doing the wrong thing, but of progressively doing the right thing
• The Christian life is not one of being hemmed in by the don’ts and no’s of religion
• It’s about the “yes” of God
• And God shows us time and time again what the self-controlled person should be doing:
• They should be loving their enemies and praying for them
• They should be practicing true religion by visiting widows and orphans in their distress
• They should be thanking God for all his blessings
• They should be engaged in the Great Commission; telling people about Jesus and making disciples
• In fact if you are not engaged in these things then you’re not engaged in the Christian life at all
• And you’re out of control
OUT OF CONTROL BOXER STORY
• Have you ever seen an inexperienced out of control boxer
• They get into the ring and their swinging every where
• Totally unorthodox, totally out of practice…poor form…poor everything
• Do you know why evil has such an easy time controlling someone that is out of control?
• Because the devil has far more time in the ring than we did
• Just think about it
• The devil has been trying to bring people down since people were created
• He has several millennia’s worth of tricks
• He hits below the belt
• His gloves contain brass knuckles
• And he’s prone to bite, kick and scratch
• What if we were to compare our relationship with the devil to a boxing match?
• In this corner we have the devil
• He’s won more battles than can be counted
• He’s wearing black trunks
• The back of his robe says 1 Peter 5:8
• Which is confusing
• Why would the devil be wearing scripture on his robe?
• Ah but then we remember what that verse says
• It says: The devil is like a roaring lion looking for whom to devour.”
• A demon in his corner holds up a sign with the words to John 10:10 on it
• “The devil comes to steal, kill and destroy”
• -double gulp-
• The announcer turns his head your way
• And with a knowing look he shakes his head
• As if to say you’re done for
• “In this corner, wearing the white trunks, the Underdog!”
• Oh, sure we’re the underdog when we’re left to our own devices
• We’re the underdog when it comes to evil
• But even though we have to think our way out of those evil ways
• And even though we have to put away those things
• The truth is we don’t actually have to fight this match
• See, although the devil has won millions of battles
• Jesus has won the war
• Our salvation is not based on how we do in the ring with the devil
• Sure we have things we are suppose to do in living this Christian life, but that has nothing to do with our salvation
• Because our salvation is secure in Christ
• Christ entered the ring and knocked the devil out
• Hit him so hard he’ll never be the same
• And so when we look down at our robe we see emblazoned on it Romans 8:31:
• If God is for us who can be against us
• And the devil is looking a little put off now
• The crowd gasps
• We turn around and the back has on it, in royal purple stitching Romans 8:37:
• We are more than conquerors in Christ
• When we change that thinking of ours and accept that as God’s truth the devil jumps out of the ring and makes his getaway while the get-ins good
• He wants no part of such self-controlled, victorious thinking
• The devil wants you wild and out of control
• So that your defenses are down and so that you as offensive to the people around you as possible
• That’s when he takes control
• But the devil is defenseless when it comes to the patient Christian
• He cannot control the one that is self-controlled
• And that is when we find the victory that is found in Jesus
• Wait, think and act as prescribed by the Lord and you will find yourself living this Christian life to the full.
|Posted by Overland Christian Church on February 8, 2013 at 11:55 AM||comments (0)|
MINDING YOUR MIND
3 1-2 So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.
3-4 Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.
5-8 And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It’s because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn’t long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk.
9-11 Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ. – Message
PRAYER – Dear God, may the reading of your word touch our hearts and minds and lead us into an ever deepening relationship with You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
• This sermon is largely based on an article written by Jonathan McNair in “Tomorrow’s World” magazine
• In today’s verse we are told to “put on Christ”
• And to cast off the old garments of sin
• To kill the old self
• And to live the new life of faith found in Jesus Christ
• The verse goes on to list the attributes of living a life that follows Jesus
• And it says a thing or two about the former way of life, how bad it was and how unprofitable
• Living God’s way usually isn’t something that one can just jump into and be instantly transformed
• Putting on Christ is process
• Just like getting dressed….you have to start somewhere
• And for most of us the process of following Christ and of trying to be like Jesus has to start in the mind
• And so that starting point is what I would like to talk to you about today
• So, let’s begin with a question:
• How do you want people to remember you?
• When all is said and done what sort of reputation will you be remembered for?
• When we’re little kids we pretty much put ourselves at the center of the universe
• Our thoughts are full of what we want
• Then we enter our teen years and we become concerned about what others think about us
• This is in keeping with Proverbs 20:11 which says “Even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right.”
• No matter how we feel about this we can probably all agree that reputation is not built by magic
• Or overnight for that matter
• No, reputation is established by our actions and by our words
• The decisions we make – regarding what we do and say, what we laugh at, how we spend our time and with whom we spend it….
• All that reflects who we are
• But what determines those decisions?
• How are they made?
• Do we have any control over them?
MAKING UP YOUR MIND
• Well, you’ve probably heard people say “Make up your mind.”
• Chances are you’ve said those words
• Or maybe you’ve attempted to “change someone’s mind.”
• Well, I think there are three factors in play that help us to make up our mind
3. Emotions or feelings
• Let me start by saying a few words about knowledge:
• See, as our bodies grow beyond infancy, we are changing in ways other than just physically
• As we begin to crawl, walk or run our minds are also changing
• We start learning about the world around us
• And we begin to learn how we fit into it
• And as we go through this the people around us influence how are minds respond
• For example: Mom and dad tell us the sky is blue and that the grass is green
• And from that our minds begin to form the concept of color.
• And that’s one of the many roles of a parent:
• To help their children in the process of growth and learning
• In fact God tells them to do so
• Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
• See, parents are to guide their children into a right way of thinking by teaching them the principles for living as stated by God.
• God wanted this reinforced
• He tells us so in Deuteronomy 6:7 when he says:
• “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”
• Of course mom and dad aren’t the only ones that can influence a child
• We also pick up things from childhood friends
• And of course from teachers
• And even from the media
• We store away all that knowledge
• And then use it to create ideas and impressions that the mind draws on in attempts to understand the world
• So, let me now say a few words about the second factor that helps us make up our minds
• That factor is experience
• See, as we experience life we compare what we have learned with what we have discovered firsthand through cause and effect
• We eat a lemon and we learn what “sour” is all about
• And from that point on we know what sour will taste like
• Another example:
• Mom tells you not to touch the stove because it is hot
• We hear the words, but if we are compelled to experiment…
• …no matter how foolish the experiment may be…
• Well, then the experience of touching a hot stove will be seared into our mind from that day on
EMOTIONS OR FEELINGS
• Which brings us to the final factor that helps us to make up our minds
• That feeling factor or the emotional factor
• Because obviously our minds have been divinely stamped with emotions
• God has placed in our minds the ability to experience a large range of emotions that influence our thinking
• Throughout our lives we learn what it is to feel excited, joyful and angry
• I remember learning pleasure the first time I held an ice cream cone and tasted that vanilla/chocolate swirl
• We learn about anger when a playmate takes a toy away from us
• And we learn about sadness when we have to move away from friends or family
• All of these emotions – and how we exercise them in daily life – profoundly affect our mental development.
MINDING OUR CHOICES
• Now as we get older we develop more independence
• We begin to think for ourselves and make up our own minds
• We decide what to wear in the morning
• What to do with our free time
• And which friends to spend time with
• Those decisions reflect our ability to apply facts, experience and emotions from the past to our current situations
• This is what thinking for ourselves is all about
• As we exercise good judgment our parents gain confidence in us
• And they give us more independence and responsibility
• Because ultimately the role of a parent is not just to enforce obedience to their rules, but to develop in their children the mind and the character to apply the spirit of those rules to new and different situations
• Now as young people exercise their growing decision making ability, the things they do and say reflect the thought processes of their growing mind
• The natural result of this is for us to then choose to walk in harmony with others of like mind
• As the prophet Amos wrote, in Amos 3:3: “Can two walk together, unless they be agreed?”
• When we enter into adulthood we begin to face bigger challenges
• Challenges that are bigger than having to decide which clothes to wear
• Or what to do with our free time
• We face decisions such as what to do about further education, career, marriage or child rearing.
• We may even face decisions about our fundamental beliefs in God as we grapple with questions about our Creator and our ultimate destiny
• Decisions that rise from questions concerning the clash between faith and the circumstances we find ourselves in
• We come to decisions about how we will obey God’s law, and how to apply that to daily life.
• And then we have those days where we look up from our daily activities and are forced to have to face an overwhelming array of challenges and choices
• How we handle these choices reflects the state of our minds
THE MIND OF GOD
• If you are wrestling with such decisions and are doing so with a desire to serve God with understanding…then God may be calling you
• Those whom God calls come to realize that their minds, by themselves, are not completely adequate for handling the challenges of life.
• From the days of Adam and Eve up until now humankind’s history has shown that the human mind is not up to the challenge of establishing lasting peace or perfect prosperity here on earth
• In fact the human mind’s attempts at such things seem largely at odds with God
• Sure we can humanly manage many decisions
• But for the biggest challenges we absolutely need to the mind of God.
• For as we are told in Galatians 5:22 the mind of God brings forth the fruits of the Spirit
• Things like: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control
• These are all attributes that bring true happiness and contentment in life
• And these are attributes that are in harmony with the mind of God
• So if we could develop a mind that is in tune with the mind of God then we will begin to practice a way of thinking that will result in good decisions, and a good life
GUARDING YOUR MIND
• Now I want to talk to you a little but about guarding your mind
• Or minding your mind if you prefer
• Because who you are and what you do is a direct result of what you put into your mind
• There is an old song by Christian rock band Petra called “Computer Brains”
• And in the song it talks about programming
• If you put a bad program into a computer you will receive something bad back
• The chorus of the song repeats a mantra of “Garbage in, garbage out.”
• What knowledge, experiences and emotions fill your mind?
• Do you read and think about God’s way?
• Do you make decisions that allow you to experience the fruit of living God’s ways?
• Do you ask God to guide you by the Holy Spirit so that you may experience emotions in keeping with one of God’s children?
• Or do you allow the world around you to dictate how you feel like some puppet controlled by a bad puppeteer?
• I would like to extend to you a challenge:
• Make a choice
• Take on the mind of God to help establish you in a wise and fruitful way of thinking and feeling.
• Mind your mind.
|Posted by Overland Christian Church on January 25, 2013 at 11:30 AM||comments (0)|
IN THE SHEPHERD’S CARE
PRAYER – Dear God, as we explore your word may we discover truth so we may live lives fixed on you and how you would have us to live. In Jesus’ name. Amen
• We all need a reminder now and then
• Some of us have troubles with names
• And we need someone to remind us of the teacher’s name
• Or the name of the actress in that one movie
• Maybe you need a reminder about some task that needs doing
• Or maybe you need someone to remind you about the name of a store or street
• Or maybe you’re like me and are needing reminding when it comes to birthdays
• I think a lot of us come to church for a reminder
• While we come to worship we also come for that weekly reminder about who God is
• And who we are to God
• We come to hear about God’s goodness and faithfulness
• We enter the church to hear again the story of redemption
• And the promise of eternity
• But also because we need our memories reinforced when it comes to God’s place in our daily lives
• Some of us have been through some real trials and tribulations
• And even though we are pretty good about handling one or two problems
• We begin to feel our worlds crumbling when it is one bad thing after another piling up
• We start to feel the pressure and the dread that comes with too much calamity or tragedy or fear
• I know I need a good dose of God when I feel like that
• And allowing God to come into those times of fear and doubt is not easy
• Because the circumstances often seem so overwhelming
• Take a funeral as an example
• When a loved one dies we often feel like a part of ourselves has died with them
• As we stare into the grave all we can do is picture our lives without that cherished person in it
• And as the minister reads the 23rd Psalm are we able to comfort in the fact of what it is reminding us of?
• Because the 23rd Psalm is not for the deceased, but it is a reminder to the living
• It is a message to us for us; for our comfort
• Just listen as the minister speaks to us
• And maybe it’s not a funeral that has you feeling crushed in spirit, but maybe something that is, to you, every bit as traumatic
• What does the minister reading the 23rd Psalm remind us of
• He says:
BREAK DOWN OF THE 23rd PSALM – THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD
• The LORD is my shepherd;
• That is to say that we have the Lord as our leader
• It is a reminder that we should not let the circumstances of life lead us
• And that we should not be mastered by our issues or problems
• Because our master is the Lord God
• He is like a shepherd which means he watches over us
• So often when trouble hits we feel alone, but the Psalm reminds us that we are not alone
• And the fact that the Lord is our shepherd also tells us that not only does God care for us, but that he is quite capable of taking care of an entire flock of people just like us
• Which should reinforce in us the knowledge that God is able to provide for us unlike any other
• This reminder should help us in those darkest of moments to see a God that will lead us to the light and a God that is ever present with us.
I SHALL NOT WANT
• So, now the minister has reminded us of God is
• And because the Lord is this shepherd the Psalmist realizes a truth that the minister now shares with the listeners.
• It is the next part of the reminder; which reads:
• I shall not want.
• There are two ways this verse is commonly viewed
• One way of looking at this verse is definitely better and in keeping with the spirit of the text
• I’ll explain
• On the one hand people will take this King James rendering literally
• Meaning that because the Lord is our shepherd we will not be in want
• That is to say that the Lord will supply our every need and we will want for nothing
• However, when good times go bad we often want an awful lot
• We want deliverance from our affliction
• Healing from our ailment
• Mostly we want a return to those better times
• And there is nothing wrong with wanting those things
• More modern translations of the Bible show us a deeper meaning to this verse
• Which has nothing to do with wanting to better ourselves when we feel abused by our circumstances
• See we will all feel the weight and pain of bad days and we’ll all want out of those predicaments
• And that’s okay…what the Psalmist would have us realize though is that God is with us in those moments
• The more modern translation of the verse is actually “I shall not wander”.
• If you recognize that the Lord is your Shepherd then come what may you want to remember to stay close
• But even if you forget to do that perhaps you’ll remember…while you stare into the grave or go through the foreclosure or enter the courtroom that God has you
• If you are truly his then wandering is not an option
• He will not leave nor forsake those that are his
• You are wander-proof and God is with you always
• The minister is still speaking now
• Maybe some people are crying
• Upset by their situation
• He speaks the second verse and the first part of the 3rd verse:
• 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
• I don’t know if you have ever had a panic attack but I’m here to tell you they are no fun
• It literally feels like you are dying as you gasp for air
• Your heart races
• You feel feverish
• And all these symptoms start to affect your thinking and you become more and more panicky
• For a lot of people that is the breaking point
• That is the point where we feel overcome and lied to
• See, many people say that the Bible says that God will never give you more than you can handle
• And they feel lied to when they feel the pressure of something that can barely endure
• But I’m here to tell you that it is a lie
• It’s a lie because the Bible never says that
• It’s not in there at all
• But what the Bible does say is that in the middle of horrible situations that God can make us to lie down as if we are in the greenest of pastures
• That he can stop the raging sea within us and lead us to a place of still waters
• Psalm 23:3 says that God will restore our souls
• But don’t forget that a restored soul is one that has gone through such a struggle that restoration is needed
• Just like a home that is old and beat up might go through a restoration process
• So do we, at times, need to be restored
• And so the Psalmist shares with us what God did for him
• Now you have to remember that it is David who has written this Psalm
• David who was often running for his life from King Saul
• David who was war torn and battle weary
• David who often lamented to God about being surrounded by enemies
• And yet David remembers that God could lead him to peace and tranquility and that God could restore the tired and abused soul
• The minister reads that verse and wonders if the people before him are listening
PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
• He continues:
• He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
• 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
• What a strange dichotomy these verses
• On the one hand we are talking about God’s leading towards the path of righteousness
• And not a moment later we are in the valley of the shadow of death
• The verses seem as different as day and night
• Or good and evil
• But think about it for a moment:
• In our most desolate of times
• When we feel the most beat up by life don’t we desperately need to be put on the right track again
• I mean even defeated athletes don’t give up when they lose
• No, they continue their training and they try again
• This verse would have us to remember that God will set us back on the path of right standing with God
• Just like a shepherd directing the sheep which way to go
• God is not done leading us…even in the darkest of times
• Even when the times get so dark that we seem to be walking in the valley of the shadow of death
• These are the times when we must remember to trust the Lord
• We must remember to make David’s mantra our own in those lowest of times
• I will fear no evil….for you are with me
RODS, STAFFS AND COMFORT
• The minister wonders at this point is the people are beginning to see
• Do they see God’s love for them
• Do they hear the promises of peace and guidance and companionship?
• He continues:
• Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
• As we consider this phrase let’s look at some other scriptures:
• Romans 8:31 says “If God is for us who can be against us”
• Romans 8:37 tells the reader that in Christ we are more than conquerors
• In Isaiah 54:17 God tells Isaiah that no weapon formed against him would prosper
• And I share all this with you to make a point
• And the point is that those that trust in the Lord realize that the Lord has defensive weapons at hand
• To you and me the shepherds rod and staff represent God’s protection
• And that should be of a great comfort to us
• While so many things in this life put stress on us
• Or cause us grief
• We are told that the Lord has at his disposal a means of protecting those he considers his flock
• There is no need for us to fight when God is on our side
• But our bigger problem is simply one of trusting him and in his word
• Almost done now the minister continues to read
• 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
• This verse depicts God as a host
• One preparing a table of blessing for us
• A host that gives protection to one surrounded by enemies
• When inside the protective shelter of the host’s dwelling, the author is offered abundant food and drink
• Even oil for grooming
• As well as the assurance of safety
• What was communicated in the first half of the Psalm was the shepherd metaphor
• But now we see a parallel in the use of a host metaphor
• I think this is a rather beautiful way of adding to the shepherd metaphor
• The portrait of God as host expands the range of meaning and adds to the variety of ways God can serve as shepherd
• It is akin to us thinking of ourselves as a flock with a shepherd, but also as the Lord’s saints gathered around the communion table
• And now the minister is at the Psalm’s end
• With the scripture before him he desires to drive the point home
• But without adding to or taking away from the scripture he knows this is totally dependent upon the tone he uses
• He could just rattle off this part of the verse
• Or he could dramatize it for effect
• What he opts to do though is to read it as a prayer
• That was surely the Psalmists intent
• A prayer of comfort
• And so he reads:
• 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell[a] in the house of the LORD
• Now trusting in the Lord does not mean life will be easy
• Contrary to what many say it does not mean you will prosper or get your way
• It does not mean that good will happen to you
• The verse says goodness will follow you
• Not that goodness will be a given
• In other words the good God has got your back
• Other versions of the Bible also say that loving-kindness will follow
• And that’s a really interesting word when you read it in Hebrew
• It’s rendered “hesed” in that language
• And “hesed’ can be translated many different way
• As mentioned the King James translates it as mercy
• I consider the following to be a good, working definition of hesed:
• Hesed is the consistent,
• furious love of our Father God!
• It is this love, demonstrated through the life and death of our Savior Jesus Christ, which has shaped our lives and made us who we are today —
• a people filled with joy and confidence who know the source of life, who are living the way life was meant to be lived.
• My prayer for you is that your life would be gripped by hesed as you cast yourself on the only hope for mankind, the love and sacrifice of Christ.
• It should be our greatest joy to introduce others to this hesed of God,
• It is that great love that will overcome all other problems and dilemmas
• It is that love that will help us to see the Shepherd instead of the fears and dangers
• After all we are told that we will dwell with the Lord forever
|Posted by Overland Christian Church on January 25, 2013 at 11:25 AM||comments (0)|
DANCING WITH DECEPTION
3 But when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai,4 they resorted to deception to save themselves. They sent ambassadors to Joshua, loading their donkeys with weathered saddlebags and old, patched wineskins.5 They put on worn-out, patched sandals and ragged clothes. And the bread they took with them was dry and moldy.6 When they arrived at the camp of Israel at Gilgal, they told Joshua and the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant land to ask you to make a peace treaty with us.” (NLT)
• Many bookstores contain books on getting your way
• There are books on how to achieve the weight you desire
• There are instructional guides on how to meet the perfect mate
• Or on how to obtain your dream job
• And then you have the less noble books explaining how to manipulate people
• Or how to obtain things through coercion or intimidation
• I’m guessing that millions of dollars have been spent on such books
• But there is nobody better at getting what they want than a child
• They’ve never read such books, but they are easily the masters of the art
• All you have to do is watch a child’s parents cave in to the kid’s desire once a tantrum starts
• Or watch dad fall victim to the pouting lips and sad eyes of his little girl and the next thing you know he is paying for the desired candy, puppy or car.
• As children grow they start to get a little more creative
• Eventually the tactics they once used no longer work on mom and dad
• So, they get creative and learn to be more deceptive in order to get what they want
• Now, when I was a kid there was an older couple that lived across the street
• The husband use to sit outside and listen to the ball game
• And I would go over and bug him
• Eventually his wife would come out and ask me if I had eaten yet
• I would always answer “no” and she would bring me a popsicle or cupcake
• Now kids are not dumb and they know when they have a good thing going
• I’ve seen kids at this very church tell someone they haven’t eaten breakfast so that they could get Joyce Myers to feed them
• Of course they always get found out and mom or dad will tell you that “yes, their kid had breakfast”
• But punishment doesn’t really matter by that time because the little varmint now has two breakfasts in them
• They got what they wanted
• I was no different with my neighbors
• Eventually I learned that I could milk this good thing I had going
• I’d see the old timer outside and I’d walk over
• His wife would peak out the window and I’d clutch my stomach
• She’d come out and I would moan like I was getting ready to die
• And I’d tell her I hadn’t eaten in days
• After some time I was a regular dinner guest at their house.
• The problem with deception is that even though I got what I wanted
• The way I went about it didn’t make things right
• I was taking food from a family when I didn’t need it
• I was lying
• I was disrespecting my parents by putting them in a bad light; as though they neglected their children
• But deceptive people don’t think that way because all they see is the goal they are trying to obtain through any means necessary
• Of course if we are the victims of such deceptive people it would behoove us to be more vigilant
• Nowhere in scripture are we told to let people pull one over on us
• Just take the story of the Israelites and the Gibeonites as an example.
• Prior to today’s verse, in Joshua 9, we learn that the Israelites just recently got done beating up on Jericho and Ai
• The Gibeonites, close neighbors, have heard about what happened and they fear they may be the next victims of these Israelites and their powerful God
• So, instead of preparing for battle they prepare a deception
• And it really is a brilliant strategy
• I had a friend who often said, “Work smarter, not harder.”
• In other words “Figure out a way to get the most by doing the least.”
• And what the Gibeonites decided to do was in keeping with that line of thinking
• They gathered together old sacks and old, leather wineskins
• They put on their oldest sandals and worn out clothing
• And they tossed together some dried out, moldy bread
• And they headed out to meet with Joshua and the children of Israel
• And of course they did all this to make the Israelites think that they had traveled from a great distance…even though they lived nearby
• They wanted the Israelites to think they lived faraway because they didn’t want to appear to be a threat
• They had heard about what happened to those that appeared to be a threat
• And they did not want that fate to be their own
• I remember two friends of mine arguing over a candy bar
• The one friend had purchased it and was about to eat it
• But the other friend really wanted it and asked for a portion
• In an act of childish creativity the owner of the candy bar said sure, but then proceeded to lick the top of the candy bar
• Thinking he was pretty funny he handed the candy bar to his friend
• Who took it and licked the bottom of the candy bar and then handed it back to its rightful owner
• In the end nobody won, but it sure was funny to watch
• I guess the moral is be careful how you go about getting what you want
• And be careful going about how you keep what is yours
BACK TO THE VERSE
• So, the Gibeonites make the short trek to the Israelite camp
• And they tell their tale about how they have traveled very far for the purpose of making a peace agreement with Joshua and his troops
• But the Israelites, in verse 7, suspect something might be up. They say:
• “Maybe you live near us. How can we make a peace agreement with you?”
• So, the Gibeonites show them their bread and wineskins and clothing and it all looks very convincing.
• They spin quite the tale
• One made up of half truths and deception
• Now let me ask you this:
• At this point what should Joshua have done?
• What should we all do in such a situation?
• Give the person the benefit of the doubt?
• What about seeking God for guidance?
• In Joshua’s case God had given him plenty of guidance
• And that guidance had never failed Joshua
• In fact…up to this point…God had told Joshua exactly what to do every step of the way
• So, shouldn’t Joshua be seeking God for some clarity now?
• Or is there a small chance that Joshua has begun to trust in his army’s capabilities a little more than he should?
• Maybe he is not all that afraid of these Gibeonites because he thinks his army could best them in a fight
• James 1:5 tells us “If any of you is lacking wisdom, ask God, who gives generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given to you.”
• Unfortunately those words were written thousands of years later.
• And so instead of doing that the Israelites rely on their own judgment
• They check out the moldy bread, the worn out clothes and all the gear and the determine that the story they have been told is true
• They have fallen for the deception
• And so the deception gets the Gibeonites what they want
• And the Israelites agree to make a peace treaty with them
• But making a pact with a deceiver always has it’s repercussions and is almost never a good idea
GETTING FOUND OUT
• Well, after a couple of days Joshua finds out the truth about the Gibeonites
• And he confronts them about their dishonesty
• I tell you what there’s nothing worse than getting found out
• When I was in Kindergarten I had my class convinced that I was from Australia
• Never mind that I had no accent or knowledge about Down Under
• But after a parent teacher conference the teacher revealed to the class that I was not an Aussie
• I was embarrassed…mostly because I got caught
• But I wonder how the Gibeonites now felt
• Remember Joshua and his army had a way of dealing with their enemies rather harshly
• There was just one problem…they had made a peace treaty with these deceivers
• Now at this stage some people would probably say that an oath based on a deception was now null and void.
• That this was a breach of contract
• However, contracts then are different than contracts now
• This was not some sort of promise that a politician might make and then take back
• No, this was an oath made in the name of the Lord
• And as such it would have remained an oath that must not be broken
• They promised to protect these people and that is what they would do
• Even though they were deceivers
• Had Israel sought God for direction they may have learned the truth about these deceivers, but because God was not sought they fell for the deception and swore an oath
• Perhaps this is why Jesus instructed his disciples never to swear oaths
• Because when you swear an oath to God he takes it seriously
• And there is no going back on it
• Now don’t think for a minute that the deceivers got off scot-free
• Oh no…there are repercussions for their actions
• We learn in verses 22 and 23 that the sentence for their actions is that…
• While they will be under the protection of the Israelite army they will also have to serve the army as slaves
• They would be water carriers and wood cutters in service to the Israelites.
• There is a funny dichotomy in this story
• On the one hand we read this story and can conclude that it is about deception and the repercussions of being a deceiver
• On the other hand we read it and we see a story about how we need to seek God for discernment in matters where we lack clarity
• But we also have to inject ourselves into the story
• Because we are not without sin
• We have our times when we can be manipulative
• Or even deceptive…especially when it comes to getting our way
• And yet we are a people of faith…are we not?
• I think we are every bit as human and faithful as a Gibeonite
• And that has more to do with God’s grace than it does our behavior
• Let me try to explain…
• The Gibeonites experienced grace even though many others around them experienced God’s wrath and destruction
• Why do you suppose that was?
• See God didn’t pour out his grace on the Gibeonites on a whim
• They were spared because they had come to believe in God
• Now they didn’t believe like you and I believe
• They didn’t believe in a God of love per se
• Or in a God that cleanses sinners of their sins
• But they did believe that God was active and someone or something to be feared
• They believed in the existence of God
• They knew that God was the Almighty God against whom no-one could stand
• And so they chose to align themselves with him rather than stand with those fools that trusted in their own strength…
• Those who God so easily defeated.
HANGING ON TO BLESSING
• In Zechariah 8:23 it says:
• 23 “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: In those days ten men from different nations and languages of the world will clutch at the sleeve of one Jew. And they will say, ‘Please let us walk with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’”
• So, here we are seeing that God is telling his people that a time would come when the people of other nations would hear about the Lord and beg to join them
• But in today’s story we see that something very similar has already transpired.
• The Gibeonites are hanging onto the blessed and chosen children of Israel for all they’re worth
• Because they know God is with them
• And they trust that some of that blessing and Godly protection will rub off on them
SUMMARY AND CLOSE
• So, to summarize and wrap up
• The first thing we learn from this story is a sort of warning to seek God’s guidance rather than just relying on our own common sense
• Remember common sense is a trait of fallible human beings
• While seeking spiritual discernment is the practice of seeking after an infallible and perfect God
• Secondly we’ve witnessed the very important reality of showing integrity in the way that we carry out what we have sworn to do
• And lastly, we observe what we have all experienced:
• That God’ grace is poured out on people that don’t deserve it
• The fact that they’re totally unworthy to receive God’s friendship makes no difference though.
• And that’s the fact in every case
• Because if we believe in him and if we ask for forgiveness he will give it to us.
• I am encouraged by the fact that God watches over those he is in covenant with
• Although they failed to seek him in the Gibeonite matter Israel was God’s chosen people
• He had made a covenant with them and so despite their imperfections he continues to watch over them
• And even though the Gibeonites were deceptive…
• A sin they confessed to mind you
• They were kept in God’s grace because of their belief in God
• And so it strikes me that we are in good company
• Because we are in a New Covenant relationship with God through Christ Jesus
• Although we may not be all that eager to seek God at times
• And although we can be more human than spiritual most times
• The fact seems to remain that God loves us, his covenant children
• Much like a parent loves a child that has lied about the last good meal he ate
• In hopes of getting a donut from the Sunday school teacher
• Do not merely take advantage of that grace though
• Seek God in your decision making
• And you’ll find yourself, in His company, walking down the paths he has ordained